The NewPages
 Literary Magazine Reviews

Posted Jan 16, 2005
[reviews in alphabetical order by title]

The Allegheny Review

A National Journal of Undergraduate Literature

Volume 22

2004

What comes to mind when you think of undergraduate writing? Overwriting? Sentimentality? Fuzzy thinking? Certainly I had my doubts when I cracked open the cover of Allegheny Review, an annual devoted to the work of undergraduates. Yet, although I found one or two examples of overwriting, I was pleased to find my doubts largely ungrounded. The writing in Allegheny is clear—so refreshingly clear that some of our more mature poets could take a lesson. A stark sonnet on a woman’s abortion blows any notion of sentimentality out of the water. Allegheny bestows an annual poetry award, this year honoring Ingrid Moody, represented in this volume with five graceful and understated poems worthy of publication in any poetry journal. A few fiction selections round out this issue. Though they seem less strong than the poetry, there are some moments in them that shine, such as Camron Terwilliger’s description of the title character from his award-winning story “Lighthouse Keeper”: “He set aside his yolk-stained dish, and began to whistle low plaintive notes, his sallow cheeks bulging like sails.” A subscription to Allegheny would make a welcome and satisfying gift to an undergraduate with a passion for writing. [The Allegheny Review, Box 32, Allegheny College, Meadville, PA 16335. E-mail: review@allegheny.edu. Single issue $4. http://review.allegheny.edu.] – DM

 

Alligator Juniper

Number 9

2004

Contributors' notes and their remarks take up fourteen pages and while writers' comments can enrich the work or detract from it, these comments are both useful and interesting. This is especially true for the poetry, extraordinary work by fourteen gifted poets, including student prize winner Kat Darling. There is much variety here, work that ranges from lyrical to edgy, all of it strong and original. In his remarks, James Jay lets us know that his poem was inspired by a 19th century Muslim poet from India, a poet whose confidence he humbly professes to envy, though "Today Let's Call Ourselves Gahlib," is the work of a poet who deserves to have confidence in himself: "Ghalib, dig up that cougar your father / buried at the beginning of summer. / He wants to teach you about biology. Go find that corpse, // less cleanly picked / than his science / had hoped…" I must single out poems by Jendi Reiter, Christina Hutchins, and Richard Kenefic, too, although there isn't a poem in this issue I would want any reader to miss. Michael Petracca's essay, "Plover Mind," about his work in the Snowy Plover Docent Program in California, is marvelous, part science lesson, part personal essay, part primer on haiku. [Alligator Juniper, Prescott College, 220 Grove Avenue, Prescott, AZ 86301. E-mail: aj@prescott.edu. Single issue $7.50. www.prescott.edu/highlights/alligator_junper.] - SR

 

At Length

Issue 4

Summer 2004

As numerous literary magazines are focusing on flash-fiction and other short writing forms, At Length stands out as the only magazine I know of devoted entirely to long form work. Each issue features a long story or novella and a long poem. The story, “Small Mercies,” in this issue is by Tim Winton, whom I’m informed has “won every major award in Australia.” Frankly, at only 28 pages, it was not as long as I would have imagined, which is no problem since the story is great. It revolves around a man moving back to his hometown with his son after his wife’s suicide and manages to end in an unexpected direction. This particular issue also features a series of minimalist sketches by William Cordova titled “BADUSSY,” which I thought were excellent. I’ve never found poetry to work very well in long form, but Anne Winters’ narrative poem “An Immigrant Woman” held my interest till the end. [At Length, PO Box 594, New York NY, 10185. E-mail: info@atlengthmag.com. Single issue $5. www.atlengthmag.com/] – LM

 

The Bitter Oleander

Volume 10 Number 2

2004

This journal is always unpredictable and sometimes even startling. Editor Paul B. Roth promises to free us from "enslavement to the usual and expected" and the unexpected is certainly one of The Bitter Oleander's trademarks. "The fish arrived in my dresser drawer, / swathed in socks, its eyes calm as a desert."—a poem by Katherine Sanchez Espano opens the issue. This fish has something to say, of course: "I open its mouth and see pictures / of a lost Ticuman woman / who looks like me.” "The Fish" is representative of the issue as a whole: powerful work that means to change the way we think about the world around us or, at the very least, to change the way we read. The centerpiece of the issue is a series of poems by six Mexican poets, along with their "ars poetica." While I would like to have seen the Spanish (marvelous poems by Casimiro de Brito are also presented here both in Portuguese and in translation), for the most part, the translations are fluid and sensitive. I didn't stumble, wondering what the original might have been. I wish I could retype every one of these poems here, as whatever I will say is insufficient to convey the range, depth, and strength of this work. "Poetry shatters your mouth" Martin Camps reminds us in his poem, "Persistence of Water." And so it does. [The Bitter Oleander, 4983 Tall Oaks Drive, Fayetteville, New York 13066-9776. E-mail: info@bitteroleander.com. Single issue $8. www.bitteroleander.com] – SR

 

Carve

Number 3

Summer 2004

Carve is a slim volume featuring the work of six poets, five of whom hail from Massachusetts, the journal’s former home base. One of the six poets presents “A Birthday Acrostic for Mark Lamoureux,” Lamoureux being a contributor in Carve’s first issue. On the title page interested poets are requested to “please inquire before submitting.” It all lends a certain air of clubbiness to this volume. Still, that sense should not deter anyone from picking up a copy of Carve. These six are masterful poets, pushing language to work in new ways. The poems are oblique enough to maintain interest and challenge, but not so obscure as to alienate. Jess Mynes, in the poem “in West Virginia, in 1938” asks, “suppose it foretells / a multitude / of kissing? / hope is too like despair / accustomed to the open throat / for sorrow is so often a tidy / secret.” In “M,” from a series entitled “Threnodies,” Christopher Rizzo engages in terrific sound play. “Once by the Pacific, Maud cherished / the sea she saw new eyed. An undulation / cryptic, lit glittery and gulls / were prows, proud and crowded in element.” You may not have the special knock to gain entry into this club, but the curtains are pulled back at the window. Take a peek at this elite class of poets. [Carve, 221 W. Lincoln, #2, Ithaca, NY 14850. E-mail: carvepoems@yahoo.com. Single issue $5. www.fishblog.blogspot.com] – DM

 

Crazyhorse

Number 66

Fall 2004

Crazyhorse is one of the older American literary magazines, this being its 45th year, and it is nice to see the magazine still willing to publish writing that takes risks. While inevitably some of these fail, there is plenty of material here for the cost. One story that did work was Stephen Tuttle’s “The Funambulist,” which deals with how a town mythologizes the suicide of one of its members: “Our teenagers were not there the day the man walked into and then off our tallest building, but they know people who were. They have all the details.” Eerie and intriguing. Overall, the poetry outweighs the fiction in this issue. Highlights include three beautiful poems from Romanian poet Liliana Ursu (in both English and Romanian) and another three by James Tate, who once again highly impressed me. [Crazyhorse, Department of English, College of Charleston, 66 George St., Charleston, SC 29424. E-mail: crazyhorse@cofc.edu. Single issue $8.50. http://crazyhorse.cofc.edu//] – LM

 

First Intensity

A Magazine of New Writing

Number 18

2003

What to say about this journal? There’s so much to like among the fiction, from Lucy Bucknell’s Kafkaesque “Vanishing Act” to Sean Mclain Brown’s exquisite short shorts. And Carol Moldaw’s sequential poem “Anastylosis” is a joy to read. Unfortunately, for me, too much of the poetry in First Intensity sounds like these opening lines from the first poem: “would begin anywhere, wouldn’t you, as if there / was still there, and you / still yourself in this phenomenological drift to- // wards some all-but- / il- // lusory absolution.” If you like this kind of writing—and many people do—you’ll be very happy with this journal. But if you’re like me, chafing under the burdens imposed by this style, you’ll grow frustrated searching for the gems of clarity. There’s no doubt that First Intensity is an excellent journal. It simply isn’t an excellent journal for me. [First Intensity, P.O. Box 665, Lawrence, KS 66044. E-mail: leechapman@aol.com. Single issue $14. www.firstintensity.com/] – DM

 

Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly

Volume 5 Number 3

2004

Editor Judith P. Stelboum ponders the purpose of a journal "devoted solely to lesbian writing" and concludes that "though some of us are still individually invisible, we must never be culturally invisible." Here are six stories, a half-dozen poems, and some artwork to keep the images and stories of lesbians not only visible, but vivid. The strongest work this issue is a seductive piece of short fiction by Jane Eklund, "The Story So Far." Eklund knows how to exploit the story-inside-a-story convention to its fullest, seducing us even as we might resist (oh, no, not another older woman/younger woman/-experienced writer/novice-met in an academic setting-is this love or idol worship plot). I tried to resist, frankly, but Eklund won me over with her clever prose: "Then, under her intense scrutiny, I couldn't remember if I was ascending or descending the ladder." Laure Close's "Extreme Art"—paintings, web site graphics, sketches, and metal sculpture—are especially interesting for their variety in tone and approach, from uplifting and ethereal to tense and fiery. Jennifer Wagley's "Open Dyke" pokes clever fun at some of the idiosyncratic aspects of "lesbian culture" (culture as in social norms and environment), and Kathie Bergquist's story, "Still, Life," is, like its title, an example of how complex simple prose can be. [Harrington Lesbian Fiction Quarterly, 10 Alice Street, Binghamton, NY 13904-1580. www.HaworthPress.com] – SR

 

The Hudson Review

Volume 57 Number 3

Autumn 2004

This issue begins, appropriately, with a tribute to founding editor Frederick Morgan (1922-2004). In an interview with board member Michael Peich, Morgan's description of the journal couldn't be more apt: "ongoing intellectual companionship." In this issue we are extremely well accompanied by an admirable, ambitious, and utterly readable historical "verse novel" by David Mason, a poetic narrative (a fictive poetry) based on the Ludlow mine massacre of 1914 in Colorado (unlike many large "projects," this piece is as satisfying to read as it must have been to write); a masterfully crafted and beautifully disturbing story by Julie Keith, about the emotional abuse of a young girl and best of all, clever, biting reviews of poetry by Robert Phillips (one of the most intelligent, honest, and entertaining sets of reviews I have ever read), and Robert McDowell's brilliant review of J. Edward Chamberlain's If This is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories—an assessment so convincing I immediately sought out the book. If you are looking for intellectual companionship in the form of serious reading, authoritative voices, and strong, well articulated opinions, this issue is essential. [Hudson Review, 684 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021. Single issue $9. www.hudsonreview.com] – SR

 

Image

Art, Faith, Mystery

Number 43

Fall 2004

This issue of Image–a journal that seeks to explore the relationship between culture and (typically) Judeo-Christian conceptions of God, and does so in a consistently thoughtful manner–is notable once again for its intelligent interrogations of received ideas about religion. Editor Gregory Wolfe begins with a short essay in which he reminds readers that “[f]aith is openness to divine mystery, an openness that requires humility and a vivid awareness of the fragility and contingency of our human formulations. What critics [...] glibly characterize as faith is really ideology.” As Wolfe contends, it’s vital, in a world that seems to be splitting itself into two radically opposed ideological camps, to bear in mind this distinction. Wolfe also has praise for Christian groups that “move [...] discourse away from mere apologetics into probing reflections.” Many such reflections are to be found here, from fiction by K. Alexander Cooper featuring a stripping Baptist preacher struggling to lead his congregation and himself to a higher level of understanding, to poetry by Nicolas Samaras, Christine Perrian and others that proves “religious” poems do not inevitably contain majestic mountains bathed in holy light. Hearkening back to Flannery O’Connor’s essays on writing and religion (and quoting from them) is Bret Lott’s “Why Have We Given Up the Ghost?” and if that weren’t enough, there’s also a piece by Ron Austin called “Christians in Hollywood.” I was most delighted to see two long, incisive essays about the fabulous artwork run in this issue; so often the most one can count on in a literary magazine is an artist’s statement. While overall this journal has a few too many references to the Bible, Jesus as Savior, and prayer for someone who prefers her spirituality couched in different metaphors, I still found much that spoke to me, and anyone interested in reconciling a devout Christian faith with the pursuit of art and literature will find this journal, and this issue, a gem. [Image, 3307 Third Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119. E-mail: image@imagejournal.org. Single issue $10. www.imagejournal.org] – KL

 

The New York Quarterly

Number 60

2004

You gotta love a journal that covers such a broad range of poetic styles. New York Quarterly has all the bases covers: Traditional sonnet? Check. Prose poem? Check. Bukowski poem? Stand-up poem? Found poem? Check, check, check. There’s a somewhat rambling essay on the status of poetry today, but more enjoyable is the interview with poet Gary Goude about the nuts and bolts of writing poetry. Goude’s poem “Do You Consider” stands out among all the fine writing in this issue, with its deadpan approach to the disposal of dead bodies. He considers burial and cremation, then concedes that “There are other ways / the shark / the jackal / flies / maggots. / You will not / be wasted.” New York Quarterly is difficult to characterize since it is so eclectic in its approach. Perhaps “a sampler” is the best way to describe it—but a sampler of only the very best. [The New York Quarterly, P.O. Box 693, Old Chelsea Station, New York, NY 10113. E-mail: info@nyquarterly.com. Single issue $8. www.nyquarterly.com/] – DM

 

Room of One’s Own

Volume 27 Number 3

2004

This issue of Room–a quarterly out of Vancouver published since 1975 by, for and about women, with stories, poetry and reviews chosen by an editorial collective–makes scars its central metaphor. As editor Lana Okerlund notes, “many synonyms for scar are negative: imperfection, blemish, disfigurement. But, in life, as in many of the stories, poetry and artworks in this issue, scars are more paradoxical than these synonyms imply.” Scars, at least as Room envisions them, are signs of change and healing, and any woman who has been less than comfortable with her bodily “imperfections” (i.e. all of us) will appreciate the insights offered here. Notable is a series of “artifact” poems by Michelin Maylor, among them “short blue dress / Rough in texture / Let out for maternity” and one “good ring / Five small diamonds / Approx. 1/4 carat per / Platinum band,” as well as “purposely not-flattering” self-portraits by Adrienne Trager that are meant to “reflect the discrepancy between the way that I perceive myself, and the actual shape I take.” Also stunning is the cover image, “Bound,” by Stephanie A. Bush, a work that seeks to express “containment and confinement of the female form” simultaneously. The fiction in this issue is likewise to be applauded, with pieces that range from the tale of a woman about to undergo surgery to remove excess skin after radical weight loss, to a young wife attempting to deal with an unpredictable oven, an equally unpredictable elderly neighbor, and her own off-kilter mental state, to the eerie self-flagellations of a half-crazed nun. Overall, another excellent installment of quality art and writing by women. [Room of One’s Own, PO Box 46160, Station D, Vancouver, BC, V6J 5G5. E-mail: contactus@roommagazine.com. Single issue $9 (Canadian). www.roommagazine.com] – KL

 

Salmagundi

Numbers 144-145

Fall 2004-Winter 2005

Big names and big reputations here, as always: Nadine Gordimer, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Howard, Chase Twichell, Honor Moore, C.K. Williams. Take this issue along if you're planning a long plane ride or a day of waiting somewhere, you won't run out of reading material and you'll be able to escape whatever drudgery surrounds you. The work here is dense, solid, and serious. Gordimer's story, "Alleserlorenn," is not to be missed. It is representative of her understated style and a fine study of the psychology of grief. There are twenty gorgeous (serious, even solemn) poems nothing superfluous, nothing "occasional," nothing experimental. The "Memoirs and Letters" section is especially intriguing. Williams' "Letter to a German Friend," seems not merely timely, but necessary: "…we dwell on that demented time [the Holocaust] of death not because it allows us to imagine ourselves morally superior to anyone else—that would be something like a pornography of dread—but because we still live in a world in which there is always somewhere in effect a violent symbolic loathing of one sort of another…" Michael Blumenthal's "Letter to a Psychoanalyst" is a curious blend of personal observation and academic discourse. The shrink whose narcissism has done Blumenthal a "disservice" may or not be a generic psychoanalyst, but anyone who has ever mis-spent a dime on therapy will appreciate his provocative critique of the psychoanalytic process. [Salmagundi, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. E-mail: salmagun@skidmore.edu. Single issue $8. www.skidmore.edu/salmagundi/141/index.htm] – SR

 

Stray Dog

Number 4

2004

With edgy poetry and quirky short shorts, Stray Dog is fun—really, really fun. This issue starts off with a prose poem—usually not the first selection in a journal—about a man writing prose poems. Michael Cocchiarale’s short short, “Other Side of the Bed,” is wildly entertaining, describing a man looking over his wife’s side of the bed for the first time in thirty years and discovering another man—and his apartment. My favorite piece, Robert Roley’s “No One Shall Swim Alone,” frankly shocks me: “I am swimming alone. I should not be doing so. Behind me there is nothing but water. To my right and left there is nothing but water. Ahead of me there is nothing but water. It is an inconvenient time to stop swimming.” If you’re looking for writing with a little bite, you can’t go wrong with Stray Dog. [Stray Dog, P.O. Box 713, Amawalk, NY 10501. E-mail: straydog@bestweb.net. Single issue $6. www.prillyandtru.com.] – DM

