TYR gives readers a digital space to read and contemplate
For more than two centuries, The Yale Review has published works by some of the most notable writers and poets of their times, from Virginia Woolf and Thomas Mann to Louise Glück and Cathy Park Hong. But until recently the journal has not done what many others in the literary world have: dive fully into the digital realm.
Last month, America’s oldest “little magazine” took the plunge, launching a new website that captures the literary quality of the quarterly print edition, while adding new layers that offer a richer reader experience.
Readers will find the kinds of content in the digital format that have always distinguished the print edition — works of fiction and poetry by established and emerging writers alongside incisive essays and criticism. They will also discover new web-exclusive content, such as audio recordings of poets reading their work; and edited video of readings, interviews, conversations, and more. In addition, the new “TYR” also features popular “gems” from the journal’s archive, according to its editor, Meghan O’Rourke.
While there has been a TYR website for several years, it was mainly limited to an online version of the print edition. (And until recently, readers had to access pieces as PDF files.) O’Rourke, an acclaimed poet, memoirist, and critic who took over the editorship of The Yale Review in 2019, said that the new digital incarnation of the journal brings it into the 21st century.
“When I came on board, we did a survey of our readership that told us what we already guessed — that, overwhelmingly, people read digitally,” she said. “Some read both digitally and in print, but only 6% of our respondents read exclusively in print.” (The Yale Review will continue to be published quarterly in its print form.)
“It has been exciting for our team to have this incredible opportunity to bring The Yale Review into the 21st-century publishing landscape in order to reach a new generation of online readers and writers.”
Since its founding as The Christian Spectator in 1819 (later renamed The New Englander in 1843 before taking its current name in 1911), The Yale Review has distinguished itself as a journal of literature and ideas. O’Rourke said her greatest hope for this newest incarnation of TYR is that it “feel necessary and relevant to all readers, including those who may not have known about it previously.”
The reimagining of a digital TYR included a thoughtful design of the website.
“We intentionally built a really curated space that is not full of flashy pop-ups and other diversions,” said O’Rourke. “We wanted to make a beautiful, calm, contemplative experience for our readers while bringing them the convenience of being able to read on their phone as they are waiting in line or when they are at their computers during a lunch break, for example.”
While the online format is new, TYR will continue to focus on its traditional mission, O’Rourke said. “We are committed to publishing writers who are at the center of the foment and excitement in literature today, bringing in debut authors and established voices, and publishing their work in conversation with one another,” she said. “We have made a commitment to reaching out to writers who epitomize TYR’s tradition of beautiful writing that goes hand in hand with powerful thinking.”
Currently featured on the site is a conversation between award-winning novelist Rachel Cushner and Caleb Smith; new fiction by the prolific Joyce Carol Oates; poetry from Sally Wen Mao and Natasha Rao; essays from Rizvana Bradley, Madhu H. Kaza, and Ratik Asokan; and a dialogue between Elif Batuman and Ama Codjoe on their failed book club, and how one decides when to stop reading a book, to give just a small sampling. (Typically, the website will be updated two to three times weekly, with a publishing hiatus in August.)
TYR’s regular offerings now include “TYR Talks,” an event series in person and by Zoom that premiered in the fall of 2020 (its first event was a reading by Terrance Hayes, in conversation with O’Rourke), “Poem of the Week,” and “The Moment,” an exploration of a current political, cultural, or social issue or topic. For example, last year, TYR introduced “The Pandemic Files,” a collection of literary and critical writings and international dispatches on its website that explored the early days of the global COVID-19 crisis. Future offerings will also include regular essays and possibly a book club that allows for reader engagement.
“We want TYR to be a site for an incredible range of creative literature at its best, side by side with criticism that feels urgent and timely,” said O’Rourke. “It is important to us to publish work of great depth — work that pushes aesthetic and intellectual boundaries — but we also want a spirit of play and curiosity.”
In the first month since the new site was launched, TYR had 52,000 readers; 80% of them were new visitors to the site.
“We are really excited about the website as a complement to the print journal. We are not going to get rid of the print journal: we believe in print and love print! But we are beyond thrilled to have this other medium with which to connect readers and with which to think and experiment with form in a whole new set of ways.”
TYR is currently available to read free of charge online, as part of the Review’s educational mission. Subscriptions to the print journal are available (and help support the website and continued existence of the journal). TYR memberships are also offered; members receive a one-year subscription, early access to events such as the “TYR Talks” series,” and a TYR tote bag. Memberships support the journal as well as internships for Yale undergraduate and graduate students interested in careers in publishing.