Screen Reading

Mini reviews of current issues of online literary magazines

Arsenic Lobster :: Fiction Fix :: failbetter.com :: Gemini Magazine :: Lowestoft Chronicle :: Menacing Hedge :: Persimmon Tree :: Pithead Chapel :: Poemeleon :: Quickly :: Revolution House :: The Rusty Toque :: Sleet Magazine :: Sundog Lit :: Umbrella Factory

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Posted October 29, 2012

Sundog Lit CoverSundog Lit

Issue 1

October 2012

Quarterly

This month, Sundog Lit opens the pages of its very first issue. Including poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, it hosts a bevy of writers, both established and new. Editor Justin Lawrence Daugherty writes in his note that this issue accomplishes what they hoped it would; “it burns retinas.” If there is one piece that stands out as “burning” my retinas, it’s definitely “Caul” by Jenna Lynch. It was, well to be honest, gross (if you don’t know what a “caul” is, look it up), but even though it is eerie and not pleasant to picture, it’s insightful:

The midwife unhooked my veil,
peeled it back, and gave it to my mother,
who, years later,
ground it to a powder,
fed it to me with the white
of an egg.

“Foley” by Daniel Romo is a prose poem that takes the dramatic sound effects of film and television and reveals the wizard behind the curtain:

The Black Knight unsheathes his sword before beheading the
fallen hero. The sound of grating metal is actually a spatula
scraping sidewalk. The school bully repeatedly punches his victim
in the gut. The winded “oomph” his body produces is made by a
man behind the scenes striking a stalk of celery with a large stick.

“Cat Burglars” by Edward Hagelstein is a playful fiction piece in which the narrator’s character is developed through describing his partner in crime Noye. For example, he starts the piece with "I called Noye. His first name was Abner, and sometimes I called him Ab-Noye-mal. It wasn't far off the mark." During a break-and-enter of a restaurant to steal cash, Noye ends up also taking a cat, an action that gets him into trouble later on in the story:

He told them he found the cat wandering and took her in and figured he’d be off the hook. That didn’t work. Apparently they had his latent prints from the restaurant.
“You wore gloves.”
“I took them off to pet Sally.”
“What?”
“I didn’t want the rubber to pull on her fur and make her uncomfortable.”
“And you didn’t put them back on before you went into the desk?”
Noye was crestfallen. At least it sounded like he was.
“I guess not.”

The one thing that leaves something to be desired is the layout. Arranged as if pages in a print magazine, you “flip” through the magazine; each time, it loads a new page. While it is mimicking a print magazine, it hinders itself a little in the fact that a lot of the poems don’t fit on one page, forcing you to load another page in order to finish reading.

But all in all, I think Sundog Lit is out for a great journey; I’m excited to see how it further develops and how it “moves and rages” and “sets fires and breaks down walls” with the future issues.
[sundoglit.com]

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The Rusty Toque CoverThe Rusty Toque

Issue 3

2012

The Rusty Toque, now in its third issue, is churning some solid butter. And instead of having just the traditional poetry, fiction, and nonfiction categories, The Rusty Toque publishes comics, monologues, art, and even videos. There is room in this home for a lot of different work.

“Going to a Party in Your Mid-Twenties” by Suzanne Sutherland is a second person narrative in which you—you guessed it—go to a party: “Later, in the kitchen—you still haven’t found So And So, So And So’s roommate says they may have gone to a bar somewhere in the neighbourhood, but they’re not sure—you notice your date’s ears for the first time. It’s only your second date, and the bar where you went on your first date—another bar somewhere in the neighbourhood—was very, very dark.”

David Groulx’s “The Truth About Love” is a small poem with a somewhat dim view of love. His “The Business of Marriage” is also gloomy, ending with the lines “We carve this wicked kind of love / soon it will be over my love / . . . this wretched necessity // This sad business of ours.”

“Jelly Baby” by Robyn Read is about a mule that lives with a family:

Of course we had to get rid of the mule eventually.
You loved that doll so much
its pink docile body smelled like cherries.
You put her down for a nap
the mule lowered his mighty head
closed his jaws around her soft belly, like a cat carries its young.
When I told our mother at first she didn’t know
whether I meant the doll or you.

Gabrielle Bell contributes several pieces of graphic fiction from a larger piece titled Lucky. I enjoy the subtle humor in the narration. “Monday, July twenty-third” starts, “Wandering through a deserted city, with only a bear for company”—come on, who doesn’t love a good story about a bear? “Even a bear cannot protect you from zombies,” she writes, “but it is a comfort to have one anyway.”

