‘There’s no magazine quite like it’: Joyce Carol Oates, Carl Phillips on Boulevard's 100th issue | St. Louis Public Radio

‘There’s no magazine quite like it’: Joyce Carol Oates, Carl Phillips on Boulevard's 100th issue

Sep 13, 2018

The St. Louis-based literary magazine’s latest issue, which runs about 200 pages and includes some focus on immigration, features cover art by Tran Nguyen.
Credit Boulevard

For nearly 35 years now, Boulevard magazine has been publishing works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction by both luminaries and emerging writers. Its hot-off-the-press 100th issue continues that tradition, offering readers a vibrant mix of contemporary literature penned by a wide range of writers.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the St. Louis-based literary magazine’s evolution and legacy since its founding in 1984.

Joining him for the discussion were the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jessica Rogen, as well as celebrated writers Joyce Carol Oates and Carl Phillips.

Rogen started out at Boulevard in 2011 as its managing editor. In 2016, the magazine’s founding editor and publisher, Richard Burgin, selected Rogen for her current, expanded role. When asked about the continued persistence and importance of literary magazines like Boulevard, Rogen emphasized their role as key platforms for writers “who are writing at this very moment.”

“It’s a venue to showcase original, contemporary work, to try it out against your peers and to be published in a very timely manner instead of having to go through the whole process of putting out a book,” explained Rogen, who estimates that the journal receives about 10,000 writing submissions per year. “And of course for readers it’s of great knowledge and entertainment value.”

Boulevard editor-in-chief Jessica Rogen (at left) and influential poet Carl Phillips joined the discussion in studio.
Credit Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Oates, who is an acclaimed American novelist, essayist and poet, has been a champion of Boulevard since its beginnings. She’s published a number of pieces in it over the course of its history and described the publication as one marked by “large ambition.”

“The Boulevard is really special ... there’s no magazine quite like it,” Oates said, adding that it begins with the cover art.

“Boulevard covers are so distinctive and so striking I could recognize one [from] 100 feet,” she said.

Phillips, who is an English professor at Washington University, has been referred to as “one of America’s most original, influential, and productive of lyric poets.” Two of his poems appear in the 100th issue of Boulevard.

He read one of them – titled “Cadence” – on air for listeners.

Joyce Carol Oates, who is the author of more than 70 books, said there’s no literary magazine quite like Boulevard.
Credit Charlie Gross

Phillips pointed to several features that particularly set Boulevard apart in the world of literary magazines.

“From the start, Boulevard has been especially attentive to a range of aesthetics, so there’s that kind of diversity, and then also racial diversity,” he said. “And I think that it’s been on the forefront, long before these kinds of conversations started taking place.”

Rogen added that along with showcasing a wide range of voices in each issue of Boulevard, building a diverse magazine also requires growing an inclusive staff among those who oversee the content of its pages.

“As the editor, one thing that I’ve done is tried to recruit people who are not like myself,” she said.

Visit the publication’s website to learn more about it, subscribe or even submit writing.

Listen to the full conversation:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie HemphillCaitlin Lally and Xandra Ellin give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.