New Letters continues to impact campus and literary community

History is alive and well at UMKC, and its very own literary journal, New Letters, and the KCUR program companion, New Letters on the Air, are dedicated to shining light on authors through fine writing and radio.

The journal has been recognized as one of the best literature showcases in the country, and this year is no exception.

“One ranking service shows New Letters as the seventh-best journal in the country for award-winning essays out of 145 magazines,” said New Letters Editor Robert Stewart.

Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Dennis is being published in “The Best American Poetry 2019” for his poem in New Letters, and Myron Taub’s fiction writing has been chosen forThe Pushcart Prizes: Best of the Small Presses 2019.”

The literary journal is right at the heart and history of UMKC. Its office is located in a small, cottage-like house off of Rockhill Road.

Since the winter of 1934, UMKC has been publishing a magazine whose mission was 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.”

At the time, the magazine was called The University Review, but changed to New Letters in 1971 under a new editor, David Ray.

The radio accompaniment, New Letters on the Air, began in 1977 with Ray and his wife Judy. The show has changed hosts a few times, but in 1996 was succeeded by Angela Elam, who is the current New Letters on the Air host and producer.

New Letters has and continues to host new writing from notable authors like John Updike, Tess Gallagher and former president Jimmy Carter, as well as publishing special edition versions like the “Writer and Religion” issue and an issue including interviews with Allen Ginsberg and Gwendolyn Brooks. The magazine hosts a contest every year, the New Letters Literary Awards contest, in which both amateur and distinguished authors submit their works to an anonymous group of professional judges. The best entries are printed in the special review issue of the magazine every year. The literary contest has become one of the most respected in the nation.

Literature is a method through which people have been expressing their innermost selves since words could be put onto papyri, and New Letters and New Letters on the Air are perfect examples of just how beautiful that human ability can be. Whether it’s poetry or prose, the amount of new words that have been put onto paper, published and read because of UMKC’s literary journal is a special thing indeed.

The literature and radio duo will be wrapping up the year with a book sale and reading on May 15. The event will be at the University House from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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