Literary Magazines
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;  AS - Ann Stapleton; ST - Sarah Tarkington; TW - Toby Warner

August 2004

The American Scholar

Volume 73 Number 3

Summer 2004

The American Scholar deserves applause for providing a loving home for the personal essay, a wonderfully egalitarian and pliant form that adjusts itself to any voice or subject matter, however refined or rough-hewn, fact-enamored or fanciful. In this issue, James Joyce lovers will find much to rejoice about in Sam Anderson’s “Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Joyce,” a boisterous, language-soused co-romp through Joyce’s (yep, it’s still his!) Dublin and Anderson’s (exhilarating/tortured) reading of Ulysses (“Why does he write, in a work of fiction, a parody of the historical development of English prose style? What had I done to upset him?”). Lydia Davis shares her technique for really learning Spanish in “Reading Aventuras de Tom Sawyer.” Hint: no dictionary is involved. Ben Yagoda’s “Heavy Meta” is an enjoyable riff on pop music’s self-referential qualities, both reflexive (James Taylor’s “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On the Jukebox,” or “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees”) and intertextual, meaning that the lyrics mention other songs or singers (the Boss’s “Roy Orbison sang for the lonely” or the Dixie Chicks’ country song about country music “Long Time Gone”: “Now they sound tired but they don’t sound Haggard / They’ve got money but they don’t have Cash. / They got Junior but they don’t have Hank”). [“I thank, I thank, I thank!”] A shout out for The American Scholar, ever curious (about everything), always leaving a light on for the individual voice. (One last hint: animal lovers may want to skip the poem “Live Lobster Sashimi.”) [The American Scholar, The Phi Beta Kappa Society, 1606 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009. E-mail: Single issue $9.] – AS


Atlanta Review

Volume 10 Number 2

Spring/Summer 2004

This summer the Olympics go home to Greece, and so does Atlanta Review in a “special commemorative issue for the Athens Summer Games, 2004” with a remarkable Greece Feature Section edited by formalist poet and Greek translator Alicia Stallings (Archaic Smile). Rachel Hadas’ lines from “Modern Greek 101” could well describe all the poems here: “These phrases, once lodged in your memory, / Will help you find your way, I guarantee…” A Special Feature Section includes the uncharacteristically somber and affecting “Bereft,” by Billy Collins: “I liked listening to you today at lunch / as you talked about the dead, / the lucky dead you called them, / …no more railway tickets in an inside pocket, / no more railway, no more tickets, no more pockets…” Though diversity (of form and subject) reigns here, Atlanta Review poems have commonalities. They have hearts and souls and aren’t embarrassed by that. They don’t conceal their complexity in the pretense that being alive is a minimalist experience. They respect language by continually asking of it the impossible, yet are accessible enough to speak to anyone with human DNA. And they remember that, though poems may be created in solitude, implicit in any poem’s existence is (somewhere out there) a reader, standing off in the distance of his own life, listening for something he can use, in whatever way he will. These poems know that words “have to be hammered in like nails. // If they’re not to be lost in the wind.” (“Poetics,” by Manolis Anagnostakis, translated. by David Connolly.) At just six dollars (only ten for a year’s subscription), Atlanta Review is a ticket to Greece no poetry lover can afford to pass up. [Atlanta Review, P.O. Box 8248, Atlanta, GA 31106. E-mail: Single issue $6.] – AS


Denver Quarterly

Volume 38 Number 4


Guest edited by writer Paul Maliszewski, this issue of Denver Quarterly is comprised entirely of brazen prose (the contents page does not distinguish fiction from non) that is often whimsically digressive, sometimes obtuse, but always daring. Purely for the provocative nature of its title, my reading began with Scott Bradfield’s essay, “Why I Hate Toni Morrison’s Beloved.” Starting out as a wonderfully fresh and funny duelist’s slap to the superlative-spattered face of western literature as it’s taught in the universities, the piece winds down to a moving, even beautiful consideration of the deeply personal wonder that reading is: “[Books] are, by their very nature, transitory experiences, much like our lives, and we shouldn’t judge them, or be judged by them. We should only live with them, much the same way as we live with one another.” This issue also contains some notable short fiction, such as Hasanthika Sirisena’s mournful tale of a sickly D.H. Lawrence alienated from his homeland and clumsily seeking respite in Ceylon, and Michael Mejia’s vivid, sometimes surreal story of a Jewish composer, Anton von Webern, trying to find his way in WWII Europe. Stacey Levine’s story “The Cat” is also remarkable for the metaphysical poetics with which it renders the unraveling psyche of a lonely woman confined in her urban existence. Denver Quarterly makes for a fine read. [Denver Quarterly, University of Denver, Denver, CO 80208. E-mail: Single issue $6.] - MC


