Literary Magazine Reviews
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Posted Dec 14, 2003
Volume 30, Number 1
The thirtieth anniversary edition of BWR starts out strong with “Mother of Pearl Clouds,” a poem by Larissa Szporluk that ends with a line articulating what is possibly the impetus of all art: “let’s not let them / think that we’re just passing.” And it just gets better from there, offering fiction, nonfiction, interviews and a chapbook, all of which are smart and enjoyable. Take Elizabeth Wetmore’s “How to Lose 30 Lbs. In 30 Days!” for instance, a refreshingly honest look at the disillusionment of wifehood; I found myself proclaiming Brilliance! after reading the following excerpt: “. . . you lean against the refrigerator, wondering if ‘cut it out’ is really an appropriate response from a licensed therapist and wrapping the phone cord around your pinkie until it turns dark red then dark purple, a shade so pretty it occurs to you that you might paint the bedroom this color and you imagine yourself at Home Depot wrapping a rubber band around and around your pinkie.” Featuring full-color art by the mysteriously-named Mr. Hooper, whose ultra-contemporary work is both comic and disturbing, this publication is sustenance for your head, doled out in easy-to-digest doses. Pour yourself an absinthe and tuck right in. [Black Warrior Review, Box 862936,Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35486.E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $8.00. http://www.webdelsol.com/bwr/] - SRP
This thin, glossy little number could fairly be classified as Eye Candy. With full-color art to accompany each piece of literature, it is nothing short of visually stunning. From the dramatically minimalist black and white photography of Neila Kun to the evocative oils of Sergei Silverbeer, the artwork represented here is expansive enough to serve as anyone’s cup of tea. Where literature is concerned, there is a fair mix of quality poetry and prose, tending somewhat toward the scholarly (this is not a market for wildly free-form, experimental verse). Though there was a disappointing exclusion of female writing from this volume, the boys came out swinging in good form. Mitchell Metz’s vignette of an injured raccoon struggling primordially against death, set as it is within a mundane human backdrop, leaves the reader in ecstasies of empathy. And then there are the perfectly selected words of Donald Platt, presenting us with the picture of “smashed beach glass that the ocean’s molars grind down / to the sweet smoothness / of half-sucked lozenges.” All in all, The William & Mary Review is a delightfully showy, well-executed tome that, while edgy enough to escape seeming stodgy, is sufficiently academic to garner the respect of readers, writers and artists alike. [The William & Mary Review, P.O. Box 8795, VA 23187-8795. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $5.50.] - SRP
Comprised solely of text, Gulf Stream Magazine boasts a highly diverse showing of work. Essays, interviews, poetry and prose fall into myriad styles and forms, making the magazine an eclectic foray into literary possibilities. Claudia Grinnell’s “Taking Care” reminds one that a poem is worth a thousand pictures, impregnating vivid images in one’s head with her verse: “there’d be dames, shimmering from / car to bar, wearing a procession of furs (so freshly dead / they still purr) even in a New York heat wave.” And then there is Lainee Frizzo’s “How to Shop at the Salvation Army,” an affecting piece of fiction whose content is cleverly at odds with its form. While there is the occasional piece that seems to be gratuitously avant-garde, wearing artiness as a disguise for sheer nonsense, on the whole, the magazine succeeds in engaging the reader with its mix of fresh, talented voices. [Gulf Stream Magazine, English Department, FIU Biscayne Bay Campus, 3000 NE 151 Street, North Miami, FL 33181-3000. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $5.00.] - SRP
The surrealist-naturalist oils of Margaret Wall-Romana set the tone for this journal, the theme of which is “Gardens in the Urban Jungle.” Grouped into sections according to which editor selected them, the works represent a broad interpretation of the seemingly-simple motif—from straightforward botanical sketches to Yiddish verse printed in both English and Hebrew. Particularly impressive was Erin McCluskey’s “What I can Give,” a highly innovative, yet authentic prose-poem that bespeaks the effort of any artist in any genre to channel their love through their life to create something that resonate beyond mere articulation. Another standout is Sholem Burger, whose series of New York poems exhibits a righteous indelicacy that only true talent can sustain. An interesting, well-rounded publication with a universally applicable theme, Five Fingers Review #20 contains more enjoyable art than you can count on both hands. [Five Fingers Review, PO Box 4, San Leandro, CA 94577-0100.] - SRP
The Douglas College Review
Volume 32, Number 2
An absolutely sensational cover on this terrific Canadian journal — "Avalok," a painting by Chris Woods creates a "clash of perspectives" with an astoundingly life-like image of a server / goddess at McDonald's with her sacred offerings of chicken nuggets / croquettes and cookies / biscuits (bilingual fast food in Canada, of course!). What's inside is just as exciting. More than three dozen poems, most the work of poets with strong, quirky, original voices, four equally original stories, a personal essay, and several thoughtful reviews of books from noteworthy indie presses. It's not hard to see why many of the writers published in Event rake in the big Canadian literary awards. Every piece here is truly an event. Poetry by Canadian writers Andy Stubbs and Sue Wheeler and by Californian John Randolph Carter is particularly striking, though all of the poetry in this issue is worth savoring; a story by Edward Maitano of New York could restore a cynic's faith in the fate of short fiction. The volume opens with the marvelous translation by Jeffrey Angles of the work of widely published Japanese poet Keizō Aizawa, a fitting invitation to the work that follows in this very memorable issue. Here is an excerpt:
“Pour words of the flesh
These words of the flesh are a bronze battle-axe
Swinging in a great, downward arc toward my ears,
And as it strikes,
My flesh sends up a spray of blood
That transforms into the petals
Of infinite flowers.”
[Event, Douglas College, P.O. Box 2503, New Westminster, B.C. Canada V3L 5B2. Single issue $8. http://event.douglas.bc.ca] - SR
Editors Alexandra van de Kamp (U.S.) and Alberto Domínguez (Spain), two of five co-editors between Madrid and New York, tell us this bilingual journal "attempts to demarcate an open, lyrical territory in which surprising relationships and uncanny connections may occur among different worlds and points of views." The work here does, indeed, reach beyond the mere distance between Manhattan and Madrid, offering an eclectic mix that is surprising and pleasing to find between one set of covers, from José Saramago's speech to the World Social Forum in Brazil in 2002 "From Justice to Democracy by Way of Our Bells,” to Sarah Kennedy's quiet, painterly poem "Morning, with Tea.”
There is much to ponder and appreciate, not the least of which is the opportunity to read writers from around the world one might not encounter in other publications available in the United States. There is some incredibly fine poetry in this issue. In particular, I was moved by the work of noted Spanish poet Angela Pérez Ovejero's, whose poem “The 28th of March, 1986" is beautifully, tenderly translated by Alexandra van de Kamp. Here is an excerpt:
“The night thickens with nails,
with walls of silence.
He has died of cancer.
You dress him in a vegetable skin:
it is the porous bark of acorn trees
or the black rain of windows,
of motionless statues,
black and motionless.”
