quarto: a history

Quarto is the undergraduate literary magazine of Columbia University’s Creative Writing Department. It is a student-run magazine that publishes the best of Columbia’s undergraduate writers from all four of Columbia’s undergraduate colleges. The Creative Writing Department provides support and a faculty advisor to the magazine, though the editorial board has representatives from departments across campus.

Quarto is dedicated to renewal—to changing formats and editorial boards and exploring new opportunities to recognize writers—all in the effort to keep up with the ever-changing literary landscape on campus, and to give each magazine a fresh voice. Quarto was created in 1948 and housed in the School of General Studies. In 1998, the magazine expanded to serve the entire undergraduate writing community. In 2007, with the creation of the Creative Writing Department, the magazine found its current home in an environment dedicated to craft and excellence in writing.

Quarto has published Pulitzer Prize winners, the US Poet Laureate Louise Glück, best-selling authors such as Kim Wozencraft, successful playwrights like Adam Szymkowicz, poets, screenwriters, and art critics. Members of its editorial staff have gone on to start their own literary magazines and some, like Edwidge Dandicat, have found literary success themselves.

What never changes is Quarto's dedication to find the best undergraduate writing at Columbia—and the proof can be seen every year printed in its pages.

The Quarto archives can be accessed here. The most recent issue of Quarto can be read here.

editorial board
Executive Editors
Ikem Leigh & Michelle Marchese

Managing Editors
Dylan Furcall & Kevin Liu

Outreach & Events Editors
Juliana Clark & Ainsley Katz

Visual Editors
Kimberly Madrid & Megan Wicks

Staff Editors
Olivia Alex, Caroline Bowman, Emily Burns, Madison Ford, Antonia Hitchens, Alexandra Horn, Elizabeth Lee, Brook McClurg & Anurak Saelow

Faculty Advisors
Joseph Fasano & Dorothea Lasky
Applications to join the Quarto editorial board are received and evaluated annually in September. As part of Quarto's dedication to renewal, those interested in serving on Quarto's editorial board for that year, whether they have been part of Quarto previously or not, must apply anew.

For more information about joining Quarto and the application process, feel free to direct any questions to us via email at columbiaquarto@gmail.com. Quarto also holds open houses at the beginning of each school year to give information about the magazine and the application process.

Open house dates are currently TBA—check back as we approach the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year for more information.
enter the thunderdome
Thank you to all who submitted to the first ever ENTER THE THUNDERDOME event. We received over 100 submissions over the course of four days. Read the winning submissions below.
day 1. heidi julavits
winner. wells hamilton

I had a necklace once, my first ex-girlfriend gave me, that I carried couched in my wallet behind a screen of ice-cream punch cards.

The pendant, this pewter elephant rimmed on its saddle by fake diamonds (the kind that chipped off like sweat beads, loose tears from that inanimate object’s frequent panic attacks)

I liked elephants then because I liked Ganesh (both creator and destroyer) reason being, I’ve never felt fully created and always wanted to be destroyed. It’s a comforting cosmology for those of us unskilled at waking-sleeping like it’s no big deal.

She claimed to be a gypsy (that girl), the French kind whose old world mysticism looked a lot like water in a black bowl, deep and endless but ultimately with an end. And gypsies don’t have a word for benevolent spells so everything is a curse except some curses work temporarily in your favor. So

I had a protection curse once, my first ex-girlfriend gave me, that I carried couched in my wallet behind a screen of ice-cream punch cards.

I don’t know if this was supposed to be some kind of car-crash deterrent or anti-cancer vaccine (like a secondary seatbelt or a glass of red wine every dinner) or something much more ethereal. The glitches in her anti-psychotics usually manifested themselves in the shape of demons that she’d labeled as mystic mercenaries sent to kill us. The vast irony being that those demons did eventually kill “us” and that hunk of metal couldn’t do shit to stop ‘em.

But before then it was a sort of handsy talisman, occupying significant real-estate in my pre- natal, post-traumatic imagination. Like I don’t think I would have bought into so much schizophrenic bullshit if there wasn’t that axis for it to all rotate on.

I’ve long since lost it.
day 2. sunil gulati
winner. liv lansdale

Let’s Get This Party Scrapbooked

What? No, this is not artsy at all! I’m not artsy. I just do this for fun, for posterity. My daughters will love this stuff. This one’s the only picture where I use the flash and then I kept focusing on the wrong thing. I don’t know how to use the auto-focus or the manual focus. That one is finally focused. Right there. I’m glad I decided to sneak in. Then I took a picture of a wineglass but I couldn’t deal with the light, see how it washes out that guy’s face? This is a great picture, wait, who took that? I forget whether I was there or not. I mean, I wasn’t black-out, I left early and must have left the camera in the lounge. Someone must have taken these. Is that rude? Would you do that? Wait, I’m in that picture so this must have been before that. Ugh, I wish I were taller. You can hardly see me behind Kelly. Did someone take pictures of my groceries? Look, they even included the soymilk. What, it was an important ingredient! Did you have any? Not even the gelato on the side? It’s the best in New York! That shot must have been a mistake, nobody’s there. And trust me, there is always someone here. It. Is. A. Clowncar. Is that the roll? Guess so. But seriously, a clown car. The man in that last picture, he explained to me that the crossbar in the hammock he was lying in in the corner actually makes it less stable. Do you want any coffee?

