Robert & Andrea Moorhead
Searching through the thousands of little magazine titles in the Poetry Collection, one would find a small number that have lasted more than a decade or two. A notable exception is Osiris magazine, edited and designed by Andrea and Robert Moorhead of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Since 1972, the magazine has published 72 issues, an impressive act of editorial dedication on the part of the Moorheads, who have donated the papers of what is now a nearly 40-year-old archive of Osiris to the Poetry Collection.
The Moorheads have dedicated much of their lives to contemporary poetry. Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Andrea Dubs Moorhead later moved to Connecticut before studying French and philosophy at Chatham College in Pittsburgh. Robert Moorhead was born in Pittsburgh and grew up in Warren and Tarentum, Pennsylvania, earning a B.F.A. degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology and M.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University. The two were married in 1969, and after living in Pittsburgh, Troy and Schenectady for short periods, they moved in 1976 to Deerfield, Massachusetts, when Robert accepted a position at Deerfield Academy, a preparatory school. The author of over 17 publications, Andrea is a poet, translator and editor writing in French and English who currently teaches French at Deerfield Academy. Robert, a painter and graphic designer whose work has been exhibited widely, teaches visual design and architecture at Deerfield Academy. In addition to their magazine, the Moorheads also direct the Deerfield Academy Press.
Throughout their lives, Andrea Moorhead explains, “Osiris [has] remained our link to the great world, to the community of writers and artists engaged in modern thought and aesthetic movements.” The magazine began, she recalls, “Tuesday, April 11, 1972, in a small white house along NY Route 43 in the town of Averill Park.” From its inception, Osiris has been decidedly international in its focus and committed to a lyric tradition, publishing poetry by hundreds of writers around the world in such languages as English, French, German, Romanian, Danish, Spanish, and others, as well as in English translation. This was always a conscious choice by the Moorheads, who, in an early issue, define Osiris as “an apolitical international journal, which seeks a human art, without intellectual or social categories.”
As they elaborated in a recent interview:
The origins of Osiris are related to the general political and social climate of the late 1960s and 1970s. We spent our university years in Pittsburgh during a time when the city was shaken by the civil rights movement and the growing debate over the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The idea of launching a literary magazine, however, did not grow out of our concern about social and political issues…. Art and literature were rapidly becoming vehicles for social change. If one wanted to foster an aesthetic that was not “engaged,” it would be necessary to create a radical form of expression that refused to be co-opted by either the establishment or the forces for social change…. This simply meant that art in the broadest sense of the word should be free to explore those spiritual, psychological, emotional, and intellectual aspects of people’s lives that were not connected to nations or social groupings.
And yet, “for all its international involvement, Osiris is resolutely American. We like frontiers, new territories, and challenges. In a sense Osiris is an ambassador for our country, offering others the chance to share their work with an American audience without sacrificing their native language. This is an essential element of Osiris—the gathering of many voices in many tongues.”
Today, this “gathering of many voices” has itself been gathered and donated to the Poetry Collection, where it serves as an important research tool for students and scholars. After conversations with James Laughlin, founder and publisher of New Directions, whose personal poetry archive is in the Poetry Collection, and editor James Cooney, the papers of whose magazine Phoenix are also part of the collection, the Moorheads made their first gift to the Poetry Collection in 1995, with additional installments and further financial support arriving in subsequent years. Describing their decision to give their archive to the Poetry Collection, Robert and Andrea explain that:
Buffalo has always had a reputation for cultural excellence. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House and the Albright-Knox Museum among other cultural institutions stand out. The reputation of the Poetry Collection has always been foremost in our minds.
The Osiris Collection, documenting nearly forty years of the magazine’s history, helps promote the Poetry Collection’s mission of serving as the library of record for 20th- and 21st-century Anglophone poetry, and the Collection remains resolutely grateful to the Moorheads for the continuing generosity of their donations.