The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

March 2005

appalachian reviewAppalachian Heritage

Volume 32 Number 4

Fall 2004

What really drives my exploratory urges through the realm of literary magazines is the chance of finding one journal or another which seems in every way a representation of a real America. Appalachian Heritage is just that kind of publication. The journal’s handsome, down-to-earth appearance alone is a refreshing contrast to the often overly cerebral or academic format of so many American literary magazines. And the work featured here has a wonderfully unassuming quality about it: short stories, memoirs, poetry and photographs all unified by a down-home style that authenticates the journal’s eponymous claim to represent a bona fide heritage. In three short stories—by Lee Maynard, Patty Crow, and Sharyn McCrumb—the reader finds a lively, earnest narrative style that holds so faithfully to the clean, basic arcs of classic storytelling that it hearkens back to the rural oral tradition upon which so much of America’s contemporary literature is based, in whatever deviating forms. This issue’s featured author Sharon McCrumb (paraphrased by editor George Brosi) speaks to the very heritage alluded to in the journal’s title: “…[There is] a split between the ‘folk’ and the ‘fine,’ but there is no reason that our ‘folk’ traditions should have any less literary merit than those of Homer, the first epic poet…” This comment met with my emphatic underlining, so aptly did it express the reason for my own appreciation of Appalachian Heritage. Not often while reading literary journals do you get the feeling that you’ve happened upon a publication completely free of the corrosions of pretense, completely at ease with itself, and completely authentic. Appalachian Heritage is the real thing. Read it and find yourself relieved at the incontrovertible evidence it offers that, though big-money publishing may run the roost, the center of the literary universe is not characterized by The New Yorker. [Appalachian Heritage, CPO 2166, Berea, KY 40404. E-mail: george_brosi@berea.edu. Single issue $6. http://community.berea.edu/appalachianheritage/] – Mark Cunningham

 

backwards city reviewBackwards City Review

Volume 1 Number 1

Fall 2004

The debut of a new literary journal always causes me a small pang in the breast. It can be such a vicious world for these little literary nestlings. A trim, handsome journal out of Greensboro, North Carolina makes its debut with this Fall 2004 issue, and if Volume 1 Number 1 is any indication, the folks behind Backwards City Review should be assured that, whatever perils await them on the road of financing, distribution, sales, etc., they’re well ahead of the game in the editorial department. This inaugural issue is happily modest, but by no means meager, in its offerings: 4 short stories, 1 nonfiction piece, 26 poems, 3 fascinating comics, and as a delightful bonus: a facsimile of a hilariously pungent dispatch from the famous Kurt Vonnegut, answering the query: “Where do you get your ideas from?” Michael Parker’s story “Results for Novice Males” pictures in restrained (but never constrained) prose, the sticky relationship between two fledgling triathlon competitors, each struggling through dysfunction from opposite poles of class, and takes its thematic cue from the compelling idea of “junk miles”—“the mileage one accumulates without actually getting better, stronger, faster.” Alix Ohlin’s “Local News,” concerns a TV reporter who dreams of a better, happier, more successful life, and finds herself dramatically subject to the maxim of her journalism teacher: “When you…break all the rules I’ve taught you, then you’ll know you’re working in news.” And Adam Berlin’s unique story “Speeding Away” portrays the mean-spirited machinations of two bachelor protagonists as they wriggle their way out of a promise to drive an annoying friend of a friend home to New York from an Indiana wedding. [Backwards City Review, P.O. Box 41317, Greensboro, NC 27404-1317. E-mail: editors@backwardscity.net. Single issue $7. www.backwardscity.net] – Mark Cunningham

 

cover imageBorderlands

Texas Poetry Review

Number 23

Fall/Winter 2004

For those still Stone Age enough to think of Texas poetry as an oxymoron, welcome to Austin. Alex Grant’s “Vespers” offers home and peace and space and the beautiful old word quieten. Kelle Groom’s poems find the soul of things and help us hear the faint but heartfelt dialogue between the living and the dead: “I wonder / If they are always talking behind the glass, / Full of joy for us, if they are in the trees, swinging, / Smiling, saying live, live, live, & on this side / We hear birds, / Songs from far away.” Brenda Ladd’s photo series gives us lost-(or perhaps found) in-performance soul glimpses of the likes of B.B. King, Abbey Lincoln, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. (A white light shot of a joyful Ray Charles graces the issue’s cover.) Weston Cutter’s wondrous strange, down on all fours and calling “Same Animal” reminds us that evolution of the human kind can be a tricky proposition. To delight you even as it makes you weep that we’ve all but lost to computers the handwritten record of our writers’ painstaking choices is the manuscript page of Walt Whitman’s lovely “unpublished, undated, and perhaps unfinished fragment” “In Western Texas”:

In Western Texas

    mesquit bush
    pecan tree
& prickly pear
and the far-stretching spread of the
    land carpeted with
    flowers

Makes you want to head out for the Borderlands, the unique territory where poet meets up with that odd, armored creature herself and Texas rendezvous with elsewhere under stars you’d swear you could touch. [Borderlands, P.O. Box 33096, Austin, TX 78764. E-mail: borderlandspoetry@gbronline.com. Single issue $12. www.borderlands.org] - Ann Stapleton

