DAVID SHIELDS | late 1970s

[Graphics Editor, 1975-7; Co-Editor, 1977-8]

Mary Ellis Gibson and I instituted the first conjoint editorship in the magazine’s history. We were good friends, Southerners, poetry-lovers, and rioja drinkers. We presided over a large and enthusiastic cadre of volunteers, numbering as many as fifty-six. This group included many writers (the bulk of the reading circles and poetry workshops in Hyde Park during the later 1970s were peopled with CR staff). Most of the editorial activity took place weekday evenings, from 7 to 10 PM, although fiction conferences could stretch into the AM hours if a knotty manuscript were being debated or an aesthetic issue being argued.

We had determined at the outset of our editorship that we would not promote any school or position. One of the four issues we put out was devoted to “Contemporary Literature in German” edited by Joel Golb. (It won wide notice for its Michael Hamburger translations of poems by Paul Celan, but most sticks in my memory for two hilarious proems by H.C. Artmann). The other three contained a mix of translations, works by name writers, and new experimental pieces.

My favorite experimental fiction was John Mella’s “Shamlets.” Mella was a legend at CR. He was rumored at various times to be a postman, a leather god of Chicago’s sadomasochistic underground, an avatar of Rimbaud, an acrobat-vendor at Wrigley Field. “Shamlets” was the final of Mella’s series of beautifully-crafted, postmodern extravaganzas CR published throughout the decade.