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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Life + Arts

The journey for one literary journal is never-ending


Reading submission after submission, searching for the best content to include, the editors of “Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts” are constantly pushing themselves to create beautiful pieces of art.

“Gulf Coast” is a student-run publication that supports and publishes literature in local, national, and digital communities. The journal publishes from three categories: poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. In addition, the journal features sixteen pages of visual art and 24 pages of critical art writing in each issue.

In addition to soliciting seasoned authors and artists, “Gulf Coast” draws its content from submissions sent to its online manager in a process known as slushing.

“About 50 percent of our stories come from our slush pile,” said managing editor and poetry doctoral student Martin Rock. “So we do get first-time authors, as well as savored authors.”

Even though “Gulf Coast” prides itself on its print product, the journal has also been pushing itself through the doors of the digital world.

"Gulf Coast" was founded in 1982 by Donald Bartheleme and Phillip Lopate.|Aliyah Zaidi/ The Cougar

“Gulf Coast” was founded in 1982 by Donald Bartheleme and Phillip Lopate.|Aliyah Zaidi/ The Cougar

“We publish exclusive online content,” said Rock. “We have been focusing on elevating the level of online publications as well as our print publications.”

“Gulf Coast” just had its website redesigned last year because making a quality product in both digital and print is important to the journal and its staff.

Editor and creative writing doctoral student Adrienne Perry said she believes that the redesigning of the website is a really big deal because it has shown the importance the journal’s online presence.

“We are constantly seeing more and more people connecting to ‘Gulf Coast,’ ” said Perry. “In the last year, since we have rebuilt the website, we have gone from 8,000 to 11,000 Twitter followers.”

“Gulf Coast” publishes its print product every February and October.

Although “Gulf Coast” has built up quite the reputation for itself, the journal started small as a 64-page publication founded in 1982 by author Donald Barthelme and film-critic Phillip Lopate. From 1982 to 1985, the journal was called “Domestic Crude,” a name conveniently related to the major industry in Houston. During its early years, “Domestic Crude” was most widely read among UH’s student body and did not have the external readership it has today.

While “Gulf Coast” was in development, the journal tested itself with many different angles, until it finally managed to find its proper audience. “Gulf Coast” now encompasses a wider range of readers than it had when it first began.

“Even though we publish out of the University, most of our subscribers now come from New York,” Rock said.

In 1986, the journal became known as “Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts.”

Many changes have been made to the journal since its humble beginnings. Last year, “Gulf Coast” merged with the Texas art journal, “Art Lies.”

“The merger shifted the journal from being poetry, fiction, nonfiction to being about both literature and art,” Rock said.

Throughout its years in publication, “Gulf Coast” has received numerous honors. In addition, many of the authors they publish are regularly included in the Best American, O. Henry and Pushcart anthologies.

The journal seeks to promote high quality literary works while engaging beyond the literary world. The journal also serves to give writers and artists the chance to publish in a high-profile literary journal.

“We are devoted to producing the kind of beautiful object that not only has amazing content, but also has meaning,” Rock said.

Since the journal is student-run, student editors get a hands-on approach to the world of publishing and editing in a professional atmosphere.

“I believe working here is an education on its own,” Perry said.

Rock grew up reading and admiring the journal. He said that he was aware of “Gulf Coast” before he even started school at UH.

“I think its cool to be able to have an influence in the journal,” said Rock. “I get to read the work of the people I admire.”

English senior and “Gulf Coast” intern Didi Anofienem believes that a lot can be learned from working at the publication.

“Working at ‘Gulf Coast’ revealed (to me ) the work that writers have to put in to get published and gain recognition for their work,” Anofienem said.

Barthelme and Lopate founded the journal as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization and remains as one today. It is funded by donations and grants given by individual contributors as well companies and organizations such the Brown Foundation, The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, Imprint, Houston Endowment, the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the UH English Department, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Since we are a nonprofit and our funding comes from outside sources, it’s nice we don’t have to fight over getting funding from UH,” Rock said.

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