 

cover imageColorado Review

Volume 32 Number 1

Spring 2005

Two engaging personal essays, one by newcomer David Harris-Gershon and the other by award-winning essayist Floyd Skloot land side-by-side and are emblematic of the issue as a whole—expertly crafted work by new and more established writers who know how to link their personal stories or perspective to the larger world. Even work poetry editor Donald Revell labels as an unexpected revision of the confessional mode, Jenny Mueller's "Lyric," reaches beyond the confines of experiment or solipsistic musing to offer a broad, surprising, and accessible world: "The cicada orgasms / sing, cease. A knock and a bruise / is this afternoon, its approaches // by lapses. A blast at the sills: it's the earth, wanting in, heat-zonked / and spoiling, prodigal."  Not that there isn't plenty of invention here, writing that takes risks and moves beyond convention: an excerpt from Dan Beachy-Quick's "Mulberry," the title poem from Michelle Mitchell-Foust's forthcoming book "Imago Mundi," an excerpt from Christopher Arigo's "Breath Variations." The fiction is somewhat more conventional, but nonetheless pleasing, with six thoroughly readable and memorable stories (so good, I think, that all of their authors deserve mention: Kathleen Lee, Seth Biderman, Naomi J. Williams, Angie McCullagh, Robin Black). Hats off to the Colorado Review for offering readers an opportunity to get to know many talented and exciting new and lesser known writers (Melanie Figg, Amy Schroeder,  Gillian Jerome, along with the afore-mentioned Harris-Gershon, Williams, and many others). [Colorado Review, Department of English, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 80523. E-mail: creview@colostate.edu. Single issue $9.50. http://coloradoreview.colostate.edu] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

cover imageThe Baltimore Review

Volume 9 Number 1

Winter/Spring 2005

There's a bit of magic in Anh Chi Pham's short story, "Kaleidoscope," in which an old Vietnamese man (exiled from his family as a child for being deaf and difficult to raise) finds a shot corpse near his cave and is soon beset by soldiers. The ugliness of war comes to a temporary halt as the foreigners discover and are entranced by the man's collection of beautiful kaleidoscopes he'd made by hand as his grandfather had taught him. I mention this piece because I wish more of The Baltimore Review's stories were like it; too many, I think, are in that vein of contemporary divorce/broken-family-story of which I've read enough in the past decade. In other areas, the journal is top-notch: Katie Hearn's "Seeking the Wild" is a wonderful piece of creative fiction on the writer's adventures in the woods. Hearn counters the typically "masculine" need for trial by nature with information on various female explorers from Queen Victoria's maid of honor to the author's own young daughter. In poetry, Jim Tilley's "Aluminum Rush" is a crisp reaction to an exhibit on Aluminum et design. Poems about the difficulty of writing poems can be tiresome, but Dennis Saleh's "Poem of Many Poems" is just wonderful. An excerpt: "The brain thought it over, / tried a poem, / but was fooled. // The eye saw something / better, / and forgot its lines." [The Baltimore Review, P.O. Box 36418, Towson MD 21286. Single issue: $8. http://www.baltimorereview.org] – Jennifer Gomoll

 

cover imageColumbia

A Journal of Literature & Art

Issue 39

2004

The interviews (sometimes a dull spot in literary magazines) are a highlight of this issue of Columbia. In Mary Phillips-Sandy’s talk with culture critic Camille Paglia, high priestess of free associaters (think female, literary Robin Williams), Paglia offers an energetic mix of liberal, conservative, and crackpot views—the dead giveaway of an open mind at work. She compares Stephen King to Edgar Allan Poe, to the glory of both; takes a passing whack at Joyce Carol Oates’ prose style (“I can’t believe she just throws that stuff out there!”); and is a great proponent of the Web, for which she began writing “early on,” but admits to composing her first drafts “by hand with a real pen on real paper.” Lytton Smith’s interview with master poet Robert Mezey is equally refreshing and candid. (“If it’s not a pleasure to read poetry, what the hell do you do with it?”) And the two poems Mezey contributes, “Hardy” and “Tea Dance at the Nautilus Hotel (1925),” are true formalist beauties. Joan Houlihan, poet and penner of fierce and clear-sighted essays on the state of the art today, offers “Injury,” a gem of her own that by way of its original rhythms and its difficult love for the world put me in mind of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Distinguished short fiction and portraits by three photographers with divergent conceptions of beauty round out the issue. Columbia is elegant and bold and unselfconsciously diverse, and its fascination with the written word and with those who make it their calling is contagious. [Columbia Journal, 415 Dodge Hall, 2960 Broadway, New York, NY 10027. E-mail: columbiajournal@columbia.edu. Single issue $10. www.columbia.edu/cu/arts/journal] - Ann Stapleton

 

cover imageCUE: A Journal of Prose Poetry

Volume 2 Issue 1

Winter 2005

Twenty-four prose poems and one interview in a handsome, elegant little volume—CUE is a find. In editor Morgan Lucas Schuldt's e-mail interview with award-winning poet Karen Volkman, Volkman writes: "…poetry should make us more conscious of how we think and structure our experiences and sensations, and provide new possibilities." Indeed, this issue of CUE provides us with a sense of the prose poem's vast and marvelous possibilities, from Rita Dove's speculations on the difference between prose and poetry ("It's supposed to be prose if it runs on and on, isn't it?"), to Mathew Thorburn's five acidic little fruit poems (he extols the virtues of the apple, banana, lemon, lime, and pear), to Van Jordan's dictionary story (a plot of love and abandonment structured around and told through the definitions and uses of the word "to"), to John Levy's dissection of a painting by Degas ("'The Racehorse, Amateur Jockeys' took more than 13 years to not complete. Is that the opposite of racing?"), to Paul Dickey's "The Thought of What America Would Be Like If" composed of fragments of texts as diverse as jokes by Lily Tomlin, folksongs, the verse of T.S. Elliot, and supermarket sale signs. If you love prose poetry (and how can you not?) you'll love CUE. [CUE, P.O. Box 200, 2509 North Campbell Avenue, Tucson, AZ, 85719. E-mail: cuejournal@yahoo.com. Single issue $6. www.u.arizona.edu/~mschuldt/CUEhtml] – Sima Rabinowitz

