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Jul 2002 / sights and sounds :: email this story to a friend

Delmar: a Dividing Line or a Literary Coming-Together?
By Marijean Jaggers

The easiest way to produce a rare book is to print a small run and make it something people want to read; only then does it have the potential to become valuable. Delmar Magazine has been producing rare books since its inception twelve years ago, but the publishers have finally "made it," with a single issue of Delmar 7 listed on an Internet rare books site for the going price of $50. The cover price was a mere $7 when the issue appeared in 1995. What is this so-called magazine named after (but having little to do with) a prominent St. Louis street? Why are there so few, and who is reading it?

Delmar 8 Delmar is a St. Louis-based literary annual that has appeared sporadically over the past twelve years. The publishing group recently printed Delmar 8, an edition that took three years to produce. Delmar is a magazine in that it is a periodical, a book in content and an annual in the hopes and dreams of its staff. With a new president in place and a new editor at the helm, Delmar is developing plans to release Delmar 9 in Winter 2003, a quick year after the release of Delmar 8. The publication relies on funding through grants, which are dwindling. The Regional Arts Council, which supported the publication's printing in 2002, has discontinued its mini-grant, making it even more challenging for the group to find financial support and therefore produce a consistent periodical.

In 1989, Scott McKelvie and Jeff Hamilton, then residents of the Loop area north of Delmar in University City, were inspired to publish an independent literary magazine. Delmar appeared for the first time that year, featuring the works of the writing community of the St. Louis region. For five years the publication thrived, appearing five times over seven years before organizing a business plan and applying for non-profit status. 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible to apply for grants from organizations that support the arts, such as the Regional Arts Council and the Missouri Arts Council. Before Delmar attained this status, the publication relied in large part on the sale of books, subscriptions, donors, the revenue generated from benefit readings and, in small measure, the pockets of co-founders McKelvie and Hamilton.

The Delmar organization, today led by president Lisa Greening, co-owner of Left Bank Books, has a board comprised of St. Louis writers, artists, professors and marketing professionals. Greening's take-charge personality and organizational skills have turned the group into a well-run business. Her experience with marketing books and her contacts in the literary community serve the organization well and will certainly assist with the goal of the group to appear on an annual basis.

In addition to the renewed publication goals, Delmar hopes to raise literary awareness by developing a partnership with the St. Louis Library district, creating reading groups that plan to meet this fall. Through this community outreach effort, the group hopes to uncover and encourage new local talent and to attract fresh writers seeking publication. Delmar will be scheduling benefit readings during the year in an effort to spotlight Delmar contributors, and to sell subscriptions and copies of the publication.

The current edition of the magazine, Delmar 8, has been called "archival" by the book's editor, Jeff Hamilton. "Years of work went into this number; we're proud of the result and we think our contributors and readers will be delighted," Hamilton said. Through persistence and networking on the part of Hamilton and the Delmar staff, the magazine has grown a national reputation. Contributing editors discover work from all over the country, giving the publication an appeal that reaches beyond St. Louis. According to Hamilton, "Our writers contribute work that is remarkably fluid in its appeal to both an avant-garde readership and one based more within the poetry of canonical modernism. And we have a dedicated group of supporters who operate the magazine editorially in several cities across the country."

Delmar 8 includes a reprinting of Though Gently, by Laura Riding, (originally published in 1930, by The Seizin Press) and contributors' responses to that work. "Though Gently is an avant-garde work by a modernist writer who often attacked the excesses of the avant-garde. The piece speaks to the overall project of Delmar," says Hamilton.

Early readers of the publication have hailed it as brilliant. Forrest Gander, one such reader and a nationally reputed poet, called it "a treasure," and contributor Laura Mullen described its reprinting of Though Gently as "a crucial gesture — the kind of [editorial move] that establishes [Delmar in the] history" of small press publishing.

Contributors to Delmar 8 include: Chris Stroffolino, Jason Sommer, Laura Mullen, Allison Funk, and Jerry Harp; newcomers Lisa Pepper, Stephanie Schlaifer and Zofia Burr among others. Delmar 8 is available for $10 in St. Louis at Left Bank Books, Subterranean Books, Barnes and Noble booksellers, the Washington University Bookstore, The Webster Groves Bookshop, select Borders locations and other bookstores in the St. Louis area. Order online via

The call for contributions for Delmar 9 ends at the end of July, as production for that edition will begin late this summer. Jason Stumpf, an MFA candidate at Washington University, is the editor of the ninth edition. For details on submitting work, visit

Delmar is supported by the literary community-at-large, and grants from both the Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Arts Council. With a circulation of over 1,000, and eight issues in print, Delmar publishes original works of poetry, art and literature.

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