A Windfall for Light Verse 

Its years of genteel want were splendid / But no one at Light Quarterly is sorry they ended.

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Last year Mella hired Markwart's husband, Tom Gorman, a graphic designer, as his operations manager, and he put Markwart in charge of—forgive the weary argot of our time—growing the brand. She has big plans and big motivation: "We both earn our living from Light Quarterly. And we don't have benefits, so we're hoping to expand Light Quarterly so we'll have benefits."

Markwart runs the journal out of Mella's new apartment in River Forest, which he chose to be close to her home in Oak Park. "She's the brains and talent behind the operation," says Mella. "Tom's the computer guy. She's the one who basically is moving Light Quarterly to a different level. She's good at this stuff though she's never done publicity in her life. She wants to get us into hospitals and set up workshops in grade schools."

"I'm kind of amateurish, but I'm giving it a shot," she demurs. "Our most urgent need for Light Quarterly is for more people to know we exist at all, and there are so many levels at which to increase awareness. One of the fun things is a lecture series to talk about light verse going back to the 14th century. Another thing Light Quarterly wants to do is help kids be educated about poetry a little, so we'll go to schools, talk to principals. I called up the school I went to as a kid in Oak Park and the principal was kind of lame about it and he said he'd pass my information over to a teacher and I never heard back."

Gorman created a handsome Web site and launched a Facebook page, and he also composed the foundation's new bumper sticker: LAUGH MORE. Markwart paid a visit to Oak-Leyden Developmental Services in Oak Part and organized a team of developmentally disabled residents that stuffs envelopes for mailings. "Astonishingly enough," says Mella, "they don't charge anything."

"Lisa dreams big," he says. "Some of her ideas sound pretty wacky, but she's basically what I need. I'm not very good at this. She compares Light Quarterly to the Paris Review. Their publisher for many years was Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan—he picked up the bills."

Markwart is drawing up a list of celebrities, Mella explains, because the quarterly, likewise, could use "a rich, literary, and generous patron of the arts. It's basically going back to the Renaissance model of the Borgias. Noble people—rather ruthless, of course."

Mella observes that "love goes out the window when money comes in the door" and adds, "Love hasn't really gone out the window yet, but there are disagreements with Lisa. Certain things." He thinks back on the day when there was no money and no expectation of money and tells me, "I don't recall it being this stressful.

"It's a different ballgame," he says. "Basically, even though my business capabilities are lousy, I have a fair sense of how things are doing. The magazine is doing better. I could take a walk now—which I don't intend to do—because I'm not needed."   

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