Criticism & Features


A Conversation with Beverly Jarrett, University of Missouri Press


Beverly Jarrett, the editor-in-chief of theUniversity of Missouri Press for the past 17 years, has more than 40 years in publishing. We asked her to answer a few questions. 

Q. You originally planned to be a teacher, but ended up in publishing. Why do you think you never went back to teach?

A. I believe it was that I fell in love with book publishing. I did go back to teach for two or three years in North Carolina and in New Orleans, but then went back to publishing and never looked back. It was love.


Q. Aside from nature and historical books, The University of Missouri Press publishes a fair bit of literary criticism. Was there ever a critical work published that you felt strongly about or significantly changed your viewpoint?


A.There were a good many. I guess if I had to pick the top two or three I'd say “The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin” (34 volumes; begun at LSU Press and then moved up to completion at the University of Missouri Press); “Collected Works of Langston Hughes”; and John Hope Franklin's “The Color Line,” among others.

Q. You're from Louisiana and worked for quite some time at the LSU press. How different is the book venue here in the Midwest? As a southern gal, has your taste in books changed since moving to Missouri?

A.The publishing business in the Midwest is not very different from the same work in the deep South. We do far less southern literature and southern history here, of course, but I've learned to appreciate America's heartland almost as much as I love the South. My taste in books hasn't changed a bit. Great books know no regional bias; a great book about the Midwest, or the heartland as I've come to call it, is just as splendid as is a great book about the South. (If I sound like a traitor to my homeland here, you should call and listen to my accent.)

Q.When you get a chance to read for fun and not work, what books have you been picking up most recently?

A. Well, I still love a good novel, which isn't part of the program here at Missouri. And I guess I'd have to confess that many if not most of my favorite novels are about the South and/or by Southerners.

Q. You recently published a 16-volume collection of poems by Missouri native Langston Hughes. What other authors, both local and national, would you be most interested in publishing?

A. That's hard to answer in this context. I don't look for important authors, really. I look for good books and thus find important authors who ultimately become friends and colleagues.

Q. In your 40+ years of publishing experience, what author or book has stood out the most?

A. Favorite authors would include Robert Ferrell, John Hope Franklin, Jim Dickey,Howard Nemerov, Felicity Allen, Eugene Davidson, Ellis Sandoz. Lord, here are too many to name. That's a good start.

–NBCC Intern Melody Ann Adams