Open Access Poetry Publishing: John Tranter’s Founding and Editing of Jacket Magazine

Don Share will be at the University of Iowa on Monday, speaking in the afternoon about open access publishing and contemporary literature and the humanities. Poetry, the magazine that Share has a hand in editing, is an open access literary journal,  and it is not the only one: in the past ten years open access has been an increasingly popular publishing model for poetry journals, and the Australian-based Jacket was arguably the first to utilize open access in reaching a global audience with massive, diverse issues that traditional publishing methods were unable to accommodate.

Jacket was founded by the Australian poet John Tranter in 1997, and Tranter has recently published ” ‘The Elephant Has Left the Room’, Jacket magazine and the Internet”, a brief memoir in which he explains how Jacket came about, what kinds of things the internet makes possible in poetry publishing that are impossible with print, and how the unusual success Jacket attained made it difficult to find support among advocates of literature not accustomed to the journal’s approach to poetry:

“[Jacket‘s] international focus made it ineligible for Literature Board grants. This is not just a peculiar irony; it is a corollary of parochialism. When you publish a parish newsletter in an Australian community, it will not be widely read in that community if most of the articles are about events in Rome or Canterbury. You need to draw your material from the local parish if you want the local parishioners to take an interest in it.

So the greater Jacket’s success on the international stage—and it was successful immediately—the less ‘Australian’ it was, and the less interest it held for Australian scholars and cultural bureaucrats. In the thirteen years of its existence, Jacket never had a grant from the Literature Board, and was never the subject of a paper presented at an Association for the Study of Australian Literature conference, for example. Jacket, however, was the subject of a lively and well-attended panel discussion at the 2011 US Modern Languages Association convention in Los Angeles.”

Read Tranter’s full account of how he managed to produce the world’s most widely-read poetry publication. Jacket2the current incarnation of Jacket produced under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, provides an introduction to Tranter’s memoir.