milk magazine is now 20!

In 1999, I had just finished editing the final issue of my university’s literary magazine—they’d given me and my co-editor an office and paid my tuition—but those days of wishing I could do this for a living were now over. I wanted to continue editing a literary journal—the connections I’d made with poets such as Cid Corman, Ira Cohen, Bill Berkson, and others had been invaluable to me as a young writer and I didn’t want it to end.

I applied for numerous arts grants in Ohio repeatedly and was turned down every time. It seemed their focus was entirely on the local and my interests were more international. I knew editing a new magazine was something I simply had to do so I begged for funding from benefactors and worked extra to afford what ended up costing about $2,000 to print roughly 500 copies. Little did I know when I finally saw milk volume 1 in print that this would be the only print issue.

Soon thereafter, I was swept into another world entirely—the world of Internet publishing. I realized that an online pub would not only save much money and be more environmentally friendly it would get the word out literally to the four corners of the earth like an electric bullet train of poetry—the final destination being this new poetry I was writing. Surrealist, sure, but also something imagist, constructivist, new. With Lina Vitkauskas as web editor we both published numerous poets we admired and were (and are) very proud to be running one of the first online poetry magazines. I believe there were only 4 or 5 others at the time. Jacket, Big Bridge, Poets on the Line, and others that escape my memory. I was ecstatic that some of these publications also published my poetry. I started writing reviews.

I knew Lina and I were a part of something that felt big and important. Occasionally I would overhear someone say “oh, the Internet will disappear in a few years, it’s just a fad.” Now milkmag is 20 years old. Unbelievable.

I hope you will dig through these pages and make some discoveries like I did. Lina and I edited each issue with a lot of love and as I read through all those submissions back then I would sit awestruck that some of my heroes were so appreciative of what we did. milkmag is a record of what started in Dayton, Ohio and ended up in Chicago—following poetry—what turned out to be my calling in life if you can call it that. Thank you to all those who have contributed to milk all these years. It will be here, always, or at least as long as I am and is a seismograph of the rumblings of a tremor that shook Chicago—as young poets wrote a kind of poetry that took risks and was bored with the norm. milk is also a conversation I was having with myself and Lina—saying look at these imaginations—what can’t they do?—this is amazing—this truly is the possible.

—Larry Sawyer