The Evansville Review

Volume XIII


This issue of the eclectic and elegant Review features a refreshingly low key interview with poet X. J. Kennedy, master of form and rhyme, who brokers his own peace with the free verse-new formalism feud: “I honestly don’t have a favorite form. Because between you and me, I don’t give a damn about ‘form.’ Form without passionate words is nothing, it’s worthless. All that matters is that, as you put together words that you care about, they emerge into something that you want to say.” For more on his work, see A. E. Stallings’ clever consideration of The Lords of Misrule. All the reviews here are topnotch and, from within the snug room of a close reading, frequently manage to direct the reader’s gaze toward the window and the larger questions of life beyond it. Some of the poems (Rita Dove’s powerful “Persephone, Falling”) hold up candles from the past to illuminate our lives now. Others take human love as their field of study, as in Walt McDonald’s tender and moving “Dusk at Kill Devil Falls” and Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Supple Cord,” the length of cord she and her brother, as children in separate beds, held onto at night: “When he fell asleep first / and the cord dropped / to the floor, / I missed him terribly, / though I could hear his even breath / and we had such long and separate lives / ahead.” Also included are fine verse translations by Ralph Angel, Dana Gioia, and Marilyn Hacker. [The Evansville Review, c/o English Dept., University of Evansville, 1800 Lincoln Avenue, Evansville, IN, 47722. Single issue $5.] – AS



Number 15

Spring 2004

Occasionally I am provoked to mourn the insular, sometimes elite world of our nation’s literary magazines. A few of these journals are so wonderful, and contain such living work, that it seems a terrific travesty for them to remain unknown by the general reading public. If the spring issue is any indication, Inkwell is one such journal. The short stories presented here are vibrant and heartfelt, marvelously free of the stodgy, cerebral, or even aggressively explicit tone that often renders lit mags culturally peripheral—and yet the Inkwell editors do not shy away from the stylistic goading which inarguably ought to remain a cultural imperative of literary journals: instead, they offer several daring, inventive, but (importantly) never myopic pieces for good measure. “A Western State” by Linda Brewer epitomizes the vital, unempirical quality I’m referring to, telling in sincere, emotive prose the story of an aging couple choosing their approach to senescence—he, it turns out, through long-distance running, she through more melancholy reflection on the cancer within her and her shifting relation to her newly-athletic husband. Daniel Alarcon’s “Darkness” is completely absorbing in its first-person realism, and yet treads bravely into a shiftier prose exploring the blurry metaphysical lines dividing vision, existence, and memory. A Take-Out Taxi driver lost in grief over his deceased sister becomes obsessed with the ways of a blind couple to whose house he makes deliveries. “. . .what I know are the simple, necessary rhythms of their lives: that when he takes the pen from the drawer to write my check, he puts it right back, immediately—so that the dark won’t swallow it, so it won’t disappear.” Peter Orner’s brief piece “Reach,” about a blind man’s former secretary remembering her employer’s hunger for tenderness, is perhaps the most directly stylized in this issue, but is at every point expertly tempered, capturing the bittersweet synapse-flashes of possibility indulged or ignored by us each moment. And there are still six other short stories here, not to mention 17 poems. Inkwell deserves the kind of ubiquity enjoyed by The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly, deserves to be laid proudly on coffee tables everywhere. [Inkwell, Manhattanville College, 2900 Purchase St, Purchase, NY 10577. E-mail: Single issue $8.] – MC



Issue 2.1

Spring/Summer 2004

isotope, Utah State’s journal of literary nature and science writing, is not content with the usual dichotomy between wonder and funeral song that characterizes our discourse on the environment, but strikes out fearlessly across new (and ancient) terrain with a backpack full of ceaseless questions and a full canteen of inspiration. If the world is preserved by acts of attention, local or cosmic (from Lilace Mellin Guignard’s “dead bee in a shaft of sunlight” to Douglas Schnitzspahn’s description of “the Andromeda galaxy, a spiral island of stars [ . . . ] too distant to properly comprehend”), isotope demonstrates that seeing clearly is our best defense against extinction in all its forms. In Sandra Kohler’s “Mesa Verde,” a mother, against the backdrop of a vanished civilization, grapples with the everyday mystery of her child’s vanishing into his own becoming. Contemplation of a crab leads Mary Crow to speculate on a less knowable species: the human being. And Scott Minar, in a rough terrain, rounds up strayed elements of his own character. Staking out the territory between the facts of the natural world and the human imaginations inspired by them, isotope’s unique dual vision reminds us that the telescope, moving, as John Q. McDonald writes, “with ungainly precision and surreal silence,” is an artifact of human longing no less than Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and that a poem is capable of preserving a periwinkle (see Carla Panciera’s wonderful “Plum Island and Back”) as well as any museum of natural history can. [isotope, Utah State University, English Department, 3200 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-3200. Single issue $5.] – AS



“Perspectives on Aging: I Am Still Learning”

Number 48

Winter/Spring 2004

Dedicated to “exploring the experience of disability through literature and the fine arts,” Kaleidoscope subverts the usual categories of “normal” and “disabled” by bringing the reader inside the phenomenon of disability as it affects the life of one (normal) person at a time. Elizabeth Cohen’s “The Beginning of Memory,” an excerpt from The Family on Beartown Road, is the beautifully realized memoir of a single mother simultaneously caring for a daughter just beginning her life and a father being drawn inexorably toward the unhappy ending of Alzheimer’s: “Learning and forgetting are not so different, really. There is a pattern to the way they happen. In both there is powerful emotion, the sense of recognition, the sense of loss.” Gail Willmott offers a heartening piece on Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton, whose venture into painting at the age of sixty-eight brought an end to forty years of unremitting depression. And Erika Lutz’s Mishpocheh (family) is an intricate exploration of how, miraculously, human beings hold on to one another, despite the world’s attempts to make us let go. As you read Kaleidoscope, assumptions and too-easy labeling fall away, and you come to the understanding that everyone is disabled to one degree or another (sometimes in ways you can’t see), and that everyone you meet, subject to gravity and ending, is struggling in his own way against pain and loss, is hoping love and joy will find him somehow, small as he is, somewhere on Earth. [Kaleidoscope Magazine, c/o United Disability Services, 701 South Main St., Akron, OH 44311-1019. E-mail: Single issue $6.] – AS


Louisiana Literature

Fall/Winter 2003

One of the most attractive journals I’ve seen in a great while, Louisiana Literature gets straight to the point – delivering prize-winning poetry in a range of styles, a nice helping of short fiction, and a few critical essays and reviews – all in a lovely, understated layout. Among the fiction here, I was most enthralled by Thomas Cain’s “Let This New Disaster Come,” a piece barely longer than five pages, which with great lyrical economy renders to stunning effect the mid-life quagmire of a cuckolded mechanic. All the blue-collar clichés come to bear in this tale, and yet they are handled with such emotional precision that the reader forgets she’s been audience to these events before. Also notable is “A Handful of Leaves” by Katie Bowler, in which a young boy comes of age by saving money to visit the local prostitute, not to buy her usual services, but to photograph her house for a social studies exhibit. The forty-five poems on offer are of a varied character, though most operate on a refreshing linear attack, opting to steer clear of the precarious poetic subtlety which, in the lit mag world, occasionally teeters into inscrutable modern-ness. Dale M. Kushner’s “Surrender” has some beautiful moments: “Late afternoon, into winter / doves stud the dusk, surrendering / what is left of their blue-notes / to the belled air.” [Louisiana Literature, SLU-10792, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA, 70402. E-mail: Single issue $8.] - MC



