The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Posted October 19, 2005

580 Split

Issue 7

2005

Annual

Experimental poetry can be a challenge: of the pieces you enjoy, it's difficult to say what moved you so. Of the pieces you don't like, you want to ask why nobody's telling the emperor to put some damn pants on. The poetry of 580 Split left me feeling a bit of both, but is sure to be enjoyed by those who appreciate avant-garde literature. A sampling of what you'll find: C.S. Carrier's "To Leave Then Return," which includes the enigmatic lines: "In a past life the baseboard / crouched in the belly of a giant raven that flew only / when magnets said it was time." Steve Davenport's "Another Hundred-Line Drunken Cowboy Sonnet": "The family you're building with me is a yodel / jumping with blood noise, liquor through my veins [...]" My personal favorite, Lisa Jarnot's lovely "Birthday Poem," has winter saying "hello to the sparrows and their tiny / hearts rise like the sunrise to be seen / climbing up out of the staircase as it / says hello to me my better self, my / better self in spring." Of the issue's fiction, Karina Fuentes's "Committing Sin," is particularly well done. It concerns a woman who has been institutionalized by her bible-thumping, wife-beating husband. She takes comfort in delusions of being married to Elvis Presley and having his baby. If it sounds over the top, well, it could have been, but Fuentes makes good work of it. [580 Split, P.O. Box 9982, Oakland CA 94613-0982. E-mail: editor@580split.com. Single issue $7.50. www.580split.com] –Jennifer Gomoll

 

The Baltimore Review

Volume 9 Number 2

Summer 2005

Biannual

“The Weight of Bones” I read first because the short story jumped out at me, or rather the skull did, the skull being the main character Ellen finds in her “charred garage.” All I will say is that Ellen took me by surprise from the first moment we met. Then came the nonfiction and equally engaging “My Wild Ride” that taught me how to welcome an unwelcome surprise. To summarize, the mother of two little girls under the age of five receives news that her life is about to change on more than one level. The eight poems are quietly seductive. As I was experiencing their power, I allowed the words time to soak in, take up a life, a meaning of their own. Soon they did, as in the translation “I Refuse To Write About My Heart.” “I can describe anything easily” begins the first line of the first stanza. Continuing in stanza three, line three, “one can go anywhere one chooses / enter any dwelling, any room without a trace, / get into contact with Proust, Ibsen, Madonna…” yet in the last line the heart remains true to the title, it will not allow the narrator access to its words. Seven other poems have the same dream-like quality to them...or perhaps it was me instead who entered another world as I read them. There are five short stories, two essays, an interview with author Rebecca Skloot, who explains her views of the publication process. Three book reviews are included, The Secretkeepers, Little Criminals, and Jane: A Murder, each one rendering a balanced critique. [The Baltimore Review, P.O. Box 36418, Townson, MD 21286. {Online contact form.} Single issue $10. www.baltimorereview.org] —Donna Everhart

 

The Carolina Quarterly

Volume 57 Number 1

January 2005

The Carolina Quarterly has great short fiction going for it; I expect to remember at least four of the seven stories here long after I've put this issue on the shelf. I was most impressed by Jean Colgan Gould's "The Queen of October," in which a woman on the verge of 70 shoots hoops in her driveway. She's recently had a showdown with neighbors who didn't appreciate the basketball noise and suggested she ought to do everyone a favor and move out of her big, empty house, sparking her anger and a determination not to be forced to while away the rest of her days in "a nice condo." Excellent! A much younger protagonist experiences rebellious feelings in Kurt Rheinheimer's "Spray Man." Kyle Minor's "Snow Fell in Florida" is a short but dead-on look at a family trying to move on and feel secure again after a break-in and, for the woman who narrates, rape. If you're coming to the Carolina Quarterly in search of poetry, you'll find twelve poets; most have a distinctly MFA-in-Creative-Writing feel to their work. I most enjoyed the imagery of Scott Brennan's "The Queen Establishes," in which a queen bee leads her entourage to start a new hive in a willow tree, where "the living wave [of bees] will come to rest, to suspend the unliving wax / as though on a nail of black and gold." [The Carolina Quarterly, Greenlaw Hall CB #3520, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill NC 27599-3520. E-mail: cquarter@unc.edu. Single issue $6. www.unc.edu/depts/cqonline] –Jennifer Gomoll

 

College Literature

Volume 32 Number 2

Spring 2005

Quarterly

As a beginning instructor, I invested a few days reading into College Literature, and I cannot say I regretted one second. Beginning with professor Michael Payne’s essay discussing psychoanalytic theory past and present and ending with professor Steven Salaita’s article which asks, among several questions, how the Arab American community as well as the social climate in which they live has changed or remained the same since 9/11, I felt the same excitement as when I was a student sitting in the classroom. Each contributor to this issue teaches at various higher educational levels; their research is thorough, complete with a works cited at the end. Particularly fascinated with psychological and cultural ideas as they intersect with language and literature, I experienced a better understanding prompted by an approach that is scholarly yet friendly. A resource to become acquainted or more engaged in a discipline, each essay explores historical, modern, and possible future directions in the specific theory or subject matter. Equally interesting in this issue: “Memory and the City: Urban Renewal and Literary Memoirs in Contemporary Dublin”; “Desire on Ice: The Menace of Albertine’s Mimicry in La Prisonnière”; “Comment peut-on être Péruvienne?: Françoise de Graffigny, a Stragic Femme de Lettres”; “Evolutionary Biological Issues in Edith Warton’s The Children”; “Consumption, Addiction, Vision, Energy: Political Economies and Utopian Visions in the Writings of the Beat Generations”; and “Receptacle or Reversal? Globalization Down Under in Marcus Clarke’s His Natural Life.” Several reviews are included of books published by university presses. Over 200 pages of welcome discourse. [College Literature, 210 E. Rosedale Ave, West Chester University, West Chester, PA, 19383. E-mail: collit@wcupa.edu. Singe issue $10. www.collegeliterature.org] —Donna Everhart

 

Fourteen Hills

Volume 11 Number 2

Summer/Fall 2005

Biannual

Published by the creative writing department of San Francisco State University, Fourteen Hills might just as aptly be titled “Fourteen Styles,” such a broad spectrum of approaches to narrative and poetics does it present, at least in this summer/fall issue. In the realm of fiction I found myself very taken with the short story “Three Girls” by Anne Clifford, which so deftly utilizes first, second, and third person perspectives, shifting from one to another and back with a spot-on rhythmic agility. “They call this a group home,” the story begins, “but we aren’t a group and none of us think for a minute that this is home.” Also impressive is Aurora Brackett’s story “Cold War,” set a few decades back, in which a young girl temporarily obsessed with the Soviet Union begins to comprehend the precarious, often reckless nature of her parent’s—namely her mother’s—hippy drugs&sex lifestyle. A funny-sad-meditative story by Jack Pendarvis called “The Golden Pineapples” gives good reason to anticipate his forthcoming story collection, “The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure.” Mitch has been laid off, and has become inexplicably bewitched by a pair of squirrels in his yard: “The next day began Mitch’s raking period, as well as his disregard of, casual amusement about, growing fascination with, comforting by, sneaky dread of, unpleasant feelings around, glum resignation to, eventual disillusionment with and cold disgust over the punctuality of the squirrels.” Experimental poetry abounds in this issue too, as well as some pleasing black and white photography by various artists and a glossy full-color mini portfolio of urban pen drawings by artist Spain Rodriguez, whose work is also featured on the cover. [Fourteen Hills, c/o The Creative Writing Dept, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Ave, San Francisco CA 94132-1722. E-mail: hills@sfsu.edu. Single issue $9. www.14hills.net] –Mark Cunningham

 

Green Prints

"The Weeder's Digest"

Number 63

Autumn 2005

Quarterly

"To dig one's own spade into one's own earth! Has life anything better to offer than this?" So muses Beverley Nichols in Down the Garden Path. An excerpt of this 1932 gardener's delight, along with a variety of inspirational and humorous stories for the green-thumbed, appear in this issue of Green Prints. If Nichols's sentiment matches your own, put down your spade and take out a subscription, because this unique journal is all about the delights (and frustrations) of gardening. Thoughtful essays offer insight into the rewards of seemingly pointless garden work, as in Becky Rupp's "To Rake", which posits: "To rake is to defy the cold months. We're looking ahead to spring here, building a bridge through the blizzards between past and future gardens." Simone Martel's "Yellow Quinces," in which the author goes into labor in her garden, is a lovely think piece about the work, faith, and forces of nature that are needed to bring thriving plants as well as children into the world. On the lighter side, Jeff Taylor offers "The Return of Gomer, Part II" a (you guessed it) garden-themed whodunit; Mike McGrath fights the lawn in "Field of Green"; and over-abundant fruit trees shower a family in apples in Karen Kirkwood's "No Fruit, Please!" Short humor, poems, and readers' tales round out the issue. [GreenPrints Enterprises, P.O. Box 1355, Fairview NC 28730. E-mail: patstone@atlantic.net. Single issue $6. www.greenprints.com] –Jennifer Gomoll