A summary in text and images by sculptor and conceptual artist Douglas Fishbone of his interactive installation of 25,000 bananas at the Banco Central in Cuenca, Ecuador ("…a critique of some of the more violent aspects of globalization and contemporary consumer capitalism") is provocative. An interview with prolific Spanish novelist Alejando Gándara also seems utterly apt for our time (“News does not necessarily suggest knowledge, and much less transparency…The world can turn opaque because of the news…"). Captivating photographs of a sort of words-or-paper-as-movement-and-visual-image by New York sculptor and photographer Suzanne Broughel need no translation. [Terra Incognita, P.O. Box 15085, Brooklyn, NY, 11215-0585. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $7.50. www.terra-incognita.com] - SR
Volume 25, Number 2
Those of you who open up your copy of Indiana Review expecting a regional, Midwestern flavor are going to be in for a surprise. Many of the pieces in this sophisticated collection of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and reviews have a sharp, dark (dare I say cosmopolitan?) edge and a wicked sense of humor. For instance, the short story “In Bogalusa” by Paul Maliszewski conjures a reclusive Dorothy Parker who entombs herself in a Days Inn in rural Louisiana. Poems like “Jesus at the Help Desk” by Dana Roeser and the 2003 Indiana Review Poetry Prize award-winner, Maria McLeod’s “Regarding the Character you named Maria, teacher’s notes” use irreverent references in an intelligent way. There were also quite a few short-short pieces that walk the line between prose and poetry, among them the piece by Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis with the great title, “Manifesto of the Over Mitt:”
3. We declare our allegiance to the stove, the occasional resentful foray to the backyard grill, where really a dishrag or potholder would do. No long-suffering upside-down cake of a sun or sum of our days. Though we be mere mitts, we be mitts of a new kitchen.
4. There is no beauty in the doily. there is no excuse for the doily.
A literary journal full of wit and energy. [Indiana Review, Indiana University, Ballantine Hall 465, 1020 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN, 47405-7103. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $8. indianareview.org] - JHG
This eclectic and entertaining collection of full-color art work, poetry, short fiction and memoir provides space for highly ironic voices to mingle with the highly sincere. The eccentrically goofy tale of cons gone wrong, “That Kind of Nonsense” by Patrick Tobin, was a highlight, as were the poetry translations, including Robert Pinsky’s translation of Anna Akhmatova’s poem “The Summer Garden” and Taylor Stoehr’s translation of Li Po’s “Fighting South of the Wall.” Another short story, “Heathens,” by Alden Jones, describes the complicated relationships between a teacher, one of her young female students, and a church group teen on a mission trip in Costa Rica. The fascinating (and weirdly beautiful) photographs of decaying books by Rosamond Purcell lend irony to the reading experience. [AGNI, Boston University Writing Program, 236 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $9.95. http://www.bu.edu/agni/index.html] - JHG
The Hudson Review
Volume 56 Number 2
Don’t let the unapologetic academic tone of the Hudson Review scare you off. The long essays, which take up the bulk of the journal and at first may seem daunting, are fascinating, particularly the essay on Darwinism in the Humanities by Harold Fromm and another on Madame Pompadour by Tess Lewis. Of course, if you’re interested in learning more about the relationship between the Western frontier mentality and the Salem Witch Trials or about the intricate corruptions in the Catholic Church, this issue will be right up your alley. The reviews are lively and informative, as usual, and include descriptions of works of theater, film, and music, which is somewhat unusual, but welcome, in a literary magazine. The poetry in this issue has a characteristic stateliness about it, and there are many examples of tightly-controlled formalist verse. [The Hudson Review, 684 Park Avenue, New York, NY, 10021. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $9.00. http://www.hudsonreview.com ] – JHG
This journal out of Texas presents poetry, art work, photography, and reviews in a slim, perfectly bound package with good production values. The appealing poetry within captures a cross-section of American writing that balances heart and art; these works are beautiful in and of themselves but also strive to mean something. For instance, the poem “On Forgetting” by Megan Snyder-Camp plays on well-known proverbs to display a deeper truth about motherhood, as in the following:
Your children have been waiting an hour.
You say you only have two hands, and they say
a stitch in time saves nine. They’re learning
proverbs in school. They portend like old women.