Volume 5 Issue 2


Because nothing ruins art like an admirable cause, I was initially wary of Mizna, “a forum promoting Arab American culture that values diversity in the Arab community.” To my delight, however, the journal succeeds at a literary level, with an unusual and exhilarating variety of tone – grave, plucky, analytical and sanguine. In one story, a midwife “sat on the edge of the bed and listened to the absence of shrill, dissatisfied cries...” An essayist writes, “I’ve come to the decision that I don’t much care to be an Arab anymore...” Also among the offerings: a piece on belly dancing and stereotypical representations of Arabic womanhood; an account of the locust invasion in Lebanon, 1914; a eulogy to an American woman killed by an Israeli bulldozer demolishing a Palestinian home. One audacious contemplation of 9/11 suggests that the twin towers (“whose lights alone illuminated the Manhattan sky and drowned out nature’s light”) were perhaps “meant to go.” Some readers will be offended – or at least made queasy. But then, litmags, bless ‘em, aren’t for those afraid of the dark. [Mizna, P.O. Box 14294, Minneapolis, MN 55414. E-mail: Single issue $6.] – LKB


Modern Haiku

Volume 35 Number 2

Summer 2004

Who’s there?
Hike who?
No, tanka.*

Chances are, if you read this and though, “Huh?” you’re not quite ready for Modern Haiku: An Independent Study of Haiku and Haiku Studies, but don’t despair. This publication is for those who know better than to whittle Haiku down to syllabic line counts, as well as for those who aspire to know better. To that end, my favorite piece in this issue was “Disjunction in Contemporary English-language Haiku” in which Richard Gilbert explores haiku compositional style in the context of historical standards (the use of shasei), the incorporation of disjunction in poetic styles other than haiku, and the definition of and application of juxtaposition: “Disjunction, as intended, serves to indicate a poetic process happening in the reader’s consciousness – disjunction is motile: it has no fixed point of realization. Disjunctions appear and fall away, alternately reveal and hide themselves, depending upon the moment of reading.” This is the kind of stuff haiku/poetic folk ooh and aah over, while others simply tsk and roll their eyes. Also of note among the essays here, Hiroaki Sato’s “Women in Japanese Haiku” from which I now feel I have been properly and gratefully schooled on the subject. Not only accessible essays, this journal is also completely packed to the gills with poetry and more – haiku and senryu, haibun, haiku awards, submissions and reviews. For the novice to the expert, Modern Haiku is truly the breadth and the depth of the poetic subject. Highly recommended for teachers of college poetry! [Modern Haiku, PO Box 68, Lincoln, IL 62656. E-mail: Single issue $8.] – DH

*Knock Knock joke courtesy of C. Hill who was up too late when he came up with this one.


Natural Bridge

Number 11

Spring 2004

Natural Bridge always has substantial offerings, but this issue has some stunners: Alice Ayers’ short story, “Barney,” is a gorgeous second-person evocation to a man about to submerge a profound part of himself in marriage to a woman whose maidenly abode featured lace doilies and was “so pointedly virginal it obviously covered something.” Amy Hassinger’s “Light the Light” is another strong portrayal of a hidden interior, and Kirsten Smith’s “Divorce Poem” succeeds with a brilliant use of a simple metaphor. Natural Bridge complements its “traditional miscellany” with guest editors, special themes and an occasional focus on a particular form (essays, long poems and, currently, short stories). As with most journals, spontaneous themes can present themselves in the mix. Indeed, some of the Spring 2004 issue’s works (“Silent Theology,” “Rusted Nails,” “Shriners,” “Easter Apology” and “Passing for Mormon”) reflect a curiosity about the ways individuals grapple with religion as a pervasive element in American life. Whatever the parameters, Natural Bridge is always a rewarding combination of the weighty and the whimsical, a literary encounter worth pursuing. [Natural Bridge, Department of English, University of Missouri-St. Louis, 8001 Natural Bridge Road, St. Louis, MO 63121. E-mail: Single issue $8.] - LKB


