The first issue of Hanging Loose magazine was published in 1966. The name was inspired by the format — mimeographed loose pages in a cover envelope — and that, in turn, was inspired by a very low budget. But the format was also meant to get across a point of view: that poetry is for now, not for the Ages. If you liked a poem, you could pin it to the wall. If you didn’t like a poem, you could use it as a napkin.
The first issue of HL contained work by Denise Levertov, John Gill, Jack Anderson, Victor Contoski and other poets who would remain close to the magazine. The editors were in agreement that they were not interested in begging poems from famous writers but that they wanted to stress work by new writers and by older writers whose work deserved a larger audience. In 1968, the magazine introduced a feature which has become celebrated over the years, a regular section devoted to writing by talented high school writers. This section introduced work by such young writers as Joanna Fuhrman, Donovan Hohn, Meghan O’Rourke and Rebecca Wolff,and has produced four highly praised anthologies of student work: Smart Like Me, Bullseye, Shooting the Rat and When We Were Countries.
Effective with the 25th issue, to the relief of many libraries and bookstores, the editors decided the loose-page format had served its purpose and revamped the format of the publication. The number of pages began to grow and the magazine was bound. The new format was friendlier to fiction and each issue began featuring portfolios of work by a single artist or photographer.
The editors are proud of having published many first books, including the first full collections by Sherman Alexie, Kimiko Hahn, D. Nurkse, Jack Agüeros, Cathy Park Hong, Eula Biss, Joanna Fuhrman, Hayan Charara, Maggie Nelson, Indran Amirthanayagam, R. Zamora Linmark, and Beth Bosworth, among others. Some of the other writers published by HL are Harvey Shapiro, Elizabeth Swados, Joan Larkin, Gary Lenhart, Jack Anderson, Maureen Owen, Donna Brook, Ha Jin, Charles North, Paul Violi, Tony Towle, William Corbett, Ed Friedman, and Jayne Cortez.