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Jacksonville Group Building 'Bridge' To 'New Literary Capital Of The South'

Rypkema and crowd
Jessica Palombo
Bridge Eight founder Jared Rypkema thanks guests for coming to the issue two launch reception at the Jessie Ball duPont center on Friday, Aug. 7.

Bridge Eight is a literary magazine published in Jacksonville. It’s picking up a following as its second-ever issue hits stands this month. The magazine is part of a growing literary movement springing up from a Riverside writers’ community.

table
Credit Jessica Palombo / WJCT News
Bridge Eight board member Christopher Hooks, founder Jared Rypkema and board member Jesse Wilson set up a computer to take subscriptions at the duPont Center Friday.

On Friday evening, a crowd filled the lobby of downtown Jacksonville’s Jessie Ball DuPont Center. Rachel Kohl was hovering around a table near the front door, where stacks of Bridge Eight literary magazines were on display.  Kohl said she already has issue one, so she’s signed up to get forthcoming issues two and three.

She says she first learned about the magazine while taking a poetry workshop offered by its founders.

“I just love that we have a literary magazine here in Jacksonville and I love that I know some of the people,” she said.

Founder Jared Rypkema says Bridge Eight grew from those workshops, offered in Riverside under the name Left on Mallory.

“I invited a few writers over to my house, and we just did it on a weekly basis where we just sat down and said, ‘Hey, these two hours, we’re going to write,’” he said.

He says the sessions grew until the magazine seemed like the next logical step. Bridge Eight is his attempt to further connect Jacksonville writers and get the city noticed as the New Literary Capital of the South. And for such an ambitious goal, he says, an online publication wouldn’t cut it.

“Here in the city, we like to get excited about something that happens really fast and really and blows up really well, and an online literary magazine may have done that,” he said, “but I could prove sustainability through printing something that someone could hold in their hands and put on their table and remember us until the next one comes out.”

postcards and leaves on table
Credit Jessica Palombo / WJCT News
Postcards announcing the second issue of Bridge Eight adorn a table at the reception Friday evening.

Three writers read their work aloud Friday evening, giving previews of their Bridge Eight submissions. Then, before the guests returned to their craft beers, the city’s Cultural Council Executive Director Tony Allegretti took the mic. He told everyone, this is the Jacksonville he wants tourists to know.  

“So that’s one thing I’m going to try to do this year is to make sure that the people that come here and see us get a slice of this DNA, get a piece of this, because this is freaking amazing,” he said.

Bridge Eight recently got nonprofit status and a board of directors. In addition to the magazine and writers’ workshops, it also hosts reading events with writers from outside the city.

Bridge Eight magazine is available for sale through the group’s website or at a handful of locally owned bookshops and coffee houses.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP