The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Reviewers (see Contributors page):
- Lisa K. Buchanan; LC - Laura Carter; MC - Mark Cunningham; WC - Weston Cutter; DE - Devon Ellington; DH - Denise Hill; JG - Jamey Gallagher; JHG - Jeannine Hall Gailey; JQG - Jennifer Gomoll; GK - Gina Kokes;  KL - Kathe Lison; DM  - Deborah Mead;  SRP - Sarah R. Payne; PFP - P.F. Potvin; JP - Jessica Powers; SR - Sima Rabinowitz;  ST - Sarah Tarkington

Posted July 18, 2004





First, the time has come with this magazine to praise Sven Birkerts as an editor. He’s a ferociously intelligent author (most recently of My Sky Blue Trades), and he took the helm of Agni three issues ago, initiating his run with what was one of the single best printed journals of last year, Agni 57. It’s rare for literary journals to be known by their editors: Plimpton of course comes to mind, and Bradford Morrow at Conjunctions, and to this list we can gladly add Birkerts. Three issues in and his skills as editor are broadening wonderfully, with one of the more startling stories in recent memory, “What About the Gun?” by Joan Wickersham, a fantastic trio of poems from Edip Cansever, and strange, evocative art by Arno Rafael Minkkinen. Add to all that some usual suspects: Dan Chiasson, Donald Hall, Martha Cooley, John Kinsella, and this Agni, like the rest from the steady, exploratory hand of Sven Birkerts (and company, of course), is fasntastic. [Agni, 236 Bay State Road, Boston MA 02215. E-mail: Single issue $10.] - WC


Court Green




Congratulations and gratitude to Columbia College in Chicago for offering a new journal of stunning poetry. Any journal with work by Michael Burkard or Mary Ruefle is one I'll carom toward when I see it, and Court Green, who neighbors these two poets with work by Kevin Prufer and Trinie Dalton and Dara Weir, does all of this offering with what seemed, at first blush and to me, a structure that may not hold. The journal begins with 'straight' poetry, thematically unjoined, each standing on its own poetic feet, then meanders into as big a section as the first: poetry on film. I like movies as much as the next book-hungry nerd, but a quick perusal of my shelves, or the lists of books I'm searching for, shows zero having to do with film. That said, the section works: the poems (Weir's and Dalton's and Prufer's among them) all work, even to someone who hasn't seen many of the movies referenced. It's an interesting gambit, and here's to hoping that the same sort of chutzpah that illuminates this journal's feature section works in the next as well. [Columbia College Chicago, English Department, 600 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605. E-mail: Single issue $10.] – WC



Volume 42


It’s one of those great, relatively rare feelings: finding a journal with not a single author (or very very few) you recognize, a journal you may have heard of but have never actually read through, and within a few pages you’re hooked. This was my lucky experience with Descant, a magazine I feel like I’ve read in countless contributor biographies. From the first lines in Bruce Machart’s “Where You Begin” to the last ones by Ronna Wineberg in her “Encyclopedia” (the interview with Michael Mewshaw is fine and readable as hell, but it’s nothing, candle-power-wise, to intended fiction or poetry), I was taken in by voices in stories (sole complaint: too much first person) and poems, like all the best, I couldn’t see coming with that oomph that makes it poetry. It’s a slim, fine volume, an annual that, once you know it, is something to look forward to like the longest day of summer and cool nights thereafter. [Descant, Department of English, Texas Christian University, TCU Box 297270, Fort Worth, TX 76129. E-mail: Single issue $10.] – WC


Small Spiral Notebook

Volume 1 Issue 1


The first issue of Small Spiral Notebook is a promising collection. Steve Almond’s “How to Write Sex Scenes: The Twelve Step Program” is front-to-back hilarious. It features such cardinal rules as “Fluid is fun” and “Contrary to popular belief people think during sex.” There is also an enlightening interview with Aimee Bender, who reveals that she prefers to write in the dark. Many of the stories and poems included embrace subjects odd and curious, drawing out their poignancy. Among the strangely affecting pieces were Tara Wray’s “The Not Really Ketchup,” a tale whose characters are condiments, and Tim Bass’ memoir of his parents’ refrigerator. The journal contains a few clunkers and a couple of mildly painful reads, but a first issue deserves plenty of slack. Thankfully, Small Spiral Notebook needs very little. It’s a brave, exciting foray, with plenty of momentum. [Small Spiral Notebook, c/o Felicia C. Sullivan, 248 West 17th Street, Suite 307, New York, NY 10011. E-mail: Single issue $10.] – TW



Volume 1 Issue 3


Tameme is a bilingual journal of new writing from North America. Each article is published in English and Spanish, printing the original face to face with the translation on every page. The theme of this issue is spot-on. Reconquista: Reconquest. A term that engages the Conquest of the Americas by colonial powers, but also lends itself to playful or subversive interpretations. A dazzling essay by Phillip Garrison on Mexican immigrants in the United States establishes the context for the theme, and the writing never lets up. Juana Goergen invokes the spirit of Walt Whitman to interrogate him on the America he celebrated. Also featured are Farley Mowat and Charles Simic, in Spanish translation. Tameme embraces translation as a means of cultural exchange, and provides space for translators’ introductions. [Tameme, Inc. 199 First Street, Los Altos, CA 94022. E-mail: Single issue $14.95.] – TW





First, thank god for Medbh McGuckian and her four beautiful poems within this small volume, and is everyone now clear, with each passion season and the crop of literary journals, that Canada is where it's happening, literary magazine-wise? Should we list? Probably not (click, back on the main page on Literary Mags). Way to go Canuks. Specifically though, Vallum: Donato Mancini's poetry, visual and physical and stunning, is magnificent, and if every magazine had a quota for surprising work we'd all be better off, readers and writers and hopeful folks alike. In a similar vein, Barbara Legowski's four circus images are startling and remind me in the best way of some of Sarah Moon's photography. It's a neat little, essentially, poetry journal – there are five reviews, two essays, and in this issue, a tribute to Peter Redgrove, but the stress falls on the verse, the stanzas, all of which within handle the stress just fine. [Vallum, PO Box 48003, Montreal, Quebec, H2V4S8 Canada. E-mail: Single issue $5.95.] – WC





