By Collin Kelley
Call it the passing of a literary torch.
After 22 years, the founder of Atlanta Review literary journal, Dan Veach, has announced he will hand over the editorship to award-winning poet and Georgia Tech professor Karen Head. Georgia Tech will archive the journal and make the stellar roster of poets who have appeared in its pages over the past two decades available online.
A short list of those poets include Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney, Gunter Grass, Derek Walcott, Joseph Brodsky and Eugenio Montale, along with American Poet Laureates Natasha Trethewey, Billy Collins, Maxine Kumin, Ted Kooser, Josephine Jacobsen, Charles Simic, Charles Wright and Mark Strand. Many of poetry’s Pulitzer Prize winners have had their work published in the journal, including Stephen Dunn, Yusef Komunyakaa, Tracy K. Smith, Paul Muldoon, Louis Simpson and Carl Dennis.
The impetus to start the journal, Veach recalled, was to create a journal for all the great Atlanta poets who couldn’t get their work published. However, in just two years, Atlanta Review would become one of the most widely-read poetry journals in the world. Published twice yearly, the spring issue features poets from different countries and poetry in translation, making it one of the few journals in America that has embraced translations. Veach co-founded the journal with fellow poet Capers Limehouse in 1994 after nearly a decade of running the Poetry Atlanta reading series (which continues 30 years later in conjunction with Georgia Center for the Book).
So why did Veach, a retired Atlanta University Center librarian and also an award-winning poet, decide to step down as editor?
“I think it was time for new energy in the journal,” Veach said during an interview at his home in Decatur. “Sometimes founders hold onto things too long. Atlanta Review has been wonderfully successful. I’ve had a terrific time and it’s taken me all over the world. But I can’t think of a better person than Karen Head to take over.”
Head, who is an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication and director of the institute-wide Communication Center, has published three acclaimed collections – Shadow Boxes, My Paris Year and Sassing – and her work has been published in journals around the world. In 2009, she had the distinct honor of being the only American chosen for the One & Other “living monument” project created by British sculptor Antony Gormley. Head sat atop the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square and created a digital poem with the help of poets from around the world. She was also the winner of the 2011 Oxford International Women’s Festival Poetry Prize.
“I read Karen’s books and have tremendous respect for her work,” Veach said. “I also know she’s a fireball organizer. When she says something is going to happen, it happens and that’s what you need from a literary editor.”
“It’s a dream come true,” said Head, who was also a student editor at two other highly regarded journals, Prairie Schooner and Chattahoochee Review. “This is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life. It’s not every day that the editor of a journal with the reputation of Atlanta Review says, ‘here, let me give you my child.'”
Head said Tech will be a great host for Atlanta Review because of its technology capabilities and a “great library staff” that will be able to archive and digitize the journal. “The arts movement at Tech is one of the biggest things that’s happened in the last few years and it’s got great people and steam behind it,” Head commented. “What we can do digitally with Atlanta Review will be innovative. I can imagine an online experience that accompanies the print edition with photography, art and poetic moments that can’t be captured on the page.”
The transition of Atlanta Review to Head and Georgia Tech will begin this summer, and Veach will become editor emeritus and will still assist with translations and international issues. There will be a big reading and party in the autumn to formally welcome Atlanta Review to Tech and the first issue under Head’s editorship will also appear later this year.