Bryant Literary Review cover.
The Bryant Literary Review, which celebrated its 25th issue this past spring, receives an average of 350 poems and short stories annually and selects 25 poems and eight to 10 fiction or nonfiction pieces for its yearly digital publication.
Celebrating its 25th issue, Bryant Literary Review writes its way into university history
Jun 04, 2024, by Emma Bartlett
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Christy Mak '25 wasn’t someone who particularly enjoyed poetry prior to joining the Bryant Literary Review (BLR). An avid reader and writer from a young age, Mak — an Accounting major with a Literary and Cultural Studies minor — was drawn to fiction and the worlds that the ink brought to life on the pages.

“Poetry was like a whole different language to me,” says the rising senior, who joined the BLR the 2023-24 academic year and took on a student poetry editor role.

Finding herself knee-deep in poetry submissions from writers across the globe, Mak read poem after poem — each one breaking down the mental barrier she faced with the genre — and she soon found herself appreciating what poetry had to offer.

Established in 2000 by Rhode Island Poet Laureate emeritus and Professor Emeritus of English Tom Chandler, the BLR receives an average of 350 poems and short stories annually and selects 25 poems and eight to 10 fiction or nonfiction pieces for its yearly digital publication. Residing on the Bryant Digital Repository, the online journal has received more than 22,000 unique domestic and international visitors. Raking in milestones each year, the BLR recently celebrated its 25th issue.

“It's rare to have a journal make it beyond five years,” says BLR Editor Tom Roach, Ph.D., who is also a History, Literature, and the Arts professor and coordinator of the university’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. “Twenty-five years shows the resilience of the BLR team throughout the years; you do it because you love it.”

The BLR team consists of Roach, History, Literature, and the Arts Professor and BLR Poetry Editor Eric Paul, Ph.D., and several student editors who devote their time to reading submissions, advocating for the pieces to publish, and copyediting selected works.

“At the BLR meetings, if we collectively rated a poem a three or a four [out of five], we put it on the backburner or accept it after discussion. We usually accept poems that the majority of us rate as 5’s,” says Mak, who worked alongside one student poetry editor Sarah Lostowski ’25 and student fiction editors Audrey Jones ’24 and Olivia Soffey ’26.

According to Roach, the BLR seeks to highlight diverse voices and perspectives while ensuring the pieces are topical and speak to today’s readers.

“For instance, the first story in this year's journal is a first-person account by a young woman about having to leave Ukraine and go into Poland because of the war,” Roach says.

He notes that, since its inception, the journal has sought to discover writers and give them a springboard to launch their careers. Some of the emerging and established writers they’ve featured include Harrison Monarth, the author of five books including a New York Times bestseller, and Charles Harper Webb, whose work has been featured in the Paris Review and The Best American Poetry.

While the BLR assists writers in building their literary reputation, the journal simultaneously provides undergrads with valuable educational experiences.

“Students are learning serious editorial skills. They become more discerning readers and sharper critical thinkers when it comes to literary criticism,” says Roach, noting that the tools they learn could translate into publishing industry positions.

When it came to selecting poems for the 25th issue, Mak, with her editor’s cap on, took a liking to Brenda Beardsley’s submission “Vigil,” which spoke to the loss of a beloved friend. She enjoyed the poem’s imagery, wording, and how the poet switched between points of time within the same location.

“The poem to me is nostalgic, sad, and a touch bittersweet. The narrator feels that their friend is still with them through the presence of the wind but ultimately begins to recognize her new loss as the wind drifts off,” Mak says.

To celebrate each publication, the BLR holds a hybrid reading event where authors Zoom in and read their work. Roach says it's a different experience hearing authors read their work.

“A couple years ago, there was a woman from Ireland who wrote a really powerful creative nonfiction piece for the journal and hearing her read it made the piece come to life — it was amazing,” recalls Roach. “I remember everyone in the room and on Zoom were all wide-eyed and jaw dropped.”

Focusing on the next five years, Roach and Paul plan to turn the BLR into a History, Literature, and the Arts course, compete in literary review competitions, and bring the BLR back to print after a hiatus due to COVID-19. With an abundance of ideas and possibilities on the horizon, they’re charging toward another 25 years of storytelling.

Looking for something to read this summer? Click here to check out Bryant Literary Review’s 25th issue.

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