Penguin Review Celebrates 50 Years with Commemorative Issue

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Brown.

By Liam Bouquet 

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Brown.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Brown.

Starting in 1964, the Penguin Review, Youngstown State University’s print literary magazine that caters specifically to undergraduate writers and artists, is celebrating its 50th anniversary Nov. 20 with the launch of a commemorative issue of the Penguin Review, titled “Penguin Review: 50 Years in Review.”

The commemorative issue will include around 50 of the best-of-the-best works published in the magazine over the past 50 years.

The Penguin Review, run by co-editors Rebecca Brown and Tom Pugh, collected the past issues of the journal from the archives at Maag Library and reviewed all the stories, poems and art.

Pugh said the Penguin Review staff uses a blind submissions process, separating out the works into different packets based on their genre — creative nonfiction, fiction, artwork and poetry — and members of the staff reviewed the different packets and evaluated each story.

The selection process is similar to the process Penguin Review uses for their annual editions.

“We don’t know whose piece we are reading, and if it’s someone we might know it just gets looked at by the co-editors and Dr. Anderson [Penguin Review’s adviser]. We have a rating system that asks if it’s appropriate for the magazine, and the ones who are rated high are the ones we highly consider to put into the Penguin Review. The ones that are rated low, we do not put in,” Pugh said. “After we rate them, … we get together as a group, and we pretty much hash it out. If we say, ‘hey we gave this one, this rating because … ‘ then we average the scores. If it got a high average, it usually ends up going in.”

Though this special edition will include far more pieces than the standard editions, the staff still had to sacrifice some of their favorite stories to fit everything within printing limitations.

The team also had to work within the copyright agreements as stated on each edition over the years. Since the specifics of the copyright shifted from year to year, this limited what work they could publish.

“There were some years we couldn’t put anything in from and that was because the copyright rules that were within it, and it was a pain,” Pugh said. “It was upsetting because there was a lot of good content that we couldn’t use.”

Some of the editions stipulated that all rights to the works being published reverted back to the authors upon publications, meaning that Penguin Review couldn’t use them without consent from the author. Even if the copyrights were not an issue with a piece, the team still tried to contact the creator.

“We tried to procure everybody’s permission, but if there was no copyright and we couldn’t get their permission, then we were still able to use it,” Pugh said. “It was more of a courtesy thing.”

The 50th edition will feature a host of familiar names to YSU students of the English Department, including Chris Barzak, Cynthia Vigliotti, Steven Reese, William Greenway and Colleen Clayton-Dippolito. Penguin Review also features writers who have gone on to make names for themselves nationally and internationally, such as Sonnet Mondal, a poet who currently works out of India.

Tiffany Anderson, a YSU professor and adviser to the Penguin Review, spoke highly of the Penguin Review and its current staff, who helped revive the group after it lost its funding from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

“If it wasn’t for Rebecca and Tom, it wouldn’t be a 50 year anniversary,” she said.

Alex Puncekar, the assistant editor, said he joined Penguin Review after being impressed by the leadership.

“So I came in here and I watched some of the meetings. I was just kind of impressed how they run things; they run a pretty tight ship,” he said. “That kind of got me to want to help them out. I was with Dave, Tom and especially Rebecca down in this office from nine in the morning until about midnight working on this magazine.”

The 50th anniversary launch party will take place Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. in the DeBartolo Stadium Club in Stambaugh Stadium. This event is free and open to the public and will celebrate 50 years with readings by former contributors. Food will be provided. Everyone will receive a free copy of the commemorative issue, “Penguin Review: 50 Years in Review.”

The issue is also available on the campus of YSU, or by donation. For more information, visit