The quarterly Archipelago appeared on the Web between 1997 to 2007, for exactly ten years. It was an old-fashioned site, built on HTML, each issue being self-contained, not aggregated, although as the Web expanded, Archipelago linked out to it. In those days, everything seemed new, ready to be invented. We meant to set a standard for bringing serious literature to readers on-line. It was exciting to challenge the conventional publishers, especially the New York trade publishers, who cried out that books were going to disappear! That by 2020, we were going to stand at glowing podia and read electronic texts as they flickered before our eyes! No turning of pages, no smelling of glue, no revenues from trade books! Oh, they were nervous, the conglomerated publishers. I heard them talk, and thought to myself, Let’s see what we can do about this.

For ten years, I published interesting, engaged writing. At its height, Archipelago drew 18,000 unique readers per month, respectable for a Web journal that crossed invisible borders and had nothing to sell. If literary publishing had become a “niche,” as was said, Archipelago fit nicely into it. On Artist’s Proof Editions I am going to bring back some of those pieces of writing, as news that stays new. I give you the opening and invite you to click through to Archipelago, which remains and is still being read, I am happy to report.

—Katherine McNamara, Editor and Publisher


Read Senator Russel Feingold on opposing (2002) the USA PATRIOT Act. Feingold was the only U.S. senator who voted against the act.

We must grant law enforcement the tools that it needs to stop this terrible threat. But we must give them only those extraordinary tools that they need and that relate specifically to the task at hand.

In the play, “A Man for All Seasons,” Sir Thomas More questions the bounder Roper whether he would level the forest of English laws to punish the Devil. “What would you do?” More asks, “Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?” Roper affirms, “I’d cut down every law in England to do that.” To which More replies:

“And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast . . . and if you cut them down . . . d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake. ”


Read The Fight for Kansas, by Mary-Sherman Willis, from the occasional series Living with Guns.

Among my family’s books and letters are some first-person accounts of the Kansas-Missouri Border War, a prelude to the Civil War, writ small and concentrated. Published here for the first time, are letters from the scene in Kansas in May, 1856, by my great-great-grandmother Cecilia Stewart Sherman, when the violence flashed into what she herself called a “civil war.” Along with the letters, the two-volume biography of her husband, John Sherman, William Tecumseh’s younger brother and my great-great-grandfather, includes his account of events. Cecilia’s urgent descriptions are balanced by John’s more reflective voice — he was writing almost forty years after the events and knew exactly where they led.

Taken together they are extraordinarily revealing about an American buildup to war.


Read “They Stand Accused”: James L. Hicks’s Investigations in Sumner, Mississippi, September 1955. Edited, and with a Foreword by, Christopher Mettress.

On September 24, 1955, an all-white Mississippi jury, after a mere sixty-seven minutes of deliberation, acquitted J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant of the murder of Emmett Till. Till, a fourteen year-old black boy from Chicago, had been visiting for the first time his extended family in the Mississippi Delta. One afternoon, barely a week into his visit, he and several other youths were standing outside a white-owned grocery in the small hamlet of Money. Apparently, Till had been boasting of his friendships with white people up North — in particular his friendships with white girls — and the local kids, looking to call his bluff, dared him to enter the store and flirt with Carolyn Bryant, the white woman and former beauty queen who was working the cash register. Till entered the store, and what he did next is unclear. Some say he “wolf whistled” at Bryant; others say he grabbed her hand and asked her for a date; still others claim he did nothing more than simply say “bye, baby” to her as he left the store. Whatever Till did, it was apparent to all involved that he had done something that made Carolyn Bryant angry or afraid. Till’s friends rushed him away from the store as Bryant went to her car to get a gun.


Read Bright Nostalgia: Poems for Osip Mandelstam, by Katherine E. Young, from the final issue of Archipelago.

Red Vineyard, 1888: A Painting by Van Gogh
If I ever get back, the first thing I shall do is go and see
the French [paintings].
                                      — Osip Mandelstam in exile
Vtoraya rechka (“Second Little Stream”) is the transit 
camp where Mandelstam is believed to have perished.

I remember his vermilion, color

with the grandest name.  It tasted of tree

trunks, a work blouse, tang of grapes harvesting

in the vineyards of Arles.  He captured the sun

and hung it, toasted gold like blini

hot and hot from the stove, to wester there

beyond the fields.  If I ever get back,

though the path may lie through the transit camps,

through Vtoraya rechka, misbegotten

little stream. . . .  Pity, instead, the man who

surveyed this spot, doggedly reducing

the great East to a chart, chilly fingers

inscribing, there, “First Little Stream” and, there,

“Third Little Stream” — equally prosaic

names for the places they send men to die.

Understand this: there is no other road,

no roundabout crossing, no safer way.

There is Death, too, in that sunset— but not

yet.  On the wet-black walk, chalk soil and rain

conspire to trace upon the pavement

the fragile antonym of a leaf.




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