In 1986 poet and novelist Stratis Haviaras, then Curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room in Harvard’s Lamont Library, founded a quarterly periodical called Erato. Its purpose 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 just 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 some 200 pages, published semi-annually and incorporating the old Harvard Book Review. The journal provided a forum for criticism along with new poetry and short fiction. In 2000 Haviaras retired from Harvard and Christina Thompson was appointed editor; responsibility for the review shifted from Lamont to Houghton Library at this time.
Contributors to Harvard Review have included such literary giants as Seamus Heaney, Sonia Sanchez, and David Foster Wallace. Pulitzer Prize-winners Jhumpa Lahiri and Paul Harding both made their literary debuts in the journal, alongside such writers as Andrea Barrett, Yusef Komunyakaa, Sharon Olds, David Mamet, Tracy K. Smith, Claire Messud, Robert Pinsky, Nam Le, and Lily King. Writing from Harvard Review is regularly selected for Best American Poetry, Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Science and Nature Writing, Best American Travel Writing, PEN America Best Debut Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, Best New Poets, and The Pushcart Prize Anthology.