‘Blackbird’ flies in large circles

Some outstanding poets have rested their wings at “Blackbird,” VCU’s online journal of literature and the arts.

The online publication is partnered with the New Virginia Review, a nonprofit organization. While VCU provides the literary outlet with computers and technical expertise, the New Virginia Review supplies a large portion of funding, said Greg Donovan, associate English professor and literary editor of “Blackbird.” The online publication is preparing for its Spring 2003 edition, slated for May 1.

“It’s the best online journal in the United States,” he said.

The staff at “Blackbird” and the New Virginia Review chose to put the publication online because mailing a literary publication is too costly, Donovan said. The Web site was designed by a VCU graduate and is easily navigable, he said.

Visitors to the free Web site can expect to find poetry, fiction, nonfiction and visual arts. In addition, Donovan said, the site contains audio and transcript versions of interviews with the artists and authors, and their pictures, which is called a reading loop.

“It gives you a greater sense of the writer,” he said. “This is the wave of the future.”

Works posted on “Blackbird” are done by those who are early in their career and those who have won the Pulitzer Prize.

“It allows us to represent the very best of American writers,” Donovan said.

“Blackbird” is published twice a year. In addition, every two weeks subscribers are notified via e-mail that a new feature has been posted, he said. Each page also has a print version.

“This thing is a knockout,” he said.

Unlike “Millennium,” VCU’s student literary publication, this online journal attracts contributors and readers from around the world.

“Our first subscriber was from the Czech Republic,” Donovan said.

Regardless of who writes the works, he said, students should subscribe to and read “Blackbird.” Students’ tastes as readers will expand from viewing the online journal, he said.

“This is a journal of which they can be proud,” Donovan said.

VCU students do, however, contribute to “Blackbird” in another way. In an email, Tara Moyle, associate editor of the journal, cited seven graduate students who edit works for the publication. Six of those do so for credit.

One such graduate intern, Dona Young, is in charge of publicity for the online journal. She said she has enjoyed reading the submissions and thinks students would be exposed to all different types of cultures through “Blackbird.”

“And it’s free,” she said.

Why was the publication named “Blackbird?”

In order to maintain some if its Richmond identity, the publication’s name is an indirect reference to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven.” It is also an indirect reference to Wallace Steven’s poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”

“[“Blackbird” is] thirteen new ways to look at literature and the arts,” Donovan said.

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