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AGNI’s History

was founded in 1972 at Antioch College by undergraduate Askold Melnyczuk, a then-aspiring (now accomplished) writer with his own vision of a vehicle for alternative news, visual arts, and literature. Melnyczuk was interested in creating a magazine that would feature a new generation of writers and visual artists.

We see literature and the arts as part of a broad, ongoing cultural conversation that every society needs to remain vibrant and alive. Literature for literature’s sake is not what AGNI is about. Our writers and artists hold a mirror up to nature, mankind, the world; they courageously reflect their age, for better or worse; and their work provokes perceptions and thoughts that help us understand and respond to our age.

Aside from regular inclusion of its work in the annual Best American, O. Henry Prize, and Pushcart Prize anthologies, “[a]mong readers around the world, AGNI is known for publishing important new writers early in their careers,” as PEN American Center put it in 2001. Such authors include Jhumpa Lahiri (Pulitzer Prize, 2000, for Interpreter of Maladies; the title story appeared in AGNI 47 in 1998), Ha Jin (National Book Award, 1999; many of his early poems and stories appeared in AGNI and he was a Featured Poet in 1989), and Susanna Kaysen (Girl, Interrupted, first excerpted in AGNI in 1991), as well as Mark Doty, Glyn Maxwell, Sven Birkerts, and Olena Kalytiak Davis, whom we’ve printed alongside such luminaries as Seamus Heaney, Joyce Carol Oates, Derek Walcott, and many others.

AGNI has published more than sixty issues and gone through many incarnations in its thirty-five years, including its tenure at Antioch, as a private publication in Western Massachusetts, and, since 1987, at Boston University, supported by the graduate Creative Writing Program. The magazine is one of the strongest voices of one of the most active writing communities in America, and we continue to focus on developing audiences for contemporary literature. We have held numerous readings (in Boston and nationwide) featuring such writers as Seamus Heaney, Louise Glück, Lan Samantha Chang, and Robert Pinsky (see upcoming events on our homepage) and shouldered the responsibility for sending press releases to local media and notifying the community with flyers, phone calls, and emails. AGNI’s events are much sought-after occasions with frequently standing-room-only audiences.

Another important aspect of AGNI’s editorial history and vision is its abiding interest in the important cultural questions that concern us all, both domestically and internationally. Most issues include work from multiple languages, and translations from Urdu, Dutch, Latin, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Yiddish, Chinese, Turkish, Greek and Ancient Greek, Hebrew, Albanian, Old English, Polish, Italian, Slovenian, French, and Latvian have appeared in AGNI. We also continue to feature a variety of challenging topics, from features on Spirituality after Silicon Valley and Social Control and the Arts to George Packer’s “School on a Garbage Pile,” a profile of Haiti’s school systems, and Julia Lieblich’s “Pieces of Bone,” a story of torture in Guatemala.

Each issue includes at least forty writers/artists, with our print run now at 3,000. AGNI has paying subscribers in thirty-eight states and ten countries, is carried by over one hundred university and city libraries, and is distributed to independent and chain bookstores nationwide. Like our writers, our contributing editors span genres, genders, races, and international borders, such as Thomas Sayers Ellis (an African-American poet in Ohio), Oksana Zabuzhko (a female novelist in Ukraine), and Tom Sleigh (a white poet/translator in New York).

History of the AGNI Monkey

The “flying monkey,” drawn by a long-ago intern, has been AGNI’s logo since 1994 (AGNI 40). In 2003 he was reborn as the “monkey demon” from Richard Fariña’s 1966 novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me:

“SHAZAM!” He was up on the table, making a noise like a thunderclap, then with a bound into the middle of the dining room, pointing a finger at Harold Wong. “Beware the monkey-demon, Wong.” Then to all the startled faces, their every expression chilled stiff, interrupted: “Lock your doors, gang. Bolt your bedroom windows. He may be the house mascot now, but in ten years, zoom, back to Peking, a commissar. Swoop . . .” He was out the door, flapping his wings like a bird trying to fly. . . .

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