Why Cleveland's New Literary Journal Is Cause for National Celebration

Cleveland Skyline | © Ras67 / Wikimedia Commons
Cleveland Skyline | © Ras67 / Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Michael Barron
Books And Digest Editor7 November 2017

The launch of the Gordon Square Review is a sign that literary journals might not be dying out after all.

Cleveland is a literary city and Cleveland knows it. It was here that the literary theorist Fredric Jameson was born, here that writer Adelle Waldman first cut her teeth as a journalist, and here the novelist Sherwood Anderson had the nervous breakdown that led him to become a writer. But it wasn’t until 2015, after the founding of the non-profit Literary Cleveland, that a true hub for the city’s book culture was formed. Now, in addition to its workshops and lecture series, Literary Cleveland has launched its first literary journal.

Cover of the Gordon Square Review

The Gordon Square Review, named after the arts district within the city’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood, will publish writers nation and worldwide, award editing mentorships, and hold contests to highlight emerging talent. In addition to this, as an effort to nurture the region’s literary culture, the review will spotlight writers from northwest Ohio. In a time where literary venues seem largely confined to New York, and many stories feel set within it, journals based in other U.S. cities should reinvigorate the diversity of American letters. These efforts also join more global-regional English-language literary journals that have launched in Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Buenos Aires and seek out a cross-cultural literary readership.

The Gordon Square Review joins other regional and literary based periodicals such as the New Orleans Review, the Seattle Review of Books, the Alaska Quarterly Review, and Ambos, a magazine dedicated to Quebec literature. While many literary journals can be found in universities across the country, it is less common for a review to be independent from an academic institution. The emergence of the Gordon Square Review is an encouraging sign that literary culture is prospering across the country, a long-needed sigh of relief after Roxane Gay’s 2010 piece about the demise of the literary magazine.

According to the Cleveland, the Gordon Square Review received, for its inaugural issue, over 800 submissions, including by writers as far out as India, Malaysia. An indicator, if anything, of a global need for more literary publications. “The literary journal world is known to be small and sort of niche,” the review’s editor-in-chief Laura Maylene Walter told Cool Cleveland. “Certain types of writers often enjoy reading them. A lot of people might read literary journals for research to improve their own writing. But I agree, I wish there could be a larger, more general audience. With Gordon Square Review, hopefully we can promote locally from within this region and maybe get someone who wouldn’t typically pick up literary journal or go to a literary journal website.”

The first issue of the Gordon Square Review is out today, which you can read in full here. (I suggest starting with Donna Hunt’s poem “Scrapbook.“)

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