cover imagedescant

Volume 43

2004

The ten stories of this issue are eclectic in style and, alas, quality: most are engaging, many are well-written, and some could use a bit more work. Descant opens with Paul H. Williams' "Seeds in the Cellar" about a young man who is somewhat embarrassed by his Cherokee heritage but embraces it in a private moment of mourning for his dead grandfather. "Good Works," by Vivan Lawry, takes us to China, where the patriarch of a missionary family loses his leg to gangrene. Kurt Ayau defies political correctness with "Culture Clash," in which a librarian complains of the "East Wajooans," a member of whom he insults, resulting in his having to participate in a ritual, which he botches. The story is pointed yet humorous, putting a mirror to our own secret assumptions about Others. My favorite line of the issue appears in M. Elizabeth Weiser's "The End of the World," in which a travel writer, suffering the loss of her husband to suicide, treks to a point in Canada called "the end of the world" by the Micmac Indians. She is told by a companion that this place is not an end but a beginning; wryly, she notes, "I came 5000 miles to see a failure of perception." Descant's poems are short and well-crafted – the one standout, I thought, was Charles Harper Webb's "Ceci N'est Pas Une Poeme," which takes the ego, beatniks, and bongos out of the popular conception of poetry, asks the reader to replace them with beautiful images, then humbly asks something few poets ever will: "Forget me." [descant, Department of English, Texas Christian University, TCU Box 297270, Fort Worth TX 76129.E-mail: descant@tcu.edu. Single issue $12.] – Jennifer Gomoll

 

cover imageEvent

Volume 33 Number 3

Spring 2005

This is the annual creative non-fiction awards issue, but every issue of Event is a winner from what I've seen. Canadian magazines continue to impress me with consistently strong work, an expansive and generous vision, and a satisfying mix of "new and established writers." Judge Ross Laird's choices for the contest are exceptional, as is his introduction. He honors some of the fine entries which did not win the contest by describing their efforts as texts that blend "the inner and outer worlds, flowing seamlessly between reflection and description…"—a standard the winners (Vaia Barkas, Nancy Mauro, and Susan Olding) also achieve. Mauro is a graduate student at work on her first novel and if "The Griller's Guide to Love and Loss" is any indication of what we can expect of her future work, I would order a copy of the novel, even before she finishes it. Her essay is a masterpiece of what Laird would call "melodic writing," coupled with insightful and original thinking, and a unique momentum in the prose that somehow encourages us to speed up and slow down at the same time. The poetry in this issue is equally exceptional. Lorna Crozier contributes two poems that demonstrate why she is one of Canada's premier poets, along with the work of a dozen other talented poets. [Event, Douglas College, P.O. Box 2503, New Westminster, B.C. V31.5B2. www.event.douglas.bc.ca. E-mail: event@douglas.bc.ca. Single issue $8. http://www.douglas.bc.ca/visitors/event-magazine.html] – Sima Rabinowitz

cover imageFourteen Hills

Volume 11 Number 1

Winter/Spring 2005

"Ooh, mail art!" Such was my glee in flipping through Fourteen Hills, which is chock full of collages by collaborators Mike Dickau & Jon Held Jr., not to mention the inimitable Winston Smith. This issue of the journal is something of a collage itself, boasting a variety of talented writers from San Francisco and from around the world. Binyavanga Wainaina's "Hell is in Bed with Mrs. Peprah" takes the reader to a beauty shop in Kenya in the late 70s, where a young girl sits among the hot combs and gossip and listens to the educated, eccentric, and undeniably strong "Auntie" Peprah defend herself against naysayers. "Newborn," by Murzban F. Shrof, presents a father who feels as if he's lost his identity upon the birth of his first child; though his actions in trying to regain some sense of his manhood are unconscionable, the story is sincere, unflinching, and very well done. I loved the imagery of Simone Muench's "Hydrophobia": "[...] Listen to the river's hiss; metal swallows // clip the air. Hunters in bright orange vests / approach you as though you were a ghost deer." Perhaps the most moving piece here is Paul Kaidy Barrows's "Ou Est-ce Que Madame Bien Voudrait Aller?" in which a disfigured cabbie's monologue takes a passenger – and the reader – through a ravaged land, confronting the sheltered with the hard realities of war. With these great works and many more, Fourteen Hills is a most remarkable journal. [Fourteen Hills, c/o the Creative Writing Department, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Ave., San Francisco CA 94132-1722. E-mail: hills@sfsu.edu. Single issue $7. http://www.14hills.net] – Jennifer Gomoll

 

Green Mountains Review

Volume 17 Number 2

2004

What makes this issue of Green Mountains Review especially appealing is the range of styles and tones represented here. Maureen Seaton is as quirky, irreverent, playful, and original as ever in several pieces that defy classification. Erick Pankey is as solemn and soulful as we know him to be in three self-portraits composed of exacting, carefully calculated language. Lola Haskins is, as we expect her to be, both lyrical and sharp-tongued in "Parsing Mother" ("You're the twig that slashed my eye as I pushed through the branches. / Why I see cracks, faults, flaws, in every vase and daughter. O / Mother how declensions abound: nominative sun accusative moon."). The fiction follows suit, with solid, conventional short stories by Jenna Terry and Daisy Tsui; a lyrical folk-tale style offering by Christopher White; and stories I am tempted to categorize as "sudden fiction" or "short shorts" by Francine White. Among the many memorable and noteworthy pieces in this issue is one I simply cannot refrain from mentioning— Eamon Grennan's marvelous poem "From the Road," which begins:

What stops me is the big indifference
of weather, the remoteness it shows
in all its peremptory gestures.