In the rest of the issue, there is more poetry, fiction, monologues, reviews, portfolios, and interviews.
[www.therustytoque.com]

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Sleet MagazineSleet Magazine

Volume 4 Number 2

Fall/Winter 2012

This issue of Sleet Magazine is a mash up. Inside there is a knitting monkey, a speaking octopus, and an affectionate doe and buck; there are plastic dolls, cymbal crashes, and “Peter Pan teeth”; and amidst all that, there are also pieces with more serious subject matter.

My favorite lines Jacob Schepers’s “Tug” are the ones that come last: “When we reached the shore / what we took for the tide / was only the water // calling us back.”

Nicholas Sauer’s poem “Learning a Trade” is a wonderfully weaved love poem in heaps of cloth, yarn, and string. It starts,

We peel each other back for practice, only some of us are silk
and others burlap—I’ll measure your grief down to the last
inch, perform open-heart surgery with a Singer.
I love you to distraction, but your hem
is slightly off.  I can wrap you in a ball of yarn,
the riches of my sensitivity and warmth, mark all the alterations
with a pencil in case you forget . . .

In John Abbott’s fiction piece “The House Next Door,” Janet and Pete, husband and wife, decide to buy a new house—right next door to their old one. Although, it’s really Janet’s idea, and, in fact, Pete refuses to move to the new house, eventually buying new furniture to replace the furniture Janet has moved:

She spent most of her time wondering what it looked like at Pete’s. Part of her wondered if he had found the exact same furniture and then set everything up as it had been. Perhaps he was simply waiting for her to get tired of the new place and come back home. All she had to do was walk through the door and things would be more or less as they were.

Poetry, fiction, flash fiction, interviews, and even a section titled “Irregulars” fill this issue. It’s overflowing with brilliant work; the pieces strike emotion and make you lose yourself in the writing.
[sleetmagazine.com]

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Posted October 22, 2012

Menacing Hedge CoverMenacing Hedge

Fall 2012

Quarterly

The cover image for this issue of Menacing Hedge—“A Tree” by Alexander Jansson—is a perfect intro to what you’ll find inside. The image features a tree house I’d definitely like to climb up in, with a collection of empty picture frames, lanterns, and odds and ends hanging from the branches of the trees. It’s odd, it’s magical, it’s unique: truly representative of the work inside.

To give you a sense of this odd world, take a look at Kathy Burkett’s “Einstein’s Brains”:

Thomas Harvey placed the bloody
disembodied brain of Albert Einstein
into his lunch box—strange food
for strange thought.

And still the great and mind-bending lines continue: “He sliced it like deli meat, hoping / to discover the secrets of genius.”

In another of her poems, “Some Kind of Secret,” Burkett humorously describes deodorant—without directly telling us what it is: “It’s a see-through shield of pale distraction / caked on sweaty underarms, a sickly sweet / fragrance that hides a wild animal scent.”

Russ Woods prose poem “Flies” will have you squirming and clawing at your eyelids: “The little flies began to coat every imaginable surface. They got in Sara’s nose and in her mouth. She could feel them coating the insides of her. Sara couldn’t move in her apartment without feeling fly bodies pressing on her from all sides.”

In Michael Fontana’s fiction piece “White Wine,” a man cheats on his wife, multiple times, and he can’t seem to stop even though he knows it is wrong. So, within the first paragraph, we discover that he has decided to kill himself. During his contemplation, he drinks a glass of white wine: “Much as I had chilled white wine to seduce my lovers, so too did I chill to seduce the ultimate lover: death.” The piece is wonderfully written, even if the wife, if you ask me, is a bit too gracious.

Shannon Hozinec’s prose poem “The Axe-Eaters” has to be my favorite. In it, she uses a metaphor to compare her mouth to the soft belly of a mollusk, its “ability to envelop its only defense against predators, against forks and knives.” The last line ties it back together: “Picture me and the rest of our brothers and sisters, crouched low in the dark, waiting for our teeth to harden.”

The best part is that even after mentioning all of those pieces, there is still lots more to enjoy. And a lot of the pieces include a sound clip of the author reading the work—so you can sit back, close your eyes, and listen. If you’re looking for a truly unique magazine, I’d definitely recommend reading Menacing Hedge.
[www.menacinghedge.com]

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Fiction Fix CoverFiction Fix

Issue 11

Spring 2012

Fiction Fix offers a large issue (so please forgive my not-so-mini review) filled with many different types of fiction. Some are more traditional stories, while others offer their messages by incorporating images and drawings.

In “Baby Wants” by Scott David, the story starts out with a pregnant woman sending her husband to the store for s’mores, because that’s what the “baby wants.” It is obvious that she is trying to deal with her hormones and is using the baby as an excuse. This becomes more and more clear that it is about what she wants, not what the baby wants, in passages such as this:

The baby wants a mother as pretty as the model in the photograph: the flawless mother that doesn’t look as if she has earned her pregnancy, who has perfect skin, and no swelling, no cramping, and hardly any incontinence, bleeding gums, joint pain, or high blood pressure. A mother who will give birth to little flawless model children who will stroll out of the delivery room like they were on the goddamn catwalk.

