Behind the Scenes of ‘Paperbark’ with Managing Editor Evelyn Maguire
The literary magazine gathers stories of ecologies in crisis — as well as stories of life’s flourishing intricacies.
By Sophia Apteker '23
The fourth issue of Paperbark came with a revival. The interdisciplinary literary magazine, which connects art and science through poetry, prose, and visual art, is thriving like never before thanks to its redesigned website, more focused literary approach, and influx of applicants.
Paperbark’s managing editor Evelyn Maguire, who is graduating from the MFA for Poets and Writers program at UMass Amherst this spring, has led this effort for two years. She joined the magazine for Issue 03, which came after a COVID-19 hiatus.
“It just kind of happened,” Maguire says of obtaining her position, even though she humbly acknowledged that she did have previous magazine experience. “It wasn’t really an active choice, it was like, ‘Here I am.’”
In her role, she serves as a liaison between the editorial staff, supporting faculty, and an advisory board. The reemergence of the magazine, combined with an almost entirely new staff, made pulling Issue 03 together an arduous task. But being stripped of routine put them in an optimal position to make change and breathe new life into Issue 04, its latest publication.
The website is now aesthetically cleaner. The print issues are now designed in-house. The magazine itself, which was born in the School of Earth and Sustainability, is now largely steered by the MFA for Poets and Writers.
Maguire has kept this drive for improvement rolling into Issue 04, which officially debuted on Feb. 15 with a launch party held in the Augusta Savage Gallery. Though Paperbark doesn’t currently pay its contributors (even though it is one of their goals for next year), one way that the magazine is able to create an appeal is by continuing to build on its reputation of representing work well, and adding a notable publication to each writer’s portfolio.
“What we can do is make your work look really good,” Maguire said. “Your work is going to be really well handled and appear really beautifully.”
The fourth issue received 450 submissions, overwhelmingly in the poetry category. This is double the amount of submissions from the third issue. Maguire credits this uptick to Paperbark’s consistent output of high-quality work and online presence.
“With Issue 04, it was really nice to get cold submissions from people who were amazing,” Maguire said. “That happened a few times, just being truly shocked to see some people in the inbox. It felt great that people saw Issue 03 and felt like, ‘This is a beautiful place to put work,’ and then sent their own work.”
This issue features pieces from young adult author Robin Gow; Arab American Book award finalist Lauren Camp; and National Book Award-winning poet Martín Espada, as well as interviews with poet CAConrad and UMass Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy, among others. It is printed on pages of 100% recycled paper with sustainable ink.
“It’s really great to put all of these people in conversation with each other,” Maguire said. “I think there’s been such a divide between ecological science and ecological art, even though they’re sharing the same goal which is to preserve and celebrate our planet, as well as to mourn, to grieve, and to say, ‘this is what’s happening.’”
Submissions for the next print issue will open in late July, but the Spring Online Journal will be accepting submissions through May 1.
“I think the UMass MFA is a really amazing literary program,” Maguire said. “It should have a magazine to match that.”