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A Brief History of Statement

 

The history of Statement --- California State University, Los Angeles’s student-run journal of literature and art --- predates Cal State LA’s arrival on the current campus in 1958. Now entering its 71st year of publication, Statement is one of the oldest run university literary magazines in the nation. 

At the time the first issue of Statement was published in Spring 1950, Cal State LA was located on the campus that is now Los Angeles City College on Vermont Boulevard, just north of Melrose. During the first several years, they published two editions a year, one in Spring and one in Fall. The Burbank-raised Edmund Wilcox got involved in the Fall of 1950 and he was one of the first editors of the student-run journal. 

Wilcox worked closely with Louis Hill and they looked at publications like the Paris Review for ideas and publishing insight. They also had two distinguished poet professors who participated in early issues with them, Henri Coulette and Thomas McGrath. 

In the Fall of 1950, Hill and Wilcox asked the student body council for funding to publish the journal and they were turned down. This did not initially stop them and for the first few issues, Wilcox and Hill paid for the printing themselves. They both worked jobs and each received $65 a month from the G.I. Bill and they believed enough in the journal to use their own money towards the publishing. 

Nonetheless, by the time the 4th issue was approaching, Wilcox and Hill were tired of paying for it themselves and they were about to stop publishing Statement, when an article came out in the school’s newspaper, the College Times about the college funding the football team. 

“If the college hadn't decided to sponsor and fund a football team,” Wilcox recalls, Statement wouldn't have survived, because Louis Hill and I had agreed to stop supporting it.” When the two men saw that article about the team being funded, they went to work. 

They felt it was contradictory for the school to support sports, but not a literary journal and this led Louis Hill to write an article of his own. “Louis Hill's article in the College Times making a case about what kind of college would reject funding a Literary Magazine; yet, spend a fortune to start a football program, worked,” Wilcox states. Hill wrote the article, but signed Wilcox’s name to it as the author, “realizing (that) I would go before the Student Body Council to seek permanent funding,” Wilcox notes. 

Sure enough when Wilcox went before the Student Body Council to seek permanent funding after the article, they got the answer they were looking for all along. It made sense that if the school was going to fund a sports team, they better fund a literary magazine that promotes student writing.

And so the article not only worked, Statement continues to publish, now entering its 71st year. Major national and international writers and artists appear in its pages side by side with gifted students, many of whom have gone on to become highly respected figures themselves. 

Statement’s pages have been graced by former US Poet Laureate Rita Dove and Los Angeles Poet Laureates Eloise Klein Healy and Luis Rodriguez, along with countless others including Wanda Coleman, Charles Bukowski, Ai, Carolyn See, Sesshu Foster, Michael C. Ford and Jervey Tervalon. 

Students gain valuable professional and educational experience by assuming responsibility for all aspects of producing this magazine, and learning many new skills. Statement has been distinguished with national recognition. In 2008, the magazine received the National Program Director’s Prize in Content from AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs), competing against the literary magazines of 400 universities. Statement advisors like Dr. Lauri Scheyer have been nurturing greatness year after year after year. 

The legacy continues with the first ever digital version. Statement has been amplifying student voices and connecting generations of writers from the beginning. Long may it live!

--Mike Sonksen, Statement Alum, Professor, Woodbury College