You can barely speak to them…
The essay/review by Abe Louise Young, “New Blood for an Old Story: Rita Dove’s Mother Love,” was informative and intelligent. The bleak landscapes of California desert, photographed by Rama Tiru, provide graphic evidence of this region’s otherworldly beauty. Overall, this is a good collection that will help remind you why you like to read contemporary poetry. [Borderlands, P.O. Box 33096, Austin, TX, 78764. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $10. www.borderlands.org] - JHG
The Missouri Review
Volume 26, Number 2
As you would expect, the “Editor’s Prize Issue” of the Missouri Review features the editor’s prize winners of both the fiction and essay contests and the Larry Levis poetry prize winner in addition to a selection of other fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews. Here are a few lines from the poetry winner George Looney’s “An Occurrence of Grace at a Bartók Concert”: “…They’d have heard whales in her voice, // seaweed and rust, not Bartók. Those / vain hawkers of deformities…Their shrill voices were too often ours.” This issue also features an interview with novelist Richard Powers, author of The Gold Bug Variations and Galatea 2.2. By the way, this is one of the few literary magazines to feature cartoons – a welcome change of pace in the usually buttoned-up realm of serious literature. [The Missouri Review, 1507 Hillcrest Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, 65211. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $7.95. http://www.missourireview.org/] – JHG
The Washington and Lee University Review
Volume 53, Number 3
Civil war buffs will particularly enjoy this Fall 2003 issue of Shenandoah as it features a portfolio of twenty-three poems about the Civil War. It also showcases non-fiction, short fiction, poetry, and book reviews; many of the pieces have in common a sense of restraint, almost an old-fashioned polite reserve. Work here is on the formal rather than the experimental side. I enjoyed Paul Zimmer’s amusing non-fiction piece “The Commissioner of Paper Football” and Mark Doty’s lyrical poem “Fire to Fire,” which begins: “All smolder and oxblood, / these flowerheads, / flames of August: / …the paired goldfinches / come swerving quick / on the branching towers, // so the blooms / sway with the heft / of hungers…” Overall a satisfying read, especially those who like Southern regional flavor; there were quite a few contributors from the state of Virginia and its environs. One note for fans: the editor writes that this journal will now be appearing three times a year instead of four. [Shenandoah, Washington and Lee University, Troubadour Theater, 2nd Floor, Box W, Lexington, VA, 24450-0303. shenandoahliterary.org/index.html] – JHG
Volume 26, Number 2
With its introspective and lyrical qualities, the writing in Bellingham Review invokes the brief northern daylight and drizzly afternoons of the little bayside town, just south of the British Columbian border, which is its namesake. But don’t misunderstand: this unassumingly slender journal (which must be one of the country’s most beautifully designed) is neither slack nor unadventurous; its pages contain all the great weight and mass of true literature. While the 22 poems tend to induce a mellow and reflective state of mind, they are never staid, never complacent, and are nearly always—whether on a grand or quotidian scale—breathtaking. Consider these haunting lines from “Blown Glass” by Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis: “Your hand went through the church window . . . I held two petals of your skin together with both hands. Blood, purple-throated, operatic sang through my fingers.” Ann Veronica Simon’s wry, rhapsodic essay on sleep and insomnia charms and disturbs, and the three short stories here are no less impressive. Brian Leung’s “Drawings by Andrew Warhol,” a snakelike narrative packed with surprises, is bound to compel readers to devour it whole. And June Unjoo Yang’s “Revival,” concerning a mother bewitched by her demon-daughter, is by far one of the most provocative and poetic I’ve read in a great while. [Bellingham Review, MS-9053, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $7.00. www.wwu.edu/~bhreview] - MC
