In 1986 Stratis Haviaras, then Curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room of the Harvard College Library, founded a quarterly periodical called Erato. The purpose of this publication was to publicize the activities of the Poetry Room and create a new forum for discussion of current literary matters and events. The first issue of Erato, which was four pages long, featured a poem by Seamus Heaney, a short piece on Louis Simpson, and a news item from Harvard University Press. Tipped into the issue were three loose-leaf pages of book reviews, including reviews of works by Joseph Brodsky, Marguerite Duras, and Richard Ford.
Within three years the book review section had grown to over thirty pages and the publication was renamed Harvard Book Review. In 1992 Haviaras launched Harvard Review, a perfect-bound journal of over 200 pages, published semi-annually and incorporating the old Harvard Book Review. The purpose of the new journal was to foster the work of new writers, provide a forum for criticism of new literary works, and present the finest poetry and short fiction being written. In 2000 Haviaras retired from Harvard and Christina Thompson was appointed editor. At the same time, Houghton Library assumed administrative responsibility for the review.
In the nearly two decades since it was launched, Harvard Review has emerged as a major American literary journal with an eclectic mix of contributors in a wide variety of genres and styles. Contributors to the journal include: Arthur Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Seamus Heaney, Jorie Graham, John Updike, John Ashbery, Alice Hoffman, and Gore Vidal, as well as those who are making their literary debut. Recent selections have been anthologized in: Best American Essays 2010, 2009, 2004, and 2003, Best American Poetry 2008, 2006, and 2002, Best American Short Stories 2005 and 2003, Best American Mystery Stories 2006, Best New Poets 2008, Pushcart Prize Anthology 2004 and 2001.