WarpLand: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas•Published by the Gwendolyn Brooks
Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing, Chicago State University
• Quraysh Ali Lansana, faculty adviser
• Audrey Tolliver, senior editorWhen reached by telephone in his offices at Chicago State University’s Gwendolyn Brooks Center, Quraysh Ali Lansana, the poet and assistant professor of English who directs the center, had just gotten off the phone with Adrian Matejka, the newly hired managing editor of Callaloo.
“The Black literary world is a small world. We all know each other,” Lansana says. “We all support each other.” In fact, he argues, it’s a necessity.
“Yeah, it’s crazy, I know. We’re competing against multinationals. But they’re not interested in poetry or in taking too many risks even though they have money to do so. We simply believe in what we do. Small presses and university presses make sure that what is happening in literature is made available to those who seek such knowledge. This is crucial. It’s also thankless — it can feel disempowering, but never for long,” Lansana explains.
There are always highs to balance out the lows, he adds — like the moment writer Lucille Clifton accepted her Hall of Fame award and confessed, weeping, that of all the honors and awards she had received in her lifetime, “this was the first that had come from her own people.”
“So yeah, I have a stack of old journals I could line the walls with, but I’m proud of what we do. There are so few doing it,” Lansana says.
WarpLand has been in existence since 1994 and associated with Chicago State’s many creative writing programs, which include an annual conference, a series of creative writing contests, the International Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, established in 1999, and a three-year-old M.F.A. program in creative writing.
WarpLand is edited and run by the students in the program — “it’s an unparalleled opportunity for them to get publication experience,” Lansana says. And though the journal doesn’t currently offer subscriptions, it’s able to sell out its 1,500- to 2,000 copy print run through the Brooks Center’s many literary activities.
“That we are here and continue to publish speaks to the necessity and speaks to the passion. I’m sure every editor you’ve spoken to has spoken of the passion they feel for what they do,” Lansana says.
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