“A Transcript from Several Recordings” by William Northrup is somewhat related to David’s piece as these transcripts come from a sick, soon-to-be father. He talks on these recordings to his future son, because he can’t talk to anyone else. While some of it is advice, his words reveal who he is as a person and show his struggles. Yet, through his struggles, he is able to be still and enjoy the beauty of earth:

I never had the kind of patience it took to do this, but now it’s all I want to do. Our dog stares out these doors with me. I never got it. There never seemed to be anything worth looking at, and I’d watch him looking out the doors. I always took it as a sign of Man’s superiority—that such boring things didn’t interest us. But, all that was delusional thinking. It all has to do with focus. What fascinates our dog should be fascinating to all of us. Really, it’s weakness that makes an onscreen car explosion more interesting to us than the ways leaves fall. . . . What I hadn’t realized was that even the slower pace I moved at was still way too fast. You really are going to have to find some time when you can just stop doing anything. It’s amazing. I could stare out that window all day.

“The Retention Device” by Emily Zasada is a somewhat different reading experience. At first it seems like another story with a character trapped at a corporate job that she doesn’t like, where the light bulbs don’t work, the carpet smells like mold, and the desk drawers don’t open properly. But, on a trip to the pharmacy in her building, the narrator finds herself in the top of the building where she observes her coworkers “suspended from the ceiling: bodies lifelessly hanging, rotating slowly in a long wide oval far above the ground.” But, they are not dead; they are sleeping. She soon finds herself signing a non-disclosure form to participate. Caught between wanting to talk about this magical experience and feeling like she can’t (she, after all, is not supposed to), she also struggles with her relationship with her friend Miles.

“Living in Dark Houses” by Joe Ponepinto takes another directional turn. It has a more serious subject matter. Opening with a short description of how a boy named Michael walks into the living room, shoots his abusive father, then goes to prison, the story then picks up as Michael is released and returns to school with the narrator, who can relate with having an abusive father. The narrator’s father even keeps a list of all people that have done him wrong, a list of people he wishes revenge upon.

I wondered sometimes why my name, and my mother’s and sister’s were not on his list, since we had offended him more than anyone. Maybe he had another list stashed away for us. I would have liked to see it, to see if it included our offenses. I’d have liked to know just what, exactly, he had against us.

The story leads up to the narrator connecting with Michael and asking for his advice and help. You’ll be intrigued with the ending—it’s not what you expect.

Then there’s Nathan Holic’s “My Life in Gadgets,” in which Holic conveys his message in the form of a graphic narrative. David and Petra Press contribute “Postcards from the Hecatomb,” an epistolary tale that includes images of the postcards. And, of course, there is more too.

As the title of the magazine implies, this is certainly a place to get your fiction fix. There is simply lots to read and lots of variety. So take an hour, or two, or three, and read this magazine; you’ll love it.
[www.fictionfix.net]

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Quickly CoverQuickly

Issue 1

Quarterly

Flash pieces are often my favorite to read (and write), so when I came upon this brand new magazine, I simply had to review it (after delightedly sharing it with my fellow flash fiction lovers). Quickly publishes pieces unbound by genre or form, so long as they can say what they need to say in 703 words or fewer.

“The Neighborhood Psycho Dreams of Love” by Molly Fuller opens up the issue—a good move on the editors’ part. It invites you into the mind of this “neighborhood psycho” who watches “you,” a woman in the neighborhood. The narrator writes:

I want to bury you in my yard, under the Japanese maple; your crimson lipstick matches the fiery red of the leaves in the fall. I would plant flowers in your ribcage each spring to match your bountiful heart. I would rub your left, middle finger, knucklebone all day long, like a worry stone to ease my fears.

The images are just creepy enough to make me unsettled and delighted at the same time.

Brian R. Young’s “Truth,” is a short poem about a Macaw and how her colors make her stand out, “not like most / abstractions—ugly inside— // but bits of hollow bone hung / like Christmas lights with veins.” Something about those lines churns my stomach—in a way I like.

Bob Kuzinger’s piece unwraps the lie of an unfaithful wife, or perhaps a girlfriend: “Never a suspicious man. Ever. No. Except since you lied. You only set one on fire you said, but don’t you see? Can’t you feel the heat? It’s still burning. Now I am all of that, and that’s your fault.”

