Sumac was a Michigan-based literary journal founded in 1968 by poets Dan Gerber and Jim Harrison; novelist Thomas McGuane joined the editorial staff in 1969 as the fiction editor. When the inaugural issue appeared, more than 250 American literary magazines were listed in The Directory of Magazines and Small Presses; within three years, Sumac rose to the first tier of these publications and was nationally recognized for its eclecticism and editorial quality. The Library Journal called it "one of the best little magazines now being published."
Remaining true to Sumac's energetic catholicity, The Sumac Reader is an anthology that contains poetry, experimental fiction, and works in translation that originally appeared in the magazine. Contributors include four Pulitzer Prize-winning poets - Galway Kinnell, Charles Simic, Louis Simpson, and Gary Snyder - along with Paul Blackburn, Hayden Carruth, Richard Hugo, Denise Levertov, Ezra Pound, Adrienne Rich, and Diane Wakoski. There are early poems by Charles Simic, James Tate, and Michael Waters, as well as a complete section from Galaway Kinnell's classic, The Book of Nightmares. Fiction is represented in Sumac by a first-published Jim Heynen story "Coyote" and early prose by William Kittredge. Translations from Chinese, French, Spanish, and Russian bring to American readers the work of masters such as Tu Fu, Lorca, and Li Po. A variety of poetic forms are represented, including ghazals, narratives, suites, found poems, and the freest of free verse.
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Title: The Sumac Reader
Author: Joseph Bednarik
Publisher: Michigan State University Press
Date Published: March 1997
Publishers Weekly - In the late 1960s, when poets and Michigan State alums Dan Gerber and Jim Harrison considered their vision for a literary magazine, they chose to aim for an "energetic catholicity" of taste rather than an overriding paradigm or poetic school's creed. The selection here of 90 poems and short fiction pieces from the nearly 900 that appeared in over seven issues of Sumac (1969-1971) covers 58 contributors, many of whom, like Galway Kinnell and Charles Simic, went on to prominent careers. This collection functions as a cultural time capsule, putting the work of these and other now widely recognized poets, such as Adrienne Rich, Louis Simpson and Gary Snyder, in context. It allows us to read them in the company they kept 25 years ago and also provides a snapshot of poetry's attempts to assimilate the era's turbulence, as in E.G. Burrows's "Year's End": "The black children of Biafra/ spit metal. Skies split/ with the same cradle croon/ under Mekong thatch." The poets of this same generation were also coming to terms with aftershocks of WWII Europe ("home you came at last/ but in a paper nightgown/ and a white box" Josephine Clare) and race relations in the U.S.("76 cities in flames on the landscape/ and the bearer of peace/ lying still in Atlanta" Quincy Troupe ). While few of the poems can be called classics, these selected works, observed in hindsight, suggest that Sumac's contributors captured the pulse of the times with remarkable clarity. (Oct.)
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