The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Posted June 22, 2005

6x6

Issue 9

Fall 2004

6x6 first caught my interest with its zine-like appearance. I don’t mean zine-like in the sense of something badly copied at Kinko’s, but zine-like in the sense of a magazine carefully and lovingly put together with limited funds that manages to look much better than most of the big-names. This issue is bound in felt paper and held together with a thick rubber band, yet still looks nice and professional. The name 6x6 refers to the format, which is six poets with six pages of poetry each. This normally means six poems a poet, but not always. Dorothea Lasky, for example, offers up one, long six part poem. The highlight for me was Laura Sims’ minimal and idiosyncratic pieces from the manuscript “Practice, Restraint.” Her poems are extremely short, but suggest whole worlds: “At the east branch- // One empty room / And another / Abandoned /// By Spaniards.” Each of the six poets it working in their own distinct style and yet the whole issue feels strangely cohesive. If I could make one complaint, it would be the lack of biographical information, but overall this is a strong collection of contemporary, avant-gardish poetry, and if that sounds interesting at all to you, why not drop the mere three dollar cover price and give 6x6 a try? [Ugly Duckling Presse, 106 Ferris Street, Second Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11231. Email: udp_mailbox@yahoo.com. Single issue: $3. www.uglyducklingpresse.org/6by6.html] - Lincoln Michel

 

coverAmerican Poetry Review

Volume 34 Number 3

May/June 2005

This issue of American Poetry Review, the bimonthly newsprint journal that keeps its readers on the cutting edge of poetry criticism, features poems by Donald Revell, translations of Vallejo by Clayton Eshleman, a review of Michael Ryan and a smattering of his poems, and several excellent poems by Anne Marie Macari, but the standout features for me were two essays. One was Dana Levin’s perceptive essay “The Heroics of Style” on the effects of stylistic pressures on the poetry of Sylvia Plath, and the other was John Yau’s piece, “The Poet as Art Critic,” on John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara’s writing on art criticism. Here is a quote from Levin’s essay: “Inevitable for someone who vacillated between being God and being Betty Grable, such literary ambitions were riddled with anxieties stemming from her place as a woman. ‘If I were a man, I would write a novel about this,’ Plath laments…But where the journals and letters fret and boast by 1959 the poems are sure; if domestic perfection and gender conformity mean silencing the full range of Plath’s voice, then the poems will fight.” I applaud APR for keeping a lively and intelligent discourse among poets in their insightful prose pieces. [American Poetry Review, 117 South 17th Street, Suite 910, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Email: duffym@aprweb.org. Single issue $3.95. www.aprweb.org] – Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Arts & Letters

Journal of Contemporary Culture

Issue 12

Fall 2004

This issue of Arts & Letters, an attractive glossy, 7x10 twice-yearly journal with a spacious, easy-to-read layout, is dedicated to Susan Atefat-Peckham, who is eulogized touchingly in an essay by Poetry Editor Alice Friman. The issue also contains an excerpt, called “Grandmother Poem,” of Donald Hall’s upcoming memoir about his wife, Jane Kenyon. Very high quality fiction and poetry throughout the issue, including “Esther the Golden,” by Yona Zeldis McDonough, which tells the story of beautiful and devout Esther, who rebels against her close-knit community of faith in order to embrace a wider view of the world, and Margot C. Kadesch’s “Mate Selection,” about a biologist who is torn between her married boss and studies of sex-driven chickens and her business-oriented boyfriend. Also fascinating were poems by Minnie Bruce Pratt, especially “Shopping for a Present: The Repository of Human Flesh and Blood” and poems by Tenaya Darlington, who won the Arts & Letters Prize for Poetry, especially “The Oldest Living Bombshell Bares All,” whose lines echo Plath’s “Lady Lazarus,” especially the ending:“And yet she rises, //batting her eyes, / cracking a whip with aloof va va voom, / the woman who strips down to her death, / then ignites herself again.” Excellent work in an attractive package, Arts & Letters deserves a place on your literary magazine shelf. [Arts & Letters Journal of Contemporary Culture, Campus Box 89, Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, GA 31061. E-mail: al@gcsu.edu. Single issue $12. http://al.gcsu.edu/] – Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Bellevue Literary Review