And it is worth sharing a rather large chunk from Mahalia Shoup’s “Disappearing”:

On Sundays, you genuflect, your knees clad with religiously calloused caps, cirrus clouds of dead skin and the chanting echoes in empty cathedrals corroborating the air in a kind of put-on generosity as soiled fingernails by the corner call the light for red and beg the yellow to hasten it to a stop. To a stop. Stopping constantly in gas stations, the fueled pace of impatience leading to seventy-five miles of blinking striations, of movements, of shifting gesticulations as the smoothie spills on the carpet next to the graphic novels, the dog-eared textbooks, the genuine hankering for the fifth scale on the parallel lines of music.

I dare say that Quickly is well on its way to a great magazine. I’m definitely keeping a tab on it; you should too. It’s the perfect size to read on the go, at the bus stop, on your lunch break, or whenever you have a few minutes.
[quickly.ws]

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Posted October 15, 2012

failbetter coverfailbetter.com

Issue 45

Fall 2012

Monthly

failbetter.com is an online magazine inspired by the quote from Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” After a short break, they are now publishing again. This issue of failbetter.com offers two stories and two poems.

Ann Tashi Slater’s “Body, Tree, River Mountain / After the Tsunami” is a short piece about a man who has just suffered the loss of his father and is now trying to find a way to keep moving forward in life; “He’s traveling the bridges, alleys, dikes, streets, freeways, lanes, and byways of the world. He’s dressed in cotton trousers and a straw hat, the robes of a Zen monk, jeans and a t-shirt, shorts and a baseball cap, nothing—he is naked.”

“Observing Girl X,” by Noha Al-Badry, tells us that “If you see a girl sitting next to a public bathroom, a bag of Mars chocolate bars next to her, eating a bowl of salad big enough for three and drenched in dressing, the likelihood is, she’s not simply an eccentric hermit.” Instead of a hermit, she is an insecure young girl who, after eating all of that food, proceeds to force herself to puke it back up in the bathroom.

Kara Candito’s poem “Bestiary” succeeds in its subtleties. The last few lines speak volumes:

               Does silence mean consent? Too many highballs,
bottom-feeders, one-liners; it’s like sitting at the stern
               of a glass-bottom boat watching blowfish,
                                       how they devour chunks of cheap white bread.

Also on the main page of the magazine (but from previous issues) are more stories and poems from May and June. Most notable and also worth checking out are Matt Ferner’s and Kristen Felicetti’s stories.

In Ferner’s “Choose Your Own Adventure,” you are a man who gets into a fight with your wife. In contrast to the title, you aren’t really going on an adventure; you’re going on a path in which no matter if you apologize, storm out, or try to ignore the situation, you are doomed. Here is one of the possible endings:

You run and run around your neighborhood. You listen to some music that you think is cool. You change it to something you think is cooler when you see a guy wearing cooler clothes than you wear across the street. As if he can hear that music. As if he cares what you are listening to or who you are. You turn up the music and run and run. You run. You run and run and run. But you are still awful and pointless.

Felicetti’s piece is about a “Life in Reverse,” in which “He was born an old man, his mind barely aware he’d been born.” He lives his life out, backwards, until “. . . it was over. His mind was not even aware that it was over, he only felt new, brand new, new.”

I hope that this issue means that the magazine is back on track, because I’m ready to use it as a way to continue to be introduced to new writers.
[www.failbetter.com/]

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Arsenic Lobster CoverArsenic Lobster

Issue 29

Summer 2012

Triannual

Arsenic Lobster is a great concoction, a boiling pot of poetry that fizzles and pops. The poetry pokes, it prods. Cristofre Kayser’s poem asks “Was there ever a knife that did not cut?” And Jeanne Stauffer-Merle’s poem tells us that “The mouth of wind is jagged and hanging and / cold and cold . . .”

“My Favorite Aunt and Uncle Star in One Long Silent Movie” by Valerie Loveland paints a scene, all visually as it is a “silent film.” The details of the film, though, occur again and again in the recurring moments of their lives: “His quit smoking scene was so popular / he starts and stops smoking almost daily.”

“Territorial Poem” by Scott T. Starbuck is a poem about Stan and Ned and their (illegal) tricks to fishing. It begins,

Stan, an old timer with an artificial heart,
says if I want really good fishing,
get rid of my sissy fly rod and forget rules.
“Instead, go past the No Trespassing sign
around the bend,
and cast a treble hook
above a spark plug.”
His white hair and reddish-brown eyes
make him look like an albino-badger.

Jane Sellman’s contributing poem celebrates “distinctive gifts since 1958” from a woman named Harriet Carver. It playfully mixes those As-Seen-On-TV products with their unique slogans and uses. For example, one section reads, “Thank you for the purification of the air in my house and for the automatic irrigation of my plants and for keeping my food fresh for longer than scientists will admit possible and for supporting my sagging breasts and protecting my arthritic knees and for such technological wonders as the Automatic Birdbath, the Birdbath Protector, the Toothpaste Tube Squeezer, and the Three-Section Microwave Plates, which come in sets of four, each plate a different color.”

And I’ve been introduced to new poet that I will now follow: Jessi Lee Gaylord. Her poem “Icarus in Recession” is a modern look at Icarus, starting,

Icarus is the hero of his own strife
crème de la crème of basement apartment
hearts, miscellaneous in the labyrinth
of layoffs, 401(k) ravaged in the weird
science of economic crisis.

John Calavitta’s untitled piece is all over the page, quite literally. Starting with a short stanza—

I helped empty her condo out
           and was amazed at the things
she had stuffed into no longer walk-in closets:
           sugar and paraffin whisked,
coffee with crushed eggshells
           pebbles from a stream in Colorado.

—it then moves into some prose and other line-breaked sections that fall left aligned, right aligned, and centered on the page. The second section, commentary on bulls, dogs, and the narrator being gay, was my favorite. It starts, “I grew up on a farm and remember how angry my father was when one of our bulls would only mate with another bull. I guess I realized then that I wouldn’t bother telling him I was gay. We stopped feeding the cat Fancy Feast because he thought it was too feminine.”

Associate Editor Jessica Dyer says that we need to read these poems, and reread them; she says that summer doesn’t last forever, but these poems will. As the fall wind begins to howl, these poems make snuggling inside with a blanket and a magazine very inviting.
[arseniclobster.magere.com]

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Persimmon Tree CoverPersimmon Tree

Fall 2012

Quarterly

This magazine is one that features women writers all over the age of 60. The editors write, “Too often older women’s artistic work is ignored or disregarded, and only those few who are already established receive the attention they deserve. Yet many women are at the height of their creative abilities in their later decades and have a great deal to contribute.” This magazine’s mission is endearing, especially to me as my grandmother didn’t even start writing until she was in her ‘60s. It’s nice to see a magazine that showcases this type of work.

“The Unemployed Nymph and the Glass Ceiling” by Hallie Moore tells a story about a modern day issue—in it, the main character is denied a job, for the most part, because she is female— through the characters of Greek mythology. Nysa, a nymph banished from Circe’s island, tries to become the new guardian of the gates of hell. Her interviewer responds with a simple “Hmmm, yes, Miss. You do seem to have excellent qualifications. You’re quite a high-tech girl. But I’m not sure Hell is ready for someone like you.”

Martha Kilgore Rice’s story is about a woman, married as a virgin, who takes up reading and writing romance novels. This, in turn, inspires the passion into her marriage, something that had been missing, turning the story itself into a bit of a romance story.

I enjoyed the playfulness of “Thelma and Lousie (not the movie)” by Justine Blank, perhaps because I, myself, am a cat lover. Blank tells the story of how she came to save and raise two polydactyl Tortie cats and the hell they raise. Though, she can’t seem to help but love them anyway. Although, she does end the piece with five warnings should you decide to have a cat, ending with “Never forget that no good deed goes unpunished.”

Lenore Pimental’s nonfiction piece is a heart-warming tale of how encouragement and love can nurture, how it can motivate a person to succeed and surpass society’s expectations. It reminds us all toe “First Sit Up Straight,” for then we are able to focus, grow, and learn.

For poetry, Guest Editor Fleda Brown gives us a section of international poetry from Margo Berdeshevsky, Fleda Brown, Malinda Crispin, Eva Eliav, Mori Glaser, Chellis Glendinning, Lois Elaine Heckman, Venie Holmgren, Jo Milgrom, Lalita Noronha, Katharine O’Flynn, Althea Romeo-Mark, and Barbara A Taylor. Brown says that these poems are “certainly aware of aging — but always from a perspective of intense interest, of a sense of renewal and re-invention.”

As a taste, Lalita Noronha writes

My calculations: Should I live to be, say eighty,
a respectable age in these times,
that month of teaching, a thousandth of my life-span,
flew by before I stopped to count butterflies,
or wrote the last line of this poem.

This issue also contains an interview, a theatre section, art, and a section called “short takes.” It certainly is a venue that displays a wide range of writing from these women, writing that is well worth the read.
[www.persimmontree.org]

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Posted October 8, 2012

Pithead Chapel CoverPithead Chapel

Volume 1 Issue 3

October 2012

Monthly

After seeing the cover of Pithead Chapel—a colorful collection of birds amongst flowers and plants—I expected something a little different. I’m not sure what, but I somehow expected stories of nature, or stories that were calm, and safe. But what I got was a different kind of surprise.

After reading the first paragraph of “Stanco Y Nudo” by N. T. Brown—

Rose—long, lanky brunette with babydoll haircut and grey eyes—sits at a typewriter crying. Her mascara runs. She can’t see the words on her page through the tears. All she knows is her title, typed in caps at the top of the page: STANCO Y NUDO. She punches keys madly, blindly, hoping that her heart will supply the words her brain cannot.

