CEDAR FALLS | For 200 years, North American Review has published a thought-provoking and entertaining mix of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays and creative writing. In June, the oldest literary magazine in the United States will celebrate its past, present and future at the North American Bicentennial Conference.
The event runs June 11-13 on the University of Northern Iowa campus and at the Hearst Center for the Arts. Award-winning authors Steven Schwartz, Patricia Hampl and Martin Espada will deliver keynote speeches, and a series of concurrent seminars, lectures and panel discussions will feature an array of writers, poets and creative writing experts.
“We’re expecting at least 300 people or more from around the country for the conference, and there are readings and events planned that are free to the public, as well,” says Jeremy Schraffenberger, NAR associate editor and conference director.
Several receptions and after-hours gatherings, including a dance, are planned during the three-day conference, he says.
The prestigious literary magazine has been housed on the UNI campus since 1968. It was founded in 19th century Boston and in 1964, moved to Cornell College in Mount Vernon. The magazine became UNI property in 1968. Robley Wilson was editor from 1969 to 2000, and Grant Tracey and Vince Gotera have been editors since 2000. Well-known Cedar Falls illustrator Gary Kelley is the art editor.
The magazine is published four times each year. Its history is replete with works by such literary greats as Washington Irving, Walt Whitman, Horatio Alger, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Isaac Asimov and Kurt Vonnegut, among others.
Notable Americans from Frederick Douglass and Clara Barton to Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Eleanor Roosevelt have been published in NAR, as well as poet laureates and 12 presidents, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.
NAR is a six-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, the magazine world’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize and has twice won the top award in fiction in head-to-head competition with publications like The New Yorker, Harper’s and The Atlantic Monthly.
Tracey describes the NAR as a national treasure, as well as one of the best-kept secrets on the UNI campus. “Writers know where we’re from, but we have sort of a low profile in the area. This conference and celebration may make people more aware of NAR, and it wouldn’t have happened without Jeremy’s hard work,” he says.
Editors and writers alike are proud NAR is still a print journal, while at the same time, the magazine is deepening its forays into the digital landscape. A rebooted website will debut during the conference, for example.
“We want to be new and cutting edge, but still maintain our print presence. If you look at our masthead, it’s a little old-fashioned, but not stodgy. It’s a balance of honoring the past and looking forward to provide a forum for new literary voices,” Tracey explains.
“We’re interested in posterity, and creative writing and literary arts need a home. NAR is that home and we’re committed to offering diverse voices, both established and new,” says Assistant Editor Rachel Morgan, who edits poetry.
From Thursday through Aug. 2, the Heart will exhibit a collection of original artwork reproduced on NAR covers and curated by Kelley. On June 11, Kelley will present a gallery talk at 1 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.
At 1 p.m. June 12, the Hearst will host the NAR book launch for “The Great Sympathetic: Walt Whitman and the North American Review” with Martin Espada, Bill Koch, Lauren Schmidt, Ann Struthers and Schraffenberger. At 9:30 p.m. an after-hours gallery reception will feature the cover art exhibit. Wine and appetizers will be served.
On June 13, author Judith Harris will present “The Healing Effects of Writing about Pain: Literature and Psychoanalysis” at 1 p.m. at the Hearst. It will be followed at 2:45 p.m. by “The Life and Work of James Hearst,” featuring a panel of James Hearst scholars moderated by Schraffenberger in the Hearst’s Mae Latta Hall.
All events are free and open to the public. No tickets are required.
For complete information on the University of Northern Iowa’s schedule of events, visit their website at www.uni.edu/langlit/content/nar-bicentennial-conference.