The following statement appeared as the introduction of the 2000 issue of Oregon East. Jeremy Booth, the co-editor for that issue, explains the history of Oregon East in the short but eloquent essay below.
The year 2000 marks 50 consecutive years of student literary magazine publishing at Eastern Oregon University. My mother, who graduated from Eastern (then Eastern Oregon College) in 1967, remembers the magazine fondly. At the time, it was called The Middle R. Growing up in tiny towns, what she calls, “end of the highway” towns, in south-western Idaho, Eastern Oregon, and in one instance, a town that no longer exists in the mountains of northwestern Oregon, she didn’t have access to what many of us today call “the arts”–neither did any of her friends. Her experience with The Middle R, as well as the literary reading series, Ars Poetica, which grew directly from the poetry readings sponsored by The Middle R, was her first insight into art of any kind.
When I applied for the 1998 Assistant Editor position at Oregon East, the latest incarnation of The Middle R and a later magazine called Underpass, my mother was delighted, as well as proud. It took eight months on the staff as Assistant Editor, and now as co-editor with Annie White, for me to understand the great importance of student publishing–the voice of the entity we call Oregon East– the source of my mother’s pride. It is true that a university’s literary magazine represents and helps legitimize that particular institution’s writing program, but, perhaps more importantly, a student run, created, and published literary magazine gives students a voice, whether it be a political, social, cultural, literal, or forlorn one.
As my mother has expressed to me, the magazine is and has been a source of artistic richness for those who have never been exposed to it, and for those who have, it embodies a certain freedom, a certain richness of character, character that can only be found here in Eastern Oregon–from the EOU campus to the rocky banks of Wallowa Lake, from the jagged peaks of the Elkhorns and the Blues to the dusty cliffs of Hells Canyon and the Snake. As the second generation from my family here at Eastern, this character is part of who I am and part of what liberates me, sets me apart from the “collective mediocrity.” I carry it wherever I go.
Fifty years of student literary publishing is not just a great accomplishment for all of the Eastern community that helps foster student creativity; it is a reflection of a state of being that can only be found in one place–Eastern Oregon.