—I never thought that the story would evolve into a kitchen scene in which the character Juan Carlos is stuck between his wife, who comes to tell him that his son is very sick even though he isn’t, and his mistress, who is cooking an entire carton of eggs on the stove into one big, mushy omelet. If you think this is enough tension, wait until you find out that the two women know about each other as well as about the second mistress to whom Juan Carlos is trying to escape. If that is not enough, Rose’s friend Nicholas is also present: “Let me get this straight, Nicolas says. He points at Juan Carlos. You sleep with all three of these women regularly, and I don’t sleep with anyone, ever. How is that fair?” Juan Carlos simply replies that it isn’t. This story proportions details and characters that balance into an odd, yet evenly humorous and uncomfortable tale.

Kirby Wright’s short piece “Safe and Perfectly Normal” has a very opposite feel. In the mind of the narrator, it takes place in a short time as his plane is close to landing. He notices small things about his travels—“fat” Alec Baldwin on the T.V., the “blind as bats” passengers, the cars below that looked like M&Ms—and thinks about how his wife Becky will be waiting for him, how they will stop and get dinner, and how that day will be “safe and perfectly normal.”

Pair those up with the other two pieces in this issue—Edward Hagelstein’s “The New Guy’s Mess” which takes place in a jail cell and Anika Scott’s “The Olive Branch” about a boy Karim, the best olive picker in his family, and his encounter with a girl—and I’m not quite sure what we have here. It’s a collection I wouldn’t necessarily piece together; they each offer something different, yet they all seem to engrave and leave the reader with a little bit to wonder about.
[pitheadchapel.com]

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Umbrella Factory CoverUmbrella Factory

Issue 11

September 2012

Quarterly

The highlight of this issue of Umbrella Factory was definitely the very first piece, Kristin Faatz’s “The Guardian.” I can sometimes get sick of stories from the perspective of children because I’m often bothered by the language of it or the way that their perspective doesn’t add to the story. But Faatz does an excellent job of allowing us to sympathize with the main character, Leah, and her thoughts seem to mirror a child’s quite well. Written as a close third-person and broken into sections, I was hooked as the story developed into one where Leah has broken a picture frame of her mother and her father, her father which “left” them years ago. The narrative shows how this child understands her world and how she is able to cope with the pain she has already had to endure at such a young age. But because it is written in the third person, we are able to step outside her world for a moment and see what happened to make her father leave, the story she doesn’t know about. The sections were excellently woven together to build very round characters and a round story.

The poetry is somewhat darker. Stephanie Dickinson contributes poems in which adolescence is painted as a dark and unsettling period of life. In her prose poem, she writes that

Independence is the grin the old man gives slapping his lap where he’s asking you to sit, against his chest mat of salt and pepper, a one-breasted woman tattoo . . . the taste in your mouth like ground where a deer has bled out, the gin going down soft as bloodshot silk, it’s every fourteen year old on the run, your pink blouse with white flower, the missing pearl button

Alisha Kaplan’s “The Dance Floor” creates an animalistic environment at a dance, starting, “I want to eat you, hiss the eyes of insatiable animal / Eyes that claim her, claim to know her, want to know her / The pursuit beginning she hides in the floor that stops fall.”

To round out the issue there is more poetry from Dickinson, Kaplan, and Timothy Kercher as well as a piece of prose by Ben East. While the poets have publication experience, the contributing fiction writers are new to the publication world. In fact, this is Faatz’s first publication. It’s great to see when a new magazine can publish a new writer and when both of those ventures can turn into something exciting and propelling to read.
[www.umbrellafactorymagazine.com]

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Gemini CoverGemini Magazine

October 2012

Bimonthly

First of all, I have to say that I’m not sure if Gemini Magazine has a web version or not, but the layout was perfect for mobile reading. I had no problem reading the entire issue from the comfort of my bed and my iPhone. I even had a chance to finish up reading the issue while sitting at a restaurant, awkwardly waiting for my friends to arrive.

The piece that stood out the most to me in this issue was Jack King’s “The Train Doesn’t Stop Here.” In it, the main character, who is a junkie, gets an unexpected visitor whom he doesn’t seem to want around. His cousin calls to say he is in town and is ready to meet “all them hot chicks” that the main character has been talking about. But the narrator makes it clear that nobody in his family seems to really listen or understand him:

I only ever mentioned my boss, Helen, and she has the beauty of a dried prune. My family assumed I’d been screwing her, and no amount of insisting would sway them. Eventually one woman became many until I started receiving letters from cousins asking me how the women in Hollywood are (I live in San Francisco), and if they’re easy (which I wouldn’t know), and if I can send pictures (which I didn’t); except my father, who kept asking if I was gay (which I’m not).

In the end, though, his addiction isn’t any better. If anything, it’s worse.

