Academic journal article Chicago Review

Code Violations: Chicago Review in the 1990s

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Code Violations: Chicago Review in the 1990s

Article excerpt

In his introduction to Chicago Review's fiftieth anniversary issue, former editor David Nicholls writes, "Andrew Rathmann, Angela Sorby, and I met throughout the winter of 1996 to read through the archive of back issues and report to each other on what we had found. After about three months of reading, we came up with a list of intriguing works." That three months of reading is now a blank spot in my brain, even though I am the aforementioned Angela Sorby. My most vivid memories of Chicago Review are not textual but spatial. During the 1990s, the magazine was edited from the top-floor ex-bedrooms of a decrepit former private residence called Lillie House. Lillie House had an unsafe, Gothic ambiance; there was even a black cat with prominent fangs who lived on the first floor, tended by a coterie of women from something called "The Math Project." Entering Lillie House felt like entering a parallel universe, at but not of the University of Chicago. The U of C, circa 1990, was not the type of place to harbor cats, fanged or no. It was capital S-Serious, in the throes of critical theory and the canon wars.

Many of us at Chicago Review were graduate student poets and fiction writers who had inexplicably chosen to attend a university with no graduate creative writing program. Instead of sitting in a circle critiquing our own poems Iowa-style, we found ourselves doing something even more instructive: reading contemporary poems by other people. The mail tray overflowed with odes, panegyrics, pantoums, and of course loads of confessional free verse. It was great to "discover" unknown (to us) writers like Robert Daly--whose current renown as Director of the Kissinger Institute has perhaps eclipsed his status as the author of the neglected libretto, "The Passion of the Aardwolf and the Spoon. …

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