Though this is the summer issue of Washington Square, its fiction and poetry is pervaded by cool autumnal temperatures. The six artful stories here, while engaging the reader in the indefinable dramas of urban singles or the troubled lives of the patrons in an Amsterdam pub, tend to maintain an impassivity that is eerily uniform. For the most part, these characters seem to have mastered an air of indifference toward their world. Whether it’s a frosty patrician heiress, as in Gloria Lin’s “Native Life,” or a self-destructive ex-pat tippler as in Michele Mortimer’s “At Empty Glass,” the draftiness invoked by each narrative creates an effect that is cumulatively disturbing, for in every case the reader senses a palpable underlying truth: that these folks have never fully succeeded in self-delusion and are living lonely lives, haunted by the specter of futility. The chill first sets in with Liana Scalettar’s story “The Dead Sea,” where the author so well evokes the cool porcelain of her character’s bath that the reader’s feet begin tingling. Scalettar’s closing lines leave a feeling of hollow transcendence that is brilliantly apt, and suggestive of the overall flavor of this issue: “Expecting to be immersed, warm, blind, you find yourself above and shivering, and confronted with a cool panorama of once invisible things.” [Washington Square, Creative Writing Program, NY University, 19 University Place, Room 219, New York, NY, 10003-4556. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $6.00. [www.washingtonsquarereview.com/] - MC
Hanging Loose, a lovely and inventive poetry and fiction journal out of Brooklyn, may very well be the source to consult for contemporary poems of the most living kind. The work here is refreshingly unpretentious, playful, and altogether untouched by the cerebral rarefaction of academia or clumsy experimentalism. Yet seriously inventive compositions find a warm welcome here. “Madame Bowery,” an illustrated cartoon poem written by Sharon Mesmer and drawn by David Borchart, is a prime example of work that is at once edgy, felicitous, and wholly alive in its spirited weirdness. Likewise, Richard Loranger’s emulation of written liturgy, “Poems for a Centralized Church,” thrives happily in its slightly post-modern, satirical humor, while delivering a touching paean to the strange art of poetry, forever impractical and indispensable. Hanging Loose should perhaps be best known, however, for the space it devotes exclusively to the work of high-school age writers: bold and muscular short fiction and poems by distinctive young voices that startle in their brave grasp of image. Sample these sweet lines by Brittany Nichole Lovejoy, from her poem “Ryan’s Lake”: “HE JUMPED / pulling his muscular legs to his chest, / and in the moment before / he fell through the horizontal line, / splitting / Heaven / and / Earth, / he was / The Keeper of All Happiness.” [Hanging Loose, 231 Wyckoff Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11217. Single issue $7.00. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. www.hangingloosepress.com] - MC
Volume 31 Number 2
This slim journal out of Berea College, Kentucky, lives up to its name, with an intriguing showcase of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, reviews, and photographs by regional writers and artists.
Judith Victoria Hensley’s photographs are particularly striking. They communicate a mystical love of the land. The simple directness of Jeff Mann’s poems, “Single Men” and “The Harvest of Motes,” make them memorable. Mary Susan Imo’s poem “The New Dead” is chilling because the imagery is so familiar.
James B. Goode is the featured contemporary author, and Byron Herbert Reece is the featured historical author. A solid cross-section of their work is presented, along with essays about their work. The best of these is Mildred White Greear’s “An Unlikely Friendship” about Reece.
The book reviews included cover an interesting cross section of regional books, published mostly by small presses.