This square journal is too much for me to really review – it's a composite, compilation, collage of so many things, and the distances between each is too small for what I might be able to say make sense. The quickest way to explain or describe it is to say that were you to simultaneously be riding a fast train, eating a really good piece of cake, drinking a really good beverage, talking with someone unutterably interesting and seeing magnificent things flash by really quickly outside your window, and if all of that was happening as you least expected it: that's what Versal feels like. Opening at random: page 60, Sahand Sahebdivani's Parental Love, as direct and paced as Bukowski (without the booze or fury, with the sadness). Page 61's got a drawing by Katja Mater of people at a table, a lamp, a bottle. Page 34: the fist of six pages of Roger Satant's Fictions by James Thomas, a decent description of which would put me on the far side of the requisite kilobytes required for reviews. Find this journal and buy it or read it or send it to friends or put it under your pillow and pull it out when you wake up from some strange dream: this is where you'll be able to cross-reference it. [Versal published by Wordsinhere: an international collective of writers based in The Netherlands. USA ordering address: Megan M. Garr, Versal, 259 Graylynn Drive, Nashville, Tennessee 37214. E-mail: Single issue $10.] –WC


The Yale Review

Volume 92  Number 2

Spring 2004

The latest issue of this venerable publication is a pleasure. The Yale Review is one of the most consistent journals in every department. The two standouts here are Mark Wisniewski’s narrative-splicing tale of office drama, and Lydia Davis’ discussion of the tribulations of her new translation of Proust. There is plenty of other inventive writing to be had as well. I was tempted to scribble down some aphorisms from James Richardson’s “Vectors”: “20. Ax built the house but sleeps in the shed…. 27. We trust the embarrassed one. He believes the world is thinking of him more than it is. But at least he believes in the world.” Willard Spiegelman’s memoir of an English teacher learning to get down with his bad self was quite entertaining. Also included are a couple of letters from readers in faraway places, which are really essays unto themselves on the state of being elsewhere. William Gaddis, Marianne Moore and Charles Ives find themselves reviewed. [Yale University, PO Box 208243, New Haven, CT 06520. E-mail: Single issue $7.] – TW


Posted July 5, 2004


580 Split

Issue 6


Reading the contributors' prior publishing credits creates a kind of funky experimental poem of its own—Can We Have Our Ball Back? 10 Tongues, slapboxing with jesus, Pie in the Sky, baffling combustions,, Good Foot, The Sour Thunder, Da Word, A Very Small Tiger, Skanky Possum—a reflection of the journal's irreverent and innovative tendencies. And true to form, this issue of 580 Split is a wild, experimental ride in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, the language of mathematics (Shanzing Wang's mother tongue and his geometry) and the language of neologisms (Elizabeth M. Young's  "throughosmosis" and "doublesuch.") But there's no mistaking experiment for pure fun and games here, this is serious work, tackling meaningful themes with provocative aesthetic strategies. And there's no mistaking one experiment for another, Juliana Leslie's poem "almanac" is as different from Lee A. Tonouchi's "Da Secret Origin of Oriental Faddah," as any two more conventional pieces might be. As expected in experimental writing, there's an abundance of wit, sarcasm, irony, and humor, but also pathos, even earnestness, and a uniquely pleasing sort of lyrical sincerity: "the linguist approach to your suffering" writes Sarah Mangold in "Aloha," one of many memorable poems that make this issue of 580 Split worthwhile.[580 Split, P.O. Box 9982, Oakland, CA 94613-0982. E-mail: Single issue $7.50.] – SR


The American Scholar

Volume 73 Number 2

Spring 2004

In this issue, The American Scholar continues to prove it’s one of the best publishers of essays in the country (the poetry–by Rita Dove, etc.–ain’t bad either). While reading the many smart pieces, I found myself wishing NPR would start a station that concentrated solely on this type of provocative cultural reporting for those of us already weary of election-year coverage. Alas, until then, we must be content with print, but then writing of this caliber makes the pages fly. Adam Gopnik leads with an essay on the foibles and joys of that strangest of creatures–an American in Paris. Natalie Anger has an amusing rant on scientists, religion and public funding: “I’d like to think that one of these days we’ll leave superstition and delusional thinking and Jerry Falwell behind. Scientists would like that too. But for now, they like their grants even more.” Carol Munder’s lovely, diaphanous photographs of bronze statuettes provide a springboard for Annie Dillard’s equally lovely musings on the Etruscan society that produced them, while Laura Shapiro gives a wonderfully funny account of what might be termed the feminist/anti-feminist history of Betty Crocker, who was, as you might guess, entirely an invention of General Mills. Yet for all the heavy-hitters, a poignant essay about ecology entwined with a history of maple-sugaring on his family’s land by Devin Corbin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Minnesota, shows that the Scholar values quality as much as name. This issue convinced me that I would be a fool not to subscribe. [The American Scholar, The Phi Beta Kappa Society, 1606 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009. Email: Single issue $9.] – KL


Bellingham Review

Volume 27

Numbers 1&2 Issue 54

Spring/Fall 2004

"Terrific" is how contest judge Robert Wrigley classifies the 49th Parallel Award-winning poem by Simone Muench, but this assessment could certainly apply to this whole special double issue. Sophisticated and polished, the work here (poems, stories, essays, interviews, Forrest Gander's comments on work by Cole Swenson, and Lucia Perillo's writing about photos by Scott Chambers) is never casual, yet it remains consistently accessible and, in the best sense, readable. The 49th Parallel award-winning story by Natalie Serber, "A Whole Weekend of My Life," is especially satisfying. In fact, contest judge Rebecca Brown says it "took her breath away" with its surprising and original approach to the "estranged single parent story." Serber creates a narrator with a highly likeable voice and has a masterful sense of pace and timing. This issue includes three other good stories, too, by Amalia Gladhart, Sue Fagalde Lick, and Guy A. Marco. Interviews with Russel Banks, Lucia Perillo, and Michael Collins are, by turns, instructive and entertaining. The interview with Banks is particularly worthwhile, with its focus on class issues in Banks' fiction. Cole Swenson contributes four exquisite poems, including the spare and lovely "The Hand as Origami." And it is imperative to mention photographs of the Northwest by Manual Cesar Solis, Jr. — more work to take one's breath away. [Bellingham Review, MS 9053, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225. E-mail: Single issue $7.] – SR


