MICHAEL DONAGHY | early 1980s

[Poetry Staff, 1981-3; Poetry Editor, 1983-5]

I came on as an editor at a pretty low point in CR’s fortunes. The management and staffing were very unsettled, the university’s support—both financial and moral—was dwindling, and the magazine’s production schedule seriously stretched the idea of ‘quarterly. My first official act as an editor (and what I continue to regard as my most important contribution to CR’s operations) was to get rid of a huge quantity of empty canvas mailbags, property of the United States Post Office; these were piled high in every available corner and took up most of the space in the supply closet. The box of nonfiction manuscripts contained several items over two years old and in imminent need of dusting. For these neglected submissions I hit upon what seemed like an expedient solution: I would send them back, explaining in a note that I was returning them unread and unjudged rather than holding onto them for an even longer time. My thinking was that these long-suffering authors would appreciate the opportunity to get on with their lives, but of course I got back a fiery letter from one of the sufferers, accusing me of being ‘bogus.’ I learned a valuable lesson from this: an editor should never try to explain anything to an author. We eliminated the backlog, found a few interesting things to publish, and even had a little fun. Perhaps the nicest thing we did was a portfolio of photographs, with text, by Tony Mendoza (Winter 1985) [an excerpt from which is featured on the front cover—ed.]; we also took up a fine personal essay by Mark Harris for the Spring 1986 issue.