What do The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Harpers and Sonoma State's literary magazine Volt all have in common? All were named a part of the Every Writer's Resource Top 50 Literary Magazines in the country. Sitting at number 37 is Volt, the start-up, independent magazine begun by poet Gillian Conoley that eventually became a nation-wide magazine based out of SSU.
Volt was chosen from more than 2,000 print literary magazines all over the United States to be awarded this honor. The magazine runs content from internationally renowned writers and poets such as Pulitzer Prize winning Rae Armantrout and Yusef Komunyakaa, while remaining committed to giving new undiscovered authors a forum to let their work be read.
And while being a part of this list is indeed a great honor, Volt is no stranger to winning awards. The magazine has won three Pushcart Prizes, three Best American Poetry Selections and a National Endowment for the Arts grant.
In addition, Volt can be found at some of the top libraries in the country, including Brown University, Cornell University, the UCLA library and the New York Public Library.
While the magazine now calls Sonoma State home base, it was actually started independently of the University in 1992 by Gillian Conoley, current professor of English and Poet in Residence at SSU.
At the time Conoley and her husband had just moved to San Francisco, and she was pregnant and teaching part time at San Francisco State University's MFA program. Volt was born out of Conoley's anticipation for her daughter's own birth. She created the first two issues entirely on her own, doing all the editing and layouts.
"I really thought there was a need for a literary magazine that published innovative work, but did not push a particular school or agenda. My idea was that Volt could fill that gap. Almost 20 years later I guess it still does," said Conoley.
In 1994 Conoley was hired as an English professor at SSU. In 1996 the dean of arts and humanities at the time, William Babula, offered to let Conoley take over SSU's 30-year-old literary publishing program Small Press Editing.
The class gives students the opportunity to work hands-on, publishing their own literary magazine Zaum, the same way Conoley did 20 years ago in her home in San Francisco all by herself. In addition, students act as interns for Volt, reading and screening manuscripts.
Other SSU alum assist Conoley in continuing to make Volt a reality. Steven Galbreath acts as Production and Layout editor from his home in Santa Barbara. After graduating with an English degree, Galbreath worked as a journalist writing music reviews and a weekly opinion column in a daily newspaper. He is now composing music and working on a novel as well as working with Volt.
Assistant editor Majorie Stein is a poet whose work has appeared in Volt as well as New American Writing among others. An Atlas of Lost Causes, her first book, was just recently published. Co-assistant editor Paula Koneazny, a poet and tax consultant, has seen her work published in American Book Review and Interim, including many others.
Conoley herself has had six collections of her poetry published, most notably Tall Stranger, which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her work as been anthologized in more than 20 national and international anthologies including W.W. Norton's forthcoming Postmodern American Poetry (second edition), and Norton's American Hybrid.
The year 2012 also is important for Volt because it was the first year it was given its own space for production. Conoley used to edit the magazine from her home, office and classrooms, but after 16 years of Conoley running Volt it has finally been given its own permanent office in Nichols Hall. Production of Zaum, SSU's award-winning, student literary magazine is also housed and overseen here.
"It's of course really nice for Volt to receive this kind of recognition. It's a surprise, especially to be included with magazines like The New Yorker...On the interior masthead sheet of Volt issue 1, I wrote that the magazine is 'An occasional review published when time, money and faith allow.' I'm grateful to the University for making a space for Volt, a place where it could grow and flourish," said Conoley.
Visit www.voltpoetry.com to learn more about submissions and subscriptions.