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Home  >  Reading and Writing  >  Pass the Word
AQR at Twenty-Five (1982-2007)
By Richard Chiappone

When considering the twenty-fifth anniversary of Alaska Quarterly Review (AQR), I found myself amazed. With each Spring/Summer and each Fall/Winter issue arriving on newsstands across the continent, AQR has twice annually put Alaska and Alaskan talent on the literary map for twenty-five uninterrupted years.

Published by the University of Alaska Anchorage and edited by Ronald Spatz, AQR has always operated on a simple premise: Don't push a parochial agenda. Although scores of Alaskan writers have graced its pages with stories, essays, poetry, drama, and photographs, their subject matter has been as diverse and eclectic as imaginable. As an example, AQR's recent Hidden Alaska mini-anthology featured a collection of writings that revealed a deeply personal slice of Alaska not always readily apparent to the larger world. And, among its most enduring achievements, AQR introduced many readers across the globe to the tales and legends by the first Alaskans, with two special issues devoted to our Native writers, storytellers and orators.

Each stunning AQR cover offers a distinctly Alaskan face to the world, from Athabaskan fish camps to the lone walrus of Kalgan Island; however, there is nothing regionally limited about the content. AQR's innovative special issue, ONE BLOOD: The Narrative Impulse broke new ground, exploring genre crossings in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Another example: the 80-page photo essay of international importance, "Chechnya: A Decade of War" by Alaskan photographer Heidi Bradner was of a scope rarely equaled by any national publication, small or large.

AQR is on the cutting edge and as Laura Furman, series editor of the Prize Stories observed, "AQR is playing an impressive part in our national literature." Indeed works showcased in AQR have gone on to win national awards such as the O. Henry Award, Best American Essay, Best American Poetry, the Pushcart Prize and others, awards that have confirmed and consolidated its respect and recognition as a major, world class literary magazine of consequence.

While AQR has been exporting Alaskan talent to the world at large, it has simultaneously been bringing the literary cosmos into Alaska in the form of the best new writing of our time. Along with work by new and emerging authors (some now internationally known) AQR has featured interviews and special sections with a veritable who's who of America's literary lions and lionesses--Jane Smiley, Richard Ford, Grace Paley, William H. Gass, Patricia Hampl, Billy Collins, and Jane Hirshfield to name just a few.

AQR has been rewarded with accolades including the Alaska State Governor's Award for the Arts, and Special Recognition by the Alaska Center for the Book. It has been duly recognized for its excellence by Poets & Writers, The Literary Magazine Review, Library Journal and many other organizations and publications of note. It is undeniably, as The Washington Post Book World editor put it, "One of the nation's best literary magazines."

By refusing to be parochial or cliquish (always selecting and showcasing the finest work available), AQR has raised the bar and inspired and fostered excellence among new and emerging writers both in Alaska and outside it. But here's the astounding thing. In spite of the odds against it, in spite of the vicissitudes of the small press business, and the exigencies of print publishing in general in a digital world, after twenty-five years ---twenty-five years! --- Alaska Quarterly Review is still producing beautiful, thoughtful, exciting and important issues twice each year. Now, that is something to celebrate.

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