But then there's Bach coming out
of the air, an equal mystery. Rejoice!
he says, all ye ransomed souls.

[Green Mountains Review, Johnson State College, Johnson, VT 05656. E-mail: gmr@jsc.vsc.edu. Single issue $8. http://greenmountainsreview.jsc.vsc.edu] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

The Harvard Review

Number 27

2004

The cover means to draw us in by announcing work from Jorie Graham, André Aciman, Honor Moore, Kenneth Burke and theirs is certainly worthwhile. One of the most gifted writers on place, Aciman never disappoints, and I loved this essay on New York. Moore's piece on Lowell is marvelous—she is such a fine essayist I would read her on any subject, but she is especially satisfying when writing about other poets. But, I was equally interested in the work of writers whose work I hadn't known, but am glad I do now: K.E. Duffin who contributes several "short shorts" (not quite prose poems, not really sudden fiction, not essays, but almost); poets Rob Cook and Sarah White, and fiction writers Reshi P. Reddi and Muriel Mouton. Benedict Giamo contributes a brief personal essay on Kenneth Burke, a tender tribute to his teacher and a story of Burke's, originally published in 1920, is reprinted here. "Graphics" in this issue include drawings by David Smith, woodcuts from Frans Masereel, and a fascinating series of photographs by Judith S. Larsen, "Invisible Alphabet." The photographs are made by projecting transparencies onto human models and they "reference various cultural inscriptions, biological patterning, and diagrams made by visionaries attempting to understand the nature of our humanity and the universe in which we live." [Harvard Review, Lamont Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 01238. E-mail: harvrev@fas.harvard.edu. Single issue $10. http://hcl.harvard.edu/harvardreview] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Hobart

Issue 4

Winter 2004-2005

Now this is a great magazine. Short, quirky writing that takes itself seriously but is not without a sense of humor. Think of it as a McSweeney’s for very short fiction (most of the stories here are between two and six pages). Perhaps the similarities are due to guest editor Ryan Boudinot, a McSweeney’s contributor who includes two excellent Icelandic authors in this issue who also appear in the new McSweeney’s. Regardless, the fiction in this issue is first-rate. The cover image, by Marcel Dzama, is an illustration of two Aimee Bender stories that which bookend the fiction here about a skeleton and devil who row naked families across a lake of fire. Absurd and great. Other highlights include the poetic short-short “The Groom Smokes” by Rick Moody about a man delaying his wedding as “the dusk exercises its influence over him” and Tao Lin’s unsettling tale of a woman deciding to go back to sleep as her house is robbed. I could continue, but there are too many good stories to discuss in this short review. Hobart #4 gets my full recommendation. [Hobart, PO Box 1658, Ann Arbor, MI 48103. Single issue $10. www.hobartpulp.com] – Lincoln Michel

 

Indiana Review

Volume 26 Number 2

Winter 2004

If you are like me, the multitude of literary reviews named after universities or geographic locations tend to blend together in your mind. However, for me, the Indiana Review just ceased to be one of them. Indiana Review is one of the only university affiliated magazines I’ve read that publishes great edgy and risky writing. Take for example the opening line James Gendron’s prose-poem “Expelled”: “Imagine the boy’s surprise on discovering that he couldn’t fly despite having been raised by bats.” Both of Gendron’s prose-poems (I almost want to call them parables) are excellent, my favorite poems in this issue. The vast majority of writing is poetry, but the fiction is solid as well. I really enjoyed Stephen Tuttle’s 2003 fiction prize winning piece “The Weather Here,” which tells the story of a group of men trapped under waves of rain and fleas. The tone and style reminds me of Donald Barthelme, which I mean very much as a compliment. At almost 200 pages of mostly poetry there should be more than enough to justify your purchase. [Indiana Review, Ballantine Hall 465, 1020 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405-7103. E-mail: inreview@indiana.edu. Single issue $9. indianareview.org/] – Lincoln Michel

 

The Journal

Volume 28.2

Autumn/Winter 2004

With two traditionally constructed short stories, a meta-fictional batch of autobiographical “contributor’s notes” by writer Michael Martone, and a nonfiction piece excerpted from the personal notebook of author M.V. Clayton, this issue of The Journal is slim on its prose offerings, leaning almost entirely toward poetry. But unlike perhaps every other litmag I’ve perused, all of the poetry here sparked my complete and unadulterated enjoyment. Most compelling is a suite of works by various poets, each concerning the tender, reflective, occasionally paradoxical moments of parenthood or birthgiving. Chad Chmielowicz’s “Parable of the Pacifier” is brave and evocative in its attempts to lyrically combine the mysteries that shape an infant’s experience of the world and those that shape the concerns of the infant’s parents. “…People here look like people / from years ago in a different place / and I keep mistaking them. To think, this happens / continuously. The colors you see now / will sharpen into faces and you will track / your life in their lines.” Katrina Roberts’ lovely piece “Postlude: Madrigal” follows, limning the willing self-sacrifices of motherhood: “…There is no fabric as rich / as the time I spend watching you sleep, / thought passing across the pond of your face / as the wind ripples the wheat…”. And Daneen Wardrop’s elegiac poem “Birthday’s Profile” haunts with thoughts upon a twin who never came to completion in the mother’s womb: “Before ultrasound she flew. / You could not tell her running / from her hair flying.” Anthony Varallo’s story “The Pines,” winner of The Journal’s First Annual Short Story Prize, is in its own rambling way poetic and image-driven, and Varallo has a knack for immediate, vivid evocation even while inventing new twists on the coming-of-age framework of his narrative. In short, The Journal offers finely chiseled, artful, and thought-provoking work in both poetry and prose. I recommend it highly as an anodyne for anyone who tends to shy away from contemporary poetry: it will restore your faith in the enjoyment modern poets can afford you. [The Journal, The Ohio State University, Department of English, 164 W. 17th Ave, Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail: thejournal@osu.edu. Single issue $7. http://english.osu.edu/journals/the_journal/] – Mark Cunningham