One Story

18 Issues per year

To review this publication for the first time is to tell as much about the concept as the content. One Story is a 4x6 literary magazine, published every three weeks, that contains only one story. The creators believe that stories are best read alone – not to dilute the experience of one story with other works or to emotionally exhaust the reader with story after story. To that end, they have been successful. I can honestly say it’s exciting to see the envelope from One Story arrive. The effect of stories being rationed in a time of cultural excess and saturation is surprisingly satisfying. I find myself reading more slowly and more carefully considering the story as a stand alone whole – the way it was created. And the stories are, as promised, amazing. Of the issues I have read thus far, none have been duds. “The Duck and the Dust Eye Decision” by Shahan Sanossian (#37) is delightful in its strangeness of characters, with dialogue and dialect so precise it seems to echo in the room as I read; “The Tennis Partner” by Alix Ohlin (#38) skillfully examines the complexity of relationships delivered over the net; and my favorite thus far, “Letters in the Snow” by Melanie Rae Thon, which builds as one puzzle piece interlocking with the next as each page turns, the final picture an eerie resolution which both saddens and relieves. One Story is indeed a literary treat we each deserve to give ourselves, and an ideal gift for readers on your list. [One Story, PO Box 1326 New York, NY 10156. E-mail: Subscription only $21/year.] – DH


Ontario Review

Number 60

Spring/Summer 2004

At the heart of this issue is fine work from photojournalist Jill Krementz’s “Literary Encounters” series, featuring pairings of literary icons, including my favorite: Reynolds Price and Eudora Welty, grinning at each other from opposite sides of what appears to be a bed. Thanks to Virgil Suarez for the unforgettable thought of circus nuns “offering spiritual grounding” to the “alligator man, bearded lady,” and “boy who is all head” as they fall through the world with the smallest of ease. In David Wagoner’s “The Escaped Gorilla,” we see how much more poignant is the predicament of wildness when, out of weariness and at too far a remove from what it was meant to be to ever bridge the distance, it becomes complicit in our need to vanquish it: “They found him hiding behind the holly hedge / By the zoo office where he waited for someone / To take him by the hand and walk with him / Around two corners and along a pathway / Through the one door that wasn’t supposed to be open / And back to the oblong place with the hard sky.” Unlike the gorilla, the characters in Ontario Review stories–the fallen and dispossessed, ghosts living and dead–are yearners and fighters to the end, uncomfortable in the world and with what circumstance demands of them, but unaccountably true to their own yearning for something more, no matter how imperfectly imagined it might be. Ontario Review has a soft spot for bravery in the attempt. [Ontario Review, 9 Honey Brook DR, Princeton, NJ 08540. Single issue $8.] – AS


PEN America

Issue 5 Volume 3

With a few small exceptions, PEN America, the annual journal published by PEN American Center, is peopled with the work of world-famous or much-published writers, both contemporary and posthumous. Here you’ll find such familiar names as Samuel Beckett, Edward Albee, Susan Sontag, Wallace Stevens, Rick Moody, and Rainer Maria Rilke. So if you read lit mags with an eye for the never-before-published or emerging writer, this is not the best place to turn. However, if you seek a veritable anthology of provocative, scholarly, often experimental work, you couldn’t get a more comprehensive codex for your buck. A perusal of PEN America is like a reacquaintance with all those great voices who made you want to be a reader (and maybe a writer) in the first place. It’s a bound celebration of literature both cross-cultural and cross-generational. One exception to this issue’s roster of famous contributors is an unknown writer named Gary Farlow, whose brilliant short story “The Prison” wins a coveted four pages of space amidst the journal’s distinguished pantheon. The tale of an escaped prisoner who finds himself unpursued and at the mercy of another sort of prison vaster in nature than he could have imagined, it is written by an interned wordsmith from a correctional facility in North Carolina. [PEN America, c/o PEN American Center, 568 Broadway, Suite 401, New York, NY 10012. E-mail: Single issue $10.] – MC


