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Agni Celebrates 66 Issues on the 6th

Allegra Goodman, Erica Funkhouser, Perrin Ireland read at release party

Cambridge novelist Perrin Ireland got her first big break in 1999, when a small literary magazine called Agni published a piece of her fiction in its 49th issue. The exposure led directly to the publication of Ireland’s debut novel, Ana Imagined, a year later.

Agni is so important,” Ireland says of the journal published at BU. “It has been extremely important in my writing life because it publishes work from emerging authors as well as from world-class, well-established ones.”

In celebration of its 35th anniversary and the publication of its 66th issue, the magazine is hosting a reading and release party tomorrow night at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. Ireland, who is one of the featured guests, will read from her most recent novel, Chatter. Also reading will be novelist and National Book Award finalist Allegra Goodman, a lecturer in the Creative Writing Program at the College of Arts and Sciences and author of the New York Times best seller Intuition, as well as poet and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient Erica Funkhouser.

Agni, which got its start at a small Ohio liberal arts college and has been published at Boston University since 1987, publishes short stories, essays, poems, translations, art, and photography by writers and artists from around the world. Supported by the Creative Writing Program, Agni “is one of the strongest voices of one of the most active writing communities in America,” says current editor Sven Birkerts.

Today, the magazine has a print run of 3,000, and each issue features work by approximately 40 writers and artists. It has subscribers in 38 states and 10 countries and is carried by more than 100 university and city libraries and distributed to independent and chain bookstores nationwide. Writers whose work has appeared in the magazine include poet and Guggenheim Fellow Olga Broumas; former U.S. poet laureate Louise Glück, a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet and a CAS lecturer in creative writing; Ha Jin (GRS’94), a CAS professor of creative writing and winner of a National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkner Awards, and a PEN/Hemingway Award; Derek Walcott, a Nobel laureate and a CAS professor of creative writing; and novelist and MacArthur Fellow David Foster Wallace. Agni accepts unsolicited manuscripts between September 1 and May 31, and submissions may be accepted for publication in Agni or on the magazine’s Web site.

At Tuesday’s event, Funkhouser plans to read from her forthcoming book of poems, Earthly. Two of the collection’s poems appear in the current issue of Agni. “The task of giving meaning to experience by putting it into words is what inspires me to write,” she says. “And by experience, I mean everything from the way a spoon sits in a drawer to the way it feels to be looking for firewood in a war-ravaged city. Writing is how I pay attention to the world.”

The reading promises to be compelling, Birkerts says, because three of contemporary literature’s best writers will be reading their work. “Those reading honor the spirit of the magazine’s current issue,” he says. “We hope that every reading offers a vivid cross section of what we think of as the best writing going on today.”

Agni’s release party takes place Tuesday, November 6, at 7 p.m. at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Ave. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call Bill Pierce at 617-353-7135 or e-mail agni@bu.edu.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.