 

Iodine Poetry Journal

Volume 6 Number1

Spring/Summer 2005

Biannual

It’s the fifth anniversary for this Charlotte magazine and the focus is simple: less talk, more poems. For one thing, that means no contributors’ notes: after you close the book, you’re on your own. At least one contributor who needs no such notes is R.T. Smith, from whom “Parade at VMI” is a breath of wisdom. Smith meddles in war and history but settles for no easy targets: his model is a bridge at Antietam Creek whose erection proved to be unnecessary during the bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War. With the reminder of the “cold algebra of sorrow” that seeps through the news daily, history’s message cuts us deep, “like an axe opening native cedar to free / the heart-dark rose of the fragrant tree.” The message is clear and refreshing, since I encountered more than a few pieces in Iodine addressing the subject of death, usually involving deceased parents or ancestors, mixed in with a few pieces employing war imagery to make some vague statements on politics or relationships—as if such vagueness showed uncertainty of self more than uncertainty of the times. It’s refreshing again that Frederick Zydek gets the last word, if only because the authors in Iodine are alphabetized, but his introspective breeze, “Writing the Year’s Last Poem,” is fitting: “It should be composed of music / so ancient even the spaces between / its metaphors and messages reverberate / with songs mountains and stars remember.” [Iodine Poetry Journal, P.O. Box 18548, Charlotte, NC 28218-0548. E-mail: iodineopencut@aol.com. Single issue $6. www.iodinepoetryjournal.com] –Christopher Mote

 

Journal of New Jersey Poets

Issue 42

2005

Annual

If I were to dare make a blanket statement about New Jersey poets, I'd say they're a tough, witty lot with good stories to tell. There is little frippery in this journal's pages. What we get is more like Stanley Marcus's "My White Teeth," a poem on aging and alienation, which includes: "I would like to extract / [my false teeth] from my face one morning on the / bus / I take from Upper Montclair to the city / so all the lawyers could see them and puke." Like Marcus, many of the poets here display a certain subversive maturity which I found thoroughly enjoyable. "Geography Lesson at the Middle School Planetarium," by John Bargowski, recalls a field trip in which a girl touches his thigh in a darkened planetarium as their teacher, a nun, gives a lesson. A much different lesson was learned by Edwin Romond in "What I Would Say to My Eighth Grade Classmates," an anti-eulogy for a nun who ran her classroom with terror and humiliation: "she [. . .] dug her nails / into my face and twisted them like razor / pliers when I didn't have my homework / the morning after my father's funeral." The issue left me eagerly awaiting the completion of Michael Burke's work-in-progress, "Visitors." This excellent piece recalls parties in the author's childhood home, attended by William Carlos Williams and Ralph Ellison. [Journal of NJ Poets, The Center of Teaching Excellence, County College of Morris, 214 Center Grove Road, Randolph, NJ 07869-2086. Single issue $10.] –Jennifer Gomoll

 

Journal of Ordinary Thought

"Twenty Four Hours"

Spring 2005

“A job is like / Being without a shadow,” goes the first line in “Being Without.” A little further on, in alleyways with children there is “More purpose and meaning to their play / Than you with your wheelbarrow.” Meaningless spreads endlessly in poems, essays, oral histories, discussing life without work. But if I had missed the poem’s title, the misreading would have been closer to the other truth, persisting in that sometimes the wrong job is worse or just as depressing as being without one. In “The Place Of Work (Plight),” the work environment is “...a grace trap, / like a fly, trapped in honey, / Like a people without a secret name / ...Every day / is a different stage / Reflecting walls without shadows, / responding to voices without images.” In “Twenty-Four Hours,” the new issue of JOT, people share intimate moments and concerns. JOT, published quarterly, includes photographs, translations, welcomes all faces, views and voices, as “Everybody has a story and deserves to be heard.” Stories, poems, oral histories from Chicago workers, no two narratives are alike. From lines at unemployment offices where “people often have to help each other get through this process, learning the ins and outs of the bureaucratic rules,” to the 73-year-old who once wore three jackets on the coldest day to show up for the strike, to the stay-at-home women and men taking care of the children, the level of the spoken word is from one heart to the other: we’re all in this together is a common theme, like Johnny King, who learned that “if I took my problem down to city hall alone, the Mayor would laugh at me. But if I took ten people, he’d say, ‘This is ten votes.’ And if I took a hundred people, he’d sit up straight...”[Neighborhood Writing Alliance, 1313 E. 60th Street, Chicago, IL, 60637. E-mail: editors@jot.org or authors@jot.org. Single issue $10. www.jot.org] —Donna Everhart

 

Kaleidoscope

Number 50

Winter/Spring 2005

Biannual

Nik Hospodor’s “sophisticated flourenscentism” visual work, featured in “Landscape,” captures attention on Kaleidoscope’s front cover with a magical, surrealistic, fairytale world. Equally captivating is artist SylviAnn Murray’s “surreal -expressive” style. Painting is one literary venue through which people with disabilities have found expression and healing. Both painters share the love of their works and explain the techniques that they use to create the desired effect. But what struck me most is the vision that comes through the eyes of the person without the disability. “Taking Hits,” a personal essay, shows the inevitable hurt from the counselor’s point of view. “Even though I had been in similar mind-states,” she says, “I got that flash of frustration that family members and friends feel for the mentally ill: Look! You’re not fucking bleeding from the head! I don’t see a wound. You’ll be fine, if you just snap out of it and put a smile on your face.” A number of insights about the healing process and the power of art, fiction, poetry, and personal essays to help with that process are shared. And Mind Riot, by Gail Waldstein, M.D. shares a gripping excerpt from a forthcoming novel. Fiction, essays, poetry—every contributing author has published elsewhere, teaches, or is highly involved in the literary and artistic community. [Gail Willmott, Editor-in-chief, 701 South Main Street, Akron, OH, 44311-1019. E-mail: kaleidoscope@udsakron.org. Single issue $5. www.udsakron.org/kaleidoscope.htm] —Donna Everhart

 

Lilies and Cannonballs Review

Volume 2 Number 1

Spring/Summer 2005

Biannual

If you pick up this issue of Lilies and Cannonballs Review, I encourage you to read the last essay, Arthur Saltzman's "In Praise of Pointlessness," first. There is no point in my asking you to do so, other than that it's not your usual strain of existentialism ("Let our gratitude [for the pointless] extend to the frivolous and the tentative, omitting not a single empty yard of large intestine nor vast tracts of uninhabited Canada.") The journal's poetry and fiction tend toward the punchy, the cocky. Eileen Hennessy's "About Eating" is a fine poem on the way each of us feeds off others. In "Selling the Boy," Jeb Burt has a father sell his dullard son to the devil, and the teen seems better off for having a job in hell. Jonathan Barrett recounts a brawl in "Violence: In a Pizza Hut Parking Lot on Christmas Night, 1994" using ironically beautiful imagery for its subject matter: "Shards of glass stick to his skin / and flake off in his beard / Booze pours down his face / eyes blurring with blood / lashes dripping with winter drizzle." Although some pieces come off a little too angry-twenty-year-old, I commend Lilies and Cannonballs for having a unique style and variety of voices. [Lilies and Cannonballs Review, P.O. Box 702, Bowling Green Station, NY 10274-0702. Email: info@liliesandcannonballs.com. Single issue $12. www.liliesandcannonballs.com] –Jennifer Gomoll

 

The Manhattan Review

Volume 11 number 2

Winter/Spring 2005

Biannual

A good publication to consult for fine contemporary poetry, The Manhattan Review here offers a special double issue for the 2005 Winter/Spring volume. It caused me some admiring surprise to deduce that The Manhattan Review is, so far as I can tell, unaffiliated with any university, because the non-poetry contents featured in this issue flex a peculiar intellectual muscularity—which is not to say they come off as collegiate or stuffy; they consist entirely of material devoted to the life and work of the late British poet Peter Redgrove, and are shot through with delightful and discursive smartness. In a fascinating lengthy interview with Manhattan Review editor Philip Fried (conducted in 1982), Redgrove’s discussion meanders brilliantly through Jung and Freud, Plath and Hughes, Joseph Campbell, Rimbaud, Baudeliare, Boris Karloff, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Lewis Carroll, Robert Lowell, and beyond. Among the banquet of poetry by some 23 poets in this issue are a great number of moving and memorable passages that alone recommend The Manhattan Review as being worthy of constant and considered perusal. This from Polly Clark’s unique and affecting love poem, hinging on a wonderfully unlikely metaphor, “You Are My America”: “I land exhausted, with only / a suitcase, broken open, / and at your feet I begin / my book of declarations / that will be our history, / that will make us brand new people.” [The Manhattan Review, c/o Philip Fried, 440 Riverside Dr. #38, New York, NY, 10027. E-mail: phfried@earthlink.net. Single issue $7.50. www.themanhattanreview.com] –Mark Cunningham

