Long before the internet, TriQuarterly was one of the top literary magazines in the world, standing amongst such peers as The Paris Review and Antaeus. First published in 1958, the magazine has published poetry and prose from numerous luminary authors and produced important issues about Sylvia Plath, John Cage, and Vladimir Nabokov as well as regional issues about Asian, Israeli, and Latin American literature. Over the years, writers like Tracy K. Smith, a former Poet Laureate, Amy Hempel, and Aleksandar Hemon have all been published in TriQuarterly, as well as, of course, Chicagoan Stuart Dybek.
Naomi Shihab Nye, poet and novelist, recently told us, “TriQuarterly has always been the most distinguished literary journal in existence (alongside Manoa, for me) - filled with the most substantive, thoughtful writing and criticism available. I felt exhilarated and proud, always, to be a reader of such a fine journal.”
Reginald Gibbons, the Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities at Weinberg and the current Director of Planning for TriQuarterly, explained that in the heyday of literary print magazines, the relatively small world of these types of journals provided the venue for how new works entered the American culture.
“It was an intensely active and fascinating world,” he said, referring to the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. “Then the whole world changed with websites and most of the foundation money for print journals dried up,” leaving a changing landscape for many print journals. However, leadership at Northwestern and TriQuarterly were agile enough to launch an online edition in 2010, thus ensuring the continued existence of the journal as well as even greater access to its content for readers around the world.
An Online Archive
Ever since TriQuarterly became an online publication, there’s been a long-term goal to include a repository of all the print editions. Working with partners in the library from Repository & Digital Curation, and the Media & Design team in Northwestern IT, print editions of TriQuarterly were carefully scanned and given a new home online.
This cross-departmental project took years to complete, and included the exacting work of creating high-quality images of each page of the print editions as well as creating a browseable page viewer. The process included OCR, or “Optical character recognition” that converts printed text into machine-readable text. OCR will occasionally misread a letter or word, and although the archived issues have undergone quality control, Rodolfo Vieira, a lead programmer who worked on the page viewer, indicates that readers may find areas for improvement. The editors will largely rely on crowdsourcing to resolve any textual issues. Readers are encouraged to use the “Feedback” link located on each page if they find anything that should be addressed.
The archive of the print editions provides not only excellent material for the reader, but also a useful archive and resource of the works that were published in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Each issue includes a searchable index and allows the reader to easily scroll through the text.
Screenshot of the TriQuarterly Archive Viewer
"From the beginning of its print history, it was one of the most innovative literary magazines, tremendously enlivening the design standards of that time,” said Gibbons, one of the leaders of the archival project. “The complete digitized archive will be a unique resource for readers and for scholars who work on late 20th-century literature, and the born-digital issues will continue TriQuarterly's lively participation in American literary culture for a long time to come.”
Another change coming to TriQuarterly is a growing sponsorship. Previously, the magazine was sponsored by the School of Professional Studies and lead by voluntary editorial teams from SPS grad students. Soon the magazine will be sponsored by the English department in Weinberg Arts and Sciences and the editorial team will be open to students within the new Litowitz Creative Writing Graduate Program. The expansion will provide a greater engagement with Northwestern students, and Gibbons anticipates that they’ll be able to attract students in other arts programs to participate as well.
More recently, TriQuarterly has taken full advantage of its online presence to offer rich, multimedia content with audio recordings, digital stories and visual representations of literary work.
Carrie Muehle, the managing editor of the magazine, says, “As any poetry lover can tell you, there's something about hearing the words read by the poets themselves that elevates the connection between reader and writer. You get to hear the poem as the poet hears it--every pause and inflection, every change in tone--and it adds a level of emotion you might not experience otherwise.”
Pointing toward a video essay in the Winter/Spring 2018 issue called "Territory" that includes dance, Muehle explains that it includes almost every art form – writing, dance, music, visual art. “I found myself watching it over and over again,” she said.