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THE HISTORY OF DELTA extends back to its origin as the literary page of the Daily Reveille.  In 1947, LSU junior Charles East, features editor of the Daily Reveille and later director of LSU Press, declared independence from the newspaper and founded Delta Journal. Below is a short history of Delta, written by a longtime faculty advisor Warren Eyster.

Some Notable Delta Contributors:

David Kirby
“Song for Alice,” “Netter,”
and “The Summoning,” 1965
“Two Poems” and “Journey to Y,” 1966

John Ed Bradley
“Beam,” 1980 “Coming Back Down,” 1981

Bin Ramke
“Poet from an Hour Before Dawn,” 1968

C. C. Lockwood
“Louisiana Heron” and “Little Blue Heron,”  photographs, 1978

Elmore Morgan 
“Johnny Comes Marching Home,”
painting, 1959

 

“…the first issue was published in the winter of 1947 under the editorship of Charles East, who was the guiding spirit of LSU Press when I arrived on campus [in 1970]. David McDowell, my friend and editor since Random House days, had told me that Charles East and Louis Simpson, editor of the Southern Review, were two good reasons to be at LSU, and I regret that Charles East left shortly afterwards, and that my contact with Louis has been limited largely to brief hallway conversations. They can probably tell more about the early years of Delta than I can. The first issue declared itself as “tangible evidence of the need for a medium of expression for student literary output.” The first literary advisor was George Marion O’Donnell, poet and critic, whose writings had already appeared in Kenyon Review, the Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, the Nation, and the New Yorker. One sidelight of interest: in that first issue ofDelta, Truman Capote was forecast as the most promising young American writer. Other Voices, Other Rooms was published almost simultaneously.

John Hazard Wildman was literary advisor from 1950 to 1970. During those years the contributors included Robert Penn Warren (whom I had first met in a balky Random House elevator and had mistaken for a janitor), soon-to-be movie critic Rex Reed, and local television celebrity Gus Weill. I leave that list to be filled in by others who were on campus or followed the fortunes of Delta during those years.

(pictured right is the 1953 editorial board of Delta Journal; below are the 1950, 1966, and 1997 issues)
  delta 1959

delta 1950Delta 1950

delta 1966delta 1997

 

My greatest personal satisfaction during that decade and a half was that undergraduate students, most of whom had no previous literary experience, showed taste and perceptiveness in their selections of stories, plays, poems, drawings, and photographs. There was remarkably restrained and selective publishing of their own creative efforts, remarkably little scratching of each other’s backs, that disease so prevalent in trade book publishing and afflicting so many literary magazines and university presses. Almost every staff, while not closed to outside contributors (indeed, several stories by Angola convicts were published), emphasized manuscripts written by undergraduates. I will always take personal pleasure from knowing that student editors, without coercion, chose to publish the works of then unknown and unpublished students who are currently establishing reputations in the literary world, including John Ed Bradley, varsity football center during the Charlie Mack era (Tupelo Nights), Vietnam vet James Colbert, who wrote with vivid insight into the effects of that war on American servicemen but couldn’t find publishers until he turned to detective fiction a decade later (Profit and Sheen and No Special Hurry), and Charlotte Holmes, former managing editor of Antaeus, poet, short story writer, and teacher. Two student contributors later became press secretaries to the governors of Colorado (Larry Henry) and Louisiana (Jeff Coward). Jeff is currently executive editor of theGreater Baton Rouge Business Report. During that decade a number of student contributors, including Raymond Cothern, Marcy Frantom, and Margo Davis Kasprowicz, had their writings included in such national publications as Intro.

Others on campus had direct and indirect influence on the magazine. David Madden had aroused interest in theater with off-campus productions of student plays, and he organized Pleasure Dome, which sponsored both formal and informal readings in which contributors to the magazine participated. One marathon session of twenty poets was held in the Colonnade. Kit Hathaway interested a group of students in producing a series of letterpress chapbooks of poetry on an old hand-much devotion as that of the monks who kept religious scholarship alive during the dark centuries before the printing press. Advisors Stanley Plumly and Raymond Beard were responsible for arousing the enthusiasm of the student staff at Delta in 1970.

  delta 1968

(pictured right, delta's hip1968 editoral board;
below delta's 1956 editoral board)

delta 1956

 

But the two largest lists of students I will retain in my fondest memories contain those talented young writers who are still struggling to attain recognition and those who have turned to occupations that offer bread and butter and maybe sometimes even greener pastures. They have scattered from coast to coast, working in film libraries in Los Angeles and installing stained glass windows in Nova Scotia. They have become lawyers, journalists, and investigative reporters.

I had seen all the Harvard-Yale graduates who had overrun the Madison Avenue publishing scene, and I sensed that Louisiana was fertile ground for young writers who saw life clear and straight and true, and who still loved the land and the water…

Warren Eyster
Published in the New Delta Review, 1992

 

 

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Copyright 2009 Delta Literary Journal