Sven Birkerts |
|1972 to present|
|Frequency||Semiannually (print), biweekly (web)|
AGNI is an American literary magazine that publishes poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, interviews, and artwork twice a year in print and biweekly online from its home at Boston University. Its editor is Sven Birkerts, the literary critic and essayist; its senior editor is William Pierce.
History and background
AGNI was founded in 1972 at Antioch College by former undergraduate Askold Melnyczuk. After a brief residency in New Jersey, AGNI moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Sharon Dunn joined Melnyczuk as co-editor in 1977. From 1980 to 1987 Dunn was the magazine's editor, first in Cambridge, then for three years in Western Massachusetts. In fall of 1987 Melnyczuk resumed editorship, and AGNI relocated to Boston University, later moving into the former offices of The Partisan Review on 236 Bay State Road. In July 2002 Sven Birkerts assumed the editorship. The magazine receives support from the Boston University College of Arts and Sciences graduate program in Creative Writing. In addition, AGNI relies on funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and individual donors.
AGNI publishes two 240-page print issues annually. Each issue includes thirty to forty contributors, with a minimum print run of 3,000. AGNI has subscribers across the United States and in several other countries. It is also carried by university and public libraries, and is distributed to independent and chain bookstores within the United States. AGNI Online, an electronic extension of the print magazine, features biweekly postings of new Web-only fiction, poetry, essays, and interviews. Both print and online issues include work from multiple languages. Translations from Urdu, Dutch, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Ukrainian, Yiddish, Chinese, Turkish, Hebrew, Italian, Slovenian, Polish, French, and Latvian have been published in AGNI.
According to the magazine's website, “Literature for literature’s sake is not what AGNI is about. Rather, we see literature and the arts as part of a broad, ongoing cultural conversation that every society needs to remain vibrant and alive.”
The magazine's name comes from Agni, the Vedic god of fire and guardian of mankind. AGNI’s symbol, the flying monkey, was originally conceived of by Erin Belieu, the magazine's managing editor at the time of its redesign, beginning with AGNI 40, and AGNI interns Richard Curtis and John Mulligan. It has been used since to represent the magazine.
Awards and contributors
Melnyczuk received the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing in 2001 for his work with AGNI. This biennial award “honors a magazine editor whose high literary standards and tastes have, throughout his or her career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication he or she edits.” In the text from the award, PEN said this of AGNI:
"...[AGNI] has become a beacon of international literary culture, shining into even the darkest corners of its hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. Among readers around the world, AGNI is known for publishing important new writers early in their careers, many of them translated into English for the first time."
AGNI contributors’ work has appeared over the years in The Pushcart Prize anthologies, Best American Short Stories, Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best New Poets, Harper's, The O. Henry Prize Stories, Best of the Web, Poetry Daily, and has been named in the top ten for the storySouth Million Writers Award for five years, among other honors and publications.
Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney has said of AGNI: “The auguries couldn’t be better for now and times to come: this is a cracker of a magazine, a reader’s delight, a standard achieved, a balance held between service to new writers and fidelity to what’s what in writing itself.”
Many prominent writers debuted work of note in AGNI, including Jhumpa Lahiri, Ha Jin, Mark Doty, Susanna Kaysen, Glyn Maxwell, Sven Birkerts, Olena Kalytiak Davis, Seamus Heaney, Joyce Carol Oates, Derek Walcott, Russell Banks, Brock Clarke, and Jacob M. Appel.
Contributors to AGNI’s spring 2009 issue--AGNI 69—can be found indexed in AGNI Online.
AGNI reads submissions from September 1 to May 31 of each year. Writers can send their work by mail or submit it through the website. The magazine's guidelines allow simultaneous submissions; AGNI sponsors no contests.
AGNI launched its online supplement in 2003 as an extension of the print journal. It posts three new pieces biweekly, amounting to two additional issues of work per year. The website serves approximately 20,000 unique visitors (distinct hosts) a month.
AGNI and Boston
AGNI holds several public events each year in the greater Boston area and in New York City. Recent events have included "Eurospectives," a reading series in cosponsorship with BU's Institute for Human Sciences that featured writers Ilan Stavans and Bernhard Schlink; the "Commonwealth Reading Series" with the Massachusetts Cultural Council; and biannual launches of AGNI's new print editions, held typically on BU's campus.