Serving as the Archives & Rare Books Library’s intern for 2007-2008, journalism student Melissa Kramer undertook as her project the indexing of Clifton, UC’s student literary quarterly from 1972 to 1994. Clifton was a magazine perfectly situated for the changes and moods of the era. As Ms. Kramer notes in her history of this publication, the political, cultural, and social events of the ‘70s and ‘80s were keenly felt on UC’s campus. The irreverent and pointed journalistic style of Clifton’s writers and photographers embraced those years with remarkable energy. Even a cursory subject search of the index shows that Clifton was capturing the life of the university neighborhood, the city streets, and the national ethos. Clifton was hip, occasionally self-indulgent, and almost always insightful.
As with most campus student publications, Clifton had literary ancestors at the University of Cincinnati. One of the earliest was The McMicken Review, first published in 1887 and continuing into the early 20th century, containing the usual campus news along with short fiction, poetry, book reviews, and essays. The Review was succeeded by the student newspaper under various names – Beletrasco, Burnet Woods Echo, University News, Bearcat News, and The News Record, a student publishing tradition that continues to this day. Even the yearbook, The Cincinnatian, with its inaugural issue in 1894, often contained humor, short fiction, poetry, and campus comment through its first span of years to 1972. Suspending publication after that year, and appearing only sporadically since, the ’72 issue of the yearbook reflected much of the same temperament and style of Clifton in its photography and layout.
The 1920s saw the emergence of The Cooperative Engineer, a student-run publication from the College of Engineering. As one would assume, many of the articles focused on the activities of the co-op students, but there were also jokes, sketches, photography, art criticism, and informative articles about campus buildings. Also appearing in the ‘20s was The Cynic, “published monthly by the student body of the University of Cincinnati in the interest of Art, Wit, and Satire.” The Cynic was UC’s first “true” literary magazine, and though some of its wit and satire naturally are dated somewhat, the art deco illustrations and colorful covers are still a visual treat. In the 1930s, The Lamp, the alumni magazine of the College of Nursing, would include a poem or short story every once in a while, but the literary bent of student writers was directed toward the short-lived Stoic in 1934, and the even shorter lived Little Man, which appeared in a single issue in the spring of 1938. It was issued by a freshman at the time, Robert Lowry, and was illustrated with dark, brooding woodcuts by Jack Henn, an architecture student. Henn’s images aptly fit the several contributions of Lowry, who later became a dark, brooding minor novelist, but the most notable entry was an opening essay by author William Saroyan, “A Word on Reading and Writing.”
By the end of the 1930s, The Profile was the standing campus literary magazine, and it remained so, in fits and starts, until the debut of Clifton in 1972. Another literary venture that began in the 1970s was Blue Ash Review, from UC’s Raymond Walters College, notable not only for continuing into the 21st century, but containing in its pages the contributions of RWC employees as well as students. And today, while there is really nothing quite like Clifton, the English Department at the University of Cincinnati publishes The Cincinnati Review, a scholarly literary journal of art, fiction, reviews, essays, and poetry that has a national readership. So, Clifton was in very good company, and contributed richly to the party.