 

jubilat

Issue 9

2004

I am heartened by the interview with John Ashbury, who recalls a rather humorous meeting with Helen Vendler, who confessed to never writing about Ashbery's poetry because she didn't understand it. I feel brave enough to admit there is much in jubilat that I could not understand; forgive me if I write about it anyway. I enjoyed Aase Berg's "Open the Voter" (trans. Johannes Goransson); alas, I'm afraid I'm not smart enough to tell you why. In its entirety: "Toothed whale / beached whale / open whale / open space / unwhale / of rubber rooms." Jubilat is unique in that it presents a variety of texts in translation, ancient and contemporary. Pliny the Elder's "Natural History" was most fascinating, with its remedies and medicines far more exciting than anything you'll see in, say, a Viagra commercial: "aphrodisiac for men [...] are the yolks of five pigeons' eggs mixed with a denarius by weight of pig fat and swallowed in honey, sparrows or their eggs in food, or the right testicle of a cock worn as an amulet in a piece of ram's-skin." Also worth mentioning is the collection of emails from members of an Antarctic penguin-research mission, which describe harsh conditions, shifting icebergs, the difficulty of tagging penguins, and the beautiful breath of whales. [jubilat, Department of English, 482 Bartlett Hall, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-0510. E-mail: jubilat@english.umass.edu. Single issue $8. http://www.jubilat.org] – Jennifer Gomoll

 

Meridian

Issue 13

Spring/Summer 2004

Sometimes it's the fiction and poetry that grab you in a literary magazine; sometimes it's the essays and interviews. Meridian contains some fine stories, including Morgan McDermott's prize-winning "Lease," in which a man struggles with the definition of his manhood and thinks, for a while at least, that killing his wife and her lover might be the right expression of it. But it's the nonfiction here that addresses some interesting questions. For those who've ever wondered what considerations go into compiling a poetry anthology, the interview with Jahan Ramazani, a Norton Anthology editor, is enlightening. Paula Speck's "Six Seconds: An Essay" is a thoughtful piece on how dollar amounts for mental anguish are set when loved ones die in tragic plane accidents, and raises questions on our society's need for payout: "Where a medieval man might have been grateful for the chance to pray and where a Victorian might have choked out a last word for his family, we sue." The often-controversial Francine Prose, in interview, has a few harsh words for writing workshops and organized religion; however, she seems a bit abashed in the wake of criticism for her 1999 Harper's article attacking high school English programs where "moralistic" writers like Maya Angelou are taught: "You always have this stupid idea that people are going to be grateful because you're saying the thing that everybody knows." (Guess not.) Meridian has so much going for it, if it only had an art spread, it would be the perfect journal. [Meridian, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400145, Charlottesville VA 22904-4145. E-mail: meridian@virginia.edu. Single issue $7. http://www.readmeridian.com] – Jennifer Gomoll

 

Mississippi Review

Volume 32 Number 3

Fall 2004

Entitled “Politics & Religion,” this issue of the Mississippi Review might just as aptly be named the “Stand on the Rooftop and Shout Yes, Yes, Yes!” issue. I found myself exclaiming aloud more than once as I sat locked in one visceral essay after another. As guest editor Gary Percesepe writes in his dynamite introduction: “The essays, poems, and stories that have been collected here amount to a prophetic call to reexamine the foundations of political life.” What most recommends this issue are the many voices presented in its pages—voices personal, academic, journalistic, religious, political, poetical—all unified in their articulation of what exactly needs to change in the corroded cultural/political fabric of the United States. Bill Moyers gives an earnest, personal appraisal of the widening class-gap accelerated by the profiteering policies of a Religious Right. Noam Chomsky’s detached analysis of the rhetorical and media manipulations used to support the Bush administration’s yen for invading Iraq is shocking and nearly impossible to argue down. Best of all, however, is an essay by Rabbi Michael Lerner entitled “Closed Hearts, Closed Minds,” which deals very sympathetically with the phenomenon of radical conservatism, and calls upon liberals and leftists to adopt a new, whole-hearted perspective with the aim of eventually closing the divisive political chasms of our nation. “…What the Left fails to understand are the rational core of needs that are not being addressed in the larger society which are addressed, albeit in distorted form, in these communities of meaning [read: right-wing communities].” With this issue, the Mississippi Review has in one fell swoop powerfully enriched the essential, indispensable cultural dialogue of a nation at war with itself. [Mississippi Review, Center for Writers, The University of Southern Mississippi, Box 5144, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5144. E-mail: rief@mississippireview.com. Single issue $12. http://www.mississippireview.com/] – Mark Cunningham

 

