Visiting Writers: Richard Peabody of Gargoyle Magazine

Visiting Writers: Richard Peabody of Gargoyle Magazine

By Vince Granata


I’m not certain I’ve encountered a better description of a magazine than the following:

Gargoyle has always been a scallywag magazine, a maverick magazine, a bit too academic for the underground and way too underground for the academics.

Gargoyle Magazine, the District’s oldest lit mag, takes these words – scallywag, maverick – as essential pieces of its DNA. Since 1976, founder Richard Peabody has made a rule of having no rules. In the space where most literary journals outline extensive guidelines for submission – target genre, word count, theme – Peabody states, “Gargoyle has never had guidelines during its entire history. We don’t believe in them.”

The magazine certainly hasn’t suffered for lack of submission guidelines and has in its long history published National Book Award-winning authors, Pulitzer Prize-winners, MacArthur Fellows, and a Poet Laureate.

But this impressive list of contributors – Rita Dove, Jennifer Egan, Richard McCann, and many others – seems secondary to the magazine’s goal of championing the sometimes maligned D.C. literary community. In a Washington Post profile, Peabody addresses his dedication to the District, “I have spent most of my life going to bat for Washington, D.C. I’m a native, and I care about the home team.”

Many authors who have been published by Peabody in Gargoyle comment on this, how he goes to bat for the work he believes in. Mary Kay Zuravleff, award-winning author of the novels, The Bowl Is Already Broken and The Frequency of Souls, offers one of many of these testimonials. “You know those theories about networking where you only need one person with a certain number of connections and then you can connect everybody? He is in the beehive.”

This description, Peabody in the central node of a literary beehive, seems an apt way to describe his influence on the character of other publications in the D.C. area. Through his many years teaching workshops at the University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins and the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Peabody has reached many students who now shape burgeoning magazines. Former students of his are editors at Barrelhouse and The Potomac Review, D.C. area publications that solicit work nationally.

Peabody, who received an MA in Literature from AU in 1975, will be back on campus on Wednesday to launch four new issues of Gargoyle Magazine. In addition to a discussion between Peabody and Melissa Scholes Young, the event will feature ten contributors – poets and fiction writers – who will read from work published in the new issues.

Join us at 6PM on Wednesday in Battelle to celebrate Peabody and Gargoyle Magazine, a publication the post has called “Washington’s most revered and irreverent literary magazine.” But if all that isn’t enough to get you to campus on Wednesday night, take it from Rita Dove:

I get a lot of literary magazines. There are some I save to read later. Gargoyle is the only one I’ll pick up right away. What I like is how eclectic it is. I love the stories because they take chances; occasionally, I find myself thinking about them long after. I don’t have that reaction to other magazines.



Image: Gargoyle Magazine.

Vince Granata is a staff editor at Café Américain and a third-year candidate in American University’s Creative Writing MFA program.



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