Black Warrior Review

Volume 30 Number 2

Spring/summer 2004

A common approach mysteriously unites the short fiction in this spring/summer issue of Black Warrior Review. Each of the six stories here possesses a similar obliqueness, a diagonal narrative attack that lends the characters and events an alluring inscrutability. Cary Holladay’s “The Green Children,” set in 1928, angles in on Vangie, a young chambermaid in a southern hotel, who is hopelessly in love with a professional magician and yet finds herself engaged to a senescent Civil War veteran. Vangie’s fate seems overhung by a strange sense of inevitability, even if the reader, like Vangie herself, is never sure just what exactly is portended. “Neighbors,” by Anne Germanacos, is comprised of the scattered first-person musings of an American woman living a rural life in Greece. Her piecemeal reflections about the village folk around her, unexplained as they are, have an authentic opacity, as if we’ve just stumbled into a story long since begun. By far my favorite piece here is Peter Orner’s fugue-like treatment of memory and the ways we manipulate it for social leverage or self-justification: “Herb and Rosalie Swanson at the Cocoanut Grove.” A definite candidate for whatever short fiction prizes are as yet unclaimed this year. Also featured are seven luscious full-color prints by the strikingly original printers, Stern & Faye, as well as an impressionistic poetry chapbook and a wealth of poems by 17 poets. [Black Warrior Review, Box 862936, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486. E-mail: Single issue $8.] – MC



Cinema Lingua: Writers Respond to Film


Spring 2004

This ambitious and strikingly effective theme issue in which writers respond to film leaves me with the feeling that I ought to know more about film than I do, though I've always felt that, in comparison to others, I know quite a lot. Several of the pieces here feel as if they were written for those already in the cinema ‘know,’ but each piece is, nonetheless, highly enjoyable. Joyce Carol Oates’s meditation on Hitchcock, “Fat Man My Love,” is striking and easily the best piece of prose here: “His peephole eye, too, was the eye of God. In our love nest (as in his droll Brit way he wished to call it) he preferred to observe me through the peephole than directly, as lost in blonde reverie I slowly, very slowly removed my white satin lacy-conical-breasted Maidenform Bra. He favored strangulation. He favored ice blondes.” The standout poem, “Stag Movie,” about a movie that the speaker will not allow herself to see (Tian Zhuangzhuang’s On the Hunting Ground - ?) comes from the amazing Arielle Greenberg. Other standout pieces include William H. Gass’s “Don’t Even Try, Sam,” a lovely piece in the voice of Dooley Wilson’s Casablanca piano, and Tan Lin’s “My Wife Looks Like Greta Garbo,” stills and meditations on film in general. Overall, an ambitious read, and a journal to which I intend to return. I leave with a list of films to view and re-view! [Conjunctions, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504. E-mail: Single issue $15.] – LC



Spring 2004

"High quality" and "serious intent" is what CutBank seeks, say the journal's guidelines. I'd add work that's willing to take risks, tends toward solemnity or at least finds the world more distressing or perplexing than awe-inspiring (which is hard not to do these days) and eclectic in style. An odd, but marvelous story by Katie Hays, "Bean People," says it all: "I always want things just right. They aren't just right, but what's the problem with wanting them that way?" This story's tactics, the use of lists and charts and family trees might appear as a gimmick in less capable hands, but here they are clever and successful. Of particular note in this issue is the memorable work of poets with a solid publication history, but limited notoriety (Fady Joudah, Sharon Chmielarz), and poets who appear to have few publications and clearly deserve to be read (Bridgette Bates, Alison Hoffman). Chmielarz, who has devoted much of her career to reviving lost or forgotten women contributes "Subjects (Three Parts)," dedicated to Artemisia Gentileschi, a 16th century painter: "…before she even / enters a room, she's already painting / her reaction according to who sits there." We will watch the painter watch her subject "catching the stars in her fist." I'm holding stars in my first, too, with this issue of CutBank.[CutBank, Department of English, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812. E-mail: Single issue $6.95.] – SR



“Death of the New West?”

Issue 1

Fall 2003

This is the premiere issue of an annual published with support from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Program for Writing and Rhetoric. “[D]ivide,” writes editor Steven Wingate, “as its name suggests, is not about orthodoxy; it is about bifurcations, about separations, about schools of thought that do not run parallel to one another.” As each issue is thematic, Issue 2, “Pax Americana,” will explore the role of the U.S. in a post-9/11 world, while Issue 3, “Class and Caste,” will tackle questions of money and society. Issue 1, “Death of the New West?” was of particular interest to me, a recent transplant to the American West. As that question mark after “West” suggests, the region is constantly re-making itself and the tensions that go along with the upheavals are not easily resolved. The fiction, essays, poetry and photos of this issue of divide, while not presuming to provide answers, do provoke thought. There’s an insightful interview with Richard Rodriquez, and rancher/writer Linda Hasselstrom explains the intricacies of fence maintenance and fire-awareness in an epistolary harangue addressed to the would-be owner of a ranchette. Also of note are Gifford Ewing’s winter photos of buffalo, which avoid the usual kitsch of nature pics with their attention to space and line and subtle gradations of black and white; an interview with well-known Western scholar Patricia Nelson Limerick; a terrific long poem by Ai; as well as much more that promises divide will continue to be a magazine well worth a reader’s time. [Divide, The Program for Writing and Rhetoric, University of Colorado at Boulder, UCB 317, Boulder, CO 80309. E-mail: Single issue $8.] –KL



