Situating the midcentury editor


Imagine yourself living in the 1950s, living in the decade after a war in which millions had died. You may have even fought in battle. You likely knew someone or many who died in the war. You certainly experienced rationing of food, gasoline, and other items. The 1950s started out with an intensive military conflict on the Korean peninsula that never really finished. Tensions with what was then the Soviet Union hung the dark cloud of the Cold War over the world. The US was governed by a general. The emergence of television presented a tranquil black-and-white screen that masked reality. Cinema, TV, and popular music offered an escape, as entertainment should.

See yourself standing in time, wondering about what you need to do in this world. The poet Robert Creeley described how he left college and then left the country:

“But the world, happily or unhappily, offers only one means of learning, and I was returned without relief again and again to the initial need: a means of making articulate the world in which I and all like me did truly live.”

You’ve made the decision that writing is your life, but you don’t know if you’re any good at it. You are well read. A shelf in your room is lined with chapbooks and an assortment of literary magazines, some of which are produced by universities and others assembled by individuals on a shoestring budgets. Inspired by the writing life, you envision starting a literary magazine. How would you go about it?