Every year, around this time – when finals are quickly approaching and summer seems both far away and right here – The Ignatian literary magazine comes out, breathing a burst of great, carefully curated creative writing onto campus for everyone to read.
This year, The Ignatian is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Its editorial staff, comprised of USF students who publish the magazine as part of a year-long class facilitated by English Department faculty member John Gibbs, will release this year’s issue on Thursday, April 26th.
Gleeson Library|Geschke Center celebrates the magazine’s past and present staff members and their accomplishments, and is pleased to co-host a release party and reading (open to the campus community) in the Library Atrium on the 26th from 6pm-8pm.
We’ve also created a special pop-up reading nook near the fountain in the library’s foyer, complete with past issues of The Ignatian available to peruse for the remainder of April, which is also National Poetry Month.
Finally, in anticipation of the magazine’s current issue release, the library caught up with student editors Hannah Bendiksen and Natalia Rocco to talk about the literary magazine’s legacy, the current issue, and what it’s like to bring The Ignatian to life. Their thoughtful responses to our questions make us even more excited to read the upcoming issue, and add it to Gleeson’s collection.
Can you tell us a little bit about The Ignatian’s history and past contributors?
HB: Although we celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Ignatian as we know it today, as a journal of prose, poetry, and art, The Ignatian has existed since 1910 in the form of a literary journal, alumni magazine, sports report, yearbook, faculty publication and more. During the free speech movement in the 1960s, the magazine moved off campus to exercise more creative freedom. The magazine’s return to the USF campus in 1988 marks the start of our thirty-year affiliation and partnership.
The Ignatian has quite the history of publishing social commentary, from a 1914 editorial condemning the onset of World War I to articles written in support of the civil rights movement. This year, The Ignatian continues to be a vehicle for creative work that is both socially engaged and literary. What I love about The Ignatian is that it contains work from all over the US, and from individuals from all walks of life. We’ve even published work submitted from prison. This impresses upon me just how vital and life-giving writing is across all ages and circumstances, and I am thankful that The Ignatian is the recipient of so many diverse voices.
As editors, how do you feel about being part of The Ignatian’s long history? How did you approach this 30th year issue?
NR: It’s always a pleasure to begin going through the submission process. The Ignatian is active year-round, but we don’t get to work on the pieces until the spring semester. Once February comes, however, a surge of energy takes over the entire staff and the fun finally begins. When Hannah and I first joined, we were merely readers talking about prose and poetry with our peers, enjoying the debate and fighting for pieces we love and believe in…Since The Ignatian is the product and reflection of its staff, we have to make sure our [staff is] fully involved in the discussion… We were fortunate enough to have such an engaging group of people join this year, that it made our jobs so much easier…The 30th issue is a big one. For us, that is. Perhaps it’s due to our excitement of simply being a part of The Ignatian for an anniversary issue. Nonetheless, “it has to be big,” we said. Which is why we’re so thankful to have such proactive staff members. We wanted good content for our readers, and they dug deep in our submission pile for the little gems. We really do hope everyone enjoys it.
HB: It is an honor to be a part of The Ignatian’s long history and a long line of editors. I think it is more important than ever to assert the importance of the arts and to support emerging writers amidst the changing landscape of San Francisco. What’s more, as a greater number of literary magazines digitize, it is a privilege to produce another print journal, which requires distinct artistry and vision. I can’t wait to hold the magazine in my hands and feel the physical weight of the words; when I hold it, I can imagine it as a tangible cultural artifact in years to come, representative both of our university, our city, and our epoch.
What aspect(s) of this current issue are you most excited about?
HB: We’re excited to work with a new publisher, and the heads of our design team, Cathrin Jacob and Sophia Passin, have curated stellar artwork. I love the process of selecting submissions, but I also love when it comes time to lay out the magazine and order it. It is consistently surprising that a pattern inevitably emerges, in which the art informs the writing and vice versa.
This year, we are publishing three features that highlight particular neighborhoods and cultural legacies of San Francisco itself, from a street ministry in the Tenderloin to Balboa Street to the punk rock scene. Since my time working with The Ignatian, the features have challenged us as staff members to do more than passively participate in the greater SF community. They require engaging in conversation with writers at open mics, interviewing organizations and individuals, and ultimately tuning in to the challenges and aspirations of the publishing world and beyond. These are no doubt daunting, but also energizing and inspiring, conversations. I am thrilled to immortalize the smaller sub-sects of the many bubbles of culture and eccentricity that exist in our city.
NR: The staff features! [A] main focus we had for the 30th edition was to make The Ignatian a literary journal that embraces its environment, and the features do exactly that. It explores San Francisco in the most revealing way…It’s truly something to bookmark. [We’ve been] excited to work with Berkeley’s Edition One, and we hope to continue this relationship, maybe, forever. Only a Bart ride away, Edition One gives us the chance to view their work and plan out how we want to magazine to look and feel. It’s a whole new aspect of the publishing world that we [get the chance to] experience, and we’re so grateful for that radical voice in one of our meetings that suggested [working with Edition One].
What do you hope for The Ignatian in its next 30 years?
NR: TO STAY IN PRINT! Having worked for the magazine for all these years, it’s difficult to imagine ever reading it in digital form… From [the magazine’s] size, to the page color, to the material … [i]t’s all part of the experience. Moreover, it’s truly an astonishing accomplishment as an undergraduate to help create a physical book. As an English major hoping to get into publishing, creating a print magazine helps motivate me to pursue this dream even more.
HB: We currently accept submissions from all around the country and world, and I hope The Ignatian will continue to increase its visibility and branding. In a world with so many voices competing to be heard, marketing The Ignatian to a broader audience can seem daunting at times. But I have faith that as long as there are zealous, innovative USF students willing to accept the challenge, The Ignatian’s published writers and artists will make their mark. I hope in years to come we will continue to steadily increase our visibility in the small press and literary hubbub of San Francisco, as well as expand our online presence through social media campaigns and our blog. We are constantly looking for a balance between our USF identity and that which makes us unique amongst other university publications.
What has working on The Ignatian added to your experience at USF?
NR: I grew up in a family that has built their careers in the medical field. Unfortunately for my parents, I’m not enrolled in USF’s nursing program. I like books, so I’m pursuing a degree in English! This was scary for my parents, which then made it scary for me. However, being involved in a project like The Ignatian reminds why I even took the leap to a liberal arts degree. It’s my passion, and I love being surrounded by others who feel the same way.
HB: In the role of deputy editor my sophomore year and editor-in-chief my senior year, The Ignatian has taught me a lot about how to lead a team and how to encourage others to voice their ideas. Every semester The Ignatian begins as a class, and my goal is to turn it into a community in which everyone feels as though their opinions are valued. It is important to me that everyone feels as though they have something at stake, because the beauty of a literary magazine is the many voices represented, not just in the form of the contributors but in the many meticulous copy-editors and readers, and in the many hours spent selecting submissions. The Ignatian requires a whole new level of professionalism, communication, teamwork, and vision. It is an 8 month effort that requires thoroughness every step of the way, but this engagement also helps me to hone in my own writing and editorial skills, and has helped me identify what kinds of writing speak most to me.
[edited for clarity and brevity]