Volume 40

Spring 2004

This issue of Ellipsis, a long-time student-edited publication of Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, contains prose, photos and an astonishing number of poems (forty-five!) for a journal of its type. Student staffed though it may be, Ellipsis is as beautifully produced as any number of literary journals edited by professionals, as its perfect-bound 100+ pages fronted by Christine Baczec’s lavender-toned photo-mosaic of Spiral Jetty attest. With this much content, everyone is bound to find something that resonates. For me, the turn in Amanda McGuire’s “Monkey Bars” from description of that always-left-out-girl, to the reason for her suicide, “She never climbed anything / at our private school, except the desperate / boyhis penis, a worm through the unzipped / hole, her mouth meaty as a Red Delicious,” was scary-good. Also, an imagistic, Basho-like translation of Ioan Flora’s “The Image of Glass Shimmering” was nicely juxtaposed with Angela Robert’s photo “Bottle” on the facing page–evidence of a keen editorial eye. I have to confess that although I found the prose pieces to be solidly written, I was a tad disappointed in their rather worn-out themes. That aside, there is still plenty of lovely poetry here by Star Coulbrooke, R. Kinsie Bastian, Sandra Kohler and many others both old and new. [Ellipsis, Literature and Art, Westminster College, 1840 South 1300 East, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84105. E-mail: Single issue $7.] – KL


Five Points

Volume 8 Number 2


The work in Five Points boasts a consistently down-home earnestness. Each of the five short stories, though ranging broadly in style, have a refreshingly un-ironic quality. Given the risks inherent in such authorial sincerity, I tended to find lapses in craft forgivable. Even if some plot twists here and there struck me as a bit too nakedly contrived, I was happy to find myself privy again and again to the emotional core of one character or another. Three out of the five authors here hail from the south, and the fictional lineup seems unified by the absorbing quietness, depth, and ultimate penchant for the heartbreaking or the horrible that distinguishes the best southern writing. Nancy Reisman’s story “The Cold Blue of Delaware Park” gives good reason to anticipate the forthcoming novel from which it is excerpted. In its portrait of a lonely, middle aged woman and her relationship to her verbally abusive mother, this piece positively levitates on craftsmanship, lyrical and potent. “She has on this earth one mother, a mother she wishes to forget, whose love is the color of bruises and who will, if you ignore her, haunt you into the next world.” An essay by Algonquin editor Shannon Ravenel, singing praises to the tradition of lit mags in America, is also enjoyable, as is the interview with poet Hayden Carruth. [Five Points, MSC 8R0318, Georgia State University, 33 Gilmer St. SE, Unit 8, Atlanta, GA 30303-3083. Single issue $7.] –MC


Green Mountains Review

Volume 17 Number 1


Amidst all the sophisticated fiction and poetry, Green Mountains Review provides a nice regional touch: photos of the modest farmhouse owned by an old Vermonter until his death and the subsequent destruction of his “uninhabitable” dwelling. This peek is no less fascinating than the fictional glimpses into various lives provided by the writers in this issue. “Mayday” by Susan Braunstein sets up a dysfunctional mother-daughter tale that defies expectations as each woman tests her sense of identity on strangers at a strange party. Donald Lystra’s “Where Lou Gehrig Went After Leaving the Game” gives us a man who makes nice instead of violent with someone trying to pick a fight at a ball game to impress his girlfriend (our hero invites the couple for drinks, then manages to get the girl’s number. Score!) I suspect I’m not the only writer who appreciates Mark Halliday’s “Not About RL,” a metafictional story in which someone is trying hard not to write about Romantic Love but about something serious: “Serious is mortality, serious is the grapple of time--Stop poking me with that word ‘serious’!” Now here’s a poem that made me smile: Joel Brouwer’s “The Magician’s Tuxedo,” in which a janitor pokes around this costume in search of doves, which magically appear only after, discovering the magician’s secrets, he’s lost his innocence. [Green Mountains Review, Johnson State College, Johnson VT 05656. Sample issue: $7.] – JQG


Gulf Coast

Volume 16 Number 2

Fall 2004

My first impression of Gulf Coast is not a particularly lofty one, but I’ll say it anyway: I can’t believe this thing is only eight bucks. This 288-page issue contains the writing of 60 contributors, as well as a color photo spread of Jay Sullivan’s straw and plaster sculptures (humanoid, and oddly reminiscent of Alberto Giacometti’s bronzes). The poetry in Gulf Coast is what some might call challenging and others difficult; personally, I most enjoyed Radha Marcum’s controlled but surreal “Reincarnation.” An excerpt: “Streaks of day-glaze like egg-white / over street grit. God // drips from the second story // geranium box, / a wet eye shining out.” The fiction here mostly leans toward love, sex, and all the attendant problems. Joe Meno’s “A Trip to Greek Mythology Camp” is a piece at once funny and sweet as an awkward teenaged virgin gets sent to the peculiar title camp. Michelle Wildgen’s “You Have No Idea” is an erotic story which is – astutely – less about the main character’s new sexual partner than about the relationship’s effect on her disapproving best friend. The nonfiction in this issue is just wonderful (and this from a reader who usually skips it). The essays by William Giraldi, Miki Howald, and Alden Jones are all clear, punchy, and absorbing. [Gulf Coast, Department of English, University of Houston, Houston TX 77204-3013. E-mail: Single issue: $8.] – JQG


Hanging Loose



This lovely issue of Hanging Loose features the amazing high-school-age poet Nathan Resnick-Day: “Listen to me as one listens to the rain. / It has been twenty years since the gas lamps flickered in Paris during a monsoon that took the beards off men. / [...] / I was given a birdsong that loved me for what I was not” (“The Discourse of Hermeto”). While some pieces tend to fall on the mundane side to me, I am struck by the fresh voices represented here and found the entire journal an easy, enjoyable read. Other standouts include Meg Yardley’s “Ten Ways of Looking at a Catalytic Converter” (especially for the emission-test-challenged), Kurt Cole Eidsvig’s beautiful “You’re Probably in Japan by Now,” and Rodger Kamenetz’s “Drowning.” Hanging Loose contains several short-shorts of note, and the earnestness of the fiction found here is refreshing. Highly recommended, as there are also some pretty photos of Brooklyn’s historic Myrtle Avenue El by Theresa King that form a nice centerpiece. I look forward to reading the next issue in hopes of finding more of the same originality and youthful sincerity, and in hopes of reading more incredible (and often genius!) writing by high-school-age authors. [Hanging Loose, 231 Wyckoff St., Brooklyn, NY 11217. E-mail: Single issue $7.] - LC


