Portland Review, Portland’s longest-running literary journal, has officially partnered with the Portland State English Department, which now offers classes where students can earn credit while helping to create the journal.
PR showcases prose, poetry and art from up-and-coming, local and well-known authors and artists including Ursula K. Le Guin and Lidia Yuknavitch. It is also fully run by PSU students and has been since its first publication in 1956.
According to co-editor Benjamin Kessler, PR wanted to be better connected with the department that most closely aligns with the material the journal creates. “I think the English department also wanted to take some ownership of the journal that was mainly being worked on by students in its own [Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing] program,” Kessler said. “[The MFA is] still trying to carve out a really firm identity for itself.”
PR officially merged with the English department in fall 2016, but this is the first year it is offering official classes for graduate and undergraduate students who want to learn about literary publishing. Students with no prior experience in publishing can sign up for WR 410 Literary Magazines or WR 510 PR and help put the publication together.
“This isn’t something where you have to come in knowing ‘this is how a literary journal works’ or this is what the writing that goes into a literary journal looks like’,” Kessler said.
“It provides a platform to learn how these things work,” added co-editor Rayna Jensen. “Knowing how something like this works is a great primer for an internship or a job.”
The classes allow for experienced faculty members to pass down valuable skill sets to students who can make the work that goes into the journal even better, the co-editors added. But while the classes are taught by faculty, Kessler emphasized when it comes to actual journal production, students are responsible for “literally everything…from copy editing, to acquisitions, to fundraising, to printing.”
Additionally, according to Jensen, partnering with the English department gives PR more opportunities to connect with authors and receive submissions on an international level, as well as to feature a wider variety of local contributors.
“I think we have a pretty incredible faculty here that’s really well-connected,” Jensen said. “This year and last year, we were able to feature some really cool work because we had that direct connection with the English department, and they have this direct connection to the larger literary world.”
The transition also allowed PR to move beyond the scope of what it was allowed by the Student Fee Committee when it was considered a Student Media organization. According to to PR’s previous Editor-in-Chief Alex Dannemiller in the original proposal to join the English department, editors felt being a student organization forced the publication to “bend its goals to adhere to the requirements of a student organization.”
“While PR should interact with the students at PSU,” Dannemiller added, “its goals and purpose reach outside of serving the student community.”
Kessler said the partnership will ultimately elevate the English department in the public eye.
“Not only does [the partnership between PR and the English department] raise the status of the English department as a department that makes an annual literary journal,” Kessler said, “but also an English department that houses the most historic literary journal in the city.”
PR hosts readings and fundraising events to be an active part of the literary community, according to Kessler and Jensen, and works to provide a platform for emerging authors and artists. Its next reading, celebrating the launch of PR’s latest edition, will be held 7 p.m.–9 p.m. April 12 at Literary Arts in downtown Portland.