Columbia Business Times
The Missouri Review celebrates three decades in publishing
by Steve Weinberg
Posted Sunday, November 25, 2007
Thirty years ago, a few University of Missouri-Columbia English professors made a brazen decision. They would start a literary review featuring original fiction, poetry and essays penned by some of the most distinguished authors in the world as well as a selection of talented but little-known writers.
The first issue appeared in spring 1978 with the name The Missouri Review. It included a poem by Joyce Carol Oates, already a winner of numerous literary prizes but not yet a household name. It featured original work by accomplished writers such as Robert Bly, Philip Levine, William Stafford, Gerald Stern and James Tate, setting a standard that would carry the publication over the next three decades.
Considering the typical fate of new periodicals — which see a failure rate exceeding 50 percent — founders Larry Levis and Marcia Southwick, a husband-and-wife pair of professors in the MU English Department, had little reason to be optimistic. But later in 1978, a second issue appeared, with another contribution from Oates and a story by Paul Bowles. Maybe, just maybe, The Missouri Review would gain a toehold in the world of quality literature. Other MU English professors enlisted as editors, including William Holtz, Timothy Materer, Thomas McAfee and a spirited but unknown novelist named Speer Morgan.