Fantasy magazine was begun in the summer of 1931 by Stanley Dehler Mayer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This "little magazine" was intended to be a forum for the publication of "good free verse." Issued initially as a quarterly, Fantasy invited submissions from its readership and featured several Pennsylvania poets in its first issues, among them Homer D'Lettuso and Joseph Leonard Grucci. In its first number, the magazine offered a five dollar prize for the best essay on a living American poet published in the magazine. Though these essays appeared frequently during the first years of publication, their regularity decreased after 1933. A longer-standing tradition was Fantasy 's poetry contest in each issue. Contestants were required to write on a particular theme (e.g., "Christmas," "Night," and "Nudism"), vying for a five dollar prize and publication in the front of the magazine. Judges for the contests included Edgar Lee Masters and Stephen Vincent Benét. The winner of the poem contest on the theme of "The Negro," Lewis H. Fenderson, gained a certain notice because he was an African-American.
Beginning in 1933, the magazine expanded its scope to include short stories and longer essays from such writers as James T. Farrell and LeGarde S. Doughty. Mayer's brief section of comments on new works of poetry expanded into a full book review section, containing signed reviews from the likes of Lloyd Mallan and Charles Glicksberg. Along with the changing format came a broadened scope of coverage on literary themes. The first issue for 1938 included an essay on "Convict Poetry" and featured submissions from prisoners, among them the issue's prizewinner, Ralph W. Hunter. By 1941, Fantasy had featured an essay on Surrealism by Eugene Jolas and one on "Paging the 'Western' Novelist" by Arnold Mulder.
By the end of the 1930s, the magazine had a contingent of contributing poets and writers from around the United States. Included among them were Kenneth Patchen, August Derleth, Harlan Hatcher, Harry Roskolenko, Joseph Joel Keith, and Harvey Breit. The magazine also had connections with writers' communities in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and California, as evidenced by contributions from Witter Bynner, Haniel Long, and James Neill Northe.
A regular feature of the magazine, translations of foreign-language poets, became of primary importance when, in 1942, Fantasy began to present a separate section on Latin American literature. Working with the Pan American Union and the Committee on Cultural Relations with Latin America (based in New Haven), Mayer published poetry and stories by Spanish-language writers such as Angel Flores, Enrique Mendez Calzada, and Regino Pedroso. Works by Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, and Hugo Manning were also included in this section. This new format was used for the final two issues in 1942 and 1943.
Stanley Dehler Mayer (1909-) credited Ralph Cheyney of Contemporary Vision and Jack Conroy of The Rebel Poet with assistance in starting Fantasy . Mayer contributed essays to The New Hope, a short-lived critical magazine published in New Hope, Pennsylvania in the 1930s, and printed some of his own verse in the first issues of Fantasy . The attention Fantasy garnered allowed Mayer to expand the size of the magazine. Fantasy began in 1931 with 22 pages; the final issue had 150. Though literary advertisements began to be placed as Fantasy 's reputation grew, Mayer had difficulties in producing issues on a regular basis because of financial limitations. The numbering of issues is irregular beginning in 1937, when single issues were published for each year. This lasted until the magazine's demise in 1943. During the run of the magazine, Mayer established a relationship with James Laughlin, a Pittsburgh native who would later start New Directions Publishing Company. Laughlin, inspired by the presence of a little poetry magazine in his hometown, sought out young poets to publish in his own magazine. Among these were Dylan Thomas and Paul Eluard, whose works were also submitted by Laughlin to Mayer for publication in Fantasy . Many of the Spanish language poets who were first published in Fantasy were later included in the New Directions collection, Anthology of Contemporary Latin-American Poetry edited by Dudley Fitts in 1942.
Mayer, who had been involved in the printing trade before and during the period he published Fantasy, entered the U. S. Army in 1943. He eventually returned to his original profession after the war. He published no further issues of Fantasy, but did solicit interest in the late 1960s for a reissue of the original run of the magazine.
From the guide to the Fantasy Magazine papers, 1929-1979, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
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