Volume 5 Number 1

Spring 2005

This twice-yearly perfect-bound journal, which focuses on the practices and experiences of medicine, illness, and related topics, always contains touching fiction, non-fiction, and poetry of high quality. The knockout story for me in this issue was a delicate story of class, race, and responses to miscarriage, titled “Baby,” by Lois Taylor, and the poem “Being Nursed by Walt Whitman,” by Jennifer Santos Madriaga, about the experience of teaching poetry to dying students: “My father asks me what it’s like to teach / writing to dying people. ‘Are you afraid?’/ ‘Dad, we’re all going to die,’ I say. / ‘Yes,’ he says, ‘You’re right.’ / There’s a brief silence as static crackles / on the long distance telephone line./ ‘You’re right, absolutely right.’” I also enjoyed “Lithium and the Absence of Desire” by Virginia Chase Sutton. A few lines: “At first / you imagine your body may adjust or the pills // will come to understand you. It is no use. / Desire falters after the first mouthful, a little // swallow. How you will miss it, the tug and pull / at the body’s sweet dampness.” For anyone who’s interested in medicine or going through a health crisis or working in medical field, Bellevue Literary Review is a must-read; for everyone else, prepare to be surprised by these works of heart-felt despair and hope in the face of death, birth, and other surprises. [Bellevue Literary Review, Department of Medicine OBV-612, NYU School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue New York, NY 10016. E-mail: info@blreview.org. Single issue $7. blr.med.nyu.edu/] – Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Black Warrior Review

Volume 31 Number 2

Spring/Summer 2005

Black Warrior Review does everything right. They consistently publish great fiction and poetry while doing things differently and standing out from the crowd. The most obvious example of this is their chapbook series: each issue includes a full-sized chapbook in its pages. The current issue is excellent from start to finish, and it seems impossible to decide what stands out the most: Julie West’s eight gorgeous full-color paintings? The minimal, haunting line-work of Richard Hahn’s comic? Adam Prince’s hilarious short story “The Triceratops”? One thing I feel compelled to comment on is G.C. Waldrep’s chapbook, “Precision Castanets.” His prose-poems here are written in dream-like prose with a strong inclination towards humor and absurdism. Maybe a cross between Ben Marcus and Dean Young could give you an idea. An excerpt from “Fight or Flight”: “The latest fashion was antlers. Ridiculous, I kept thinking: in the bookstore, in the penny arcade. The doctors told me I’d never grow any, owing to a bone blockage in my supraorbital sinuses. Something to do with balance.” BWR leans towards humorous and edgy writing, but not exclusively so. Lewis Buzbee’s story “Five and Dime” is a heart-wrenching story about a single-mother shoplifting for her young son. I would have no qualms recommending Black Warrior Review to anyone. It is one of the best magazines around. [Black Warrior Review, Box 862936, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486. E-mail: bwr@ua.edu. Single issue $8. http://webdelsol.com/bwr] - Lincoln Michel

 

Calyx

Volume 22 Number 2

Winter 2005

Calyx, “A Journal of Art and Literature by Women” produced out of the Pacific Northwest, has a gladdening grab bag of known and unknown authors and artists, as well as some interesting reviews of poetry books by both local and national writers. As usual, the art in Calyx is fascinating, particularly some portrait/collage work by Sara Paulsen, whose images of haunting faces marred by various layering techniques (watercolor, computer graphics) are compelling. Several poems of note were “The Poet’s Wife” by Maureen Tolman Flannery,” which communicates the frustration of a woman who can’t command her poet husband’s attention long enough to make it into poems about the family dog or birdcage keys, and “Sur le Coq” by Gayle Eleanor, which imagines the woman from the well-known Chagall painting explaining why she prefers riding roosters to horses. I also enjoyed “The Pirate and the Girl,” by Julia Alter, in which a young girl is lured to a beach party: “I have starfish in my hair and he wants / to lure the moon out from under my tongue… / He’ll be selling me the names of the stars / in his eyes. Gold coins will spill from between / my thighs, black honey from my seacold breasts / and I’ll be sweet and glinting.” There’s also a heartwarming story of familial acceptance by a welcoming set of in-laws in Dorothy Blackcrow Mack’s “Once I Lived Without Money, Yet I Was Not Poor.” Many of the pieces in this journal have an uplifting, positive quality, and celebrate women connecting with other women, nature, and the larger world; so don’t read this looking for angry punk feminist poems. This issue also featured a large number of useful reviews of contemporary women’s writing, which I found very helpful, especially for finding interesting women’s work from smaller publishers I might not otherwise have heard about. [Calyx, PO Box B, Corvallis, OR 97339. E-mail: calyx@proaxis.com. Single issue $9.50. www.proaxis.com/~calyx/] – Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Clackamas Literary Review

Volume 9

2005

Clackamas Literary Review, a yearly glossy out of Oregon, features accomplished, edgy work that approaches difficult subjects with verve. Mir Emampoor’s short fiction piece, “The Snake,” elegantly and poignantly tells the story of a young man struggling with doubt, faith and the influence of friends during Ramadan. Two extraordinary poems were “Rapunzel’s Hair” by Dawn Newton, which deals with a woman’s miscarriage, and “Hex” by Jeff Walt, a dark and fascinating work which ends with: “My worried parents discussed my behavior with the priest / …I sat silent the way evil does / before an attack-quiet until he was frightened enough to ask, Are you there, / son? Of course, I didn’t answer…Like all good evil I was willing to sit patiently in that dark box / as long as I had to, determined, certain I was ready to kill.” Kudos for brave editing that showcases authors willing to break out of “safe” writing molds to produce something truly original. I’m looking forward to seeing more from this magazine. [Clackamas Literary Review,19600 S. Molalla Avenue, Oregon City, OR 97045. E-mail: clr@clackamasliteraryreview.com. Single issue $10. www.clackamas.cc.or.us/clr/] – Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Crazyhorse

Number 67

Spring 2005

A chemotherapy ward is transformed into the visitation grounds of the Angel of Death. A game of American Indian wars interpreted by German boys is played while a real war wages in the background. A Kansas farmer anticipates her horse’s foaling while caring for her old friend, an aerial photographer sensing early signs of brain damage. These stories highlight Crazyhorse 67, whose style can be spelled out with traits—rural, man-versus-nature, agrarian mysticism, even the very presence of horses—but for all of which the prime mover is always the imagination. Christopher Burawa’s “Visitation of the Chemotherapy Angel” is a meditative prose poem; Maria Hummel’s “Peter at the Stake” is a fictional memoir inspired by true events; and Andrew Malan Milward’s “The Agriculture Hall of Fame” is a story about memory—narrated, to surprising effect, backwards and in fragments. The spaciousness of Crazyhorse, with over forty poems, five fiction pieces and two essays, tends to work against intimate reading ventures, but I find that the biggest journals reap the best rewards for effort. Speaking of agrarianism and mysticism, maybe nowhere more than in G.C. Waldrep’s Zen-like poems, so profound and yet so hairsplitting to summarize, is the work a reward in itself. Excerpt from “Milton Highway”: “Generally we cannot say, generally we are noncommittal. We study surfaces. We confer. We prefer we. Not startle. What he sees as obstinance is not obstinance, it simply. Is. Another; a ghost. One steady motion—” [Crazyhorse, Department of English, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424. E-mail: crazyhorse@cofc.edu. Single issue $8.50. http://crazyhorse.cofc.edu/] – Christopher Mote

 

Inkwell

Number 17

Spring 2005

Great fiction enables us to see the world with fresh eyes, as the editors of Inkwell remind us, and they have reason to be proud. Inkwell’s fountain runneth over with a generous selection of short stories that are guaranteed delights. While there are personal questions that beg for answers, there is no doubt that these characters’ eyes are true to what’s happening on the moment, inside and out. Stephanie Dickinson’s “Amiga Mom from Planet Iraq” scrutinizes current events with a mastery of technical terms, radiating with sun-parched wit and utter shellshock. The protagonist is a female soldier leaving her tour of duty in the Middle East after being severely wounded in combat. Her observations are real, her memories haunting. “So much of this country is nothing but two sticks and still it wants to become less,” she writes in an e-mail to her mother. “‘Even the dirt wants to blow itself up into smaller and smaller pieces.’” There’s more detail in Dickinson’s story than in a dozen AP wires. And still, her heroine bites the bullet and floats above the gloom and doom. Physical suffering plays a more intimate role in “We are Not Civilians Here,” in which M. Allen Cunningham enters the body of a man one hundred years young; it’s a body that “bleeds across the borders” and “mingles more with the mind,” a man for whom the pains of memory and physical decay overlap. Also, “The Silver Men” by Emily Doak is notable for its bizarre “Only in New York” concept and the relationship story that lies beneath. There isn’t enough poetry in Inkwell to fill the breaks between these stories, although Bradford Gray Telford makes an astute conclusion from his traditional rhyme that “There is no self without artifice.” Pick this one up with the fiction in mind. [Inkwell, Manhattanville College, 2900 Purchase Street, Purchase, NY 10577. E-mail: inkwell@mville.edu. Single Issue $8. www.inkwelljournal.org] – Christopher Mote

 

Modern Haiku

Volume 36 Number 1

Winter-Spring 2005

Modern Haiku is everything its name would suggest: a magazine devoted to traditional Japanese poetic forms, but with a modern approach. If you still think the haiku is simply a three-line poem with a 5-7-5-syllable count, then this magazine probably isn’t for you. Or rather, this is exactly the magazine you need to broaden your understanding of this ancient but vital form. My favorite segment of this issue and also a great example of the experimentation Modern Haiku publishes, is the translation of the haiku of Kamiyama Himeyo. Kamiyama plays around with form and content to create shocking yet engaging haiku: “Forest of stillborns / someday / a red / small universe.” This issue includes an interesting discussion of Mexican poets, such as Octavio Paz, who worked with the haiku form as well as a boat load of haiku and senryu. If you have any interest in contemporary haiku or haiku studies, there really is no other place to turn than Modern Haiku. [Modern Haiku, PO Box 68, Lincoln, IL 62656. Single issue $8. www.modernhaiku.org/] - Lincoln Michel

 

One Story

Issues 49-50

2005

Well, issue number 50 decides it. I can’t put off buying a Judy Budnitz collection anymore; her stories are just too good. This one, “Nadia,” is about a depressed teacher who orders a mail-order bride from some small, war-torn country or another. It is told in the sinister first person plural (which I love but rarely see employed) of a group of female friends. Budnitz walks the fine line where the reader isn’t sure if the events are absurd or if they are all too close to life. Issue 49 is another excellent story, this one by Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), called “One Small Man.” It’s the story of a small town that suddenly gets a visit from a short, Japanese man who wants to buy their Native American burial grounds and build a big factory. True to its name, One Story presents these stories in individual pamphlets allowing the reader to view each story as a single work uninfluenced by surrounding stories and poems. I also suspect One Story is obliging their subscribers to read every story they publish - one can’t really skip around reading bits and pieces in a magazine of only one story- but with stories this strong, who can blame them? [One Story, PO Box 1326 New York, NY 10156. E-mail: questions@one-story.com. Subscription only - $21/year/18 issues. www.one-story.com] - Lincoln Michel

 

Ploughshares

Volume 31 Number 1

Spring 2005

This issue of the venerable, well-respected Ploughshares was guest-edited by poet and essayist Martín Espada, and many of the poems and prose he picked for the issue pack incisor-sharp observations and an emotional wallop. The table of contents boasts so many poetry luminaries I can’t list them all, but here’s a partial list: Adrienne Rich, Yusef Komunyakaa, Robert Creeley, Gary Soto and Sharon Olds. Standout pieces include Melissa Bank’s (wunderkind author of Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing) short fiction piece, “Run Run Run Run Run Run Run Away,” about a sister who watches helplessly while her brother becomes obsessed with a woman who’s described as “trouble,” Nan Cohen’s poems about Abraham and Isaac, and Alison Hagy’s story, “Border,” which begins with an irresistible opening line: “It was not as hard to steal the collie pup as he thought it would be.” Definitely an issue I could read over and over again, finding new things to love each time; it’s well worth its hefty price tag for its 200-plus pages of inspired fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. [Ploughshares, Emerson College, 120 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02116-4624. E-mail: pshares@emerson.edu. Single issue $10.95. www.pshares.org/index.cfm] – Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

POOL

Volume 3

2004

An annual poetry journal out of the underrepresented Los Angeles area, POOL comes with two surprises. The first is its structural egalitarianism: the poems are arranged alphabetically by author, encouraging readers to pick through the mag in any order or style they so please. And the reactions to these customized readings, those are the second surprise. I myself am struck by how experimental these poems are, with a line by Mark Irwin, a depiction of April, summing it up for me: “The frayed ciphers and hieroglyphs begin to green // and behind the flowers someone’s making invisible X’s / on the air. The mystery’s just beyond // your hands.” That mystery seems to be the rule here rather than the exception. A poem by Jose Garcia constructed from the borrowed quotes of ten classic authors, and a cubist study by Dan Kaplan written in the manner of an index, both may be more concept than contextually sound, and yet their inclusion impresses me. Still, the less avant-garde poems here are no disappointment, and prove that POOL can stand as a serious publication. Connie Voisine’s “The Bird is Her Reason,” which in using the songbird as a symbol for liberating, unattainable beauty, channels the great English Romantics and observes: “Sometimes all we want is one of these / Lenten lovers, full of a chaste passion repressed.” For poetry that stands at the forefront of expressivity, POOL is a magazine on the move and worth watching. [POOL, P.O. Box 49738, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Single issue $10. www.poolpoetry.com] – Christopher Mote

 

Porcupine

Volume 8 Number 2

2005

“My name is Damien Echols, and I am a poet, author, and death row inmate who is currently awaiting exoneration through D.N.A. testing.” That’s how one handwritten cover letter addressed to Porcupine began, and when the editors read it, they knew that merely considering Echols’ poems for publication wouldn’t do him justice. Echols’ is a well-known reputed case of wrongful imprisonment (as one of the “West Memphis Three”) and his professed innocence has created a minor cause celebre among activists. But what’s really moving here is the personal account of the psychological horrors and spiritual growth experienced behind bars. Coincidentally, Echols’ meditative poetry is nothing short of magic in small doses. Here’s “Hope” in its entirety: “Immortality / and glorious nonsense. / A sunburst in my brain / and plans of things to come.” If art has anything of an obligation to highlight injustice, then Porcupine has found the right way to do it: Echols’ story speaks for itself and his verse is a witness to a world of darkness. Such a story is the raison d’etre behind Porcupine, an indie mag that takes chances with unknown writers. “A Young Woman’s Guide to Taking Punches,” authored by college undergrad Nancy Brown, is an amazingly mature and endearing account centered around domestic violence. Kelly Reedy’s New Age portfolio of deities and religious icons makes for a fresh artistic supplement, and a profile of the independent Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee again captures Porcupine in all its essence. [Porcupine, P.O. Box 259, Cedarburg, WI 53012. E-mail: Ppine259@aol.com. Single issue $9. www.porcupineliteraryarts.com] – Christopher Mote

 

Redivider

Volume 2 Number 2

Spring 2005

The magazine formerly known as the Beacon Street Review has gotten a makeover by the grad students at prestigious Emerson College. The latest offering of Redivider is a joyful romp through the peaks and discontents of American pop culture from the fringes to the mainstream. Beginning with “Seven Seas,” Rob Walsh’s tale of a politically correct pirate, through poetry musing on reality TV plots and a film director’s production of the Gospels, past a collage of unpretentious art prints and a set of more comical, socially-pointed IQ questions by Fernando Orellana, the trip never turns sophomoric or too burlesque, but it can be a hit-or-miss parade. (The gag behind “Seven Seas” runs for too long; the IQ test teases but doesn’t have enough room to deliver.) But before the burnout sinks in, you find a new vein of creativity you never knew existed. Megan Ciesla discovers “How to Fall in Love With a Gay Man” while bitterly remembering all the boyfriends who have broken her heart, and John Cento has a wisecracking turn as a former alcoholic who takes up golf in his sobriety in “Links.” The magazine changes gears towards the end, featuring an interview with humorist Jincy Willett, a couple of analytical essays on modern poetry and contemporary rock lyrics, and more book reviews than you can shake a stick at. Clearly, Redivider is youth-oriented and likely to date easily, but for all the future curiosities to abound about our current world it would sure make a strong candidate for a time capsule. [Redivider, Emerson College, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116. E-mail: redivider_editor@yahoo.com. Single issue $6. http://pages.emerson.edu/publications/redivider] – Christopher Mote

 

Tar River Poetry

Volume 44 Number 2

Spring 2005

Something about a Southern poetry journal, especially one with cream-colored pages and chapbook binding, makes the day pass by slowly. Tar River Poetry is never morbid, never too light, often ironic, often chatty like a friend sitting on the porch during a barbecue. I love, for example, the assonance of William Trowbridge’s “Foolish Tears”: “Tonight, Fool’s sobs / blort through the dark as dog’s bark and big rigs / blast across the overpass.” I like how a poem can jump out at me with “more than arms / up its sleeves,” as Tom Hansen’s self-aware “To Whom it May Concern” seeks to do. Thomas Reiter’s journeys through the Caribbean and the sound of the local dialect (“‘Dom-in-EE-ca be how we call this island’”) make for discovery and adventure; anyone interested in Reiter will want to read the review of his latest book included at the end. And coming full circle is Cindy Hunter Morgan in “Preparedness,” where she observes the seasons in Michigan and wonders if the end of life “will look familiar when it comes, / like basil after the first frost / or like the thin, withering vines / of tomatoes in late September.” It’s a shame this mag only comes out twice a year; Tar River Poetry is affordable and more than accessible. [Tar River Poetry, Department of English, Bate Building, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858-4353. E-mail: Makuckp@mail.ecu.edu. Single issue $6.50. www.ecu.edu/english/journals] – Christopher Mote

 

ZYZZYVA

Volume 21 Number 1

Spring 2005

ZYZZYVA aspires to present the best of the West Coast in poetry, art, and prose, including a generous “First Time in Print” feature for new writers. Flip past the twenty pages or so of ads at the beginning of the journal to the very inspiring art works in this issue, including some marvelous and complex etchings by David Avery that appear at first glance to be the accompaniments to medieval German fairy tale texts and another set of etchings which provide modern illustrations for Dante. (What can I say, I’m an etchings girl.) I also particularly enjoyed the short story “Mysteries of Ao Mai,” by Lyndane Yang, which will lead you to think in new ways about the phrase “golden parachute,” and two startling but beautiful poems by Lisa Qi Chen, “Parachute Girls” and “Chinese Ghost Stories Told in California, 1933-1934.” Here are a few lines from the latter poem: “…It was a girl / Jagged teeth like a saw, spreading human skin upon the bed and / Painting it / With a paintbrush” There’s also an interesting piece of memoir that highlights glamorous postwar California by Barbara Stauffacher Solomon. ZYZZYVA is known for its eclectic edge and its presentation of the diverse cultures and viewpoints of the West. Unstuffy and fun to read. [ZYZZYVA, P.O. Box 590069, San Francisco, CA, 94159-0069. E-mail: editor@zyzzyva.org. Single issue $11. www.zyzzyva.org/index.htm] – Jeannine Hall Gailey


Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

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Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed