Sou’wester presses on after losing ‘stalwart friend’

The literary journal of SIUE, Sou’wester, has been publishing for more than 50 years now. Many of those years were under the direction, in one way or another, of Fred Robbins.

Fred Robbins waves his hat as he walks through a pasture with one of his hunting dogs. photo courtesy of Avdoian.

“As many of you know already, Sou’wester lost a long time and stalwart friend this past summer when Dr. Fred W. Robbins passed away. Dr. Robbins expressed his love and support for the journal as a hard-working, committed editor and promoter–a legacy that we honor tonight by dedicating this reading and the first issue, the fall issue, that’s going to be coming up in a few months.”

A few weeks ago in SIUE’s bookstore, the Department of English Language and Literature, hosted a reader’s series that was dedicated to honoring the memory of Robbins. According to Valerie Vogrin, associate professor of English language and literature, the next edition of the journal will also be dedicated to Robbins because of his dedication to the journal.

“Dr. Robbins was an editor of Sou’Wester from 1990-2001, when he retired from the university after more than 30 years of service. He believed–as we believe–that journals are an integral part of the fabric of the intellectual and artistic life of the university and it’s important that each journal is contributing to this larger literary endeavor,” said Vogrin.

According to Nancy Avdoian, instructor of English language and literature, Robbins was deeply committed to Sou’wester. Avdoian stated that at Robbins’ memorial, in lieu of flowers, donations were made to Sou’wester. Avdoian also stated that Robbins’ widow contributed to the Sou’wester Foundation fund in his memory.

Avdoian stated that this time of the year was a very difficult time of the year to find Robbins in his office. Robbins taught American literature and poetry at SIUE for nearly 30 years. She stated that Robbins was a avid hunter and outdoorsman, and that this influenced his writing. Avdoian stated that Robbins entered a writing contest and won a hunting trip right before he passed away. The Edwardsville Intelligencer ran a series of three articles on Robbins based on his experience with the contest.

Sou’wester will continue its pursuit of excellence in literature that Robbins expected in the journal with the upcoming edition. According to Adrian Matejka, assistant professor of English language and literature and current co-editor of Sou’wester, the latest edition is now at the printer.

“My co-editor, Valerie Vogrin, and I just sent the fall issue of Sou’wester dedicated to Dr. Robbins to the printer. It is a very strong issue that includes work from internationally-recognized writers such as Allison Hedge Coke and Kellie Wells,” said Matejka. “It also includes a diversity of writing styles and subject matter, which is in keeping with the long-standing Sou’wester tradition Dr. Robbins helped establish of publishing excellent work, regardless of aesthetic.”

Avdoian and Vogrin both stated that Robbins’ work with the journal was a labor of love. Vogrin stated that one of the last editions that Robbins worked on as editor was the 40th anniversary retrospective issue in 2000.

“[Robbins] gave a history of the 40 years of the journal, which is one of the more–now that we are at 50 [years]–is one of the more long-standing, continuous print literary journals in the country,” said Vogrin. “It started off in Alton–before there was SIUE, when it was only SIU–it was a student journal and it metamorphosized into this national literary journal that has published people from James Dickey to Raymond Carver to Erika Meitner, and other luminaries. It is in large part, thanks to Dr. Robbins, and the many other dedicated former editors, who brought this magazine forward.”

Robbins left a legacy for Sou’wester and the editors who fill the shoes he left when he retired from SIUE. Matejka stated that even though he never met Robbins, the legacy and his work are constantly present.

“I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Robbins, so what I know about him comes second hand through my colleagues. But they all say the same thing: Dr. Robbins worked tirelessly to develop and maintain Sou’wester journal,” said Matejka. “Were it not for his dedication, the journal would not be what it is today. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even be here today. “

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed Under: English Language & Lit

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Switch to our mobile site