New England Review

Volume 25 Number 4

2004

New England Review continues to uphold its reputation for publishing extraordinary, enduring work. Jane Hirshfield’s wise and compassionate poem “In a Room with Five People, Six Griefs” is a distillation of the overlarge experience of being human into a few simple-seeming sentences that tell our grief and fear and anger, yet leave open “A door through which time / changer of everything / can enter.” Richard Wollman’s fiercely affecting “Paper in Autumn” resurrects one family from the fire of the Holocaust. Frederick Brown offers a fascinating, at times repelling, gorgeously written account of French novelist Gustav Flaubert’s 1849 trip to Egypt—equal parts libertinism, impression gathering, and missing Mother. Especially moving is an excerpt from the selected letters of Ohio poet James Wright, who grapples with money troubles and the inexorable demon of his depression, even as he writes his lumberingly graceful, lasting poems. The letters are also of historical interest as the young Wright corresponds with the young Robert Bly, who tries to persuade Wright to turn away from formal verse and rhyme toward the unrhymed free verse that swept American poetry in the sixties, a more wrenching choice for him than one might have imagined. Wright reminds us “that poetry is a terrifyingly difficult and magnificent thing” and expresses his gladness at having cheered up a lonely, starving poet by showing up at his furnished room with “(1) two vivacious and pretty girls and (2) a large bag of fresh bananas.” As Wright puts it, “Yes, we need one another in deep, strange ways.” [New England Review, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753. E-mail: NEReview@middlebury.edu. Single issue $8. www.middlebury.edu/~nereview] - Ann Stapleton

 

North American Review

Volume 289 Number 6

November-December 2004

One of the only literary magazines in the United States to resemble in physical format a standard mainstream magazine, North American Review cannot be found on any newsstands, but is sold entirely by mail order. That the magazine simultaneously happens to be the oldest of its kind in the nation speaks impressively to the emphatic approval of a devoted subscription base. The back cover of this issue bears a facsimile of a handwritten note by Thomas Jefferson, regarding payment arrangements for his subscription for the year 1825. This issue contains 4 short stories, 4 nonfiction pieces, 3 reviews, and 21 poems. I enjoyed Phillip Gardner’s strange, wickedly funny story “Chainsaw Putt-Putt.” Narrated by a hopelessly nondescript character who finds himself forgotten-about just minutes after every social introduction, the story takes a number of dark but playful turns. “Me, I take a barstool at The Paradise Lounge, order a drink, and five minutes later the bartender says, ‘What are you having?’ I’ll hold up my bourbon and she’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah, you’re the guy in the turtleneck.’” Also engaging was Zachary Zorich’s essay “A Stone to Build On,” about the author’s experiences as an archeological intern on a dig at a Neanderthal feeding-site in the Crimean. Zorich’s inquiry into the palimpsest of epochs is vivid and personal, as when he turns up a perfectly crafted Neanderthal scraping tool made of flint. “There is no scientific explanation for why the Neanderthal might have chosen to shape the tool this way…I think he shaped [it] according to a sense of beauty that must be similar to the one that guided me when I picked up the tool to admire it.” Though some of the work in this issue seems encumbered by implausibility or the cliché, there is much to enjoy in North American Review. And for the cost per issue, one can hardly afford to miss a foray through this American literary tradition. [North American Review, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0516. E-mail: vince.gotera@uni.edu. Single issue $4.95. http://webdelsol.com/NorthAmReview/NAR] – Mark Cunningham

 

Notre Dame Review

Number 19

Winter 2005

Notre Dame Review &Now, and Then is this issue's theme, by which the editors mean: "a larger than-traditional conception of what counts as literature" based on the premise that "the world changes" and literature, like painting and music, will "reflect larger historical changes." &Now plus and Then is/are literally one/two journals, the front cover of &Now becomes the back cover of and Then as halfway through one must flip the journal over and begin again to be reading right side up. &Now, the editors tell us, is a "festival of new writing" and somehow the word festival gives me permission to revel in these "larger than traditional" pieces with largesse. I stop worrying about what I am supposed to think of this work, how to approach it, and simply engage with this work, work that defies categorization as it teases the page, challenges our perceptions of language, structure, plot, meaning, interpretation, and confuses, surprises, troubles, angers, and delights us. and Then is, as we might expect, composed of more traditional pieces, including reviews, though the work here is also fresh and provocative. "Man and Woman," a poem by Mary Jo Bang (a poet we expect to find, of course, in & Now, though this piece is not particularly unconventional and could easily have fit in and Then), begins: "To spend most of a short life living, / that was the aim." If you plan to spend most of your short life reading, don't skip this startling and fascinating issue of the Notre Dame Review. [Notre Dame Review, 840 Flanner Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556. E-mail: English.ndreview.1@nd.edu. Single issue $8. www.nd.edu/~ndr/review.htm] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Pebble Lake Review

Volume 2 Issue 1

Fall 2004

It's nearly impossible not to pick up this issue of Pebble Lake Review, with its almost hypnotically vibrant cover photograph of a sun-dappled graveyard. Fortunately, the contents of this slim, unassuming journal don't disappoint. The poems tend to be short and straightforward; no experimental rambles here. Likewise, the fiction moves quickly, and there is a handful of various art works by seven different people. I was most impressed by Jill Coupe's "Slipping," in which a slick, young suit tries to bully an aging librarian out of her position using interrogation techniques which remind her (the librarian) of Pinochet's 1973 power coup. She is a corporate prisoner as Chilean poet Miguel Jose Santiago was a political one; she manages to keep her dignity but, probably, not her job. In poetry, I liked Sarah Sloat's "Winding Down," about resting after a good run: "It is strange to observe the body / close down, like letting a clock do its work, / deciding nothing." Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb presents a wonderful day-after-Halloween meditation in "Sense of Saints," in which one finds a dead owl and buries it. This is a mystical experience: "Soil still under your nails, / your fingers touch the feather / to deep blue morning air, / tracing the owl's eye moon, / yellow and cradled / by wisps of clouds." It's a wow moment, one of many to be found in this journal. [Pebble Lake Review, 15318 Pebble Lake Drive, Houston TX 77095. E-mail: submissions@pebblelakereview.com. Single issue $6. http://www.pebblelakereview.com] – Jennifer Gomoll

 

