News & Events

Harvard Review 42

Poetry Daily Pick

Mark Jarman’s fine poem, “Bad Girl Singing,” from HR 42 will appear on Poetry Daily on Monday, September 24, 2012. Look for two more poems by Mark — “Milagro” and “The Children’s Zoo” — in the current issue of Harvard Review.

Harvard Review 31

The Kind of News It’s Always Nice to Hear

We had a nice email the other day from Allison Seay, whose poetry collection, To See the Queen, has been awarded the 2012 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry for a first book of poems by an American woman.

Ten issues ago we published a poem of Allison’s called “Late Apology.” It turns out this was one of her first publications. She writes, “Harvard Review was one of the very first journals to accept my work and so I am deeply indebted to you all and very grateful for your support.”

We love to get this kind of feedback. Thanks, Allison, for letting us know and congratulations on the book!

We’re always happy to hear from our former contributors, so don’t hesitate to send us news of your prizes, fellowships, and publications.

Theatre and Film

In this edition of “From the Archives” we present the work of two women who are best known for their work in the worlds of theatre and film. Theresa Rebeck, whose current play on Broadway, Seminar, stars Alan Rickman as a famous writer who gives private lessons to aspiring young novelists, is herself a wonderfully witty writer. The author of innumerable film and television screenplays, as well as a novel, Rebeck is a two-time contributor to Harvard Review. In this issue we present her droll little monologue, “Art Appreciation” (or, as I always think of it, “Having Your Own Vermeer”), which appeared originally in HR 23.

The second of our archival treasures this time round is a short story by the writer and filmmaker Miranda July. July, whose most recent film, The Future, is described by the New York Times as an “ingeniously constructed wonder cabinet of a movie,” is also the author of a short story collection titled No One Belongs Here More Than You. Her story “It Was Romance,” which appears in this collection, was originally published in HR 25.

Art Appreciation
It Was Romance

HR 41 Infographic

Who are Our Contributors?

Harvard Review’s new issue is out and available for sale. With luck you will soon be able to order a copy or subscription with a credit card directly from our website, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, anyone wanting to purchase a copy can download an order form.

In the wake of last year’s interesting discussions about gender balance among contributors to literary magazines, led by VIDA’s 2010 gender count, we thought we’d take a look at the content of HR 41 from a variety of points of view: how many women v. men there are in the issue; where the writers come from; how old they are; and, most interestingly to us, the paths by which the pieces made their way to Harvard Review.

One of the things aspiring writers always want to know is how to get into journals in the first place. We could certainly name the avenues—agents, editorial solicitation, personal connections, unsolicited submissions—but we didn’t necessarily know how many of each there were in a typical issue of Harvard Review. With this in mind, we broke down the contributors to the current issue into the following groups:

  • writers whose work we pulled from the slush pile (that is, unsolicited manuscripts that arrived at Harvard Review either by mail or through our online submission system Tellitslant);
  • writers whose work first came to our attention through referrals, usually by other writers but also by editors and agents;
  • writers whose work we found through networking events like Grub Street’s The Muse and the Marketplace.
  • and writers whose work we already knew (and in many cases solicited) because we had published them before.

The full results, helpfully illustrated by Laura Healy’s infographics, appear in the current editorial. For us, the takeaway was that at least in this issue we had a pretty healthy balance across a number of measures: better than average gender balance, an amusing age spread (one of our contributors was born in 1797 and thus appears on the chart as more than 200 years old), fair geographical distribution, and a pretty good split between people with some prior connection to the journal and people we were encountering for the very first time.

Boston Book Festival 2011

Harvard Review at the Boston Book Festival 2011

Harvard Review will be at the Boston Book Festival, Saturday, October 15. If the arrangement is the same as last year, well be in a tent somewhere (#26) on the plaza at Copley Square — kind of like Occupy Wall Street! So, stop by and say hello.

Harvard Review 21

The Altars of September

From my first issue as editor of Harvard Review, this poem by Bruce Bond, written in the days just after 9-11 and added to the issue at the last moment in recognition of the terrible event. It was the first changing of the guard at the journal, and that, combined with the feeling of general cataclysmic upheaval, is reflected in the editorial, which we also reprint below.

The Altars of September
by Bruce Bond

That night she closed her eyes and saw
the trapped birds of voices shatter
against the crumbling walls, like a scene
in a movie replaying the disaster,
lighting up the back of the brain.
With each collapse the glass rose up,
restored, bright with sky, the fist
of God a shadow-plane approaching.

And it felt so distant, the numb
comfort that would bear this image
into the first cold regions of sleep,
the blackboard of the body wet
and REMless, as if those towers
fell still deeper through the floor
of the mind, gone the way of the pill
she took in faith, swallowing the world.

However many nights she clicked
her TV off, its spark of light
dwindling into the clear stone,
it would take time for any shape
slipping through her hands to lie
down in clay or paper, any lip
of paint to redden her brush.
White was its own confession.

She always imagined the distance
between a painting of a day
and the day behind it as a path
that carries us into our lives,
giving us more room, more reason
to move, luring us on and in
like sleep so deep in the body
all we see is of the body.

In time, looking out this way
through the window of her canvas,
every cloud dragging its anchor
becomes a burden of the flesh,
not hers alone, but the skin
of what no solitary gaze
can tear there from heaven’s fire,
what no frame can ever shelter.

Just that morning before she heard
the news, she took the shore drive south,
set up her easel, all the while
an unaccountable strangeness
drawn down over the folding cliffs,
a stillness unlike any day,
the uneasy silence of the skies
that hour tender as an eye.

Editorial, Harvard Review 21 (Fall, 2001)

There have been changes at Harvard Review—new editors, a new look, some new notions—which should have been foremost in our minds as this issue was going to press. Instead, we find ourselves preoccupied with the changes in our larger world, with a numbness that will not go away and a creeping, pervasive anxiety. It seems no time at all now to be talking about fonts. Indeed, there have been days when many of us found it hard to recover any sense of the larger purpose. And, yet, art may be some kind of antidote to terror.

Rereading the issue I was struck by a story in Ted Wolff’s essay about an epiphanic moment he experienced during the Second World War when, as a terrified nineteen-year-old on the way to Okinawa, the image of a Morris Graves painting popped into his head, bringing him a sudden, unlooked-for comfort. Wolff, who has spent a lifetime writing about art, lives in New York City. When I called him to check a final detail we talked a little about what had happened. “Listen,” he said, holding his phone to the window so that I could hear the music coming from across the street. “It’s another fireman’s funeral.”

Bruce Bond’s “The Altars of September” is the only piece in this issue to have been written after September 11th. But several of the pieces here were written in the long shadow of World War Two; still others deal with private battles no less compelling for their more modest scope. Not everything in the issue is grim and some of the grimmest subjects are also funny. Humor makes its appearance in several places, most notably in “Boom and Bust,” a delightfully black story by Tom McGuane about the warping of familial bonds. We have essays that are part-memoir on Vladimir Nabokov and James Merrill, an introduction to Marcel Reich-Ranicki and a tribute to the painter Morris Graves. The poetry, edited by Don Share, covers a remarkably wide range of poetic sensibilities and includes, among its highlights, an eight-page poem by Ray DiPalma. Finally, in this issue we begin a regular feature: the publication of short plays, starting with two previously unpublished pieces by David Mamet that are nothing if not fun to read.

So, with this we launch an new era at Harvard Review, under a new banner but in the same spirit, with due regard for the achievement of Stratis Haviaras, founder and editor from 1992 to 2001, and with cautious optimism for the future not only of the magazine but of the world.

—Christina Thompson

Samuel Menashe by Matt Valentine

Farewell, Samuel

There is a message on the voicemail at Harvard Review from the poet, Samuel Menashe, who died recently at the age of 85. Menashe had called to say that yes, we could certainly publish a poem of his that had come our way. The pathway was a uniquely contemporary one. Menashe had dictated the poem over the phone to Nicholas Birns, and Nicholas had sent it to me via Facebook.

I never got back to Samuel in time, not realizing how close to the end he was. But, it is, according to Nicholas, the last poem he ever wrote. And the contract, which he managed to return to us — it was postmarked the day after he died — has the barely legible writing of someone whose mind is still strong but whose body is rapidly betraying him.

We have published Samuel before and have always enjoyed what William Grimes, in his New York Times obituary, refers to as the “jewel-like, gnomic” quality of his verse — so witty and brisk and a little wacky, so unlike anything else one is likely to read. Menashe, who received little critical attention for most of his life, was recognized in 2004 by the Poetry Foundation, which awarded him its first Neglected Masters Award.

Samuel Menashe’s last poem will appear later this fall in Harvard Review 41.

(Photo by Matt Valentine.)

Old Ladies

Ever since we began featuring pieces from the Harvard Review archives I have wanted to do a selection from what I think of as one of my editorial sub-specialties: stories about old ladies. Here we present two of my favorites. The first is a story by the New Zealand writer Elizabeth Smither. Smither is a woman of many talents, a short-story writer, a novelist, and a poet (she was New Zealand’s Poet Laureate in 2002), and I have been publishing her work for almost fifteen years, going right back to the days when I was editor at the Australian journal Meanjin. This story, “The Hands of Lady Jane Grey,” comes from my first issue of Harvard Review, HR 21.

The second selection, and another of my all-time favorites, is “In the Pines” by Kevin Moffett. This story, which describes a series of encounters between an elderly woman and a Civil War reenactor, speaks to the increasing fluidity of memory, imagination, and reality with the passage of time. Like “The Hands of Lady Jane Grey,” it captures something profound about the twilight world of old age, which is not so much dim as oddly—and sometimes brilliantly—illuminated. We hope you will enjoy the rare combination of compassion and wit exhibited by these stories.

The Hands of Lady Jane Grey
In the Pines

The Perfect Submission

Some Advice for Submitters

We read every submission that comes into the Harvard Review office—whether written on a computer, a typewriter, or by hand—and we know that each writer has his or her own style for presenting work. We also realize that submission guidelines can be vague, especially for those new to the submission process, so we’ve compiled a list of some DOs and DON’Ts. Following these guidelines won’t determine whether or not your work gets accepted, but it will earn you the gratitude of the HR staff and make it easier for us to track your submission and respond to you promptly.

1. LABEL EACH PAGE: Put your name on every page of your submission, and make sure to number the pages. It’s easy for things to get separated or misplaced.

2. COVER LETTER: Cover letters help us file your submission accurately. They don’t have to be fancy, but make sure to include the following:

  • Your name
  • The date of your submission
  • Your mailing address and email address
  • The genre of the work you’re submitting (hybrid genres are okay)
  • The title of the work you’re submitting

3. POSTAGE: When you include an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope), please use a Forever Stamp. You never know when postage will rise, and it can sometimes take us up to six months to respond to a submission.

4. PROOFREAD: Double check your submission for typos. They don’t stop us from accepting a good piece of writing, but if there are too many it can be distracting. Also, double check your cover letter. We don’t mind if you copy and paste from a letter to a different journal, but make sure to change the names (we get a lot of submissions that “would be a perfect fit for Ploughshares”).

5. DIGITAL SUBMISSIONS: Harvard Review does not accept email submissions, but you can submit electronically through our online submission manager at Before uploading your file, please be sure to do the following:

  • Give your file a unique name so that it can be easily located
    (e.g. YourName_StoryTitle.doc). We receive hundreds of files called HarvardReview.doc
  • Include a cover letter on the first page of the document (see #3 above)
  • Do NOT submit files with a .docx extension. These files often get corrupted and cannot be opened on some computers. We prefer .doc, .pdf, or .rtf files.
Jim Kelly

On Being Well Read

Thirty years of writing stories and having them rejected does not make for confidence in a writer. Not, anyway, in this writer. So, when Harvard Review accepted one of my stories I was stunned, delighted, and all smiles. What had they seen that decades of other readers had not?

The next note said they would be editing my story. I knew then the game was up. I would be found out for a fraud and my story, like so many before it, would never see the light of day. What, after all, did I know of editing? Images only, bad images. High school papers covered, top to bottom, with red ink that said, loud and clear, “Give it up.”

Then came the editor’s suggestions. And, they were just that, suggestions. I could act on them or not, take them or leave them. That was clear. What the editor also made clear, with each suggestion, was where my writing was not. With overall clarity and flow as yardsticks, the editor showed me how a word or phrase, a shift in tone, an awkward sentence or unnecessary paragraph held the story up, made it, just there, run a bit off the rails.

I was, maybe for the first time ever, being well and carefully read by someone who respected my work, saw what it could be, and helped me to see where changes needed to be made. Astonishing. Somebody out in the world taking me seriously, helping me get better.

This process was for me, this dialogue called editing, a pure and simple treat. Since then I have a new way of hearing my writing, my rough drafts. I write on an ancient typewriter. When a page is finished I take it out and read it out loud, sorting out what works and what doesn’t. I hear now with new ears.

It gives me, at age sixty, confidence to keep writing. Who knows, maybe I’ve finally found my real work. I hope so.