Our Wider Literary Community: A Brief History of Nimrod International Journal

At Little Patuxent Review, we seek to foster dialogue and community in the literary world. This guest post by Diane Burton, the associate editor of Nimrod International Journal, introduces readers to the great writing being fostered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As Burton writes, the “core” of Nimrod’s mission remains the same today as when the journal began in 1956— “to discover and promote great new writers.”

Publishing information about this journal is available at the bottom of this post.

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Nimrod was founded in 1956 at The University of Tulsa and is one of the longest-running continuously published little magazines in the United States. While it was begun by students at the university, its first editor-in-chief, James Land Jones, made clear that the journal’s reach would extend beyond that of a student literary magazine. From the start, the editors solicited and received work from poets and fiction writers, well known or new to publication, from all over the country.

Nimrod began as a very little magazine, just 48 pages stapled together, printed in black and white; over the years it has grown to its present perfect-bound format, averaging 224 pages per issue, with a four-color cover featuring original art. Originally published three times a year, it has appeared twice a year, spring and fall, since 1970. Each year the spring issue is devoted to a theme, while the fall issue features the winners of the Nimrod Literary Awards.

The title Nimrod comes from the name of the Biblical hunter Nimrod, great grandson of Noah in the book of Genesis. Jim Land Jones came upon a use of the name in Alexander Pope’s “Windsor Forest” and was struck by it. The mission of the journal at its outset was announced as “hunting for good writing”—wherever it was to be found.

Under the auspices of TU, and staffed by students and affiliates of the school, the magazine quickly participated in a larger literary conversation, publishing such well known writers as William Stafford and Ursula K. Le Guin. Nimrod’s mission evolved over time, as did the journal’s reach and scope—Nimrod became Nimrod International Journal in 1991, the change in title recognizing the expansion of both its contributor base and its audience in the previous decades. The creative spirit for this growth was Nimrod’s longest-serving editor-in-chief, Francine Ringold, who began editing the magazine as a graduate student in 1966, took the helm in 1967, steered the magazine until her retirement in 2013, and continues as a consulting editor to this day.

Under her guidance, Nimrod focused its mission on discovery, the discovery of new writers and of new work by established writers. In the spirit of discovery, Nimrod’s outreach flourished; the journal made concentrated efforts to expose its readers to literature from languages other than English and cultures beyond American academe. Beginning with Latin American Voices in 1973, which featured such well-known writers as Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda, Victoria Ocampo, and Octavio Paz, in new English translations, Nimrod produced issues on the literatures of the world, including Arabic-speaking countries, India, China, Vietnam, the Arctic Circle, Australia, and others, enlisting noted poets and scholars to select and translate the best work available. The magazine also devoted space to more local but often underrepresented writers, bringing out issues on Oklahoma writers and Native American voices.

Nimrod fostered discovery in its broader thematic issues as well, exploring the connections between literature and sports, literature and medicine, literature and urban life, reimagining myth and folklore, examining memory and aging.

Nimrod has also taken an active role in the cultural life of the Tulsa and Oklahoma communities, presenting poetry readings, poetry walks, collaborations with local public radio, outreach to the schools. One project, called The Living Newspaper, modeled on the New Deal Federal Arts project of the same name, brought together students and senior citizens in a collaborative effort to record and preserve individual and community history.

In 1978, Nimrod began to offer Nimrod/Hardman Awards: the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction. The prizes have been awarded annually since then in October, with an awards ceremony and a conference for readers and writers. The competition has attracted such distinguished judges as W. S. Merwin, Ted Kooser, Linda Pastan, Denise Levertov, and many of its winners, such as Sue Monk Kidd and Gish Jen, have gone on to wider publication.

This year marked the first prizes given for a new award, the Francine Ringold Prize for New Writers, recognizing writers who have little history of publication and working with them to polish and refine their work. Their work will appear in the spring 2018 issue of Nimrod.

Eilis O’Neal, a writer of young adult and speculative fiction, is Nimrod’s current editor-in-chief, taking over on Fran Ringold’s retirement in 2013. Having spent years with Nimrod, as student intern, associate editor, and managing editor, she has brought her own innovations to the journal. Under her guidance, Nimrod introduced electronic submissions; expanded the annual conference to include sessions with readers and writers of genre fiction, as well as presentations from agents and publishers’ representatives; and fostered even more diversity in contributors and styles, expanding the range of thematic issues, including the recent very successful Mirrors & Prisms, which invited and published work by writers of marginalized orientations and gender identities.

And so Nimrod has changed a great deal since that stapled first copy, and yet the core of its mission remains the same to this day—to discover and promote great new writers. That mission continues with the soon-to-be-released Spring/Summer 2018 issue, Let Us Gather: Diversity and the Arts, which will be out in May.

Nimrod International Journal
Publishing schedule: twice a year, spring thematic issue, fall awards issue
Home: The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Staff: one full-time Editor-in-Chief, two part-time Associate Editors, one or two student interns, and dozens of volunteers
Website: https://nimrod.utulsa.edu

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