The history of literary magazines at Blair Academy nearly dates back to the founding of the School itself. First published in 1884, the Blair Hall Literary Magazine was the predecessor of the more well-known student publication, the Blair Hall Breeze, which began in 1894. Fast-forward to the new millennium, and the hilltop hasn’t benefited from a student literary magazine since the last issue of Between the Lines was published in 2014 by Rachel Troy ’15. Fortunately for the humanities at Blair, Richard Gimbel ’24 is now captaining the ship, leading the way with Bowsprit.
“I’m deeply impressed by Richard’s work starting and sustaining Bowsprit,” English teacher and literary magazine advisor James Moore said. “Leading an endeavor like this, even though it involves a number of people, can be a lonely one; it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one who cares. Richard has done a great job not only managing the project, but helping other people understand the value of a student literary magazine.”
As editor in chief, Richard published the first issue of Bowsprit in fall 2022, offering a creative outlet for students to express themselves at Blair. He selected the nautical-themed title—a bowsprit is a large spar projecting forward from a sailing ship—as both a nod to Blair’s Buccaneer mascot and as a metaphor for a point leading the School into a brighter day. The literary magazine comprises photography, artwork, poetry and short stories from a diverse group of Blair students.
“I saw a niche not being filled—we have skilled students in English and humanities at Blair—I knew that sitting around wasn’t going to solve the issue, so I decided to fix the problem myself by giving our intellectual community a creative outlet,” Richard explained.
He admits the first issue was a “cowboy operation,” wrangling students around campus for submissions and repurposing pieces from The Oracle. With help from Mr. Moore, who reached out to other English department teachers for student recommendations, the current issue was easier to assemble after the prestige and recognition garnered from the inaugural Bowsprit. “I think the biggest challenge is in managing my own perspective as an editor,” Richard shared. “It requires stepping out of myself to judge things objectively and taking in lots of different voices of students from all different backgrounds and ideas.”
After releasing the current issue last week, Richard plans to take a step back from the next publication in spring 2024, relying on other editors and writers he has mentored to fill his shoes as he graduates from the hilltop. He is optimistic about Bowsprit’s future and his legacy, believing it will continue on as a twice-yearly publication. Richard is hopeful the literary magazine will remain in print rather than online as well, appreciative of the concept of being able to hold the physical manifestation of his work in his own hands.
For students nervous to submit work, Richard offers sage advice: “It’s difficult and brave for contributors to put their work out for display, but the amount of respect and pride I’ve seen on their faces in seeing it has been heartwarming.” If any students are interested in contributing work for the next edition of Bowsprit, they can send Richard an email.