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River Styx History

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Literary Magazine Celebrates 25 Years

By Eileen Duggan

            St. Louis-based River Styx Magazine celebrated its 25th anniversary in March [2001].

            The award-winning literary magazine was founded in 1976 by a small band of yong poets led by writer Michael Castro, who is still a senior editor.

            “The focus of the magazine changes with each editor according to that editor’s vision, esthetic philosophy or taste,” said Richard Newman, River Styx’s current editor. “The one constant over the many years andeditors is a diversity of writers and styles, a willingness to publish unknown writers and a lack of interest in ‘academic writing.’”

            River Styx Magazine features poetry, fiction, essays, interviews and art and has published such writers as Yusef Komunyakaa, Nobel Laureates Derek Walcott and Czeslaw Milosz and U.S. Poet Laureates Howard Nemerov, Mona Van Duyn, Rita Dove and Robert Hass. The magazine has won several Stanley Hanks Prizes and awards from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines.

            In addition to the publication, River Styx conducts an annual poetry contest and presents frequent readings and other literary events. The magazine currently publishes three issues each year.

            During its 25 years, River Styx Magazine has undergone changes in format as well as style. Just since Newman became editor in 1994, the format went from a black-and-white, 5 ½ inch by 8 ¼ inch publication with a circulation of less than 1,000 to a 6 by 9 inch magazine with color covers, more inside art and a circulation of 2,000, Newman said.

            Financially, River Styx has had its ebbs and flows. In 1994, the magazine didn’t publish any issues because of financial difficulties, although its popular River Styx at Duff’s reading series continued. The magazine continues to operate through grants from the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts and various foundations as well as through subscriptions, advertising, fund-raisers and individual donations.

            As for the current editor’s vision, he’s “on a mission to publish accessible literature,” Newman said. “Accessibility doesn’t mean the work is dumbed down – it means it connects with the reader in the heart as well as the head. The longer I stay in the writing and editing business, the more I value clarity and work that hits me on a gut level; I have no patience for obscure, opaque poetry that even educated readers couldn’t say what the poem is about. I have no patience for self-indulgent metafiction that describes the writing process and the importance of the writer as opposed to showing me important aspects of the human experience.”

            (Reprinted with permission of the St. Louis Journalism Review. Originally published 6/2001)