Mel Fawcett’s “Rats” tells the story of Michael, a man who gets mugged by two “youth” on the train:

Reeling from the shock and pain, he put his hands to his mouth and tasted blood. His eyes had shut in reflex to the pain - and he kept them shut. It was the only way he could deal with what was happening. He was aware of hands searching his clothes. They were like rats running over his body, scurrying under his clothing, diving into his pockets. His whole body was shuddering in fear and disgust. It was all he could do not to whimper.

And although they got away with his wallet and his phone, they left him with something with more weight—humiliation.

The best parts of Angel Propps’s poem “Schoolgirls, Broken” come in the form of small details, how when the narrator is knocked to the ground she “saw green grass stuck to his white sneaker.” The details of the last line are my favorite: “Blood in my teeth, gravel in her cheek.”

There is more poetry from Michael Shorb, Jack Vian, and Susan McDonough-Hintz as well as memoirs by Cal Lewis and Randy DeVillez. So should you choose to read Gemini Magazine on your phone (so easy!) or on your laptop, just make sure you read it.
[www.gemini-magazine.com]

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Posted October 1, 2012

Poemeleon CoverPoemeleon

Volume 6 Issue 1

Summer 2012

Biannual

I’m sure, as writers, we sometimes feel compelled to write a letter to someone—as a way to organize our thoughts and say it “just right”—rather than try to explain what we are feeling or thinking out loud. This issue of Poemeleon is titled “The Epistolary Issue.” Each of the writers in this issue uses this form of poetry in different ways, some even explain it with a short intro.

Scott Beal uses a letter addressed to an “unwitting bystander” to express and understand his feelings regarding a recent marital separation. “Taking the confidence of the person farthest removed from either situation helped me to dig into my twin feelings of guilt over this woman’s anonymous accusation and the ways I had let my marriage dissolve,” he says. “Dear Mark Strausbaugh, Dining Room Manager,” starts:

I found your business card tucked under my windshield wiper.
A woman had written on the back in leaning script:
“Thank you for giving the ice cream guy
my wallet but shame on you for taking
all my money.” . . .

He, however, did not take the money, didn’t give the wallet to the ice cream man, and didn’t even see the wallet. Yet, he feels guilty. He expresses his feelings toward the situation and his failed marriage perfectly in the last few lines:

that love, it’s a vacuum, there’s no mass in it
and I never saw the ice cream guy, I can’t rush back with a fistful
of pilfered bills and say here, love, it was all a mistake,
this is yours, love, and I didn’t mean to keep it
pocketed with this hand-scrawled card that tells me all I need
to feel: Thanks and shame. Thanks. And shame.

Barbara Lydecker Crane uses the epistolary form to speak in a voice that is not her own. In her poem, “Yours in Faith, Aaron Brede,” she writes as a Shaker man to Mother Ann, the founder of the Shaker communities. “As I wrote,” she says, “I began to feel as though I knew young Brede—his religious devotion, his awakening to love, and his quandary. At the end of the poem I could almost see Aaron quickly penning the words of his sudden conviction.”

Anthony Frame, in a fit of insomnia, decides to write an email to his brother, which he later turns into his contributing poem, “Late Nate Email to my Brother.” He claims that “some of this story is true and some of it is a lie.” My favorite lines are:

You should stop by, see the new house. I think my poems are seeping into the carpet—no stain guard.
Vonnegut said to write for one person— Nick, will you read my book? No one else will see, but you’re on every page.

Kathleen Lynch uses the letter form to “convey something to someone [she] couldn’t possibly reach by normal means. Usually, the dead.” Growing up as a child without grandparents, Lynch writes this poem as a letter to an unmet grandmother:

. . . I’d pretend we’d come to visit, and you’d rush us
with your wide embrace, and somehow I’d be the one
who would end up on your lap, and you’d untwine my
waist-long braids, brush and brush until my hair
rose up electric to meet your hand.
That dream’s behind me now, but the afterlife of its wish
burrowed in as if it had come true. I will say this: I love
knowing that once you carried my mother in your body,
and she was born with half of me in her, and that means
in a way I lived in you once, like a picture waiting in an
undeveloped roll. . . .

There are many, many more epistolary poems in this issue along with essays and interviews dealing with the subject matter. Poemeleon features a different kind of poetry with each issue, which ensures that each issue is and offers something new and different.
[www.poemeleon.org]

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Lowestoft ChronicleLowestoft Chronicle

Issue 11

Autumn 2012

Quarterly

Lowestoft Chronicle is about travel, but it’s not necessarily a travel log. The characters in the stories, in the poems, are on journeys—journeys in physical space or journeys in the heart and mind.

