T his year, the New Haven Review celebrates two birthdays.
There’s the usual bash to mark the issuing of its winter edition, which happened in February. But the biannual literary journal is also celebrating its tenth year in print—not bad for a publication whose founders weren’t committed to continuing past a single issue.
That first edition, with contributions from local and national authors, was celebrated at Labyrinth Books, a now-defunct shop on York Street, in August 2007. It was the help of a friendly donor that enabled the Review to continue for another volume—and then, buoyed by subscribers and more donors, another, all the way to this August’s issue, the 20th.
Curating and editing poetry for it since 2012, Nichole Gleisner (pictured second) is now the Review’s publisher, a position she’s gradually taken on with the help of her predecessor, Bennett Lovett-Graff. “We’re a kind of loose affair, but we try to maintain some professional standards,” Gleisner says, including printing a substantial, minimalist but spiffy-looking physical product twice a year; maintaining a website with free downloads of past issues; and—perhaps most importantly—paying all contributors, which Gleisner says many literary journals don’t.
The founding editors, Mark Oppenheimer and Brian Francis Slattery, are both award-winning local authors. Originally titled the New Haven Review of Books, Gleisner says one intention was to rekindle the “lost art of book reviews”—longform essays about newly released books that take into account the relevance and ambition of the work. As time marched forward, however, the editors concluded New Haven Review better summed up the journal’s mélange of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and, indeed, the occasional book treatment.
Contributors to the latest edition have come from far and wide, including New York, Texas, Great Britain and the United Arab Emirates. There’s an essay on post-Brexit Scotland by Christopher Thornton, a dark fairy-tale poem by Jessica Pierce and a story of a table versus a tornado by Lancelot Schaubert. The website also offers a series of timely local theater reviews by Donald Brown, who is otherwise the Review’s nonfiction editor.
Gleisner, who moved to New Haven in 2011, is part-time faculty at Southern Connecticut State University, where she teaches French language and literature. Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that she has a special interest in verse not originally composed in English, something few other American journal editors seem to share. “It’s a sad state of affairs, but in the United States we do not publish a lot of literature in translation,” she says.
After receiving a superlative translation of a Russian poem, Gleisner and co-poetry editor Sarah Pemberton Strong, aided significantly by Elizabeth T. Gray, decided to buck the trend, helping craft an issue of the Review in which all the poems were translated. That was volume 16, published in summer 2015, with selections as varied as classical Greek poetry, a 10th-century English riddle and contemporary German and Russian verse.
Gleisner’s interest in literary journals began in earnest when she interned for the Partisan Review, an influential quarterly publication that folded in 2003 after nearly 70 years. She describes going to the interview, imagining the stately offices the culturally sophisticated journal surely inhabited, only to find a humble basement office below Boston University’s campus.
And while the Review’s headquarters, the Institute Library, is surely nicer than the Partisan’s was, the literary journal experience, it seems, hasn’t fundamentally changed in the intervening years. “It’s usually run by a handful of really dedicated people,” she says. “It’s maintained by bunches of really dedicated readers. It’s definitely not money-making in any way, but it’s for the love of literature.”
Written and photographed by Anne Ewbank.