Clarinda Harriss discusses Grub Street, TU's award-winning literary and arts magazine, and the pleasures of advising its talented undergraduate staff. Grub Street received the Columbia Scholastic Press Association's Gold Crown Award in 2008 and 2006.
Are campus literary magazines still popular?
"They’ve never stopped being popular. There are huge numbers of them, from little photocopied things to very ambitious publications. Our own, Grub Street, was established in 1952. At one time it was very humble, just stapled together. Now it’s an SGA-funded, in-house publication with a 6,000 to 8,000-copy print run."
So what's in a “literary and arts” magazine?
"Grub Street accepts all kinds of written and visual work: poetry, prose, one-act plays, nonfiction, essays, song lyrics, photography, and drawings and paintings, for example. The selection process is known as a blind review, which means that the authors’ or artists’ names are concealed from judges. Contributors may include TU students, high school students and faculty members—sometimes even the inmates with whom I've worked at the Maryland House of Corrections."
Harriss meets with the student senior editorial staff.
Have you seen a resurgence of interest in poetry among college students?
"Yes, and I attribute this in part to interest in song lyrics. Students are rediscovering the Beats, too, who made poetry readings hip. Then too, 9/11 generated a tremendous outpouring of poetry. Much of it was terrible, but the sheer volume indicated that poetry as a form of expression is alive and well. You never have to look far to find poetry nowadays—there's always a reading going on somewhere."
Who's on the staff?
"There’s a self-selected group of really interested students who return term after term to work on the magazine. When I chaired the English department, I made Grub Street part of the curriculum—it’s actually a Topics in Writing course. I function as the adviser, meeting with the staff/class twice weekly. We have a small and very dedicated senior group, but there’s always room for anyone who’s willing to make the effort. And there really is a considerable amount of work involved."
And that work has paid off, right?
"We’ve always taken part in the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s critiques, and Grub Street has always done well—typically placing in the Silver Circle. The judges selected our 2007 and 2005 issues to receive Gold Crown Awards, which was very exciting. Only a handful of student literary magazines were so honored, including Harvard's."
Do you hear from former Grub Street regulars?
"I hear from them all the time—the students associated with Grub Street do amazing things after graduation. One lived and taught in Japan for many years, where she established a small publishing company and issued exquisite CDs of poetry readings. Another is touring the country with his band and running his own publishing company. The magazine has been a ticket to publication jobs for many former staff members."
Where can you find Grub Street on campus? "The 2008 issue is available free of charge in Linthicum Hall, University Union and at other selected campus locations."