 

The Massachusetts Review

Volume 46 Number 2

Summer 2005

Quarterly

The Massachusetts Review is the perfect antidote to beach reading, a cultural exploration that enriches us and at the same time reminds us that we are all connected to and responsible for the world we inhabit. If we are to believe it, Kevin Simmonds’ essay, about his experience as an African-American, classically-trained singer who finds himself teaching gospel music in an ancient Japanese town, may well be one of the more entertaining accounts of culture shock on record. “[A]ny non-Japanese person who moves to Japan,” notes Simmonds, “and has the audacity to live in a small town, will gain undeserved celebrity just for showing up.” Catherine Reid’s essay is more pressing: when same-sex marriage is legalized in Massachusetts, she takes the big step and enters into union with her longtime partner, only to find the battle far from over. As much as her argument is steeped in civil rights, Reid ultimately implies that the key to equality lies not merely in changing laws but in changing hearts and minds. On another right note, MR has committed itself to the unheralded visual arts, featuring the work of two Northampton-based painters. And the underground publishing tales—banned books, cult favorites—are plenty. Seems there are also three separate stories about American expatriates in Paris in this issue—never a dull venue, but a bit too repetitive from a diversity standpoint. It’s in these cases that MR risks making multiculturalism look too monolithic. That said, this is still top-notch material and can’t be found anywhere else. [The Massachusetts Review, South College, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-7140. E-mail: massrev@external.umass.edu. Single issue $8. www.massreview.org] –Christopher Mote

 

The Midwest Quarterly

Volume 46 Number 3

Spring 2005

Rare is the poem that combines senses, emotions, and intellect, that contains ability to ease in and out of natural worlds, both internal and external. But in this issue of The Midwest Quarterly, all thirteen poems, to be exact, have this power. Take this stanza from “Stations of the Cross,” written by Steve Wilson: “the warm lull of the field, a farmer rests / beside his wagon. Light in a drawer. Light, by / children remembered at the edge of the bay.” And sometimes two or three other worlds merge, as in this line from “Subterranean,” by Rebecca Aronson: “What trips you is an arbor or an aphid, cow’s blood as it blossoms, after rain, into footprints.” When you have had your fill of poems, turn to the handful of essays, varied in subject matter. A modern tragicomedy, whose characters are drawn from Shakespeare’s King Lear and Sir John Falstaff, teaches us in the present day about coping. Or read how the great author Poe’s death connects with his views on democracy and his several writings which bring up mob activity, voters, drunkenness. Or learn about the unreliability of hypothetical cases thrown out to the public in an attempt to use as evidence our acceptance of one moral theory or another. Then, what do or should we look for when admiring somebody, such as Orwell. And you will not want to miss Flannery O’Connor’s humor, how it was used with a social purpose, which was correction. In the back, three book reviews are balanced with analysis and insight. Provided is a summary, so you can decide which essay to read first. [The Midwest Review, 406b Russ Hall, Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg Kansas, 66762. E-mail: jschick@pittstate.edu. Single issue $5. www.pittstate.edu/engl/mwq/MQindex.html] —Donna Everhart

 

Pearl

Number 34

Spring/Summer 2005

Biannual

I always enjoy uncovering a journal with a history that I had never known existed before. Pearl has a history (34 volumes now) that includes an impressive devotion to special issues. This all-fiction issue marks the eighth time Pearl has committed itself to the genre, and it doesn’t disappoint. Of the 19 stories included, most are under 1,500 words and immediately accessible; they can be tried on by all sizes to see which fit the best. It would be enough to laud Pearl for taking chances with them, but the longer fiction turns out to be the winner. I was glad to see Stephanie Dickinson, having reviewed her work previously, receive her dues for a story well done. “Road of Five Churches,” winner of the Pearl Short Story Prize, is a throwback to the ingenuities of Southern Gothic as it follows the plight of a girl bound by the dogma and deceitful trades of her controlling guardian. “I’m not sure how old I am,” she says. “Twelve, thirteen, maybe fourteen or fifteen. I could be sixteen. Virginia doesn’t believe in three hundred and sixty-five days making up a year. It’s ridiculous to think that calendars and clocks could divide up the Creator’s infinite present.” Also noteworthy: Fred McGavran’s “Confessions Without Culpa,” an outlandish but hilarious story about the most crooked lawyer imaginable, a guilty pleasure just in time for the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Keep the gems coming, Pearl. [Pearl, 3030 East Second Street, Long Beach, CA 90803. E-mail: PearlMag@aol.com. Single issue $8. www.pearlmag.com] –Christopher Mote

 

Red Hills Review

Volume 1 Number 2

Spring 2005

Biannual

The limestone formations rise up out of the bay like... How a dragon legend was ever connected with them, I can easily understand. They inspire, thanks to Stephen Buel, who provided the image on the cover of Red Hills Review, a drop of the mouth reaction, similar to the one a dragon might inspire (I have to say might because I’ve not yet seen a dragon). Safely past the red paperback cover, drop of the mouth is also fitting when discussing more than thirty days of reading material, poetry, fiction, memoir, and essay. I have to admit, though, that my main attraction before receiving the journal was Light on the Northern Shore: Homage to Noam Chomsky, a theorist whose work I’ve only partially understood. I wanted a deeper understanding of the theorist, and I came to one with the assistance of David Baker. By then, dragon or not, I could not put the journal away. The interview with Scots Poet Gerry Cambridge and his comparison and contrast of the poetry scene in Scotland and America is interesting, to say the least. This led me to the poems, three of which Cambridge provides. Humor and seriousness walk hand in hand through the poetry, memoirs, and essays: “Never concentrate on the second hand. Time becomes a glacier.” And this line: “Who will I be without my anxiety? It has defined me for so long that I am frightened to let go.” Or in Fundraising, when the narrator thinks of all that he could purchase with the raised funds, this line: “I’m reminded / of my life’s slightness, / how it’s just a sliver.” Also a reminder of uncertainty in lessons, how they can be painful acceptance for one and a change of character in another. [Red Hills Review, Stellar Media Group Inc. 3215 J Encinal Ave., Alameda CA, 94501. E-mail redhillsreview@aol.com. Single issue $5. www.redhillsreview.com] —Donna Everhart

 

Sentence

A Journal of Prose Poetics

Number 2

2004

If it has ever occurred to you to wonder where exactly one might draw the line between poetry and prose, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself engrossed by Sentence, amongst whose litany of stated objectives you’ll find: “to explore the gray areas around the prose poem,” and to “publish work that extends our perception of what the ‘prose poem’ is or can be.” And even if it’s never occurred to you to worry about “the distinction between the prose poem and poetic prose,” you’ll still find yourself engrossed—I can practically promise. What I find most admirable about Sentence (in addition to its refreshing physical format and inviting design) is the fact that, despite its ostensible scholastic objectives, Sentence is simply dedicated to celebrating good work, be it genre-defying or genre-demonstrative. If categorical ambiguities abound, so be it; rigid academic definition becomes highly irrelevant, as does boundary-pushing, and then—beauty of beauties: boring theory gives way to rabble-rousing creativity! Somehow, this potentially didactic journal has avoided all the pitfalls of its, perhaps more grimly cerebral, brethren. Even the “Colloquium on the Prose Poem” featured here runs amok against the dread (i.e. oh-no-not-more-graduate-school-blather) inspired in this reader when an essentially creative journal detours into pedantry. “I, like most prose poem makers,” says Deanna Kern Ludwin in that part of the journal, “am less interested in nomenclature than in the wild prose poem ride.” And instead of useless labels, what her “(Mostly) Personal History” on the prose poem has given us is the edifying first-hand insight of a word-practitioner. There’s a regular bounty of brilliant work in this issue too. To mention but one, Robert Lowes’ piece “The Unity of a Paragraph,” which begins: “The topic for this paragraph is the need for one topic per paragraph,” and devolves happily into complete comic metafiction…er, meta-prose-poem…er, meta-who-cares-because-it-works! “This paragraph is a tombstone bearing a name. A row of tombstones is a chapter. A cemetery of tombstones is a book. Lay down your flowers and walk away.” Sentence may be a journal that thrives in the “gray areas” of creative writing, but its contents are far from colorless. It’s a vibrant, vital publication. [Sentence, c/o Firewheel Editions, P.O. Box 793677, Dallas TX, 75379. E-mail: info@firewheel-editions.org. Single issue $10. www.firwheel-editions.org] –Mark Cunningham

 

