We’d been curious about the Review‘s 1974 issue. Why does Minetta advertise itself as the university’s oldest “surviving” publication? A member of our staff thought: “it would be quite the mindfuck to place the hippie era selections side-by-side with our own hipster editions — just very cosmic, all very cosmic.”
So Minetta’s 24/7 ITS launched investigation and, in a stroke of unprecedented transparency, posted its progress here. ITS first released a call for information:
We urge anyone with pertinent information about Minetta in the seventies to come forth: firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be rewarded under the table by the Treasury of Merit.
but turning to Google turned out to be more fruitful. A preliminary survey of the Internet hinted that Minetta was the product of a merge between two publications. Staff soon raised an eyebrow to NYU’s University Heights campus closing the year before Minetta‘s first issue:
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, financial crisis gripped the New York City government and the troubles spread to the city’s institutions, including NYU. Feeling the pressures of imminent bankruptcy, NYU President James McNaughton Hester negotiated the sale of the University Heights campus to the City University of New York, which occurred in 1973 (Wikipedia).
Further Google searching returned Library of Congress scans that detailed the Review‘s 1974 copyright. And the search returned home — that is, next door.
On Tuesday, June 26, 2012, a Minetta ITS unit infiltrated the University Archives on the tenth floor of Elmer Holmes Bobst Library. One of the operatives smooth-talked an archivist into granting access to back issues, dating back to Spring 1974. The dynamic of the issues progressed from minimalist, to elegantly offbeat, and at last to contemporary hipster.
Investigation has since concluded, and the acquired intelligence is enumerated.
I. The publication was the product of a merge, which was brought about by campus reorganization. From the 1973-1974 issue:
Washington Square and University College of Arts and Science was formed on September 1, 1973, by the unification of University College of Arts and Science and Washington Square College of Arts and Science, the two undergraduate liberal arts colleges of the university. At the time, the fate of both Perstare and the Washington Square Review, literary magazines of the respective colleges, was, at best, uncertain.
With the assistance of Dean Mayerson and his staff, the editors of Perstare and the Washington Square Review conducted a merger of the two magazines. The result of the merger is MINETTA REVIEW.
Our title is derived from Minetta Stream, a subterranean waterway that traverses the Village in the vicinity of NYU, notably under Minetta Lane. In dedicating this inaugural issue to the students and faculty of WS&UC, the staff of MINETTA REVIEW hopes to continue the tradition of Perstare and the Washington Square Review by publishing quality work in all literary genres by students and new authors. Our thanks to Dean Mayerson, Eliana Cocavich, and John Delgrosso for their continued support, and to Professor Baudin for his advice and encouragement. Thanks also to Perry Brass, Dan E. Frueh, and John J. Soldo for participating at our open readings in December and February.
II. Going by the founding date on the 1976 masthead, the Minetta Review is the university’s oldest publication.
The MINETTA REVIEW was formed on September 1, 1973, upon the unification of the University Heights and the Washington Square literary magazines, Perstare and the Washington Square Review, respectively. The Washington Square Review, under different titles, (The Apprentice, The Campus-Apprentice) dated back to 1938.
III. The following contextualization comes from what is effectively the 1986 editors’ note — not until the 90s did editor’s notes become standard for the publication, and interestingly, contributor notes did not catch on until Fall 1999.
AN OPEN LETTER
They came because the rents were cheap. Funneling into the quiet, undeveloped Greenwich Village (7th Avenue was not completed below 11St., for example) people sought freedom from the restrictive society of the time. By the 1920’s, the Village had already become a citadel for a carefree bohemian lifestyle. Part-anarchist, part-Marxist, anti-establishment, pre-60’2 free-lovers, this hotbed of intellectual activity could not be contained. Producing such notables as John Reed (the journalist featured in the film Reds), Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Eugene O’Neil to name a few, it has had a lasting effect on our culture.
During this time, a small stream, Minetta Brook, traversed through the village spawning such nameplaces as the Minetta Tavern, Minetta Lane, the Minetta Literary Circle, and much later the Minetta Review. Cemented over many years ago, Minetta Brook trickles below the buildings. With increased rents, the bohemes have migrated further east to the Lower East Side or across the river to Hoboken. On weekends, youth from the suburbs gather trying to relive this lost bohemian lifestyle. They leave, taking with them their newly-bought records and posters, allowing the current inhabitants of the village, mostly lawyers, to themselves.
The only remaining trace of the earlier bohemian times are the names. Hidden underground, the creative energies burst forth every once in a while. Twice yearly, poetry and prose appears from today’s bohemians. The Minetta Review is proud to introduce tomorrow’s writers.
IV. The logistics of staff assembly and selection process appear to have held onto the original spirit. From Minetta 1988-1989:
It is run entirely by NYU students and all matriculated NYU students are welcome to join our staff. The published manuscripts are chosen by means of a democratic grading / discussion process involving the editors and the staff.
V. Fall 1991 provides further insight into the publication’s history:
In the beginning, there was the word. Minetta, first used as a label for a small stream which ran through modern-day Chelsea and Greenwich Village, comes from the Dutch word mintje, “small.” The early Dutch settlers of Manhattan Island called the waterway Mintje Kill (“little brook”), which was later anglicanized to Minetta by the English settlers who followed.
Urban development around the turn of the century saw Minetta Brook paved over. Flowing from long-since leveled Zantberg Hill on 23rd Street, the stream still flows under the buildings and streets of Greenwich Village. Today, though, only its names remain: Minetta Street, Minetta Lane, the Minetta Tavern, the Minetta Literary Circle. But every now and then, usually during a story, the brook leaves indelible traces. Village dwellers remember the current which runs underground when Minetta Brook wells over and, much to their surprise, floods basements and boiler rooms.
Since 1974, the Minetta Review has chronicled a storm of innovative poetry and stories. Here is the best N.Y.U. community has to offer. Bring an umbrella, dam the walls. Maybe think of higher ground. The waters are rising.
Leaving indelible traces.
Exhuming the Minetta corpus was a nail-biting and satisfying adventure. We’ve now to repay the Archives by updating it with recent issues. Case closed…