Plains Song Review

Volume 6

Spring 2004

It’s easier, of course, to define the physical boundaries of an enormous space like the Great Plains than to come to an understanding of its essence, the unwalkable borderland where place meets person, where the geography of a region becomes home to a human heart. Like farming, the work is difficult and risky and never-ending. But Plains Song Review, with its writers from a landscape two parts belonging and one part longing, whose heritage is the wind and the grass blowing as much as it is the farmland, is up to the task. Melissa Tubbs’ poem “Oil Change” mourns a still strong-spirited, physically failing grandfather, “climbing the bars of his bed” to get back to the land that made him. And in Bonnie Crumly-Fastring’s “He Disks,” each night a father ascends from his nursing home bed, “flies, like a feathered thing, / out to his farm.” But the voices here are less similar than you might expect. Gerald Shapiro (From Hunger, Bad Jews), in an interview, says that he writes “about a place in the head which is Kansas City as a person who is out of place in Kansas City would imagine it.” J. Lynn Batten’s artwork, featured on the cover and throughout, incorporates photos, drawings, and letters in forms that seem both antique and still here, held onto and reimagined. Plains Song Review is back-of-your-own-hand familiar and as beautifully strange as the land that, for nothing less than love, it means to render into words. [Plains Song Review, Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska, 1155 Q Street, P.O. Box 880214, Lincoln, NE 68588-0214. E-mail: Single issue $7.] – AS



Issue Number 21

Volume 10 Number 1

Summer 2004

This issue of Rattle contains a tribute to Vietnamese poets, enlightening conversations with poets Li-Young Lee and Naomi Shihab Nye (in which editor Alan Fox seems less interested in hearing his own opinions than in genuinely listening to theirs), Jessica Goeller’s funny and wise essay on writing with an infant daughter balanced on one arm (the miracle: it works better!), and “Fine,” Jack Grapes’ wonderfully tender-gruff piece on father-son love. But the bulk of the work here, and obviously the love of this magazine’s life, is poetry and nothing but, covering the distance from page fifteen to page ninety-two. Chris Green’s “My Brother Buries his Dog” and Angelo Verga’s “My Father Loves Me, He Loves Me, He Gets Down on His Knees and Hugs Me,” both about the messiness and the transcendence of love, are only two among many poems here characterized by the generosity of their attention and the hard won intelligence of their hearts. Refreshingly, few of the Contributor Notes (here a mini art form in themselves) mention publication credits, but instead attempt to address the question of why one writes. Stephanie Lenox: “I write poems because I am neither brawny enough to be a fire fighter nor honest enough to be a minister. Through poetry, I hope to save myself and perhaps rescue a few blazing moments along the way.” Rattle goes back in for those moments, again and again, as if someone’s life were at stake, which, in good poems, it somehow always is. [Rattle, 12411 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604. E-mail: Single issue $8.] – AS


Southern Indiana Review

Volume 11 Number 1

Spring 2004

Southern Indiana Review has an explicit “mission to publish a cross-section of new and established artists from the Midwest.” Released bi-annually by the University of Southern Indiana, SIR is an attractive, highly readable journal featuring just about everything except book reviews – here you’ll find poetry, fiction, nonfiction, interviews, art, and photography. And the contents of the spring issue prove that the journal is true to its hope of “celebrating works that convey the character of [the Midwest],” while managing to steer clear of anything resembling provincialism.  The two personal essays here are both about living in Indiana, but with roots dug firmly into Place, each takes on large and universal themes. Melanie Culbertson’s short story, “The Deception of Stars” is an unsettling account of an astronomer’s beloved wife slowly succumbing to paranoid schizophrenia, the woman’s terrible descent set artfully against the motif of the ever-changing night sky. Also offered are some lovely short poems, many elegiac or musically somber. Sample this stunning poem by Suzanne Hancock, entitled “After the Party”: “Sometimes the world hangs quietly. / Across the wild lawn, guests / have disappeared, / as if it is only night they need / and not this wooden porch, / these four rooms. / And eventually everything leaves. / Haystacks. Plums. / The deaf family dog. / And this is how I prepare. / This is how I ready myself.” [Southern Indiana Review, School of Liberal Arts, University of Southern Indiana, 8600 University Blvd, Evansville, IN 47712. E-mail: Single issue $10.] – MC