The Sewanee Review

Volume 113 Number 1

Winter 2005

Quarterly

Officially this country’s most time-tested literary quarterly (it was founded in 1892), The Sewanee Review is one in that very small number of old-school American journals that just can’t be messed with, the kind of publication that can successfully sport an antiquated, unembellished cardstock cover without seeming quaint or stodgy. A reviewer feels, while reading a publication whose founding date stands more than a century back, that any inspired high praise will seem inordinately past its deadline. This is the journal, after all, about which T.S. Eliot wrote more than 50 years ago: “[It] has now reached the status of an institution.” In fiction, this winter issue (like most SR issues, I believe) features a single short story, a glorious piece by none other than the inimitable Wendell Berry. Berry’s “Mike,” about a family’s beloved hunting dog and the manner by which the canine creature pries at the stolid heart of the narrator’s reticent father, is reason enough to own this edition. Five poets are also here featured in a handful of short poems. Otherwise the contents of this decidedly scholarly journal are devoted to book reviews, critical essays, and creative nonfiction presented under the unifying concern of “Explorations in Autobiography”—including an interesting reassessment of the career of the late genius of American reportage, Joseph Mitchell. (Mitchell’s first-hand account of his relationship with the erudite Bohemian Joe Gould, published in 1964 and entitled “Joe Gould’s Secret,” was adapted to an eponymous film starring Stanley Tucci a few years back.) Also of note is new nonfiction by writer Floyd Skloot (a favorite of the litmag world), and a long profile of the legendary editor Albert Erskine, whose legendary authors included William Faulkner, James Michener, Robert Penn Warren, and Ralph Ellison. [The Sewanee Review, 735 University Avenue, Sewanee, TN 37383-1000. E-mail: Lcouch@sewanee.edu. Single issue $8. www.sewanee.edu/sreview/Home.html] –Mark Cunningham

 

Southern Humanities Review

Volume 39 Number 2

Spring 2005

Quarterly

Southern Humanities Review has respect for the questions of moral fabric that challenge a classical, essentialist universe, but it is not strictly a religious journal. It is, by all accounts, Southern, and there’s no better place to start than the “stew of religion and sex” of Melissa Delbridge’s memoir, “Family Bible.” An authentic bible is as much a genealogy of this world as it is a guidebook for reaching the next, and Delbridge delivers in her humorous, plaintive, sometimes raunchy and always sincere narrative on her youth. “I was the most frequently baptized child in the state of Alabama,” she says. “The devil did not stand a chance.” Elsewhere, for the morally studious, seek and ye shall find: from the archives, Austrian critic Alexander Lernet-Holenia examines the dimensions of good and evil in a forgotten Italian classic, Manzoni’s The Betrothed, courtesy of John S. Barrett’s English translation. Read the editors’ introductory comments to get an idea of the plot and you may be just as tempted to find out more about Manzoni’s novel. If that’s too lofty, at least one story in SHR is within reach, Sarah Esser’s “Chop-Chop Block.” It begins with an image of a public execution ground—“hazy yellow-brown like a photograph of an old Southern town square where the lynchings took place”—only to take us into a different world, a frighteningly realistic Saudi Arabia where a normal American soldier becomes capable of doing the unspeakable—and the question of evil comes full circle. High-ordered, but worth it. [Southern Humanities Review, 9088 Haley Center, Auburn University, AL 36849. E-mail: shrengl@auburn.edu. Single issue $5. www.auburn.edu/english/shr/home.htm] –Christopher Mote

 

Thema

Volume 17 Number 2

Summer 2005

Biannual

If you don't already know, Thema is a journal whose every issue is based on a different premise, upon which the poetry, fiction, and photography reflect. This issue's theme is "Hey, Watch This!" From a neglected boy looking for attention from atop a slide in Lynn Stearns' "Anybody," to a match-making ghost in "Who Dares, Wins," by Peggy Tabor Millin, to Jennifer R. Hubbards's story of teenage bravado and emotional turmoil in "The Train Tracks," the theme evokes a variety of different responses. Some tend toward a subtler exploration of the premise, as in James Penha's poem, "Venetian Love Song," in which a young man steers his gondola as though it were an art form. For the most part, Thema's works are more breezy than provocative (though Serena Alibhai's excellent "New World Water," in which an ambitious young Indian man is made aware of his country's sufferings, is an exception.) All of the stories here are enjoyable to read, but often seem just one draft away from their full potential. Even so, as I finished the issue's final piece, Carol V. Paul's "Birth," in which the speaker witnesses a doe giving birth to a seemingly stillborn fawn, I was left awed by the beauty of nature's wonder and of tragedy averted. [THEMA, THEMA Literary Society, Box 8747, Metairie LA 70011-8747. E-mail: thema@cox.net. Single issue $8. http://themaliterarysociety.com/] –Jennifer Gomoll

 

West Branch

"Poetry Issue"

Number 56

Spring/Summer 2005

Biannual

The poets of West Branch have something to say, and though the imagery may be beautiful and the lines carefully crafted, there is nothing excessive, artsy, or difficult for difficulty's sake. This observation hit me as I read Yona Harvey's wonderful "Turquoise," in which the poet bluntly tells a young female student that "wearing turquoise jewelry & Frida Kahlo skirts / doesn't make women artists." Another straightforward voice I liked was that of Roger Mitchell, whose long poem, "Grise," recalls Mitchell's sabbatical in Ellesmere among the Inuits, who "long ago said to the world / they were through playing noble or happy savage / in the West's tales of necessary innocence." The always sharp Charles Harper Webb enjoys the adventures of Melville in "The Last Chapter of Moby Dick," wondering: "Why waste time discussing Marxist / feminist, queer, post-structuralist theories / their logic tangled as harpoon lines / crisscrossing a whale's back / their barbs just sharp enough to irritate?" The poetry essays are notable for not simply being fawning advertisements for favorite poets' work. In particular, Karen Kovacik's "Observations on the American Soul: Notes from Warsaw," is a thoughtful exploration of spirituality in poetry. I smile even now, rereading: "Maybe in this postmodern world, the ‘self’ or ‘language’ (or the ‘self as language’) is all we have to believe in, but if this is the case, I choose to remain a skeptic." [West Branch, Bucknell Hall, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA 17837. E-mail: westbranch@bucknell.edu. Single issue $6. www.bucknell.edu/westbranch] –Jennifer Gomoll

 

Posted October 1, 2005

32 Poems

Volume 3 Number 1

Spring/Summer 2005

Biannual

32 Poems could have taken a more minimalist approach to poetry, as its design and layout would suggest, but instead it touches on every fundamental poetic theme—life, sex, change, death—with the varied imagination of the finest journals around. With a book binder’s precision, each poem is designated to one page, never longer. Length ranges from Frances Justine Post’s “Nocturne,” which implores the reader to “Wake up from your sleep,” literally, and experience the middle of the night on a small island, to Eric Reeny’s “Graveyard Pharmeceuticals,” an extended metaphor complete in ten lines. Each poem makes an observation not quite like the ones before and after it: a eulogy for a dragonfly; a Platonist in a mini-mart (“She used to refer to a hot dog / as a ‘Soul on a roll.’ Ergo, I replied: // Who wouldn’t want a soul?”); and a fine take on the false hope of spring via The Waste Land, in Stan Sanvel Rubin’s “Marmot Lake,” where “After a season of snow, a season of thaw / comes like a history of regret.” For all its personal tomes, 32 Poems remains staggeringly close to nature…and with more than enough soul to go around. [32 Poems, P.O. Box 5824, Hyattsville, MD 20782. Single issue $6. www.32poems.com] — Christopher Mote

 

Alaska Quarterly Review

Volume 22 Numbers 3 & 4

Fall & Winter 2005

Biannual

This issue of AQR devotes 80 pages of photo-essay to: "Chechnya: A Decade of War," by Heidi Bradner. "A Chechen woman holds photographs of her missing sons [. . .]." For those not au courant, Stalin deported the Chechen nation to this desolate area during World War II. Deborah A. Lott's "Fifteen," a moving account of her father's legacy of insanity provides this remarkable insight: "That I made the mistake of aligning myself with the parent who was crazy because I confused his intensity with love." John Fulton's novella, "The Animal Girl," recounts the summer of discontent of a grieving girl who takes desperate and, finally, criminal steps to reconnect with reality. Four interesting short stories: The inexplicable grief in "Errands of the Broken-Hearted," by Robert Vivian is followed by Linda McCullough Moore's domestic travail in "A Night to Remember." In "Lake Moriah" by Howard Luxenberg, a father distracts his thirteen-year-old son from going hunting—to hunt Nazis, the boy's mother says. Five of the seven prose pieces deal with parent/child relationships. Carol Ghiglieri's "Stella by Starlight," is a night in a barroom with a happy ending; a feature shared by all the prose in this issue—perhaps editor Ronald Spatz wanted to distract, for a moment, from the pain and despair of the photo-essay, although "Where Things Are," Steven Schutzman's bitter play loses yards in the game between mother and son. Among work by twenty-three poets, I especially enjoyed Thom Satterlee's "Wyclif Practices the Art of Definition [. . .]" and Grace Paley's "Then," and noticed that while most use short titles as nature intended, several, in addition to Satterlee, resorted to lengthy prose. [Alaska Quarterly Review, University of Alaska Anchorage, 3211 Providence Drive (208 ESB), Anchorage, AK 99508. E-mail: aqr@uaa.alaska.edu. Single issue $6. http://aqr.uaa.alaska.edu/] — Anna Sidak

