In the fall of 1950, Robert Glauber and Chad Walsh
founded the Beloit Poetry Journal, intending it to be a
publication of Beloit College, where Walsh was on the English faculty.
By the mid-fifties Beloit faculty members David and Marion Stocking
had joined the editorial board. The trustees never officially accepted
the magazine, however, and when the Winter 1957/1958 issue, devoted
to the British "Movement" and the American "Underground" (including
poems by Philip Larkin and Charles Bukowski) offended several faculty
members and trustees with its explicit language, the magazine declared
its independence. [For a fuller account of this incident, click here.] The Stockings took the magazine to Maine with
them when they retired in 1984. Marion Stocking was the editor from
1984, when David died, to 2003, when John Rosenwald and Lee Sharkey
assumed responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the journal.
The BPJ has remained remarkably consistent in its independent
and eclectic editorial policy, its high standards, its international
scope, its selection process, and its format. It has never missed
an issue. The editors do the preliminary screening. The editorial
board meets every three months to select an issue of the strongest
poems that have arrived over the transom, a process that culminates
in our reading each poem still under consideration aloud in a marathon
session--fortified by bread and soup and love of the craft.
We believe we owe much of the vitality of the BPJ to this
selection process. We have been fortunate to be the first or early
publisher of such poets as Galway Kinnell, A.R. Ammons, Anne Sexton,
Sharon Olds, Maxine Kumin, W.S. Merwin, James Dickey, Philip Larkin,
Rosellen Brown, Charles Bukowski, Philip Booth, Adrienne Rich, Philip
Levine, Eleanor Wilner, Susan Stewart, Lola Haskins, and more recently Sherman
Alexie, A. E. Stallings, Laura Kasischke, Forrest Hamer, Mary Leader,
Ben Lerner, and Garth Greenwell. BPJ poems have been included in
recent Pushcart prize volumes, The Best American Poems, Best New Poets, and Poetry Daily: Essentials.
To keep our readers abreast of what is happening in poetry across
cultures and world-wide, we publish occasional chapbook issues,
most recently the Spring 2008 Split This Rock Chapbook of poetry of witness and resistance and the Summer 2010 60th Anniversary Chapbook of new work by winners of our Chad Walsh Prize. The first, in 1951, was
Langston Hughes's translation of Garcia Lorca's Gypsy Ballads.
In 1966 we presented the first U.S. collection of international
concrete poetry. We are especially proud of our introduction in
the winter of 88/89 of new young poets of the Peoples' Republic
of China, in a bilingual volume entitled Smoking People.
In 2000 the editors celebrated the 50th year of continuous publication
of the BPJ with a series of events at Beloit College that
began with Marion Stocking's May commencement address, "The
Arts in the Liberal Arts," and culminated in an October weekend's
worth of poetry readings and performances, including the debut reading
for A Fine Excess, a 50-year anthology of the journal.
In 2003 the journal moved to Farmington, Maine, where it joined the
poetry publishing cooperative Alice
James Books and the BFA program in creative writing at the University of Maine in Farmington in contributing to the region's literary culture. We
now sponsor readings and workshops and offer internships so that other writers
young and old can participate in the process of producing the magazine and building community through the arts.
After fifty-four years with the journal, Marion Stocking died on May 12, 2009. She completed her ninety-eighth Books in Brief review just before she took ill. With the Fall 2009 issue, which honors her, we entered our seventh decade of continuous publication, which we marked with our 60th Anniversary Chapbook and a celebration at the 2010 Associated Writing Programs conference featuring readings by Sherman Alexie, Karl Elder, Albert Goldbarth, Janet Holmes, and Susan Tichy.
Future plans for the journal include the creation of the Marion Kingston Stocking Library, which will make her collection of some 30,000 volumes of the poetry of the last half century available to the public.