The Hiram Poetry Review

Issue 65

Spring 2004

It would be difficult to find another journal this spring that demonstrates the immense possibilities of poetry more clearly, blatantly, and provocatively than The Hiram Poetry Review. On facing pages:  "The Emptiness That Comes," a poem by Adrienne Lewis philosophizing about finding oneself at the end of a toilet paper roll (a metaphor for the ending and beginning of both more and less intimate life experiences) and Brad Buchanan's "The Beheading" ("Caught on videotape, the act / still squirms and crackles—it looks like bad art / or amateur photography— / the intention is more spectacular than the execution.") On another set of facing pages:  Erin Sweenen's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Tuna Sandwich" (XII. "I was overwhelmed, like a tuna sandwich / at a potluck.") and "Murder Girl" by Carrie McGrath ("In the first few moments pregnant with the shock / of something gone so wrong in the manicured, / pedicured street of a Midwestern suburb, / we were all focused on this girl, maybe 17, / lying on the pavement…") And between these nearly surreal juxtapositions, Grace Butcher's graceful "Waiting it Out" ("Running takes all the words; / breath gives them back.") and Donelle Dreese's urgent "close to midnight" ("don't you see? // this is the world gone mad with smallness / …I am ready to run"). [The Hiram Poetry Review, P.O. Box 162, Hiram, Ohio 44234. E-mail: Single issue $9.] – SR




Fall/Winter 2003

Bone by bone the skeletons of nature and science are picked, rattled, and pieced together to flesh human in isotope. The journal sports a mere 40 pages, however, the breadth of its fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and art stretch a noble distance while avoiding naiveté about the natural world. One of choicest pieces is Brandon Schrand’s story “Notes from a Drill Rig” where the narrator confesses: “Diesel. Everything smelled and tasted like diesel, aftershave of the hark-knuckled, the whiskied sweat of a world driven mad by men and trucks and tools.” From John Price unearthing “Why Snow Geese Don’t Winter in Paradise,” to Juliet Mattila pondering “Ectoplasm,” the journal moves cover to cover on its own time like the intriguing animal from Botswana that Cheryl Merrill discovers in her fine photo/essay piece “Walking with Elephants.” [isotope, English Department, Utah State University, 3200 Old Main Hill - Logan, UT 84322-3200. Single issue $5.] – PFP


The Literary Review

Volume 47 Number 3

Spring 2004

The Literary Review has an emphasis on international writing. This issue features a piece on the Danish Writers School, and contains work by six of its students. There is also a remarkable selection of poems by sisters Henia and Ilona Karmel, Jewish survivors of WWII. The poems, translated by Fanny Howe and Arie Galles from the original Polish, are bleak, uncompromising, and undeniably powerful; witness the last lines of “Procession” by Henia: “[. . .] four from a nightmare / Lugged on their heavy shoulders / A bundled body. / They couldn’t cope and let it drop. / It screamed in its own blood.” Closer to home, we have Rem Reynolds’s “Tommy,” about a depressed woman whose husband is managing the budding career of the striking but mentally ill title character. “Death of the Rabbits” by Mariana Romo-Carmona presents a man obsessed with a dream world that opens up from a crack in the exposed brick wall of his trendy Queens loft. “Shadows” by Brendan Short is a moving piece concerning a home health aide on the last day of her taking care of a woman with Alzheimer’s. Short’s descriptions of the aide’s tenderness and the woman’s confusion are sweet and heartbreaking, respectively, and like many of the pieces here, resonate long after the book is closed. [The Literary Review, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison NJ 07940. E-mail: Single issue: $7.] – JQG


Many Mountains Moving

New Beginnings

Spring 2004

Many Mountains Moving has traditionally been one of my favorite magazines, partly for the idiosyncracy of its new-agey platform, if you will, and partly because the quality of the writing is consistently strong and operates on a personal level. In this issue, we are treated to an interview with Virgil Suarez and a collection of fine poems from him; sample the following lines from “On the Porch Swing with Demosthenes”: “That night, falcons and ospreys, somnambulists, // driven by their own nocturnal fears, fused / in the lightning-lit skies above battleships, / some nested high on the lookout basket.” I also especially enjoyed the two reviews (Nancy Zafris’s The Metal Shredders and Alicia Ostriker’s The Volcano Sequence) and “The Writer’s Path,” an introduction to Isabelle Eberhardt, a Swiss-born woman who died in Algeria at the age of 27. David Rozgonyi writes of Eberhardt that “as late as the 1970s, seventy years after her death, the mention of her name brought smiles from ancient men in skullcaps sipping tea in Algerian cafes.” I look forward to investigating her diaries and stories! Overall, this issue does not disappoint. Only in Many Mountains Moving can you find the diversity of voices and also a few meditation practices that help sustain a literary life. [Many Mountains Moving, 420 22nd St, Boulder CO 80302. E-mail: Single issue $9.50.] – LC


New Letters

Volume 70 Number 2


“Every story in this issue is redemptive,” promises Robert Stewart’s editorial note at the front of New Letters Volume 70, Number 2. Jacob White’s story “You Will Miss Me When I Burn” is a high-octane beginning toward support of that claim, following two colossal young men habituated to death defying antics on their beloved homeland lake. “We took to being juggernauts,” proclaims the magnetic narrator early on, and the story roars from there, complete with a magical realism reminiscent of Rick Bass’s early ‘Kirby’ stories. White’s homely first-person poetics are irresistible from start to finish: “I saw Reg grab hold of the pulpit and lay his voice across those people with the soft heaviness of a husband’s arm in sleep.” “The Living,” by Peter Christopher, takes us into the murderous, junky-swarmed New York projects, yet the author still manages, through an artistic alchemy vaguely Rilkean, to transmute his subject matter into something poetically beautiful. Wayne Harrison’s story of a recovering alcoholic struggling with anger management in the wake of divorce is aptly entitled “Wrench,” since that is precisely what it will do to most reader’s hearts, taking well-worn fictional territory and achieving uniquely moving effects. Thirty-six poems are also offered here, most of them philosophical and elegiac in style, as well as a fine essay on the nature of language by a lifelong stutterer and one-time Hungarian refugee Peter Ruppert. [New Letters, University of Missouri—Kansas City, 5101 Rockhill Rd., Kansas City, MO 64110. E-mail: Single issue $8.] – MC


