In February, Amanda Chase (Susquehanna University) conducted an interview with Robert Stewart, editor of New Letters.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you become interested in editing? What path led you to the position you’re in now?
Sometime in the mid 1990s, while reading the Zen scholar R. H. Blyth – one of the guiding forces of my life – I came across the statement, “The work you are doing is your work.” That was the first time I realized that I might actually be an editor. I had started as a volunteer at New Letters magazine many years before, in the late 1970s, and proceeded to work there on the paid staff, part time into the early 1980s; I then got a job as editor of an art-criticism magazine called Forum, which I did for seven years; I co-edited a small literary press called Woods Colt (with my great friend Conger Beasley Jr.). I also worked as copy editor for Universal Press Syndicate. I was doing a lot of things as a writer and editor, much of it overlapping. I returned in the mid 1980s to become managing editor for New Letters and teach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I also wrote commercial magazine articles, poems, short stories, and so on. During much of that time, I kept wondering what direction I would eventually take in my life. Not until I read that statement by Blyth, did I realize that I already had found a career.
How did you receive your position with the New Letters? Were there particular experiences that you think most prepared you for the position you have now?
My position as editor of this literary magazine – and director of BkMk Press, and executive editor of the radio series New Lette