Oakwood is a literary magazine, primarily focused on writing but supplemented by various kinds of art. It seeks to publish and foster the work of the extended creative community of the Northern Great Plains, but its subject matter is the world itself. Though much of what we publish deals with Great Plains life, this is not required. We are more interested in what people in the region have to say about the human experience than we are in focusing on the experience of place.
The Northern Great Plains, though sparsely populated compared to the rest of America, has produced its share of fine writers. South Dakota can lay claim to Laura Ingalls Wilder, Vine Deloria, Jr., and O.E. Rolvaag. More recently, writers like Kent Meyers and Patrick Hicks (both included in our 2018 issue), and Linda Hasselstrom have made national and international contributions to literature. Beyond our state borders, but still in our region, we can lay claim to Willa Cather, Ted Kooser, and Pete Dexter.
This is a region that historically punches above its weight in terms of literary impact, and Oakwood aims to punch above its weight as well. We are housed at South Dakota State University, which was founded in 1881 as Dakota Agricultural College and stays true to those roots today, with internationally-recognized programs in “practical” fields such agriculture, engineering, pharmacy, etc.
Yet amidst this practicality, the arts have always had a presence at SDSU and the region. The best-known graduate creative writing program in the world, at the University of Iowa, is in our backyard. Next door in Minnesota, we have a robust publishing scene with houses like Graywolf, Millkweed, and Coffee House Press. Oakwood seeks to harness and foster the literature of the region, drawing from the writers who are in the Northern Great Plains now or who have been shaped by these places.
The scope of our contributor base is important to our identity. There can be no doubt that our region experiences a “brain drain” that affects its creative community. Talented people of all ages move on to more densely populated places in search of opportunity, and Oakwood is here for them just as much as it’s here for those who remain in the region. We want to provide a connecting point for those who grew from this soil but are not now attached to it. We also aim to cultivate writers of the region, identifying those of particular promise and helping their careers develop.
The journal is now part of SDSU’s Open Prairie Repository, accessible without cost to all. We will eventually be archiving the entire history of Oakwood here, making the past accessible to help track the writing that arises from this region.