 

This Magazine

Because Everything is Political

Volume 38 Number 3

November/December 2004

This Magazine is a delightfully eclectic little glossy out of Toronto that has been in publication since the 1960's. The magazine has recently seen some format changes, as it attempts, in the words of editor Patricia D’Souza, to define what it “means to be a magazine of alternative culture in a time when alternative culture has become a mainstream concept.” This will no longer run single-theme centered issues, choosing instead to “adop[t] a storytelling approach that is more responsive to current events.” Certainly there is plenty that is current here, including stories on the Canadian indie music scene, prescribed burns in the Yukon, an innovative automobile pricing structure aimed at reducing traffic congestion that would charge drivers taxes and insurance based on actual miles traveled, a hefty profile on often under-reported domestic abuse by cops, and the truth about the Hudson Bay Company’s signature striped blankets, to describe only a few articles. If all this weren’t enough, this issue also contains excellent fiction and poetry by the winners of the Great Canadian Literary Hunt, as well as reviews of recent books and CDs. If you’re a writer heading to Vancouver for the upcoming Associated Writing Programs conference, and want to be up on the Canadian cultural scene, you’ll definitely want to check This out. [This Magazine, 401 Richmond Street West, Suite 396, Tornoto, Ontario, M5V 3A8. E-mail: editor@thismagazine.ca. Single issue $4.95 (Canadian). www.thismagazine.ca] – KL

 

Tiferet

A Journal of Spiritual Literature

Volume I Number 2

Numbers 1 & 2, Issue 54

2004

Ignore the over-sized, cursive drop caps that begin each piece (inelegantly in their aggressive elegance) and concentrate on the larger-than-life sized prose in this issue. When I think of "spiritual literature," I think first of poetry, and there certainly are some memorable poems here (most notably work by Rachel Hadas, Kathleen Graber, and ellen), but it's the prose that, surprisingly and delightfully, commands my attention above all. This issue is worth the steep price alone for an amazing, heartbreaking, and inspiring story by Marie Sheppard Williams who strikes a difficult balance between humor and pathos in a story that takes up the subject of homelessness in the harsh Minnesota winter, "Jeane 49 Duluth." This story was so good, I'd buy any journal where Sheppard Williams appears in the Table of Contents. Liz Rosenberg's "Eden" deserves special mention, too. In both stories it's the unusual tone (casually deliberate or deliberately casual) that makes the pieces so successful. All in all, there are ten fine pieces of short fiction here, two dozen poems, and five essays that range from literary criticism to Biblical exegesis to Greg Cook's thoughtful essay on the origins of the word "walking" and its literal and metaphoric role in our lives as spiritual beings. [Tiferet, PO Box 659, Peapack, NJ 07977-0659. E-mail: editors@tiferetjournal.com. Single issue $14.95. www.tiferetjournal.com] – SR

 

West Branch

Number 55

Fall/Winter 2004

There is only one word for this journal: superb. This fall/winter issue features a dazzling array of top-notch poetry that includes Matt Zambito’s “The Word on the Street,” John Surowiecki’s “Imaginary Seascape with Literary Orphans” who “dream of making sail / for some island where they’ll find no word / for themselves and where the most valuable gift / anyone can give them is indifference,” Nancy Van Winckel’s “The Very Monday,” and many, many others. The fiction sparkles as well, and stories such as Sean Bernard’s “Targets” and Marjorie Hudson’s “Self-Portrait in Camouflage,” are so beautifully complex they defy simple synopsis. It’s no surprise that most of the magazine’s contributors are well-seasoned enough to have published at least one book. West Branch has been published bi-annually at the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University since 1977. That’s over 25 years of continuous existence. It’s easy to see why this terrific magazine been so long-lived. [West Branch, Bucknell Hall, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania 17837. E-mail: westbranch@bucknell.edu. Single issue $6. www.bucknell.edu/westbranch] – KL

 


Reviewers (see Contributors page)

MC - Mark Cunningham            DM - Deborah Mead
LKB
- Lisa Buchanan                LM - Lincoln Michel
JHG
- Jeannine Hall Gailey       SR - Sima Rabinowitz
JQG - Jennifer Gomoll             AS - Ann Stapleton
KL - Kathe Lison

Edited by Denise Hill

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

December 2004
November 2004
 

Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed