Poetry Northwest publishes last issue after 43 years in May 2002.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 7/30/2002
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3908
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In May 2002, Poetry Northwest, the longest running poetry-only magazine in the United States, publishes its last issue. Founded by the poet Carolyn Kiser in 1959, the journal had been edited by David Wagoner since 1966.  The quarterly published about 150 poems a year out of some 15,000 received, including work by acclaimed poets such as John Berryman, Mark Strand, Pattiann Rogers, and William Stafford. The magazine folds due to a funding crisis, the last in a long series. In March 2006 the magazine will resume publication in Portland in an agreement between the University of Washington and the Attic Writers Workshop in Portland, Oregon. The new editor will be David Biespiel.

For 34 years the University of Washington College of Arts and Sciences supported the magazine. When that relationship was severed due to the decision of the College to end journal publishing, Poetry Northwest was moved to the English Department. The journal ran a persistent deficit amounting to $15,000 to $20,000 a year. Much of the $40,000 per year required to publish the journal went to editor David Wagoner's salary.

UW president Richard McCormick gave the journal two years in which to find alternative funding. The annual deficit was running about $15,000 to $20,000 a year. What Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer John Marshall describes as feverish fundraising efforts failed to produce a new means of support for the journal.

Wagoner's editorial perspicacity was the strength of the journal, which was one of the country's prestigious venues in which to publish poems. He was not a good financial manager. John Marshall writes:

"Wagoner's one-man rule over Poetry Northwest also had a way of discouraging financial backers during its crises. At least one Seattle philanthropist withdrew support after becoming discouraged by Wagoner's refusal to accept suggestions for improving the magazine's accountability and oversight. The questions included the money paid to Robin Seyfried, a poet who started working at the magazine as a graduate student intern and later served as managing editor until 1998; Seyfried also happens to be Wagoner's wife and mother of their two daughters."

In the last issue Wagoner writes:

"This Spring Issue 2002 will be the last for Poetry Northwest. Two years ago, the University of Washington told us it could no longer support us financially and that we would have to become self-sustaining by July 1, 2002. Poetry Northwest and its Board of Advisors have been unable to meet that deadline. I'd like to thank that Board personally now for its efforts....
In our 43rd and final year, we are the oldest magazine in the country that publishes nothing but poetry. We can only hope someone else will manage to do better. We will be publishing an anthology of the best work from these pages under the editorship of Robin Seyfried and with my assistance. Until then, goodbye and good luck. David Wagoner (Poetry Northwest).

However, in August 2005, the University of Washington appointed David Biespiel editor of Poetry Northwest, with the agreement that the editorial offices of the magazine would relocate to The Attic Writers’ Workshop in Portland, Oregon. The new series resumed publication in March 2006. The journal is now published out of Portland.


John Marshall, "Red Ink Writes Final Chapter for Poetry Northwest," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 1, 2002(www.seattlepi.com); Poetry Northwest Volume 43, No. 1 (Spring 2002); "History," Poetry Northwest website accessed November 6, 2007 (http://www.poetrynw.org/history).
Note: This Timeline essay was updated on November 6, 2007.

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