The writing of Appalachian Heritage often whispers rather than sings. The exception is the poetry, which is allowed its more individual voices. Sense of place is strong in all the work, and the writing is intriguing enough to conjure fantasies of travel to the region. The journal would be a good addition to anyone’s subscription list, but especially recommended to college students and university libraries. [Appalachian Heritage, CPO 2166, Berea, Kentucky 40404. email@example.com. Single issue $6.00. www.berea.edu/ApCenter/AppHeritage.html] - DE
Posted Dec 4, 2003
A Literary Review Celebrating Stories and the Art of Storytelling
Ten stories, a novella, an interview, three poems, and a series of "Afterthoughts" by the journal's contributors comprise what Orchid's editors describe, with accuracy, as "rare fiction by talented writers." Featured writer Maura Stanton (a story and all of the poems) and interview subject Valerie Miner are probably the best known writers in the issue, but several others do certainly deserve our attention, most notably Cindy Dale, whose story "Do Not Do the Arithmetic" represents a brilliant effort. I'd read anything of hers set before me, and I'll definitely look for her name in every table of contents from now on. Bonnie Jo Campbell's masterfully crafted "Storm Warning" is also memorable. Campbell is one of the more experienced, as in widely published, writers in the volume. Particularly appealing is the number of stories here that deal with the working lives of their characters, including Debbie Lee Wesselman's fifty-page novella "Vibrissa," a subject in contemporary fiction that is often sorely missing. Overall this issue offers well-rounded, sturdy, appealing stories, happily free of pretensions and formulaic prose. If you're clamoring for good, readable stories from new and established voices, pick up a copy of Orchid. [Orchid: A Literary Review, 3096 Williamsburg, Ann Arbor, MI 48108-2026. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $8. http://www.orchidlit.org] - SR
The range of experience represented in this annual publication is of particular interest — poets and fiction writers as sophisticated or widely published as Denise Duhamel, Peter Johnson, William Greenway, Antler, and Mark Brazaitis (among others) alongside newcomers Thomas Graves and Audrey Doire. With more than two dozen poems and a half dozen stories, there is much to contemplate and appreciate here. Much of both the fiction, as well as the poetry tends toward the "conversational" and often edgy, though there is sufficient diversity in tone and approach to keep the issue engaging. Particular favorites of mine are "Feral" by Antler, whose work always surprises, compels, and delights, and Greenway's "The Interpretation of Dreams," a short narrative poem that may be the best poem about dreaming I have encountered yet, ending with the exquisite: "and I drove down the wrong way / into what happened next," which is a metaphor for more experiences than I can name, including reading literary journals. "An Innocent Heart" by Catherine Harris is an intelligent fictive consideration of heterosexual marriage. Duhamel's alphabet prose poem "Our Americano" is well…just like the alphabet, promise and potential disguised as…promise and potential (my favorites "yz": "yakety-yack yes-men everywhere. He inspired a / zillion Zen hipsters, zoot suiters, and zazoos with his zing, zazzle, and zowie"). Duhamel never disappoints. [Bryant Literary Review, Faculty Suite F, Bryant College, 1150 Douglas Pike, Smithfield, RI 02917. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $8. http://www.bryant.edu/~blr] - SR
Posted Dec 3, 2003
Volume 29, Number 2
Exquisite engravings from Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam by German naturalist and artist Maria Silbylla Merian (1647-1717) are reproduced on the cover and also inside this issue. Merian's observations are said to have "revolutionized both botany and zoology," and it is evident from the specimens presented here why this is so. Also evident this issue, why Feminist Studies continues to be a leader when it comes to valuable writing of great interest to academic and non-academic audiences alike. This is a particularly worthwhile issue of well-researched and well-written essays offering novel perspectives on early modern European women, two excellent short stories and two excellent poems. Also within this volume is a beautifully composed art essay on the work of painter Agnès Thurnauer, a provocative forum on graduate education in women's studies, and a cluster of essays about a reproductive and care issues. Leslie J. Reagan's extraordinary essay "From Hazard to Blessing to Tragedy: Representations of Miscarriage in Twentieth-Century America," is an exceptional essay linking the author's personal experience and observation with meticulous research and theory. If you don't have hours to spend with the issue or the stamina and patience for the academic essays (though they're worth tackling), by all means read Reagan, poet Cathleen Calbert's short fiction "The Museum of Tragedy," Laurie Lamon's poem "Poetry: A Wonder," and Baumgardner and Richards' "The Number One Question about Feminism" which begins: "I consider myself a hard-core feminist….But is it okay that I wear thong underwear?" [Feminist Studies, 0103 Taliaferro, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.feministstudies.org] - SR
Story. Place. Spirit. Witness
Volume 28, Issue 1
New publisher and editor Peter Anderson has saved the day! Long-time publishers Jack and Marcia Barstow retired last year, offering the magazine at no cost to anyone who would carry on the tradition of "personal reflective writing." Anderson has moved the operation to Crestone, Colorado where, if this first issue in the journal's twenty-eighth year is any indication, Pilgrimage will continue to delight and inspire us. According to Anderson, Pilgrimage serves an "eclectic fellowship of readers, writers, poets, naturalists, activists, contemplatives, seekers, adventurers, and other kindred spirits…" On encountering the moving and thoughtful writing here, one certainly wants to be belong to this "widespread community." About half the pieces in this issue are reprinted from other publications, but many are from independent presses or sources with which readers may not be familiar.
