, Salem, MA

October 4, 2013

Literary journal celebrates 40 years at Salem State

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — Soundings East, a literary journal published at Salem State University, will celebrate its 40th anniversary on campus Monday.

“There will be readings and people coming up to talk about the magazine,” said Ron Kessler, coordinator of creative writing at Salem State and current faculty adviser to the journal’s student board. “We’ll have cake and a display of old issues” in Marsh Hall 210.

The first two issues are collector’s items, because they published material from one of the first conferences on the works of Jack Kerouac, Kessler said.

Beat generation icons Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso visited campus to participate in that symposium, which was organized by faculty member Jay McHale in the spring of 1973.

In its 65 issues, Soundings East has also published works by major writers, including poets Seamus Heaney, Denise Levertov, Tess Gallagher and Martin Espada.

The journal was first known as Gone Soft, and its first student editor was Ron Bogan, who graduated in 1977 and will be present at the anniversary.

He was assisted by faculty adviser John Currier, “a skinny twenty-six-year-old English instructor” who died at age 29 from cystic fibrosis, wrote Kessler in an article on the journal’s history.

Currier had founded an earlier campus magazine for student writing, but the focus of Soundings East from the beginning was to publish the best submissions they could attract.

“We get 15 manuscripts for every one we publish,” Kessler said. “It’s like fishing.”

Though student work is still sometimes published there, it is more likely to appear in Red Skies, an online magazine organized at the school.

Soundings East benefits students most by allowing them to examine and judge work by accomplished writers from around the world, Kessler said.

Though Kessler advises the students, and sometimes invites established writers to speak with them, their votes determine what goes into each issue.

The most recent issue features work by a local Salem poet, Malcolm Miller, who had been submitting work for several years before it was accepted.

“I liked his archness, his freshness, his eccentricity,” Kessler said. “I think he’s a brilliant poet.”