A history of the Artful Dodge, a Wooster production

Lily Iserson
Chief Copy Editor

During each Wooster summer session, a hidden gem of creative and artistic energy manifests in the creation of the Artful Dodge, an annual literary magazine based at The College of Wooster. While the latest issue was published last summer, the Voice’s A&E editors belatedly smelled an opportunity for recognizing the Artful Dodge anew. The timing makes sense on the heels of the journal’s 2017 summer editorial session, where students can volunteer as active members of the journal’s selection process, if they so desire.

However, casual readers and book connoisseurs who missed the Artful Dodge’s 2016 release may wish to investigate its prose and poetry on offer, for its contemplations of connectedness offer solace when busy, politically-aware college students may feel barred from meaningful conversations.

Professor Daniel Bourne of the English department launched the journal 20 years ago, and he continues to work on the Dodge as its Editor in Chief. The Dodge’s chief motif, Bourne argues, has to be place.

“[Place] can be characterized as cultural, or in a natural science sort of way it can be political, but there is some kind of connection to the world, but then what does that mean?” Bourne pondered in conversation with me. We sat in a gently disarrayed space where writers from Elizabeth Bishop to Roland Barthes watched us from the side of spines. The so-called genius and power of dead writerly predecessors always merits respect when one works in English, even as their existence causes a bit of anxiety in young amateurs.

The influence of other writers simultaneously becomes a source of inspiration. When Bourne was a younger librarian surrounded by rare books at Indiana University he got to handle the first serialized edition of James Joyces’ Ulysses; he could also interview the brilliant surrealist Jorges Luis Borges (please read Labyrinths, everyone) and Omar Pound, the son of the modernist poet Ezra Pound, who Bourne claims is “very open to discussing anything under the sun, except for Ezra Pound.”

In Bourne’s memory, he forever ties amazing literature and culture with the unexpected location of Bloomington, Ind., which funded several cultural studies programs as a result of the Cold War.

During this time, Bourne started the Artful Dodge in the interest of mulling on place in its kaleidoscopic, often contradictory forms, a “raison d’etre” for which the journal still strives. For instance, the 2016 issue which was simply entitled 52/53, the Artful Dodge includes a prose-piece where writer Jeff Gundy dwells on Kafka as a Mennonite in Prague. “It’s so important how poets open up new aspects of language by reassembling the puzzle of that poem in translation in a second language,” says Bourne, and indeed, the number of translated works in each Artful Dodge volume highlights its commitment to world literature.

The Artful Dodge also gives back to its student-helping hands, and its gifts go beyond thought- provoking writing. “Working with Artful Dodge has really taught me a lot about the publishing process,” says autumn smith ’18, an assistant editor this past summer. “When I submit work to journals it helps knowing that those places are doing the same work we are and are in similar situations. Knowing what goes into making a literary magazine makes me more patient if I’m waiting to hear back from a journal.”

Channler Twyman ’18 says that getting his hands behind the Artful Dodge’s editorial team let him better define what good writing meant. “Good writing is genuine,” he says. “It’s easy to spot when people are not being genuine, or when they don’t know what they’re talking about: ‘oh I’m going to write this in five minutes and submit it!’ It’s so important to have people look at your work before you submit it.[Sometimes] you get so bogged down in the typos and trying to make sense of [a piece], it’s unprofessional. The best writing comes from a place of authenticity and being genuine to the content and not boring your reader, just really telling the story, just being true and authentic and committing to the story, telling only the story.”

Of Bourne’s ideals for the greatest literature for the Dodge, he says “place that engages in a vertical journey downward into the culture and downward into history…wow, [that] makes me pay attention.” If readers are interested in heightening their own capacity for artistic attention, they can pick up a copy of the Dodge for themselves at the Wooster bookstore, or they can contact Bourne about volunteering.

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