Open up the furnace

Sep 25, 2002 at 12:00 am

It’s getting hot in here! So break out all your prose!

Sorry. It’s just that the most overplayed song of the summer has something in common with a promising new Detroit magazine: heat. The Furnace, a literary journal, is gearing up for a Sept. 28 launch party, and “Issue 0” is full of the creative fire that keeps Detroit’s arts community alive, innovative and burning.

“The furnace is kind of the fireplace, the hearth, in today’s world, as it provides warmth to the home,” says editor Kelli Kavanaugh. “A furnace can symbolize a place of origin, and we’d like the magazine to be a starting ground for new talent in Detroit. It also speaks to our city’s industrial heritage.”

Last winter, Kavanaugh (who has published a book titled Detroit’s Michigan Central Station) and several friends began tossing around ideas for a new literary magazine. As things progressed, the team expanded to form a diverse editorial board whose members’ day gigs range from Detroit Public Schools teacher to artist to executive director of the Greater Corktown Development Corporation.

“Many of our board members are part of the nonprofit community in Detroit, so we’re comfortable working with that system,” says Kavanaugh, recounting the genesis of Corktown Press, a nonprofit that the group incorporated to produce the Furnace.

“As a nonprofit, we can attract a variety of funding sources for the projects we plan on attempting, from building renovations to dance classes, from theater productions to Pilates.”

Located in Corktown’s Bohemian National House, Corktown Press has ample room to realize its dreams. Although it’s been touch and go at times, the dream of launching a literary magazine is about to come true as the Furnace hits the streets.

Most of the work in “Issue 0” carries a Detroit flavor. Zuriel Wolfgang Lott injects chilling technology under Detroit’s abandoned skin in his short story “Feedback.” Poet Mariela Griffor longs for a bridge between past and present (in English and Spanish) as she contemplates the now-crumbling landscape.

One of the most interesting pieces, “Prototypical House for a Narrow Lot,” belongs to neither genre. It’s a blueprint and short manifesto by Architects Asylum, a collective of local architects seeking to revitalize Detroit’s neglected living spaces with its innovative designs.

Articles on topics such as the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal, John K. King books and “hanging out in Hamtramck” also heat up the Furnace.

So where can you get your hands on a copy? “Issue 0” will be available at the Furnace Premiere Party, Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Savoyard Club in the Buhl Building (535 Griswold at Congress). The party starts at 8 p.m., and a copy of the magazine comes with the ticket price. Advance tickets are $20 at Spectacles, 230 E. Grand River, and at Pure Detroit in the Fisher Building. Just don’t expect to bury your nose in its subtle orange-and-smoky-gray pages all night.

Jen House, local comedian extraordinaire, will host the event, where you can get your food and drink on (courtesy of several local establishments) and enjoy music by the Immigrant Suns, Saoco, Continuing Saga and DJs Mike T and Greg Mudge. Local fashion designers D.KOY, Liquid Silver and Scarlett’s Daughter will be there. Several local artists will also present their work.

Obviously, the magazine has the backing of Detroit’s creative community. But Furnace organizers have seen similar magazines fold in the past. In fact, several editors are alumni of such publications. Still, in an environment where it’s difficult yet necessary to keep creativity alive, they’re hoping to fill a niche in this city — and fill it well. Are they expecting a “warm” response?

“I think so, yes,” Kavanaugh says. “I also expect skepticism, because so many worthy magazines have had short runs here. Hopefully, longevity will be ours!”

To submit creative work to The Furnace or for more information, contact: The Furnace c/o Corktown Press, Bohemian National House, 3009 Tillman, Detroit MI 48216. E-mail [email protected] and visit

E-mail Kari Jones at [email protected]