Tuesday, May 22, 2007


That average tenure of a web page being between 44 and 75 days is carried upwards some by the presence of Ygdrasil, which makes a good case for having been the first literary journal on the net, or at the very least the oldest continuous such publication. In the words of editor Klaus Gerken, Ygdrasil – the name refers to the tree in Norse mythology that holds heaven, earth & hell together – the journal actually predates the origin of the World Wide Web as we know it in June 1993, having functioned from

May 1993 to Oct 1994 on the BBS circuit (24 countries phoning in to get the magazine on a monthly basis), then Igal Koshevoy created the first Ygdrasil Internet pages in Nov 1994….

Koshevoy gave up poetry a year later & basically walked away from the project, with Gerken & Pedro Sena taking over in December 1995, revising Ygdrasil into its current form. Since August of 2000, the Literary Archives of Canada have archived the Ygdrasil site.

As an early adopter, Ygdrasil shows the features (and limits) of its origin – it made design decisions early on when the options were fewest & not well understood. The text of each issues is on a single, rather endless HTML page, with pages that might as well be still in ascii. No flash graphics here. The logo reminds me, actually, of the magazine graphics Andy Warhol did before he became famous as an artist, as such. But those were in the early 1950s. Still, the journal’s interest in works in Spanish (there have been several special issues) as well as translated from the Spanish – and in the work of Clayton Eshleman – ensures its legacy. And it has received over 750,000 hits since a counter was installed back in 2001, making it one of the most widely perused journals online. Yet at some level, Ygdrasil has the dubious distinction of being, almost by definition, the online journal that has needed a design update the longest as well.


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