Plan to take your time with this issue because it is truly and profoundly about reflection. Kim Stafford's lovely essay about his father, poet William Stafford's idea of "Honorable Work" deserves a gentle, thoughtful read. Nasdijj's "Baseball," about being father to a boy with AIDS startles and tears at the heart with its quiet insights ("He forgets I was once a boy, for it's not a me he knows.") Nancy Mairs' complex piece about her correspondence with a death row inmate is something one wants to re-read, there's so much at stake here. Andrew Lam's "Can Ghosts Cross the Ocean?" is the sort of short, but intelligent and lyrical reflection that defies categorization and for which it might be hard to find a home, except in a journal precisely like Pilgrimage. And editor Anderson's "Home, Land, Security: The View from Vulture Gulch" gives me reason to believe that, if writing like this is possible, perhaps the times we live in are not as desperate and dark as they so often seem. [Pilgrimage, Box 696, Crestone, CO 81131. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $8. http://www.pilgrimagepress.org/] - SR
88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry
This new-ish journal (only on its third issue) has already generated lots of positive talk among poetry insiders and continues to showcase a wide variety of writers: experimental, traditional, narrative, lyric – name a style, and you’ll probably find it in here. A feeling of whimsy and humor pervades this issue; in the editor’s notes, Ian Randall Wilson confides that they used a “Dada” method to organize the submissions. But the felicitous juxtapositions created work in the reader’s favor. The editors of 88 have created a riotous tasting menu featuring some of today’s best poetic voices – Elinor Wilner, Tony Hoagland, David Wagoner, amid many other familiar names, along with a sprinkling of reviews. Therefore, it’s somewhat difficult to pick a representative quote, but I will pull some lines from two particularly enjoyable poems, “If God Were a Wiseguy” by Dorothy Barresi: “…though we pray… / …not, for once, to a bag of blue indifferent sky, / but to a brass-knuckled / wire-tapped tough / capable of making us feel important / for a few lousy moments…” and from Gerald Yelle’s “Ovidian Love Songs and Their Place in Radio History”:
So here goes mine:
Whose love is a wire, drawn though ever smaller dies, freeing
Daphne from the laurel, Jean d’Arc’s heart from the heretic pyre.
Should your well run dry I will wed you back to water.
Definitely an up-and-coming journal to watch. [88, Box 88 c/o Hollyridge Press, PO Box 2872, Venice, CA 90294. E-mail: T88AJournal@aol.com. Single issue $13.95. http://www.hollyridgepress.com] - JHG
Volume 16 Number 2
Okay, full disclosure: I will love any magazine that includes any work by Paul Maliszewski, fiction writer. I cannot help it. In the world of small literary magazines, most of us have authors for whom we’ll shell out anything to get the latest—a Dean Young or Bob Hicok or Olena Kalytiak Davis Poem, a Paul Maliszewski or Thomas de Zengotita or Aimee Bender story. So I’m biased toward this particular Gettysburg Review from the start because of Mr. Maliszewski and his story, which, like nearly all his other published work, is fun, funny, strange and beautiful.
It is a little surprising, somehow, in that The Gettysburg Review seems a little staid, at first blush. But while the attractive perfect-bound journal has the matte finish of seriousness, it’s a wild wind inside those pretty covers. If I don’t say right here before mentioning the rest of the book that there’s a man in North Carolina named G. C. Waldrep who has written two of the more devastating poems in recent memory, I’ll explode. So there it is: if only for pages 233-34, for those two poems, buy the journal. And the Maliszewski story, of course.
