Clockwatch Reviews replaces Clockwatch Review, an independent, not-for-profit journal of the arts founded in Wisconsin in 1983 by James Plath and moved to Illinois in 1988, where it was incorporated in the State of Illinois as a not-for-profit organized for educational purposes. Although Illinois Wesleyan University was a benefactor and will continue to provide space on their website for Clockwatch Reviews: An Online Quarterly of Books, the literary magazine was completely independent and won wide recognition during its 16-year run. Originally assisting Plath was a staff of then-fellow University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate students: Elizabeth Balestrieri, John Blum, Mary Ann Emery, and Ron Rindo. When the magazine relocated to Illinois in 1988, Plath asked colleagues from the English department to serve on the editorial board: Bob Bray, C. Lynn DeVore, James McGowan, and Pamela Buchanan Muirhead. Poet Zarina Mullan Plath became a co-editor of the print journal in 1998, and was founding co-editor of the electronic journal.
In 1990, Clockwatch was one of five magazines in the United States to receive an Editor's Award for "editorial excellence and vision" from the Council of Literary Magazines & Presses. Many of the writers published in Clockwatch have gone on to win individual literary awards. Beth Lisick's poem, "Empress of Sighs" (Vol. 10 Nos. 1-2) was selected for inclusion in the 1997 Best American Poetry anthology by guest editor James Tate.
Internationally syndicated columnist Bob Greene devoted an entire column to Clockwatch in September, 1994, and Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson held a copy of Clockwatch in an ad promoting America's literary magazines featured in the June 1995 Harper's Magazine.
The only American literary magazine to spotlight an ongoing series of interviews with artists, musicians, and other creative people besides writers,Clockwatch Review has featured exclusive in-depth interviews with such talents as Vincent Price, Buddy Guy, Suzanne Vega, Arlo Guthrie, Dawn Upshaw, "Gatemouth" Brown, Dik "Hagar the Horrible" Browne, Romare Bearden, Jack Levine, Friz "Bugs Bunny" Freleng, Bob Newhart, Maria Tallchief, and David "Airplane!" Zucker.
Recognition came early. Two years after the magazine was founded, the Mark Twain Sesquicentennial Commission of Hannibal, Missouri chose Clockwatch to co-sponsor a fiction contest and to serve as the official literary magazine for the 1985 Twain celebration.
Clockwatch has had a number of "firsts," including what we've been told is the first short story dealing with AIDS as a central issue to be published by a small press magazine; previously unpublished poetry by Salvador Dali; and, more recently, the first comic-style treatment of a serious literary short story. Like other literary magazines, Clockwatch features previously undiscovered and unpublished writers alongside such prize-winning authors as Rita Dove, James Dickey, Howard Nemerov, and Bob Shacochis. "Outsiders" are also represented, with past issues featuring poems by prisoners (Lawrencia Bembenek the most famous among them), the homeless, and Skid Row residents. We were also among the first literary magazines to publish a copious amount of illustrations, photographs, and graphics, scattered throughout the issue rather than published in a brief "portfolio" centerfold--and, happily, a great number of literary magazines have followed suit. In 1983, the biggest need was for quality venues where developing writers could find publication. Now, in 1999, there are literally hundreds of top-quality literary journals--but, we perceived, not enough places for writers to get their books reviewed. To that end, Clockwatch Reviews: An Online Quarterly of Books was born, and to our knowledge, we're the first book review medium to feature a substantial block quote for every book reviewed.