This issue’s fiction chronicles traveling with a girlfriend who has Seasonal Affective Disorder, moving to the plains to help build a railroad, taking the upsell on a cruise in Paris, and wandering into a movie set. “Stains from the Mint Julep I Never Tasted,” by Rasmenia Massoud, starts, “I look down at the vomit on my shoe and wonder if we’re even going to make it to Amsterdam.” The story follows the narrator on a road trip with her friend Evie to Amsterdam, far away from the troubles she left behind. Before leaving, her best friend had proposed to her, which she declined. Repeatedly saying “mea culpa” (which translates to “my fault”), the narrator becomes a mess as she gets high and wanders around a foreign city by herself.

dl mattila transports us to a plane ride in his poem, in which the “S O Bs” are actually “Souls On Board” (yeah, I know what you were thinking):

But engines aren’t what make the gizmo go,
or give it oomph to rocket toward the sky;
it’s down-home folk, our neighbors, you and I,
(the superstitious kind - those in the know)
the ones who finger-circle in our seat,
pull-up on armrests, elevate our feet.

In the nonfiction section we see the adventure from the other angle: from home. Sharleen Jonsson, in “These Are The Days,” has to make due at home as her husband is off on a fishing trip. She lays out the days for us with how productive—or unproductive—she is. On day one, she finally decides to clean out a drawer filled with matches, a task she always puts off to do until later because it is never a good time to do it. At first, she is impressed with herself, but we read humor as she is quickly dissatisfied:

I am enormously pleased with myself, and stand back and admire the bag the same way I stand at the threshold of the kitchen and ogle the floor on those rare occasions when I wash it.
I close the tidy drawer and am amazed at how easily it glides, now that there’s no paper jamming the top and sides. I open and close the drawer again, exhilarated by the silkiness of the movement, revelling in the simple pleasures of housekeeping. And it washes over me, a cold-water awareness of my self-righteousness. I can’t stand myself. I feel a sudden, overwhelming urge to drink too much wine, eat way too much chocolate, and watch reruns of Sex and the City deep into the night.
Which is what I do.

Lowestoft Chronicle presents entertaining and exciting stories that lend themselves toward travel without dipping completely over into travel writing.
[www.lowestoftchronicle.com]

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Revolution House CoverRevolution House

Volume 2 Issue 2

Summer/Fall 2012

Triannual

Revolution House, as the editors indicate, “is the brainchild of a disparate group of writers who came together during the tumultuous early months of 2011, when the MFA application anxiety was high and the lows were lower than low. We had a dream of a sprawling farmhouse, a place where we could all escape the dragging monotony of reality. But it’s difficult to find a house with fourteen bedrooms, so we ended up here instead, building platforms to launch other dreams.”

The current issue marks the fifth in their venture, and from the looks of it, they are headed toward something great. If nothing else, they are reaching their goal to help these writers “launch dreams.”

Lindsay D’Andrea’s fiction piece “Upstream” stuck with me long after I finished reading it. In it, a girl named Kate is—having dropped out of Julliard—a summer nanny for a child name Aiden and his father David, who has just separated from his wife. She is put into an uncomfortable situation when David comes on to her, they have sexual relations, he pays her for those hours, and when, one day the father is gone, the mother knocks on the door to reclaim her son. Kate worries, not sure what to do:

Kate rooted herself in the foyer, caught between all directions of movement. This was how it happened, the stage fright. Upon the moment to act, turned stone as if by a curse. She remembered her last attempt at a performance, the way the faceless audience leaned forward muttering as the music in her head turned to mush. Who was she to perform these great and impossible tasks? She couldn’t handle the music, she had failed, but she didn’t want to fail David or Aiden.

The end is a little open ended and unsettling, leaving me thinking about it as days passed.

“The Best-Natured Baby in the World” by James Penha, too, was unsettling; I actually cried out in shock with the very end. In it, a mother is worried as she realizes it is not normal that her baby doesn’t ever cry, not once.

Fatimah Asghar’s “example a: temporality” is a perfect poem for math lovers. Though not really about math per say, you must use it to get the meaning from it. Using equations, it sets up the variables as follows: “q = quest, x = knowledge, n = art, y = truth, b= stories, / r= happiness, d=life, h=history, t=temporality.”

Justin Carter’s “Universe! Universe! (I Am A Lonely Dwarf Planet)” questions about love poems; the narrator states, “My professor says / love poems are always about the ‘I’.” In another part of the poem, the narrator wants to write love poems about “you,” but in the end hints that the poem really is about I.

I put a Styrofoam box in my pool
& sat inside & pretended it was a boat
& that there was a you in it too, but if this
is a love poem, then I guess there isn’t.

Revolution House is different from the norm (perhaps the “revolution” that the title refers to): the fiction is unsettling, the poetry takes on new forms and experiments with new ideas, and the magazine itself explores new types of writing.
[revolutionhousemag.com]

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