But there’s more, too. Christopher Coake has some fiction that’s fresh as bananas before the boat, and Peter Stitt’s introduction is wonderful; Brad Marshall’s paintings are so soft you almost feel flannel on your cheek when you see them. And yes, there are too few women present in this magazine, by ratio, so here’s to hoping Gettysburg will publish an overabundance of women writers in their future issues. [The Gettysburg Review, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 17325-1491. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single Issue $7. http://www.gettysburg.edu/academics/gettysburg_review/] - WC
For all the hoopla and sage editorial paragraphs regarding work grounded in location and place on the submission pages of many, many journals, few magazines can come close to the South Dakota Review’s incredibly grounded, sure, located/locatable collection in this, their 40th anniversary issue. As E.I. Pruitt writes to begin his poem “Corn”: “You can’t live in this part of the world for long / without developing a personal relationship with corn.” There’s corn. There are crows and eagles, there are countless farmers, there are horses and there is snow. All that said, there are poems on oceans, on bays, in sunny hot climes (though, of course, the Midwest is as hot in the summer as it is cold in the winter): there is work within from everywhere, geographically, yes. But the emphasis, clear from the outset and maintained throughout, is on the Midwest. The simplicity of ‘the Midwest’ in the country’s imagination is belied by this journal, thankfully: for each ear of corn, there’s a reference to Vaclav Havel; for every desolate, numbered county road, there’s a city that people know is just a few miles past that road, and in that city, culture and the world. South Dakota and the Midwest are in good creative hands because of this magazine. [South Dakota Review, Box 111, University Exchange, Vermillion, SD 57069. E-mail: email@example.com. Single Issue $7/$5. http://www.usd.edu/sdreview/] -WC
The Bitter Oleander
Volume 9 Number 2
This issue of The Bitter Oleander is heavy on translations and features an interview with writer and editor Nicomedes Suárez-Araúz as well as a selection of his poetry, which, overall, provides an international flavor to the collection. The translations in this issue are accompanied by the pieces printed in their original languages, from German to Spanish to Swedish, which I think adds nuances to the reading that otherwise might not be caught. The short fiction pieces are lyric and dream-like, and mix easily with the many prose poems throughout the journal. The poetry includes work by Robert Bly and Ray Gonzalez, among others. I enjoyed the Kafka-reminiscent poem by Katherine Sánchez Espano called “The Fiancée”: “…A roach tries on / my wedding gown, fabric / billowing like rain clouds, informs me / I’m fat. I see / my pant seams divorcing.” I like the fact that this journal continually publishes newer voices, and that the way it weaves these new discoveries with seasoned writers seems completely seamless. A delicate but tense aesthetic of image dominates the editor’s choices. [The Bitter Oleander Press, 4983 Tall Oaks Drive, Fayetteville, New York 13066-9776. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $8.00. http://www.bitteroleander.com/issues.html ] - JHG
This issue of Canary, a new poetry journal with high production values featuring a completely black cover with only “Canary” and “2” visible, displays the talents of poets diverse as Thomas Lux and Olena Kalytiak Davis. Poems, which range from highly experimental to traditional forms, occasionally include visual media such as illustrations, plain lines, or even, an autograph of a pop culture icon, as in “Poem with Erik Estrada Autograph.” As a representative sample, here are some evocative lines (lines breaks and stanza breaks condensed for the interests of space in this column) from Michael Dumanis’ “West Des Moines”:
“She asked me whether / she could cling to me // on the Impaler, / no, the Tilt-a-Whirl, // at the next Church / of Wounded Jesus carnival. // I wanted to live for / an infinite while // on the outskirts of Troy / at the dawnbreak of siege, // where I could conduct / reenactments // of meeting her / in my spare time.”
A feeling of youthful energy, newness, and eccentricity pervade the poems here. [Canary River, P.O. Box 51210, Eugene, OR 97405. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $10.00. http://thecanary.org ] - JHG
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