Whomanwarp wants to be national voice


November 22, 1990|By Henry Scarupa

Whomanwarp may be a woman's magazine, but it's not the kind with dessert recipes or tips on how to catch a man between its covers.

The current 87-page issue contains 16 pieces of art, 20 poems and eight pieces of prose. And the centerfold -- if that's the right word -- is an untitled "xerox assemblage."

Recipient of this year's Anne Tyler Arts Award by the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture, the Baltimore publication bills itself as an "art and literary journal created as a forum for views of women."

"Dialogue is the big project that Whomanwarp has taken on," says founding editor Kelli Ostrom, who has been putting out the magazine with two other Baltimore women, Gabrielle Keith and Gina Pierleoni. "We encourage men and women contributors to speak openly and challenge ideas . . . but the magazine's thrust is mainly literary."

Launched two years ago as an annual publication, Whomanwarp now comes out twice a year, with a circulation of 1,000. It sells for $6, and is available at Louie's and other area book stores or by subscription. The magazine is available in a few cities -- such as New York City or San Francisco -- and the editors are aiming for national distribution by the next issue. They also hope to turn the publication into a quarterly.

"We have so much good material we want to get to the public," says Ms. Ostrom. "You don't engage the public unless you remind them often of your presence."

Clarinda Harriss Raymond, assistant professor of English at Towson State University, contributed a poem to the first Whomanwarp -- contributors are unpaid -- and has been following the journal's development ever since. She calls it a "very valuable project.

"They're trying to serve two constituencies -- women and the avant-garde," she says. "It's needed. They've done a good job and they're going to keep getting better."

Following their 1986 graduation from St. John's College in Annapolis, Ms. Ostrom and Ms. Keith felt their education failed to inform them about contemporary literature, especially women's writing. To help fill the gap they set up a monthly discussion group, which eventually evolved into a writing workshop. From that, they became motivated to seek out a larger audience.

Ms. Ostrom, who does proof reading and typesetting for Alpha Graphics, led the way, holding fund-raisers to provide start-up money.

The magazine's name was created by fusing the Old English spelling of woman with the word "warp," the threads that give structure to a woven fabric.

Reflecting on beginning the publication, Ms. Ostrom says, "There's nothing like a group of people working on a project that excites you, that gives you a lot of fantastic ideas."

A special reading to mark the release of the new issue has been scheduled for 8 p.m. Nov. 30 at the BAUhouse, 1713 N. Charles St. Admission is $4. Call 659-5443.

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