Prairie Margins is Bowling Green State University’s undergraduate literary magazine. The first issue was published in 1963 with the original name “Inkstone.” Prairie Margins promotes the work of undergraduates across the country through publication once a year. Visit our Inkstone Archives to see the .pdf versions of a few Inkstone magazines. The following article was written by Suzanna Anderson, a previous Editor-in-Chief of Prairie Margins, who thoroughly researched the history of Prairie Margins.
I encountered literary magazines for the first time when I visited Kenyon College in high school and flipped through a copy of The Kenyon Review. In two more years, I would learn what a literary magazine was and how I could help produce one. During my sophomore year at Bowling Green State University, I started working on Prairie Margins. At first I was only reading and commenting on submissions, then was treasurer and managing editor my junior year, and was editor-in-chief my senior year.
Because of working with Prairie Margins, literary magazines are now part of my reading fare. My reading skills have sharpened from the words and opinions of my colleagues and advisor Karen Craigo, and I would not be the reader I am today without their insight. I am also a better writer from having read contemporary work along with the required literature courses. As a writer/editor submitting my work to other literary magazines, I understand the deadlines, pressure, and pleasures of working on a literary magazine.
As the editor-in-chief, I ventured to the archives at Jerome Library to see what was missing from the Prairie Margins archives in East Hall. With the librarians’ help, we discovered another magazine called Inkstone. The undergraduate literary magazine at Bowling Green State University that I knew as Prairie Margins was born as Inkstone in 1963 as a preview issue. The name changed to Prairie Margins in fall 1975.
The first and only piece of music published in Inkstone was “Oratio Dominica” by Thomas J. Anderson in spring 1964. John D. MacPhedran, editor of spring 1965, searched for an inkstone in Manhattan only to arrive at his destination with steaks for his host. The first limerick contest in spring 1979 published an original limerick by Isaac Asimov. Spring 1979 was also the first time the BFA thesis award was presented. The 1983 issue was dedicated to the memory of Richard M. Jones, benefactor. The silver anniversary issues were printed in 1985 and 1986, even though the true silver anniversary was 1988, but that’s why we’re English majors. 1963 plus 25 equals 1988. The introduction to the 25th anniversary issue said, “Tough but reasonable standards were applied to the manuscripts: works which did not conform to the accepted standards of English grammar were rejected regardless of the strength of the ideas put forth, because we believe that writers must master the language before they can create. Similarly, well-written submissions that had nothing to say, or nothing original to say, were rejected. Many of the rejected manuscripts showed promise, and the number of publishable manuscripts we received was impressive.” Those same criteria apply to Prairie Margins today. In 2005, Prairie Margins accepted work from undergraduates across the country.
In the spring of 1978, the editors of Prairie Margins published “the murmuring of the grasses,” a selection of work reprinted to celebrate the 15th anniversary. In the preface, the editors said, “Everything you are about to read has appeared in previous issues of Inkstone-Prairie Margins, and represents some of the finest writing by students at Bowling Green. Each work was selected on the basis of its literary merit and validity, but not necessarily for its representational value. We are printing those works which have withstood the test of time, and naturally some may represent specific styles, genres, or cultural values. Many of these writers have further pursued their writing careers, while others have moved to careers in other areas.” The same can be said of the following writing, selected to be reprinted for the 50th anniversary of Prairie Margins.
Working with the history of Inkstone and Prairie Margins has been a gift over the last year. I’ve learned so much from the project, including new tricks in Photoshop and InDesign. Reading the issues, I realized that the content and themes of undergraduate work had not changed much over the decades. College is still college. Meeting previous contributors at AWP was wonderful, especially seeing how the work we do in Bowling Green affects others. At Prairie Week, the spring conference celebrating the 50th anniversary (since I’ve been on staff, we usually call it Spring Harvest), I shared the history of the magazine. It was fun to show off covers, page layouts, the variations in publication size, typography, and binding.
Even though I still do not know who suggested the name change, it has been a wonderful to hold the first issues in my hands and turn the pages. And though the university archives and the Prairie Margins archives have not seen Inkstone 1972, Prairie Margins 1976, 1988, 1995, or 1997, one day there will be a complete set of all Inkstone and Prairie Margins issues.
Thank you for your support of Inkstone and Prairie Margins. I hope your support continues for the next fifty years.
This article can be found in the 50th anniversary issue of Prairie Margins.