quarterly and its audio companion,
Letters on the Air, are part of a national literary
tradition that serves readers and writers across the
world. On this Web site, you can search for a
particular poem, story or essay from the past 70 years of
New Letters or its previous title,
University Review. You can search the
over 7,500 poems, stories, and essays from over 120 back
issues. New Letters actively maintains a
calendar of literary
and readings in the Kansas
City region, as well as information about our
and two summer writing
In the winter of 1934, the small, private University of
Kansas City began publishing The University Review.
The name was changed in 1944 to
The University of
Kansas City Review. With the Spring issue in
1938, the late Alexander P. Cappon became its editor.
He remained editor of The Review for the next 33
years. During that time, America fought three wars
and inaugurated six presidents, we entered the Atomic Age
and watched a man walk on the moon, the University became
part of the big University of Missouri system and many of
today's authors were born. But
high standards and stated mission didn't change.
its first masthead, the editors announced that they hoped
"to reflect the cultural life of this section of the
United States by providing a medium for the publication of
the finest writing obtainable here." They welcomed all
manuscripts, "the sole test of acceptance being that of
"By the end of its second year,
The Review had
published a discussion on "Art and Social Struggle"
between Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera, a story by
Vance Randolph, a poem by Edgar Lee Masters and a personal
note by Pearl S. Buck. Under Dr. Cappon’s editorship it would go on to publish May Sarton, J.D.
Salinger, e.e. cummings, Marianne Moore, May Swenson,
James T. Farrell, Kenneth Rexroth and many more writers
who were already well-known or just becoming so.
got a new editor, David Ray, and a new name—New Letters. Mr. Ray's first issues contained work by Robert Bly, Cyrus
Colter, Anselm Hollo, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Hugo and
Josephine Jacobsen. In 1972, he devoted an issue to
previously unpublished work by and about Richard Wright. Over the years, special issues included one devoted to
Jack Conroy and one introducing new work from India.
In 1977, David Ray and his
wife, Judy, began the audio literature program
Letters on the Air, a half-hour radio program
featuring writers reading from and talking about their
work (see the link on this Web site for more details). For many years, Rebekah Presson produced and hosted each
show, a task taken in 1996 by Angela Elam.
The program now stands as the longest continuously-running
broadcast of a national literary radio series, with more
than 1,200 programs by many of the world’s most prominent
writers. The radio program widens the scope of the
magazine to promote great literature both on the page and
on the air.
In 1986, James McKinley took
over as editor of New Letters. The magazine
continued the tradition of attracting new writing by
well-known writers—Amiri Baraka, Thomas Berger, former
President Jimmy Carter, Annie Dillard, Tess Gallagher,
William Gass, Charles Simic, John Updike, Miller Williams
and so many others—and lesser known authors, some whose
first published work appears in
New Letters. Since
1986, New Letters has published several
special issues, such as the "Writer in Politics" and
"Writer and Religion" issues, special issues dedicated to
the writing of either men or women, and our interview
issue, which contains interviews with Joseph Brodsky,
Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Walker Percy, Derek
Walcott among others.
New Letters Literary Awards competition was held in 1986 (see the
"awards" link on this Web site for entry details). Its
purpose was to discover, encourage, reward, and publish
fresh, new writing. The first year 1,600 entries arrived
from all around the country and the world, from both
established and emerging writers. Today the contest has
become a model for others of its kind sponsored by various
literary organizations and remains one of the most
important. Each year, hundreds of entries from writers
from all around the United States and the world receive
professional, anonymous judging; and each year, the finest
of that work appears in the special awards issue of
Letters. Due to its continued commitment to anonymity
and fairness, it has become one of the most respected
literary contests in the country.
When James McKinley retired
in September of 2002,
Robert Stewart took over the post of
editor-in-chief for New Letters,
New Letters on
the Air, and their affiliate,
BkMk Press (see link
this Web site). Stewart worked as managing editor
under both David Ray and James McKinley, and played a
central role in design, typography, and art; and he has
had a long-running voice in the poetry selections in the
magazine. He also worked over the years with such regular
essayists as Janet Burroway and Alberto Rios. Since
Stewart became editor, the magazine has published such writers
as Brian Doyle, Quincy Troupe, Daniel Woodrell, Sherman
Alexie, Marilyn Hacker, Maxine Kumin and Charlotte Holmes.
New Letters will
continue to seek the best new writing, whether from
established writers or from those just ready to be
discovered; and it will support those writers, readers
and, yes, listeners, who want to experience the joy of
writing that both surprises and inspires us all.
about our Web site.