Oxford American marks 25th year
Oxford American, the quarterly magazine of Southern writing, has just released a fantastic 25th anniversary issue. It includes photography by Jack Spencer, poetry by the late Margaret Walker and a short story by Glenn Taylor. But the highlight is an excerpt from Jesmyn Ward’s upcoming novel, “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” which will be published in September. (Two more excerpts from the novel are planned for the summer and fall issues of Oxford American.)
Securing those pieces by Ward, who won a National Book Award in 2011 for her devastating novel “Salvage the Bones,” is yet another reason to pay attention to this regional magazine that defies the regional label. Last year, Oxford American won a National Magazine Award for general excellence, and the momentum is clearly continuing. All good news for an organization that sometimes seemed like it was acting out its own Southern gothic plot.
First published on a shoestring budget in 1992 by Marc Smirnoff, Oxford American has been snuffed out several times despite publishing work by such giants as John Updike, Richard Ford and Eudora Welty. Best-selling thriller writer John Grisham kept the magazine alive for a while, but it still ran out of money, suffered a crippling embezzlement, got hit by a huge bill from the IRS and endured a sexual harassment controversy that divided its staff.
Fortunately, the nonprofit magazine, now housed at the University of Central Arkansas, seems to be enjoying a much-deserved period of stability.
Editor Eliza Borné, appointed in 2015, says Oxford American is “thriving,” despite the general shift away from paper and toward the Web. “We remain focused on creating a quarterly print magazine with great writing and gorgeous design,” she says, but her staff also posts Web-only photo essays, maintains an Instagram feed and distributes a weekly enewsletter. The online archive remains a rich trove of articles by wellknown writers such as Charles Portis, Larry Brown and Lauren Groff. And the website lets poetry fans listen to audio recordings from poets.
Donors continue to make an important contribution to Oxford American, which has 13,500 subscribers.