 

Alligator Juniper

Number 10

2005

Annual

This issue is dedicated to the theme, “Scars,” as evidenced from the dramatic black and white cover photograph of a man whose chest becomes a screen on which is projected several black birds in flight, their wings like the feathery reminders of what the body endures. While a theme dedicated to the visceral remnant of physical and emotional wounds could have solicited writing that was affected, tedious, or even cliché, this issue illustrates anything but. Instead, we read of the subtleties of pain, the nuances of grief, the faint reminders of loss or dejection, though many of these authors left me feeling hopeful — that glimmer of possibility that encircles our aches like a silvery light. Of particular note are Eliot Treichel’s poignant story “Procedure Four,” about a man who “thinks about when he first heard his dog calling to him,” about how that moment provided a vision that “would teach him something about love”; Kathe Lison’s insightful essay “Need is Not Quite Belief,” in which she measures her own desires against the limited scope of society’s sexual taboos; and Will Roby’s poem “Cotton,” which left me longing for my own sense of reconnection to the past. A bonus of this issue is also the inclusion of all national and student winners of contests in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and photography; they illustrate a deep commitment to investigating both the local and the exotic — a self-described hallmark of Alligator Juniper. It’s no surprise to me that this journal has received numerous awards, including the 2001 Content Award from AWP and the 2004 AWP National Program Director’s Prize for Undergraduate Literary Magazines. [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] —Jen Henderson

 

American Literary Review

Volume 16 Number 1

Spring 2005

Biannual

This issue of American Literary Review, edited by Corey Marks, is an elegant collection of memorable fiction and poetry. Melissa Hawkins's unforgettable story "Mary," too frightening to be true, too compelling to be fiction, lingers in one's thoughts, as does Sandra Jacobs's "The One Who Stayed." I'd still be reading Dulcie Leimbach's totally enjoyable—the ambience captured despite the difficulties depicted—"Float" if it hadn't ended much too soon. "On the Funeral Trail," by Phil Graham, is the tale of an unlikely friendship with an ultimate nerd who has the last word via one of those websites routinely blocked by parents. Who hasn't echoed or thought the gist of "Provenance" by Nicky Beer: "All our art is dumb luck anyway. A morbid nursery rhyme / of diminishment; for every one of our masterpieces, / there's one rotting to threads behind a screen / in the asylum, one crushed to mortar in the siege." I found the reviews—Mary DiLucia's review of Sharon Dolan's Serious Pink and Kevin Grauke's review of Oh, Play that Thing, by Roddy Doyle—interesting. But DiLucia's is repetitive (perhaps I'm overly sensitive to overuse of the word epkhtasis). Grauke's review leans toward the negative while commenting favorably on Doyle's earlier books. [American Literary Review, PO Box 311307, University of North Texas, Denton, TX 76203-1307. E-mail: americanliteraryreview@yahoo.com. Single issue $5 + $1 s/h. www.engl.unt.edu/alr/] — Anna Sidak

 

American Tanka

Issue 14

2005

Annual

A concentration of metaphors, word play, and unconventional thinking binds together the five line poems in American Tanka. From the world of subtle nuances and concrete images, I constantly had the sense of reliving a moment that had never before belonged to me. Yet through my communion with each poem, the shared joy, sadness, different perspective, that Aha feeling, I was assured that the moment was in part my own. Several authors are memorable, out of which only a few can be mentioned here. Cindy Tebo’s “old lime kiln,” the first line in her poem, is haunting. The sudden image of the kiln suggests travel, perhaps an old country road. Merely driving by, the traveler pauses in a chance meeting of past and present. The kiln “in the shadows / of a cold afternoon” emphasizes the passing, of the kiln? the traveler? Like Leonard D. Moore’s powerful seven stanza sequence “To Find My Way Home,” Tebo adds additional layers to her poem through careful word choice, placement of lines, absence of punctuation, and juxtaposition. Tim W. Younce’s repetition of the line “folds and unfolds” creates the feeling of nervousness from the perspective of a soldier “at the airport / camo clad,” holding his “boarding pass.” For a moment this soldier can stop time, fold it in his palms. We are all three connected, author, soldier, reader — through a shared awareness of both our power and powerlessness. These poems are for readers who do not want to be told what to think, for those who enjoy connecting the threads. We must compare images and/or ideas and draw conclusions using hints the author provides and our own resources. Because of the relationship we establish in the process, the poems have the potential to live on. [American Tanka, P.O. Box 120-024, Staten Island, NY 10312. Email: editorsdesk@americantanka.com. Single issue $12 www.americantanka.com] —Donna Everhart

 

Dislocate

Issue 1

2005

Annual

This first print issue of the University of Minnesota's literary journal, Dislocate—funded in part by Coca-Cola (?)—is deceptively slim, unassuming, and beautifully formatted. Inside, among many fine efforts, the creative nonfiction of "Caribou," and the timeliness of "It's After the Hurricane That Most People Get Killed," by poet Jan LaPerle. In fulfillment of the journal's premise to include in each issue an essay linking other fields of endeavor to writing, "The Emergence of Complexity Studies: How Complexity Theory Makes Sense" by Allison Reed Miller and N. Katherine Hayles (with 26 references—including Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science and Jurrassic Park) offers this: "[. . .] explores and preserves the mysterious nature of literary works and the multiplicities of meaning-making they inspire." "Pitching In: One Author's Effort To Help Promote Her Own Book" by Anna Cypria Oliver provides outstanding marketing advice and practical information: "Not even a front-page review in the New York Times Book Review, she said, would necessarily translate into a significant increase in book sales, but if booksellers are enthusiastic, any book can be a success." An interview with Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones (The Known World) reveals his quiet dignity: "I don't know if it's specific to this country or not, but people just find it hard to believe that you can just conjure things up." [Dislocate, Department of English, 207 Lind Hall, 207 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455-0134. Single issue $7. www.dislocate.org/] — Anna Sidak

 

Gihon River Review

Volume 7

Spring 2005

Biannual

The Gihon River Review’s spring 2005 issue offers a bountiful selection of stories and poems. Allan Peterson's poem "Slight of Hands" I appreciate for his use of detail and personification, and fresh way in which Peterson reveals a sense of frustration: "The clock is holding its head in its hands," he writes in the third stanza. Introducing the fourth, in which that sense of frustration seems to have ended when a “gnat burns itself crazy on the bulb." Similarly, Richard Ives’ "An Absence of Clouds" bursts with one-liner surprises, and the lines in his poem are like singing a song. "Wedding Day," by Barry Kitterman, is a short story that is like watching a movie: the angles change; you may side with one character and, as the story progresses, you may switch sides. Preacher Gerald Micheals has lost his faith. When he soon disappears, Grace with the "oily hair" and Orlando with his FFA jacket, "a blue corduroy with a single patch,” come to the foreground. In Kitterman’s concusion, Micheals has a brief but momentous interaction with Orlando. Kitterman includes exactly the right amount of detail to create memorable characters. This excellent journal ends with "Ms. Goffer," a non-fictional work that is both honest and sensitive in its reflection. Ms. Goffer, a stereotypical character, is an instructor for the advanced riding class at the military academy where she is at once resented and cherished for her feminine influence and spontaneity. In his writing, Darren DeFrain does not shy away from experience; he explores it. And the effort that it takes for a writer to do so makes the time spent with the journal worth the while. [Gihon River Review, Johnson State College, Johnson Vermont 05656. Single issue $5. http://grr.jsc.vsc.edu/main%20page.htm] —Donna Everhart

 

Gulf Coast

Volume 17 Number 2

Winter and Spring 2005

Biannual

Usually, I take a week to read a good literary magazine, parceling out the pieces over long evenings sitting on my porch or during my thrice-weekly ride on the stationary bike. It’s a sign of respect that I don’t read it all in one sitting. Now I have a new magazine to add to my weekly ritual: Gulf Coast. This issue, a hefty 250-page tome, is filled with the kind of quality writing I’d expect of a prominent journal; writers include well known poets, novelists, and essayists, like Jocelyn Bartkevicius and David Lazar, as well as new and emerging writers. This issue is, in part, dedicated to those writers affiliated with University of Houston, including a few wonderful pieces by Donald Barthelme, such as “The School,” an ironic look at an unlucky group of elementary school kids who are cursed to see most things dear to them die: “They [the children] asked me, where did they go? The trees, the salamander, the tropical fish, Edgar, the poppas and the mommas, Matthew and Tony, where did they go?” Like this story, the journal explores the salient moments in life: claustrophobia in the Catacombs of France in Debra Marquart’s thoughtful essay “The Perils of Travel”; a child’s innovation in Lance Larson’s eloquent poem “The Apprentice”; or a poignant look at a girl growing up in spite of her mother’s inadequacies in Natalie Serber’s wonderful short story “Plum Tree.” Perhaps the superb quality of this magazine shouldn’t be surprising given that the Executive Editor is the distinguished poet, Mark Doty. [Gulf Coast, Department of English, University of Houston, Houston TX 77204-3013. E-mail: editors@gulfcoastmag.org. Single issue: $8. www.gulfcoastmag.org] —Jen Henderson

