Founding NAME: a History
A L E T T E R F R O M T H E F O U N D I N G E D I T O R
On the 15th Anniversary of NAME Magazine
Founding Editor: Jessica Smith
It must have been a Monday, because Robert Creeley’s office hours were always on Monday mornings. I remember that hallway on the 3rd floor of Clemens and his office, the last one on the window side near the elevators, the door always open, the room usually packed with boisterous boys. But this day I was alone with him. I told him I wanted to start a literary magazine, not like Generation which was at the time more fiction- and art-focused, but a poetry-centered magazine housed in the English Department and associated with the Poetics Program.
Bob occupied the David Gray Chair, and he, like Charles Bernstein who followed him in that position, used his endowment to fund graduate student projects like reading series and publications. But there was a group of us undergraduates who had embraced the Poetics Program and made it ours. We’d met in Charles Bernstein’s or Creeley’s or Susan Howe’s classes, bonded over heated arguments about what “real” poetry is and whether Charles Bukowski was worth reading, and begun to gel as a group. We needed our own publication.
It must have been January; he probably wiped his eye, a common gesture that punctuated his conversation. He was probably wearing flannel. He told me that usually all of his Chair money was taken, but that Jorie Graham had just cancelled her Wednesdays at Four engagement because she had a cold, so he could give me $300.
I remember how staggering that sum seemed at the time, although in the next few years our budget was to grow by 500%. We filled out all the paperwork to start a new club. We solicited submissions from everyone we knew, including the graduate students and people who didn’t attend UB. The first issue was printed out on my home printer--$300 paid for paper, ink, translucent plastic envelopes, and the venue and refreshments for the first reading/release party.
Most of us who started and worked on name in those first few years are still friends fifteen years later, although we live different lifestyles all over the country (indeed, all over the world) now. Those late nights printing out name on the Cybrary printers before they were regulated, tearing up cardboard or spray-painting bubble wrap, arguing about the inclusion or exclusion of a poem, celebrating our work at the end of the semester with packed poetry readings at Rust Belt Books, gave form to our experiences as undergraduates, artists, and humans. I celebrate and congratulate the work of the editors then and since who have made this kind of meaningful community available to young writers at UB.
Jessica Smith, Founding Editor