Other Voices

20th Anniversary Issue

Number 40

Spring/Summer 2004

With this issue, Other Voices celebrates twenty years of publishing some of the finest fiction around. The best of this issue are the more experimental pieces. In “Encore, Don Beppo!” Michael Mazza writes the transcript of a documentary about a mafia don who becomes a musical genius after being struck by lightening. Michael C. Seward’s “All Things Bleak and Sordid” allows its omniscient narrator to enter scenes and ultimately be critiqued by his 11th grade English teacher. But I also thoroughly enjoyed the more traditional stories. In “Have Her Home,” Melissa Lion debunks the myth of motherhood with a young woman nurturing one newborn twin in favor of the other; across the street, the mother of a missing child comes under suspicion for deviating from the “good mother” script. And in “Try to Be Good,” Suzanne Tague perfectly captures the smug disgust of a teenager towards her parents, even down to the way her father eats an egg: “‘Ahhh,’ he says, once he’s swallowed, a satisfied smile on his face. A bit of yellow leaks out of one corner of his mouth. The second egg sits untouched on his plate, waiting to be attacked. Molly thinks she will die if he does it again. He does. She watches in agony and tortured satisfaction.” It’s my favorite moment in a journal that’s full of great ones. [Other Voices, University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of English (MC 162), 601 South Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607-7120. E-mail: Single issue $7.] - DM


Passages North

Volume 25 Number 1

Winter/Spring 2004

Weighing in at two-hundred and eighty pages, this issue of the long-lived Passages North is a hefty journal not only in terms of the writers it publishes, but also just sheer size. That page count allows them the leeway to do what many literary journals cannot: publish a short series of poems by the same person so that it’s possible to gain a wider feel for the poet’s work. Bob Hicok and Jan Bailey, for example, enjoy a run of five poems each. The only complaint I had about the poetry is that there’s so much good stuff here, it’s difficult to focus on one poem or poet to the exclusion of the others. Notable, however, is work by John Poch, Oliver de la Paz and Pamela McClure. Yet poetry is only half the equation; there are also nearly one hundred and fifty pages of fiction to savor. Elaine Ford deservedly leads the way with “The Depth of Winter,” a heart-breaking portrait of a factory girl who knowingly turns up on the doorstep of the wrong man–sometimes we can’t help but repeat the mistakes of our parents. And in “Feathers,” a short-short, Sandra Novak manages to contain in a few scant pages the pain of a daughter whose mother can no longer recall the abuse of her now dead husband because she has Alzheimer’s. But the difficulty I run into with the fiction is the same as the difficulty I have with the poetry: there’s so much good stuff that it’s impossible for me to review it all here. The only solution I can recommend is ordering a copy of this excellent magazine for yourself. [Passages North, Department of English, Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, MI, 49855. Email: Single issue: $13.] – KL



Volume 33 Issue 1

Spring 2004

This issue of Phoebe delivers a fresh, diverse selection of fiction and poems. Its fine stories include CD Collins’s “Hands,” about a family of Kentucky tobacco farmers trying to scratch out a living, and Ananya Bhattacharyya’s “Calcutta Communists,” a charming and sharp piece in which two youngsters are exposed to the political self-righteousness of their beloved college-aged cousin. “What It Was” by Christine Sneed presents a divorcee who becomes uncomfortably involved in her neighbors’ unraveling marriage. Much of the poetry here is of an experimental or stream-of-consciousness bent; the genre has its fans, but alas I am not one of them. I was moved, however, by Nancy K. Pearson’s “Hiking the A.T.: Day 23” which finds the speaker on a difficult hiking trip, mourning the loss of a young man to a drunken prank gone wrong, and marching on. There’s an interview with Scottish poet Tom Pow, and several poems from his book Landscapes and Legacies. “#28” is a powerful one, about visiting fields where war had once taken place: “I live on blood’s doorstep and study / all the ghastliness from which I’ve been saved. // For this, all the lives I’ve yet to grieve for / haunt me, as I pass, bearing peace or war.” [Phoebe, MSN 2D6, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax VA 22030-4444. E-mail: Single issue: $6.] – JQG


Poems & Plays

Number 11

Spring/Summer 2004

More poems than plays, the drama here consists of three short, one-act pieces. Jim Quinn’s “Her Deer Story” stands out as a play that is at once comical and horrifying. A woman recounts an evening in which she is arguing with her man when their car is slammed into by a deer. The grisly incident has given the woman a moment of pause, but she lets the man convince her that it is of no consequence. As for poems, the work here tends to skirt into the obtuse, but there are some great picks. Stephanie Dickinson’s “Super 80, 1946” looks at an old wedding home movie and ponders all that these people don’t know is coming – not only personal illnesses and deaths, but the bizarre facts of modern times: “That dead men’s sperm make babies and pig / hearts sewn into human chests beat. That cows fed sheep / brains go insane.” In “It Happens in Kansas” by Kevin Griffith, a twister brings Oz’s Tin Man into the Heartland (“Pa hoped we could sell him / to the freak show carney at the county fair.”) Included is Gabrielle LeMay’s prize-winning chapbook, Pandora’s Barn. LeMay’s work is haunting and strange, filled with surreal imagery – good stuff indeed. [Poems & Plays, Gaylord Brewer, Department of English, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN 37132. Single issue: $6.] – JQG


Poet Lore

Volume 99 Number 1/2

Spring/Summer 2004

"Turn each page and imagine yourself out for a nice bicycle ride like the women on our cover," advise the editors. The cover photo (women bicyclists in 1885 by William H. Seaman) is indeed handsome, as is the eclectic work inside, carefully crafted, well chosen poems from five dozen distinctly gifted poets, and reviews of five important new books. As much as the individual poems, I appreciate the obvious care that has gone into the issue's overall composition, the deliberate attention to the poems' placement. There's considerable variety in tone, from Gerry LaFemina's "The Invention of the Monsters" ("What P.T. Barnum understood: normal folks want / to see the freaks"), to Marie Pavlieck-Wehrili's "Srebrenica" ("Red blisters on a gray field. No name / on the map. The anonymous open-air grave"), to Derek Pollard's "Everything as it Should Be" ("I love the smell of my kitchen, a kind / of gritty, meaty smell—the smell of lamb // roasting on an open spit") and a pleasing mix of narrative and lyric work. This issue David Lehman also introduces Jay Leeming, praising his "wit and intelligence." Leeming contributes eight poems, including a half-dozen ghazals, which, as promised, do exhibit an enviable intelligence: "Can you ask the one question that will scatter the dark, that will / repair the violin, heal the kingdom and set ringing all the stones?" [Poet Lore, The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815. W-mail: Single issue $9.] – SR



Volume 7 Issue 2


Porcupine is a fine mix of what you’d expect from a literary magazine, and what you’d never see coming. In the first category: poems by Virgil Suarez, and Rilke translations. In the second: poetry and quilts by five poets and five textile artists, each randomly assigned another’s work to inspire a piece of their own. A few fiction selections round out the issue; of these, I found W.A. Reed’s “Connie Keeps Goats” to be a standout. Reed has an sharp eye but gentle pen for a character who keeps a number of Pygmy goats inside her house. He also knows pecking order among pets: “The other goats despise Kate [a goat] and her obvious attempts to court Connie’s affections. The little shit. They bump their heads against Kate’s soft, white belly and turn their backs when she tries to engage them in conversation.” Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed an interview with the poet Antler, because he talked about watching animals down at the river, not about creative writing programs. I’m sold on his “Looking Up at the Milky Way Thought”: “What must it be like for fish / [. . .] still alive / looking up seeing / falling snow / Slowly cover the ice / till darkness / engulfs their realm . . .” [Porcupine, P.O. Box 259, Cedarburg, WI 53012. E-mail: Single issue: $8.95.] – JQG


Scrivener Creative Review

Number 28


This is my introduction to the Montreal-based Scrivener Creative Review, and I find it mostly delightful—from Matthew Aaron Guyer’s metaphysical fiction, “The Theory of Doorways,” to a beautiful collection of photographs, especially those of Geoffrey Brown. The poems are worth returning to again, as well, and I look forward to doing so. I love the following lines from “Last Visit to Glorietta Mesa Lodge” by Kathryn Napier Stull: “Ceremony day / I am not allowed to kiss you. // I am in the kitchen with the women / fixing enchiladas and thinking, / I am in the kitchen with the women.” Scrivener also features a fine section of art reviews, and, though I’m somewhat visually inept, I found it intriguing and helpful to read about the photography, much of which is featured in the journal. The book reviews, too, were especially helpful; I have a working list of potential reads, and a couple of the books discussed here may eventually make it to the cutting room! I also very much enjoyed the interviews—Matthew Frassica’s interview with Vendela Vida was especially entertaining. I am happily surprised to discover this journal and look forward to future issues. [Scrivener Creative Review, 853 Sherbrooke St West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T6 Canada. E-mail:] – LC


South Dakota Review

Volume 41 Number 4

Winter 2003

This slim but vivacious lit mag out of the University of South Dakota is bristling with content: eight short stories, twenty-eight poems, and two essays. The offerings afford readers a wide gamut of compelling, character-driven fiction, lyrical poetry, and reflective nonfiction. Among the stories, I found myself most absorbed by Elizabeth Sachs’s “Face,” a cool, laconic portrayal of a young restorative artist (more commonly known as mortician) who masters the interpretation of facial expressions, allowing him to decipher the true intentions of people around him, as well as evoke a healthy catharsis in his grieving clientele. Also lovely is the story “Nightgown” by Tasha Haas, a dreamlike tale of a woman’s nocturnal wandering from the rural home where her young son sleeps. The woman is pulled along by some ghostly will astir within the nightgown she wears, a garment she found among her dead mother’s effects. Haas’s hypnotic prose drives the reader the way the nightgown impels the woman. “She lets her fingers trail, catching and releasing the repeating stalks, catching and releasing, repeating and repeating this simple catching and releasing and walking, walking to nothing and from everything until she has walked so far she has walked through nothing and come to somewhere else.” Also fine is a trio of resonant, religious landscape poems by Peter Ludwin. [South Dakota Review, Box 111, University Exchange, Vermillion, SD 57069. E-mail: Single issue $10.] – MC


Southern Humanities Review

Volume 38 Number 1

Winter 2004

Southern Humanities Review seems to have a little something for everybody. Aside from the three essays, two short stories, and twelve poems featured here, SHR is uniquely notable for the generous space it devotes to book reviews; twenty-five pages in this issue alone are given over to lengthy critiques of six books ranging from the poetry of Frieda Hughes to a volume on the meaning of modernity by Frederic Jameson. Greg Johnson’s short story “Zelda, Zelda” thrives on the author’s genius for narrative structure. A somewhat over-handled scenario—that of a teenage boy adapting to a new social life, and challenged by a bold young vixen—finds resuscitation here in the hands of a gifted writer. Among the poetry, Barton Sutter’s “The Underword,” surging with the mysterious juice of man’s evolutionary identity, caused my eyes to water. Captivated by the guttural grunts of a passing bull moose, the speaker effuses: “That groan recalled the guts of thought, / The sound beneath all speech, / A word from the land of Ur. / It was laden with pain, desire, and pride. / It said what I felt when my parents died, / When I first caught sight of my wife.” Also wonderful are two Homeric riffs by R.T. Smith, picturing Penelope at her loom and Odysseus at his plow. [Southern Humanities Review, 9088 Haley Center, Auburn University, AL 36849. E-mail: Single issue $5.] – MC




April 2004

I don’t know spank about Italian, but I know a giant when I see one. And Storie is one such behemoth. Looming bilingual in Italian and English, it explores political narrative through the mediums of plays, short stories, reviews, rants, interviews, notable reports, and other unclassified forms. Commentaries by the writers also give tremendous behind-the-scenes footage. Internationals like Ariel Dorfman, author of works such as “Death and the Maiden” as well as Michael Hogan (writing about Joseph Brodsky), Mary Caponegro, E.L. Freifeld, Domingo Notaro, Frederico Leva, and Enrico Munari settle their girth across the pages. Most of the pieces focus on the understated, the underdog, the ironic, and the unknown. Dorfman’s play “The Prey,” is a thriller that digs into the history of history using characters like Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, Balzac, and Michel Leiris. “The Prey” opens teasingly with Picasso painting as his lover claims “The day Picasso died, that’s what I remembered.” [Storie, Via Suor Celestina Donati 13/E, 00167 Rome, ITALY. E-mail: Single issue $10.] – PFP