 

Indiana Review

“Collaboration/Collage”

Volume 27 Number 1

Summer 2005

There is even a collaborative review of a collaborative book in this fascinating issue of work conceived and produced in collaboration (Mary Austin Speaker and Sara Jane Stoner review Phoebe 2002. An Essay in Verse by Jeffery Conway, Lynn Crosbie, and David Trinidad). Collaboration is broadly interpreted and encompasses partnerships of all sorts between poets, between prose writers, between writers and visual artists, between visual artists, between reviewers, and between texts. The work in this issue that is not collaborative in the formal sense is often of the sort that reminds us that all art is a collaboration between creator and reader or spectator, such as Ander Monson's poem, "Outline towards an Antidote: II." (An outline, by its very nature, requires the reader to collaborate on some level, to fill in the blanks, to think past the skeletal structure.) The "Notes on Collaboration/Collage Process" are almost as fascinating as the works themselves. How did all this collaboration happen? One group of well known poets was trying to kill time while waiting for a poetry reading to begin; several teams created their pieces through extended e-mail correspondence; Rick Moody and Gianna Commito put together, at random, his stories and her pictures which were created without seeing each other's work. This issue of the Indiana Review demonstrates that collaboration is an effective means of reaching beyond convention to create inventive ways of thinking, reading, and seeing. [Indiana Review, Indiana University, Ballantine Hall 465, 1020 E, Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405-7103. E-mail: inreview@indiana.edu. Single issue $9. indianareview.org] — Sima Rabinowitz

 

Main Street Rag

Volume 10 Number 2

Summer 2005

Quarterly

The preference in Main Street Rag is for transparency, work with plain, strong language and a clear point of view — Scott C. Holstad's "I Want It All," for example ("Fuck the sweats, / I want the world. / No rhyming for me, / no structured / bullshit, I want / to spread out, / feel the bullets / whistle past."); or Nicole Lynskey's "Talker at the Café" ("The extrovert-talker / could be a pit-bull on a cell-phone / for all that her dark-haired friend / is allowed to speak, / in her 'this-funny-anecdote', / 'that-divorced-couple' conversation…"); or Glen Chestnut's "The Pickup" ("Sometime in the 1950's / A construction site / somewhere in the jungles of Colombia. / Work had stopped for the day. / The mountains to the west / had swallowed up the last rays of sun.") Two short stories, one by C.A. Rogers, the other by David Plumb, fit perfectly with these poems, narrated in casual, conversational voices. It's almost as if we are listening, not reading. I can hear these voices laughing, ranting, grieving, panicking, cajoling, lamenting, and, every so often, even praising, as in "The Decency of Flowers" by Jennifer Gresham:

But every time we slip
into the cover of darkness,
the night blooming jasmine,
planted in the corner
of our lot, reminds us:
Be sweet. Be sweet.

[Main Street Rag, 4416 Shea Lane, Charlotte, NC 28227. E-mail: editor@mainstreetrag.com. Single issue $7. www.MainStreetRag.com] — Sima Rabinowitz

 

MAKE

Issue 1

2005

Though the editors of Make magazine cite Chicago literary patriarch Nelsen Algren as their inspiration, you don’t have to be a Chicagoan to be in Make’s debut issue. Interviewee Marvin Bell (the first Poet Laureate of Iowa) neither resides in nor writes about the “City on the Make.” But he says he loves it. In Aaron Michael Morales’s short story, “El Camino”, a couple of Latin Kings grudgingly run to the rescue of a mother who’s El Camino has caught fire, her baby still strapped inside. Sound like a contemporary Outsiders? It’s better; more honest, less sentimental. Frank Mort Jr.’s excerpt evokes the Outsiders as well, by reminiscing about the delineation between Greasers (cool) and Dupers (not cool). In Don DeGrazia’s indignant essay, “A Story I was Telling Downtown Audiences a Couple Years Ago,” he sifts through the complex web of racism in the city while witnessing a black friend’s cousin’s innocence trammeled by the legal system. DeGrazia gets racism from all sides: “Do I sound pissed? A black man tried to murder my girlfriend because she was white.” Hillman’s bruised poetry, “Hard knock streets, this city,” compliments Steffie Drewes poetry-as-pun. Her “As far as we go” twists clichés and idioms and buzz phrases, “The nineteen-eighties called it tickle-frown ebonics.” Nearly flawlessly edited, Make’s blend of fiction, essay, poetry, artwork and interviews reminded me of The Sun. Except Make is grittier, hungrier and Chicago enough to accept advertising. Makes this Chicagoan proud. [Make Magazine
PO Box 487353, Chicago, IL 60647. E-mail: info@makemag.org. Single issue $3. www.makemag.com] — Robb Duffer

 

New Letters

Volume 71 Number 3

2005

Quarterly

From its attractive table-of-contents pages to ads for the Missouri Review, Notre Dame Review, and Shenandoah, New Letters is a class act, including the inside-cover ads for books by and about Peter Viereck as well as for New Letters itself. Robert Stewart's "Allow Yourself to Say, Yes, An Editor's Note," includes this quotation: "'This playfulness,' says scholar Richard Rorty, 'is the product . . . of the power of language to make new and different things possible and important [. . .].'" and, along with Don Lambert's "Elizabeth Layton [1909-1993], Anniversary of the Public Life" introduces the artist's exceptional work which appears throughout as well as on the front cover. Leslie Ullman's "History of Art in the 21st Century," contains this beautiful line: "'We only think we know where we've been.' he says quietly, spilling us into his version of time [. . .]." My appreciation of Jim Harrison's work has increased since reading Angela Elam's interview, "Repair Work." "How God and I Used to Get Along," Eric Gilbert's fine story (translated from the French) tells of losing God and finding love in Madame Martin's French class. This from "The Gulf" by Janice N. Harrington: "Shallow and silty, the gulf spills its long seam. / How to decipher its hue—sage or phlegm? Fence moss / or the green of a parakeet brought home in a cardboard / box?" Of three fine essays, Michael Waters's enjoyable "The Bicycle and the Soul," stands out. Three excellent book reviews plus many poems complete the volume. [New Letters, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 5101 Rockhill Road. Kansas City, MO 64110. E-mail: newletters@umkc.edu. Single issue $10. www.newletters.org/] — Anna Sidak

 

The New Quarterly

Canadian Writers & Writing

Number 95

Summer 2005

Montreal-based poet Robyn Sarah served as guest editor for what is called a "small anthology" of poems featured in this issue. Sarah also contributes an essay on poetics in which she defines a good poem: "it should transcend its own particulars; it should be built to bear weight; it should have lift." The nearly four dozen poets she's selected offer up work Sarah finds "attentive to language, memorable, ponderable, convincing." Sarah clearly favors plain diction, narrative impulses, strong, authentic voices, and emotional integrity. The poems in this issue bring us close to the heart of the (subject) matter, whatever the matter may be. That's not to say there isn't also a certain degree of innovation and invention, such as Jack Hannan's, "Any letter still standing and floating," a hybrid form that makes this poem one of the most "ponderable" in the issue. This issue also includes a delightfully inventive hybrid of another sort — "Dramatis Personae — an archetypal cast in paint and text" by Shannon Reynolds. These glossy pages resemble a play bill with its cast of characters, complete with headshots and bios. The playbill is followed by full-page paintings of the actors depicted as "types" from famous literary works (the lusty woman, the crone, the sage, etc.). This issue also includes several "behind the scenes" essays about the theater, one with compelling black and white photos. [The New Quarterly, St. Jerome's University, 290 Westmount Rd., N. Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G3. E-mail: editor@newquarterly.net. Single issue $12. www.newquarterly.net] — Sima Rabinowitz

 