Pleiades

Volume 25 Number 1

2005

I was immediately impressed by the overall presentation of this issues of Pleiades, beginning with the cover artwork by Julie Speed and following with the overall heft of the issue itself. The contents are pretty evenly divided between one hundred pages of creative writing and one hundred pages of book reviews. On the creative side there are three pieces of well crafted fiction, of which I particularly enjoyed the odd, prose poem piece titled "Scarlie," by Tod Williams, an epigrammatic "essay," an extremely intriguing interview with the poet Reginald Shepherd, and various poems from a total of nineteen different poets ranging from the beautifully  simplistic and succinct language of Catherine Barnett's "Ritual," to the tongue twisting wordplay of Randall Mann's "The Last Dinner Party." I found the bulk of the poetry in this issue to be well above the usual standard and the range and variety of language, style, and approach to be truly refreshing. It was a pleasure for me to read the following lines from Alex Lemon's "Juke Joint:" "I am Hi-Fi, all of me is surround / sound. I snap my fingers & the world / is xylophones. Feel my wrist, / it is a coda dragging its feet. I click / my teeth like cymbals..." While this issue of Pleiades was definitely more heavily weighted in the poetry department, both on the creative side and in the topics for book review, with only three of the books reviewed being fiction, I still found it to be a satisfying read due to the superior quality of the work. [Pleaides: A Journal of New Writing, Department of English, Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, MO 64093. E-mail: kdp8106@cmsu2.cmsu.edu. Single issue $5. www.cmsu.edu/englphil/pleiades/] - Mary Baken

 

Poetry

Volume 185 Number 5

February 2005

A long-time reader of Poetry, I have a confession to make. I read Poetry for the reviews. It's not that I don't appreciate the poetry, of course—what, in this issue, Wislawa Szymborska describes, along with the work of Plato, as "litter scattered by the breeze from under statues / scraps from that great Silence up on high…"—but what inspires and angers and thrills me, above all, is what is found under the heading "comment." So, by all means, read this issue for the latest work of some our most respected and prolific poets (Sharon Olds, Alice Friman, Carl Dennis, Kay Ryan, among others). But don't skip Meghan O'Rourke's review of "under-read" poet Bill Knott or regular reviewer Brian Phillips's "Ten Takes" and "Et. Al." Philips can be merciless (he labels one poet's new work "garbled half-lyrics slung in neutral white space") or generous (he finds one poet's work "only intermittently interesting" but at the same time concludes "for sheer human fascination her poems are often very engaging"), but his reviews teach us as much about poetry's power and its pitfalls as any manual or workshop and often more than many poems. Of James Longenbach's The Resistance to Poetry, Philips says, "…he wants us to enjoy the ways that poems keep us hanging." What I appreciate, though, about Poetry's reviews is that they never, ever leave us hanging. [Poetry, 1030 North Clark Street, Suite 420, Chicago, IL 60610-5412. E-mail: editors@poetrymagazine.org. Single issue $3.75. www.poetrymagazine.org] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Potomac Review

A Journal of Arts & Humanities

Issue 38

Fall/Winter 2004-05

In this issue, Clarissa T. Sligh writes movingly of the unspeakable: how her mother’s twelve-year-old brother was killed by racists, his body dumped on the ground in front of the house. “Her parents were still in the fields. Not able to accept that her brother was dead, she cradled his lifeless body in her lap and rocked him back and forth.” Sligh’s grandparents, needing to work in the fields but desperately afraid for their other sons, resorted to hanging them high in the trees in burlap sacks so they couldn’t wander away from the farm. Carla Panciera’s gently incisive “Darcy Didn’t Want to Be Home” tells the story of a wandering cow, a sentient being wanting more than her allotted life, from the perspective of a daughter caught between her father’s view of the animal as a product, and her own, more intuitive understanding of the world’s ways. Potomac Review, though not a religious publication, generously makes room for several offerings touching on the life of the spirit, such as Viva Hammer’s essay “Our Yarmulka” which quietly demonstrates how even a simple article of clothing, seen in the light of history, can become an article of faith, and the wearing of it, a way of keeping faith with those who are lost to time. If there is an overriding theme to the Potomac Review, it is the bonds of relationship—the sometimes excruciating sacrifices they ask of us, and the best of ourselves they give us in return. [Potomac Review, 51 Mannakee St., Rockville, MD 20850. E-mail: judith.gaines@montgomerycollege.edu. Single issue $10. www.montgomerycollege.edu/potomacreview/] - Ann Stapleton

 

small.spiral.notebook

Volume 1 Issue 2

This is the second “best of” collection from the small.spiral.notebook website and there is a wealth of excellent fiction here. My favorite piece was “Immersion” by Judy Budnitz, which manages to deal with issues of race, jealousy and sisterhood with subtlety and artfulness. Although, who would expect less from Budnitz? Other fiction highlights include Jill Carroll’s “How to Be a Good Daughter” and the delightfully twisted short-short “Oyster” by Ken Foster. The poetry in this issue did not strike me as much as the fiction, but I enjoyed both of Mark Cunningham’s prose-poems about confusion and frustration. There are a couple pieces here that simply miss the mark, but for a second issue small.spiral.notebook shows plenty of promise. I can only hope they keep up the good work. [Small Spiral Notebook. E-mail: editor@smallspiralnotebook.com. Year subscription $12. http://www.smallspiralnotebook.com/] – Lincoln Michel

 

Smartish Pace

Issue 11

2004

"It is the age of noon / when all the hours are sleeping / and you remain awake, for this / is where the poem begins…"—the young German poet Matthias Göeritz (translation by Susan Bernofsky) captures the essence of the entire glorious endeavor of poetry, waking us from sleep, from the stultifying trance of a hot, uncomfortable day—a "metamorphosis" as the poem's title announces. This issue contains many poems to wake and transform its readers, including the winner of the journal's 2004 Erskine J. Poetry Prize ("Second Bearing, 1919" by Claudia Emerson), a poem that accomplishes an ambitious feat in very few words, evoking a destructive barn fire with remarkable economy of language; translations of four German poets (Göeritz, Oleschinski, Sarorius, Draesner); and new poems by poets as unlike each other in approach and style as Ted Kooser and Dorothy Barresi, whose "Tijuana Clinic" is superb ("A cell is a mad situation. / A sidelong glance in a feathered god's left yet. // An ancient nation / developing."). Michael Burkard's "Thank You" wakes us to the ways poems manage to surprise us, constantly re-inventing the form itself. Rae Gouirand wakes us to the poem's chameleon nature, standing in, for other arts (and crafts) with "To Scale," a poem that changed my mind about whether or not it is possible to write a compelling poem about quilting. [Smartish Pace, P.O. Box 22161, Baltimore, MD 21203. E-mail: sreichert@smartishpace.com. Single issue $10. www.smartishpace.com]Sima Rabinowitz

 

Southwest Review

Volume 89 Numbers 2 & 3

2004

Don’t be constrained by the name—Southwest Review, a cosmopolitan literary journal with a strong sense of the past (and thus, a keen understanding of where we might be headed), surely isn’t. Fearlessly fascinated by the inner life, The Review showcases the essay form, with offerings on the painter Tintoretto, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Baroness Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven, now recognized as “the great-aunt of punk” (“‘Cars and bicycles have taillights. Why not I?’ she quipped when asked to explain the battery-operated taillight tacked to the bustle of her dress.”) Chris Arthur’s “Getting Fit” offers a breathtaking description of the simultaneity of life, how, weird or wonderful as it may seem, everything everywhere—birth and death and whatever we can find to squeeze in between—is somehow happening all at once:

Comets traverse the dark of space, flowers bloom and wither, battles are fought,
a child sees the sea for the first time, a stone falls unnoticed from a cliff-side,
dislodged from its place as the soft plumage of a seabird gently corkscrews on its
nest, warming a clutch of eggs towards hatching.

Poet Kim Addonizio’s “Egg,” a graphic yet touching depiction of a young woman’s coming to terms with her inability to have a child, sinks its claws into your shoulders early on but hurts most at the end when it suddenly lets go. And John Reibetanz’s poem “The Original Human Blockhead,” based on a New York Times obituary of a sideshow performer, manages, tenderly, to make “freaks and boneheads of us all." [Southwest Review, Southern Methodist University, P.O. Box 750374, Dallas, TX 75275-0374. E-mail: swr@mail.smu.edu. Single issue $7. www.southwestreview.org] - Ann Stapleton

 

Vallum

Issue 3:1

Fall-Winter 2005

A press release from Vallum: contemporary magazine announces the magazine is "dedicated to exploring reality in all its warped and beautiful aspects" and that this issue is the journal's first theme-based effort. The theme is "reality checks," featuring "'snapshots of things real and unreal." As a "real" object in my hands, Vallum is glossy, slick, and "contemporary," by which I mean sharply designed. And the Table of Contents is equally impressive: an interview with Paul Muldoon, translations of Baudelaire and Günter Kunert, an essay on Celan, and new poems by Stephen Dunn, Charles Bernstein, Sophie Cabot Black and nearly thirty others. There is work here that could well be classified as experimental both in form and language (Daniel Scott Tysdale's "1 Epigraph + Five Postcards Addressed by an Admirer to Walter Benjamin Hanging on the Fridge + a Memo on a Napkin (Not Yet Sent)"), alongside work that is much quieter, almost painterly (Stephanie Bolster's "Rattlesnake"). In his long interview with Joshua Auerbach, Paul Muldoon muses, "I suppose one of the great things about trying to write poems is that you can sort of hop about here and there, and imagine what it would have been like to do this or to have done that…." Vallum helps encourage us to hop, perhaps even to leap about. [Vallum Magazine, PO Box 48003, Montreal, Quebec, H2V4S8 Canada. E-mail: vallummag@sympatico.ca. Single issue $7. www.vallummag.com] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

The Wallace Stevens Journal

Special Conference Issue, Part 1

Volume 28 Number 2

Fall 2004

From the proceedings of a University of Connecticut conference celebrating the poet Wallace Stevens, this broad-ranging issue ponders the early Stevens and how his work will fare in the next fifty years, memory in Stevens, “Stevensian language,” new perspectives on the poems, and even includes Poetry editor Christian Wiman’s assertion that Stevens’ genius lacks a strong enough connection to the real world and the flesh and blood men and women who inhabit it. Especially enlightening is a section in which practicing poets tell us what they have been given by the long hours willingly spent reveling in, disagreeing with, inviting into or trying to debar from their own work the words of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company executive who led a second life as one of America’s great versifiers. Ellen Bryant Voight, herself an exceptional poet, notes that to speak in terms of influence is to miss the point that Stevens’ bequest to those who come after is really “a lifetime of permissions” to follow where their own muses lead. Perhaps the original “language” poet, Stevens understood that much of human life is really an interior affair, and he fearlessly staked a claim for the centrality of the imagination to any notion we hold of a real world. He knew that any of us, in the privacy of his own mind’s eye, might be the “old sailor” in his poem “Disillusionment at Ten O’Clock,” who, though “Drunk and asleep in his boots, / Catches tigers / In red weather.” [The Wallace Stevens Journal, Clarkson University, Box 5750, Potsdam, NY 13699. E-mail: serio@clarkson.edu. www.wallacestevens.com] - Ann Stapleton


Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
 

Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed