In recent years, Seattle has imported a few of the hallmarks of New York City life.
There are the New York-style condos, a euphemism for any apartment under 500 square feet. There are New York-style nightclubs, meaning any venue that charges a high entry fee and employs a doorman to vet the fashion of customers trying to get in. And, of course, there are New Yorkers themselves, who have arrived in waves, and wearing Prada.
Now Wendy Marcus is preparing to bring to Seattle one more New York institution, though likely with few of the groans that usually follow their arrival: the literary review.
`I`ve noticed in the last year or so that there are all these really wonderful Jewish literary magazines and they are all east of the Rockies,` said Marcus. `There is nothing in the West. Nothing.`
New York has produced several Jewish publications with a literary bent including Zeek, a traditional review, Commentary, and the new Guilt and Pleasure, which has a more magazine-style format but has published essays by Jewish writers such as Philip Roth.
Jewish literary journals have begun creeping west. Ann Arbor is home to Bridges, a Jewish feminist literary review. Yet the Pacific Northwest has no Jewish literary publication of its own.
`It seemed to me that someone needed to step up and say, okay, as scary and as financially terrifying as this project may be, if someone really loves the written word and really loves the Jewish community there has got to be a literary address for Jews who lives in the West, or in this case the Northwest,` Marcus told JTNews.
Marcus, who works as music director for Temple Beth Am, first began to kick around the idea of a Jewish review with a few collaborators last year. The first discussions were about what such a publication might look like and how to finance it. Then, in June, Marcus applied for a grant from the Alfred and Tillie Shemanski Testamentary Trust. In August, the trust provided $1,200 in seed money.
Drash, as the new publication will be known, was born.
Marcus then began sending out notices asking for submissions to every place she could.
`I`m just trying to get the word out,` she said. `First time around, I really have no clue about who is out there or who might be interested in submitting.`
She has also placed an ad in Poets and Writers, a widely read national magazine.
Editorial committees will evaluate the work that is submitted. Marcus has gathered about nine people to read fiction, poetry, and essays. Submissions will be accepted until Dec.15, after which the team will spend several months making decisions about what goes into the review.
Robin Asher, who with her husband owns Asher Graphic Services and works with Marcus at Temple Beth Am, has agreed to do the layout and design for the publication, and Marcus has also lined up a printer. By Memorial Day 2007, 1,000 copies of Drash should be off the press and ready for distribution.
The plan is for Drash to showcase `the best in Jewish essays, poets, and prose,` said Marcus. It will also be expansive in its scope and voice with writing from across the Jewish community. The journal is even prepared to accept writing by non-Jews, according to Marcus, as long as it focuses on Jewish themes or experiences within Jewish culture.
`I think we have some incredible writers here who are part of the Jewish community. I think we will find more by having a journal that will attract them,` said Linda Clifton, a longtime participant in the Northwest literary scene who once started her own literary publication, The Crab Creek Review. `That`s part of the excitement. We will begin to know who is here, and who is writing, and what they are thinking.`
Marcus also hopes that the publication will engage Jews who would otherwise be unaffiliated with the Jewish community.
`Engagement on one level will often lead to engagement on another level,` she said. `My bottom line is to keep as many Jews in the Jewish community and to draw back in any Jews who are outside the Jewish community.`
`I think what happens with a literary journal is that it does build a community,` Clifton agreed.
With no precedent, it is difficult to estimate what kind of audience Drash will receive. But Ken Shiovitz, who has run poetry groups in the Northwest and is collaborating with Marcus, is optimistic about its size.
`Its got to be huge, and its got to exist like dark matter in the universe. You know it`s there, there is tremendous interest and force, yet the number of venues where it can come out is sparse,` he said, adding `I think there are literally thousands in the Jewish community who are interested and track literary things in their own way.`
For Marcus, the project is a return to a temporarily abandoned passion. She is a former journalist who worked at the former Jewish Transcript and Seattle Times. In 1983, she exchanged her reporter`s notebook for a violin bow, performing in one of the Northwest`s first Klezmer bands and dedicating her life to music. For the last 22 years, she`s been at Temple Beth Am doing `the music thing.`
`Now that a couple of my kids are heading out the door, and my brain has somewhat clarified, and I have time to think, I`ve started writing again,` she said, explaining that she has taken to composing prose and essays, and, of course, volunteering her time as the force behind Drash.
`I`m clearly not doing it for the money, and I `m clearly not doing it for the peace of mind, so there must be something that is bigger than me pulling me back into the world of writing.`