Ninth Letter

Volume 2 Number 1

Spring / Summer 2005

Biannual

There are literary magazines that you read and enjoy, but end up piled in your closet amongst back issues of other magazines. Then there are literary magazines that are so lovingly put together and carefully designed that they demand prominent placement on your bookshelf or coffee table. Ninth Letter is one of the latter. This University of Illinois based publication seeks to reinvent the literary magazine by infusing it with design and art. In fact, the masthead lists more designers than editors and assistant editors combined. At its worst, the design work is merely pretty background material, but at its best the art and design deepens the effects of the work. Phil LaMarche’s “In the Tradition Of My Family,” is a perfect example of this and an excellent story in its own right: “In the tradition of my family I was shot at the age of thirteen. My father, lacking a zeal for the familial custom, chose to send a small caliber round through the flesh connecting two of my toes.” Thus the narrator is left with a scar hardly befitting the prominent chest, cheek and shoulder scars of his relatives. Although Ninth Letter’s attention to presentation is what makes it stand out, there is no skimping on the written side. Robert Olen Butler contributes four more pieces of his intriguing “Severance” series, parts of which were previously published in journals such as McSweeney’s and Glimmertrain. Howard Norman translates three excellent poems by the Inuit poet Lucille Amorak and Steve Almond gives a humorous account of his aborted VH1 appearance. I could go on, but it is a large and thick journal and there is simply too much worth commenting on. [Ninth Letter, Dept. of English, University of Illinois, 608 South Wright Street, Urbana, IL 61801. E-mail: jrubins@uiuc.edu. Single issue $12.95. www.ninthletter.com] — Lincoln Michel

 

Open Minds Quarterly

Volume 7 Issue 2

Summer 2005

“What reader,” says Maureen D. Mack, “does not search for a happy ending at the end of a love story? How many of us yearn for a better ending to a human conflict or loss that we have suffered in our lives?” Mack’s “A Better Ending,” which appears in the summer 2005 issue of Open Minds Quarterly, recounts her and her mother’s experience with depression. The power to create and recreate stories, better beginnings or endings, is often taken for granted by those who do not suffer from the symptoms of mental illness. For those who do, a real sense of powerlessness, heightened by the inability to find a place of value in society, and silence heightens their struggle to cope. Open Minds offers a selection of poetry, informative and reflective essays, fiction, and book reviews, all of them first person accounts of experiences and knowledge in dealing with conditions, mental health practitioners, services, treatments, discrimination and even, yes, success. This issue is portrayed in a warm, bright, inviting format, which is easy to read in few sittings. Throughout the pages, alongside the pain, thrives an atmosphere of celebration. Several lines in G. Michael Miller’s poem “London Psychiatric Hospital Revisited” express the reason for such a positive climate. “Love is stronger than psychiatry,” Miller says; and of the reason for writing: “Real art is stronger than a hospital.” Through art, these writers reveal not only a voice but also a talent. Recounting her trip by bus to the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, after having been asked to contribute one of her paintings, Jerome Frank, in “Mind at Ease,” says that “Despite my OCD, depression and social phobia, I had succeeded.” The magazine listed the winners of the 3rd Annual Brain Storm Poetry and Short Story Contests as well as information about other contests. Front and back artwork by Terry Pretz includes “Butterfly Girl” and “Michael.” [Open Minds Quarterly, 680 Kirkwood Drive, Sudbury, ON Canada, PSE 1X3. E-mail: openminds@nisa.on.ca. www.nisa.on.ca] —Donna Everhart

 

Other Voices

Volume 18 Number 42

Spring/Summer 2005

Biannual

Art “lives on long after wars have ended and townspeople have mended their ravaged homes and gone on with their lives...” says the editor of Other Voices. Each of the 16 stories in the spring/summer issue contains the suggestion of crossing a boundary, whether psychological, physical, social or national. Dalia Azim’s “All of Me,” the title of which is borrowed from a Frank Sinatra song, concerns political conflict that reaches into the lives of two sisters, Mai and Ines, and the love they share for Mahmoud, a neighbor boy, who turns his loyalties from his country and, finally it seems, away from love. Like the title suggests, “All of Me” explores the loss of identity, both political and personal, and the power and powerlessness of language and meaning. “Breathing” by Jay Baruch humorously involves the question of language and meaning through the perspective of George: George who is dying from emphysema and diabetes; George who imagines his oxygen tank to be his late wife Helena. Baruch uses dialogue to give us a rounded perspective of George and his family, who are torn between the past and present, pain and acceptance. How far can we go with the struggle to change our lives, to change other people? Where do we stop? This story, as well as the rest, are asking. An interview between Pam Houston and Toni Morrison offers writers and readers alike encouragement and inspiration for hard times, and “Other Voices Bookshelf” introduces a list of recently published and to be published books. [Other Voices, 601 South Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607-7120. E-mail: othervoices@listserv.uic.edu. Single issue $9. www.othervoicesmagazine.org] — Donna Everhart

 

Pilgrimage

Volume 30 Issue 2

2005

Biannual

I have never been disappointed by an issue of Pilgrimage. In a world that is exceedingly desperate, both on and off the page, this exquisite little journal never fails to soothe and stimulate in equal measure, with intelligence, grace, and authenticity. This issue's theme is "borderlands." Editor Peter Anderson explains that stories "help us recognize those borders that may be necessary" and "also break down the borderlines that get in our way." This issue's "Words Along the Way" are from Jim Corbett, an early leader of the Sanctuary Movement, and his words are more apt in these post-Katrina days than they may have ever been: "…we are all refugees in need of congregational sanctuary." If art has a role to play in creating this sense of community, the current issue of the magazine goes a long way toward doing just that. There are powerful, moving poems here by Aaron Abeyta (who also contributes the issue's only short fiction), Kim Stafford, Mitchell Clute, and D.E. Steward, and finely crafted essays by Robert Branscomb, Ana Maria Spagna, Gaynell Gavin, and Kent Annan, among others. There is nothing self indulgent, ostentatious, sentimental, or arch in Pilgrimage. In these days of great devastation, I can't help quoting Kim Stafford, from his poem "Prescott Rain": "We are gathered into a story, you and I, in the sheen and slash of hard rain. / A story goes beyond us, my beloved— / shard, cob, figurine." [Pilgrimage, PO Box 696, Crestone, CO 81131. E-mail: info@pilgrimagepress.org. Single issue $11. www.pilgrimagepress.org] — Sima Rabinowitz

 

Rattle

Volume 11 Number 1

Summer 2005

Biannual

Do lawyers write poetry? Well, if a tribute to lawyers who write appears in the summer 2005 issue of Rattle, the answer is a resounding yes: lawyers do write poetry. Lawyer poems can often be just as sad, angry, or serious as non-lawyer poems. They can even be humorous, like these lines taken from ‘“What Is Your Idle Job?’” by Ace Bogess: “Then it’s back to the office for coffee / tasting like gasoline, maybe a doughnut on the sly” he writes. “If my boss pops over, checking my progress, / I greet him with a good-natured pat on the back / to wipe the sticky glaze from my fingertips.” Lawyer-poems can be philosophical, concrete, their form may arise naturally or like Mark C. Bruce’s “Plea Bargain, June 29," they may borrow a classical shape, like the 19-line villanelle. Over 100 pages are dedicated to poetry, written by both non-lawyers and lawyers. The last 50-60 pages include reviews and essays exploring poetry and poetry books, and two conversations by Alan Fox, one with David St. John and one with Alan Shapiro, discussing the experience of writing and reading poetry. The tribute page and cover photo, by nationally recognized award-winning fine art photographer Eric L. Hansen, reveals the side of a building and a small window. A face barely discernible looks out from behind bars. [RATTLE, 12411 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604. E-mail: timgreen@rattle.com. Single issue $8. www.rattle.com] — Donna Everhart

 

The Reader

Number 18

Summer 2005

Triannual

Penelope Shuttle admits that she is a bookworm while she talks (writes) about the importance of reading aloud, a common activity of the past, less common in the present. She attends author readings, the most memorable of which she describes. “It was Pablo Neruda who made the very deepest impression on me. He read his poems from memory, his arms lifted, his head thrown back, his Aztec face stern with the power of his verse. It didn’t matter that I didn’t understand Spanish; meaning and significance poured from him, I didn’t need the translations that followed.” What Shuttle is talking about, I believe, is passion. And passion is exactly the feeling I have carried away from my experience with The Reader. In addition to fiction, poetry, essays about fiction and poetry, and opinion pieces, I felt a genuine love of reading and a desire to share what one has read. Gwyneth Lewis’ “Sea Books” gives a description of her sailing experience on the Jameeleh, a voyage which led her toward the accumulation of several books, first hand and fictional accounts of travels at sea. “It’s amazing,” says Lewis, “how many lone sailors are good writers.” The sea image appears in several accounts, stories, essays, poems in the summer 2005 issue of The Reader, even on the dark cover itself. The silhouette of a figure reading a book would not be visible if not for the light from a window looking out onto a beach. The reading-writing connection Lewis mentioned reappears, too. As Sarah Maclennan says, “During my non-writing years I read voraciously — mainly prose — and now that I am brim-full of other people’s words my own are forming.” This is the passion I have been talking about, the passion that stays, that grows. A crossword puzzle for all the word lovers out there waits in the back. Sorry, only the answers to the last issue’s crossword puzzle are included! [The Reader, New York Office, Enid Stubin, 200 East 24th Street, Apt. 504, New York, NY 10010. E-mail: readers@liv.ac.uk. www.thereader.co.uk] — Donna Everhart

 

