Writers House becomes new home of Jacket

The Daily Pennsylvanian
February 14, 2010

The Kelly Writers House has been selected as the new home of Jacket, a prominent free online poetry magazine.

"I wanted Jacket to have a future where it could grow and have a firm base. With the involvement of UPenn, Jacket will have a long life ahead of it," said John Tranter, the publication's founder.

Editing Jacket for the past 13 years for 30 hours a week has been "exhausting but good fun," Tranter said.

Since 1997, he has been editing the magazine for free from Australia with the help of Pam Brown, the associate editor. Tranter says he plans to retire after the 40th issue is released this year.

Not only will Penn's computer servers keep digital archives of the thousands of web pages that comprised the first forty issues of Jacket, but the Kelly Writers House will continue the magazine's legacy with Jacket2, which will be released in 2011.

Jacket2 will be redesigned, with new elements such as podcasts and video blogs, according to Al Filreis, faculty director of the Kelly Writers House and publisher of Jacket2.

The material will still be the same, but the only difference will be that the editing will now be done from the United States, Filreis explained.

Jacket2 will have a close relation to PennSound – the largest archive in the world of poets reading their own poetry. Filreis said the two will work "in synergy."

Putting a widely read and respected magazine together with a huge archive like PennSound has never been done before, Filreis said. The expectation and hope is that by linking it to PennSound, Jacket2 will get 20,000,000 hits.

"The advantage is that we already have a vast audience who come to Penn for poetry. Not just an audience of artists, but teachers and students as well. Lots of people are driven here," Filreis said.

Ready to integrate the scholarly work of Jacket2 with the Kelly Writers House and PennSound, Michael Hennessey, editor of Jacket2, said they want to keep the international scene of poetics present in the original Jacket alive in new version.

"Tranter broke new ground in terms of serious criticism of poetry being spread all over the world," Hennessey said.

Media Editor Steve McLauglin, a 2008 College alumnus, is going on a two month bus trip this summer with his audio recorder to record poetry readings from all across the United States to use as podcasts for Jacket2.

"This project is an example of the kind of thing that doesn't happen very often. Off-the-wall stuff happens at the Writers House," McLaughlin said.

According to Charles Bernstein, American poet and Penn English professor, "the Web is the quickest and economically most efficient way to get poetry out there."

"Jacket is one of the most appealing and best edited of literary magazines that exists," Bernstein said.