Get to Know ‘Kalliope,’ Penn State’s Student Literary Journal
“Kalliope” has been a familiar facet of Penn State’s writing community for 40 years, but what exactly is it?
The 200-page literary magazine graces the shelves of various Penn State buildings and Webster’s Bookstore Cafe for free every year, featuring works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art from students of all walks of life.
Its deep-rooted history goes to show the power of how great things can be achieved when Penn Staters work together.
In 1939, Penn State published its first undergraduate literary journal, “Portfolio,” which was renamed “The New Portfolio” the following year and “Critique” in 1947. In 1980, undergraduates Eileen Levitan, Terry McDonald, Mark Seinfelt, and Bob Karpowicz worked with faculty members John Haag and John Balaban to publish the first issue of “Kalliope,” which hit shelves in 1981.
While the first issue of “Kalliope” was a mere 28 pages long, publishing opportunities for Penn State undergraduates have grown exponentially since then. In addition to “Kalliope,” students have the opportunity to submit their work to their sister magazines, “Folio,” a fall semester chapbook named after Penn State’s original literary magazine, and “Klio,” an online creative arts journal.
When judging submissions, the “Kalliope” committees look for originality, a unique voice, and an interesting perspective. They also aim to publish pieces that are emotional, thought-provoking, and high-quality. The submissions pool is very competitive, but it comes without a cost.
“Kalliope” won the National Program Director’s prize for student literary magazines in Content in 2000 and operates with funding from the University Park Allocation Committee and the English department, allowing students to create an exceptional literary journal without the pressure of fundraising.
This year, “Kalliope” is headed by Morgan Seiff, a senior majoring in English and film. She joined the staff as a freshman and began in the nonfiction committee, spent two years as the Production Chair assembling the magazine, and worked her way up to editor-in-chief. She said she was drawn to the community that “Kalliope” builds and how committed it is to sharing and discussing stories.
Above all, Seiff hopes that Penn Staters continue to submit their work, and emphasizes that even though sharing your creative work can be intimidating, an undergraduate literary journal like “Kalliope” is a great, low-stakes place to start.
“‘Kalliope’ has a relatively small but passionate and dedicated cast of supporters. When we had in-person events, our general meetings would pack a half a classroom in Willard, and our open-mic literature readings would generate good business for Webster’s,” current managing editor Kenneth Gatten III said. “In fact, my favorite experience in ‘Kalliope’ was probably the release party we held at Webster’s in January 2020, where I poured a coffee and squeezed into a table between a fellow staff member and her charming friend, with whom I listened to colleagues’ readings of heart-racing poetry, hilarious standup comedy, and moving nonfiction.”
That charming friend, Gatten added, has now been his girlfriend for over a year.
In addition to the student staff, Alison Jaenicke has served as the faculty advisor for “Kalliope” since 2013 and worked as the fiction editor for the University of Virginia’s Virginia Literary Review during her time there as an undergraduate. She was also instrumental in the creation of “Klio” through her instruction of ENGL 209, Literary Journal Practicum, in fall 2016. Since 2016, the journal has worked to incorporate music, podcast, films, and other digital avenues into its work.
Like Seiff and Gatten, Jaenicke emphasized the invaluable connections “Kalliope” fosters throughout the community and the opportunity to express her lifelong love of helping people get their creative work out into the world. She has taken students to annual conferences put on by Forum for Undergraduate Student Editors (FUSE) National, which allows them to share ideas with students from other colleges’ literary journals.
“It’s gratifying to polish your work to a point that it shines, and then to share it with those who want to connect with it,” Jaenicke said. “It’s gratifying to celebrate writing and art with others who care about what you do. When you publish, you’re not just sharing your individual work. You’re stepping into your network, your literary and artistic community. It’s magical and deeply meaningful.”
For those wishing to become involved with working on a committee, “Kalliope” holds general meetings every Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. Interested students can also email Seiff at [email protected] to be added to an announcements group chat.
While submissions for “Kalliope” are currently closed, “Klio” is accepting submissions on a rolling basis through April 19. You can access its website at Klio.psu.edu.
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