Off on a Tangent

Volume 16 Number 1

Spring 2004

I wish more magazines were like this one. This always-a-theme-issue journal features a spectacular theme this time, “off on a tangent,” and the pieces featured here are just what I like—tangential, surprising, rarely staying in one place for too long. I especially love Leslie Lewinter-Suskind’s “Klonya,” a short story about a Polish manicurist: “She does not indicate that her hate and my Jewishness have any connection at all. I attribute this to what I refer to as the ‘hay fever’ effect, that is, the way a person who suffers from hay fever feels about the one hyacinth in a bud vase.” I also especially enjoyed Marlene M. Miller’s “Tangential Dreams,” which progresses through phases: “Dreams of Falling,” “The Money,” “The Article,” “Breaking News,” “Two Conversations,” and “Dreams of Flying.” Peter B Fagan’s “Cool Asian Fire” is also a strong point. While some of the pieces are stronger than others, and while the journal is pretty fiction-heavy (a bit too much so for my taste), overall I loved the theme enough (as an avowed surrealist) to enjoy the twists and turns that the theme affords. To quote Marlene M. Miller, “Dreams of flying are common, most people have them.... she dreamt she hovered high above her own unlived life tirelessly the way a hummingbird might above a pale common flower.” Nice stuff! [THEMA, THEMA Literary Society, Box 8747, Metairie, LA 70011-8747. E-mail: Single issue: $8.] – LC


Tin House Magazine


Volume 19, Spring 2004

“Humans love to lie,” notes editor Win McCormack of Tin House Magazine. So why not devote an entire issue to blatant untruths, sly deceptions, wrong impressions, wondrous confabulation? Viola! Introducing: “Lies!” the spring volume of this spunky quarterly literary magazine. Starting out with serious lies, McCormack’s essays on the Bush Administration “Their Unspoken Credo: Perpetual Deception” and “From the Horses’ Mouth, A Compendium of Bush Administration Lies,” questions not only the veracity of our government but whether facts are manipulated to promote specific ideologies. Trust me – your heart will race either in fear of the president’s hypocrisy or in desire to avenge your man. Although the political arena is fertile ground for falsehood, the majority of the magazine focuses on non-partisan lying. My favorite short stories include Nancy Reisman’s “False Starts” a story about the easy refuge a secret life can provide and Amy Bloom’s “I love to See You Coming, I Hate to See You Go,” a complex tale of older married lovers. The essays are remarkable. Charles D’Ambrosio explores his appearance as a character in an ex-lover’s novel in “Any Resemblance to Anyone Living,” and Mark Strand’s piece about translating the poetry of a man who was shot through the pages of his manuscript is haunting. The venerable James Tate contributes two poems and Jane Hirshfield’s “The Story” reminds us of the ultimate cost of mendacity—“I had promised myself to its hands.”[Tin House, P.O. Box 10500, Portland, OR 97210. E-mail: Single issue $17.] – GK


Two Rivers Review

Issue 9

Fall 2003

This is an unassuming bi-annual, modestly staple-bound and graphic-less. But don’t let the Plain-Jane cover fool you; between its pages resides some of the most consistently-good poetry I’ve encountered in a literary journal. My particular poetic weakness is for imagistic work that relies more on language than narrative–so long as it’s beautiful, I don’t always care if it doesn’t make immediate sense. From the opening lines of the first poem, “Aloft” by Lauren Bower Smith, I knew Two Rivers was going to give me just that: “A man speaks and moths / fly out of his mouth. The moths / sift down like ashes, and one / lights on the tip of my finger– / folds into a leaf, a flame, / a flower petal. Unfolds. / Folds. When he speaks [. . .]”. The rest is just as good, though I suppose to be expected from a roster of poets such as this, nearly all of whom seem to have at least two books under their collective belts. The one exception I noted is a junior at Sarah Lawrence College who’s already been published in The Paris/Atlantic. Still, who can complain when a journal like this is the result? Besides poetry, Issue 9 also contains a wonderfully subtle short story by Amy Knox Brown about a woman unable to face her own alcoholism, as well a section of brief reviews of new poetry collections–this last was good to see in a world woefully short on such things. Poets with manuscripts to shop should check out the recently begun Two Rivers Review Poetry Chapbook Prize. [Two Rivers Review, P.O. Box 158, Clinton, NY 13323. Email: Single issue $6.] – KL


The Vincent Brothers Review

“Taking Flight”

Issue 23

Volume 9 Number 1

This magazine out of Ohio is as eclectic as its name suggests. Issue 23 is a melange of poetry, drawings, fiction, reviews, updates on recent TVBR parties, an editorial exhortation that Democrats everywhere WAKE UP!, and, of course, recipes incorporating that most-under appreciated of herbs, the chive. As if publishing a journal weren’t enough, TVBR is also busy running contests, putting out chapbooks and anthologies, and made an appearance at the 2003 NYiBC Book Fair. Still, all the bustle hasn’t affected this issue’s quality. The pieces are all related to flight, some in an admittedly tangential manner, as is the case with “Bugs,” a story about a marriage and a cockroach that begins with the husband dreaming of floating. The flight theme can’t be missed, however, in Wendy Winn’s “Amelia” where Amelia Earhart keeps appearing to the narrator, finally spurring her escape from a bad divorce, nor in Kevin Dolgin’s “The Metamorphosis of Gregory Simpson” where the protagonist becomes a beautiful winged creature that flies away–an interesting twist on Kafka’s original. But Dawn Dennison’s “How Much It Hasn’t Rained”–a short yet piquant story about drought and an ended relationship–was the highlight of this issue for me. All in all, a delightfully quirky litmag brimming with good writing. [The Vincent Brothers Review, 4566 Northern Circle, Riverside, Ohio, 45424-5733. E-mail: Single issue $11.50.] – KL


NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

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Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed

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