200 Days in the Life of the College

Thursday, October 7

How Red Weather rode out the storm

By Olivia Wolfgang-Smith ’11

Standing in front of a diverse group of Hamiltonians, Jo Pitkin K’78 recalls the reading she gave in the Red Pit as a senior creative writing major: “I thought my knees were going to buckle.”

Pitkin is back on the Hill 32 years after graduating from Kirkland to give a poetry reading with Nin Andrews ’80 — and to meet with the current staff of Red Weather, Hamilton’s student-run literary magazine. Pitkin founded Red Weather as a student, taking over leadership of Hamilton’s magazine — the first woman to hold the position — and revamping it with enthusiasm and innovation. She battled time-consuming layout methods, a lack of precedent in campus publications that placed her on unfamiliar ground, and a few caustic Spectator editorials from students whose work was rejected by the magazine.

As Red Weather’s current editor-in-chief, I can testify that Pitkin’s enthusiasm for Hamilton’s literary community has not flagged. In addition to writing educational trade books and a full-length manuscript of poems, Pitkin is currently editing an anthology of writing by Kirkland alumnae, faculty members and administrators called Lost Orchard: Prose and Poetry from the Kirkland College Community. She meets me and other Red Weather staff members with folders full of Hamilton’s creative history, including copies of the magazine’s early issues and yearbook photos of herself and other editors doing layout with pica rulers and X-Acto knives.

In my short tenure as editor-in-chief, I will likely never have to break into the kind of uncharted territory that Pitkin braved in the magazine’s early years. Pitkin’s literary artifacts and her continued relationship with Hamilton are a testament to what deep interest and a steady will can accomplish. “I’m so gratified that the magazine I envisioned in 1976 has grown and improved and still grabs an audience,” she says.