Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Arrrrrgh Moment

Like many other writers I know, I tend to be a pack rat when it comes to books and magazines. Books are easy. Once they are on the shelf, I can scan the spines and fairly easily recall the story, the premise, or the more difficult to name cohesion of a poetry collection.

However, I have a problem with literary journals and trade magazines. In order to keep current with the writing world, I subscribe to several of these, including Poets & Writers, American Poetry Review, and The Writer's Chronicle (as a member of AWP). Since I find value in what I read within these volumes, I keep them. I line them up on the shelf or in the storage bin under the futon in my office. From time to time, as I shelve a new issue, I wonder why I keep them. I've never gone back and leafed through issues I've already read, as I do with books.

Then, today, it happened. I was reading a blog that referenced an article I thought I might be interested in. I googled the article and discovered that it had been published in The Writer's Chronicle in Oct/Nov of 2003. I recieved my MFA in May 2003 and became a member of AWP sometime before that. A surge of geaky excitement pulsed within. I finally had a reason to delve into the backissues under the futon.

Heady with excitement, or at least just eager to read the article, I pushed my desk chair aside and dragged the plastic storage bin into the light of day. I wiped another month's worth of dust from the cover and popped the handles loose. I dug through the stack, found 2004 towards the bottom, and got a bit nervous. There didn't seem to be enough copies to get me into 2003. My fingers swept across the bottom of the bin and fished up the last copy I had (the first copy I'd thought to keep): December 2003.


**Two hours later it struck me that the Chronicle might archive the articles online. Sure enough, there it was. Now I seriously question this desire to keep the physical object when the content is preserved for all time online.


Ron said...

I can't resist free copies of literary journals. Since I've worked on two campuses over the past eight years where back issues are *given* away to make room for current ones, I've come home with waaay too many journals to keep up with. It seems that the only time I make progress in purging them from my shelves, though, is summer: I'll read an issue cover to cover, skimming over anything that doesn't hold my attention and (gasp) tearing out any pages I find worthy of re-reading. These I file in various folders--some for teaching, some for pure wow. The gutted volumes are then recycled. It's heartless, but I just don't have room to keep bringing them home, yet I can't stand to see them thrown away outright without at least giving the contents a fair chance...
Incidentally, I find numerous benefits in teaching poems straight from (somewhat) current journals, not the least of which being that students are forced to engage with the work in the here and now, without relying on online articles or other sources telling them what they should think about X or Y's work.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ron, I also like to use current journals in my creative writing classes. Since I teach undergrads, and mostly students with little exposure to what's being published today, I like to give away my copies of old lit mags. This reduces the numbers a bit. SL