Elmborg and Magnino Speak at PDH4L

Elmborg and Magnino Speak at PDH4L

Professor Jim Elmborg and graduate assistant Bennett Magnino presented a talk, "The Collectors Impulse: The Case of the Little Magazines," at the third Public Digital Humanities 4 Lunch (PDH4L) event on November 29, 2012.

Elmborg became interested in what he calls the "little magazine phenomenon" while pursuing his Ph.D. in English at the University of Kansas in 1995. He was amazed to find so many small, proto-zine poetry publications in existence with little published scholarship about them.

A number of now famous poets published in these magazines as well as other prolific but still relatively unknown poets. Elmborg wanted to make these works more accessible.

"Their life and careers were formed during this period," Elmborg explained. "We want to identify poets in this small set who were nationally known, but still have never been studied because there is no tool to get at it."

To solve this problem, Elmborg has been working to create an index of all the Little Magazines published between 1958 and 1972 known as "the long sixties."

Typically, these magazines were a labor of love for one editor.  The potential for burnout was high, and often publication withered when the editorship changed hands.

Many of the little magazines are now housed in various university special collections, but many more reside in the basements of the one-time editors.

"They are realizing that they need to be part of an institution if there is going to be any history written on them," said Elmborg. He is hoping that the creation of this index with help encourage more editors to come forward with their personal collections to contribute to the project.

"It is really difficult to get everything," Elmborg admits.  He estimates that there are somewhere around 1500 of these magazines in existence.

The Little Magazine database is designed to enable users to search by poet, work, and magazine.  Elmborg hopes that they will soon be able to open it up to other institutions in what he calls "middle-level crowd sourcing."

Due to lack of consistency between publications and the need for accurate metadata, Elmborg does not believe that public crowd-sourcing would be beneficial for this project.  Instead, he feels the best way to increase the index is to allow specific institutions access to add the information from their own collections.

"At a certain point we have to throw up our hands and say, 'It is what it is,'" explained Magnino.

Both are hopeful that the project will bring to light many unknown and little known poets. "We hope to give access to as many Little Magazines as possible so scholarship may ensue," stated Elmborg.