Is this person lonely?

A) Yes.
B) Yes and everyone knows.
C) Yes and someone has stolen her camera.
D) Yes and she left her camera behind on purpose.
day 3. debora spar
winner. benjamin rashkovich

I was born way south in the middle of a sunstorm, when clay baked into solid rock and you could hear the off-green grass dry to death. My old school’s turned into a department store I guess, and the bar’s turned into a school—I guess—I haven’t been back to visit for thirty, forty. We’re all still afraid of the dust but our bones do miss the heat.

We were cruel children, the youngest most of all, and it was little Sally—Nancy—Jerry—it’s no matter which—who peaked around the corner of a garage and found Bill—Jack—Ted—it’s no matter which, really, as we after called him just the Horse Boy. She came back to where we sat in the cracked-pavement lot, trying to spit-wish a cloud up toward the sky for shade, she came back shimmying under the fence and told us in a fever hush about the Horse Boy.

“He’s got this wooden horse, size of a truck, and he’s riding it like the devil’s on his heels. Got a cowboy hat and boots and all, spurs and all”—I don’t imagine little what’s-her did say this about the spurs, but memory right has its way with you—“and he’s most sincerely riding that wood horse to death.”

Well, we had some laughs, ‘til one stood up and announced we’d all go see this horse of his. We sprinted down the street, then quieted up right outside Horse Boy’s house. He’d left his garage open, hoping for a breeze. Most peaked around the corner like that first little girl showed us, authority now. I stayed back and listened, heard the creak and scuff of a wooden gallop, heard the Horse Boy say over and again under his breath, “There’s a future out there.”
day 4. erik gray
winner. kailee marie pedersen
grand winner of the thunderdome!

Young Girls and Other Endangered Species

your father is a zoologist his favorite animal is a hyena
was—well, until That Woman (your mother) took off in her
       red lipstick Cadillac
smoky asphalt in her hair, her smile, you think perhaps
that you would remember her, and her father says she laughed
       like a certain feliform
no more hyenas.)
your father writes a monograph on rainforest ecology
and becomes obsessed with
of all things.
so grotesque, with their little sniffly noses
proboscises, he corrects you in his best I’m A Professor voice

(exam question #1: did he speak to your mother in that voice?)

the one with its lilting condescension, an atonal hum
heavy with knowledge. a mysterious tune you cannot sing.
the tips of his hair
grow silver like his favorite cufflinks; you sprout
limbs like a sad little plant. you say, I need some money
       for prom,

and he says, in Colombia, woolly tapirs live in cloud forests.
he hands you fifty dollars.

(exam questions #2: you have fifty dollars
how many dresses and books on the order Perissodactyla
       will this buy you? please
show your work.)

your local zoo is getting a tapir. you don’t know if it was
your father’s petitions to the mayor,
the bewildered dean of the animal sciences department
or the old animal’s absolute unsuitability to civilization.
apparently they sent a half-dying one
down from Sacramento. at the grand opening
it glares at you and your father, motionless in the
       shriveling sunlight
just before closing time.
I didn’t know, your father says,
it would be so damn ugly. Look at that nose!
it’s not a nose,
you say, it’s a proboscis, dad.

(for extra credit:
tapirs will live more than twenty years in captivity. is this true
of young women?)
2015 awards


Leslie Jamison is an essayist and novelist whose work has been featured in publications like Harper's, Oxford American, and A Public Space. Her essay collection, The Empathy Exams, has been hailed as one of the most promising emergent voices of 2014 and is an Editor's Choice for the New York Times Book review.


A 2014 O.Henry Prize Winner and a National Endowment for the Arts fellow in fiction, Dylan Landis is the author of the short story collection Normal People Don't Live Like This and the recent, critically acclaimed Rainey Royal. While her novel has made her into a recent literary star, Landis' hypnotizing prose lives up to its hype.


Wendy Xu is author of the collection You Are Not Dead and chapbooks I Was Never Born and Hero Poems. Her work has appeared in journals such as POETRY Magazine, The Best American Poetry 2013, Guernica, and many others. Living in Brooklyn, Xu is one of poetry's quickly rising stars.


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Submissions for the 66th volume of Quarto are currently closed. Thank you to all who submitted.

Quarto accepts submissions of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, visual art, and photography.

A single student may submit up to five (5) pieces, but each individual piece should be 20 pages or fewer. Since all submissions are anonymous, please ensure that your name does not appear anywhere on your submission. We appreciate your submission and look forward to reading your work.

The final submissions deadline for our Spring 2015 issue is March 15, 2015.

This information is collected only for the submission process. Your information will never be used outside of Quarto. Submitting to Quarto grants Quarto the right to publish your piece(s) if selected.