River Styx

69/70

2005

Triannual

An impressive 30th anniversary issue featuring many prolific and well established writers, including Dorianne Laux, Lucia Perillo, Sharon Olds, William Gass, Molly Peacock, Louis Simpson, Richard Burgin, and Robert Finch, among others, as well as many accomplished, but lesser known talents, including Alison Pelegrin, Marcela Sulak, Allen C. Fischer, and Jacbo M. Appel. The broad range of styles and subject matter is especially appealing. I appreciated Cleopatra Mathis's lovely, quiet tribute to "Stanley and Elise" (certainly when Provincetown appears in the poem, we know the missing name is Kunitz) as much as Joel Friederich's haunting poem "A Fairy Tale," and Len Robert's harsh and beautiful family poem, "Indulgences for the Dead," as much as Ira Sukrunguang's strange, sardonic poem, "Karma," about an argument with a mynah bird who calls out "Hey fatty." Most unusual and memorable is Lucia Perillo's essay, "Bonnie Without Clyde," an analysis of the bad girl, "gun molls" of poetry, the "outlaw personas" of verse (to which Perillo clearly aspires). The footnotes are as clever as the essay, in particular one about the author's short-lived career as a shoplifter of meat. Hard to believe Robert Finch's small, lyrical essay about lion's mane jellyfish is tucked away in this same volume. These sorts of juxtapositions make this a truly splendid issue. [River Styx, 634 North Grand Boulevard, Twelfth Floor, Saint Louis, MS 63103. E-mail: bigriver@sbcglobal.net. Single issue $10. www.riverstyx.org] — Sima Rabinowitz

 

Smartish Pace

Issue Twelve

April 2005

Biannual

Eric Pankey and Jim Daniels, John Kinsella and Denise Duhamel — there's no formula here, no template — the breadth of poems in Smartish Pace is one of its key attractions. Forty-two poets as different from each other as forty-two poets can be. There is a pleasing balance here, too, of stars (Bob Hicock and Lola Haskins, not to mention Rimbaud, Italian poet Giovanii Pascoli, and Polish poet Jerzy Kronhold, in addition to the aforementioned) and newcomers. I am sure I would have found Darren Jackson's poem, "Pain Rents a Room Off Bourbon Street," one of his first to be published, powerful had I read it last week or last year, but from here forward, of course, it becomes an entirely new experience:

Faint odor like an unemptied mouse trap.
It's not the trash
crawling through the den.                     

The final third of the journal is devoted to the 2005 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize winners and finalists whose work is also wildly different from each other's. It is gratifying to find the finalists published along with the winners and I wish more journals would follow suit. In "Ebay Sonnets," Duhamel (who seems more prolific than ever these days) assures us: "A poem's worth can triple in days." This issue of Smartish Pace, however, is priceless. [Smartish Pace, P.O. Box 22161, Baltimore, MD 21203. E-mail: sreichert@smartishpace.com. Single issue $12. www.smartishpace.com] — Sima Rabinowitz

 

South Dakota Review

Volume 42 Number 4

Winter 2004

Quarterly

Published by the University of South Dakota since 1963, this issue of South Dakota Review contains many fine stories including James Jay Egan's "The Hand of God," in which things go terribly wrong, Robert J. Nelson's graceful memoir "The Music Teacher," Katherine L. Holmes lyrical "Eggs in a Basket," and Christine Sneed's "Furious Weather." The title of Samuel Maio's 27-page essay, "Deep Image and the Aesthetics of Self: Robert Bly's Early Poetry," tells the story. Not one to buck the current trend toward long titles, Michelle Bonczek gives us this: "In an Effort to Pitch a Tent, Build a Campfire, and Spend the Weekend Outdoors, This Instead," and includes: "Our tired bodies fall like trees / into a motel queen where we sleep." [South Dakota Review, Box 111, University Exchange, Vermillion, SD 57069. E-mail: sdreview@usd.edu. Single issue $10. www.usd.edu/sdreview/] — Anna Sidak

 

The Southern Review

Volume 41 Number 2

Spring 2005

Quarterly

Everything expected of a journal co-founded by Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks is here in an issue commemorating Warren's 10oth birthday with his own fine prose (three letters to friends) and six memoirs—including the delightful "Places: A Memoir" by his daughter, poet Rosanna Warren. In a season in which rereading All the King's Men for dominant themes seems ever more relevant, the brilliant short stories in this issue touch upon war in "Hot Coffee, Summer" by Christine Grillo, in John Lee's perfect, first-published story "Fires"—"[. . .] a thin blaze over the northern horizon, and we heard that Seoul was about to fall when the pyobom, the leopard, began to appear in the valley," and in Asako Serizawa's memorable study of Alzheimer's Disease "Flight," astonishingly also a first publication. The haunting "The Culvert" by Keith Lee Morris and Rob Yardumian's "A Blue to the Shadow's Black" confront grief while Roger Yepsen's "Suet Soot Suit" is a strange tale of unexpected changes. David Graeme Baker's oils—reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth's work in subject matter—are a beautiful six-page bonus. Like the response to Peter Handke, assailed for writing about his mother's suicide, you may find "Consenting to Love: Autobiographical Roots of ‘Good Country People,’" by Mark Busco, S. J., invasive of Flannery O'Connor's privacy and equally sad, in that neither subject was available to consent. Mark Royden Winchell's "Leslie Fiedler, Ahead of the Crowd"—the critic critiqued. Among the many admirable poets represented, Julianna Baggott's titles intrigue: "Sermon on the Mount Today at my Failing Kmart": "If so blessed, then why does / this dying store—its dusty sprawl— / why does it smell of bleach and woe?" All in all, a wonderful issue. [The Southern Review, 43 Allen Hall, LSU, Baton Rouge, LA 70803-5005. E-mail: jolney@lsu.edu. Single issue $8. http://appl003.lsu.edu/southernreview.nsf/index/] — Anna Sidak

 

Swivel

Volume 2 Number 1

2005

The second issue of Swivel is a wry collection of fiction, essays, poetry, and yes, even the occasional comic strip, all written by women. “This time,” says editor Brangien Davis, “the zeitgeist is littered with beasts,” meaning that thematically, this issue seems inexplicably connected by animals — including giraffes. Even the cover dons a slightly smirking goat, his one eye winking, as if you were also in on the joke. While it was difficult at times for me to figure out exactly how this journal defines wit — writing that is funny, silly, dark, or perhaps even naughty, like K. R. Copeland’s “dirty sonnet,” which suggests some disturbing uses for zucchini — I did find myself chuckling out loud at a few clever plots and puns. Perhaps the most notable writing of this issue is the short story, “Reasonable Terms,” excerpted from Hannah Tinti’s collection Animal Crackers, published by The Dial Press in March 2005. In this delightful story, the animals at a zoo set about making demands of the community, including a wider variety of food, better housing, and more stimulating activities — perhaps “[t]he possibility of ice cream.” When their demands are not met, the giraffes stage a mock suicide that elicits both disturbing and poignant reactions from all involved. Also worth a gander are Tami Sagher’s essay “What I (really) do,” which is about hiding her job as a writer for Mad TV — even from herself: “I scale great heights of procrastination. I pick my nose [...] I call my sister so I can whisper that I’m at work, I can’t really talk, I’m swamped”; Deborah Stoll’s piece “Messages,” which makes one reconsider the value of an answering machine; and Courtney Hudak’s poem “Existentialism,” which is not so much witty as wonderfully strange. Except for a few superficial pieces of writing I can only explain as filler, this journal may well find a home on my shelf. [Swivel, P.O. Box 17958, Seattle, WA 98107. E-mail: queries@swivelmag.com. Single issue: $9. www.swivelmag.com] — Jen Henderson

 

Yale Review

Volume 93 Number 3

July 2005

Quarterly

In her thoughtful essay on Goya, novelist Siri Hustvedt writes, "Goya is perhaps the greatest artist of nonsense — that nonsense that we feel within us and recognize in the world around us as frighteningly and brutally, sometimes unbearably real." The Yale Review, however, is, and for this I am grateful, as far removed from nonsense as it is possible to get. Serious, in the best sense of the word, without being pretentious, the Yale Review is reliably solid, but refreshingly readable. Essays in this issue trace the history of places, analyze a painter's life and work in the context of the times in which he lived, recount a memorable personal experience among the famous and infamous public figures of contemporary literature, interpret a literary masterpiece, and introduce a contemporary French writer unknown to American audiences. These are accompanied by the solid, polished poems of ten poets, two satisfying short stories, and five exemplary full-length reviews. The poetry is especially strong this issue, poems by John Hollander, James Longenbach, Lisa Russ Spaar, David Livewell, William Logan, Jordan Smith, Mary Leader, George Bradley, Henry Sloss, and Brian Swann — work that is controlled and tense, yet never forced or needlessly edgy. This issue brings together the very best of the genres represented here. [Yale Review, Blackwell Publishing Group, 550 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148 E-mail: yalereview@hotmail.com. www.yale.edu/yalereview] — Sima Rabinowitz


Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
 

Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed