The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Posted February 27, 2006

Brick

Issue 76

Winter 2005

Biannual

Brick, a Canadian journal of non-fiction and poetry, is a magazine in a class of its own. The contributors in the winter issue include prominent writers like Donna Tart, Oliver Sacks, David Sedaris, Geoff Dyer, and Fanny Howe. The issue begins with a quote from John Berger, the perfect writer to introduce this pioneering journal that relishes in investigating and pressing against the boundaries of literature. The nonfiction pieces are incredibly eclectic in style and subject, with essays on boxing, Dublin, highways, the novel True Grit, and Thom Gunn, in addition to a transcript of a speech made at the 2005 Griffin Poetry Awards ceremony—and interesting and often humorous meditation on the state of poetry—and letters from Norman Levine and William Faulkner. The previously unpublished letter from Faulkner to an aspiring writer is a standout; he prescribes Dostoevsky, Mann, and Hardy to the struggling artist and offers gems like “no writing that was worth doing was ever done in one day or one year, sometimes, oftentimes, not in one decade.” Arli’s Poems, collaborations between an English Setter and her owner, Elizabeth Mann Borgese, is another unique piece. While the dog’s talent remains in question—one portion reads, “bed a ccat / cad a baf / bdd af dff”—you wouldn’t be likely to find such a feature anywhere but Brick, a serious magazine that resists taking itself too seriously. The issue also includes an interview with Toni Morrison and wonderful black and white photographs by Henryk Ross, images that are all at once gritty and whimsical. Brick is unlike anything else in the literary marketplace—essential for anyone with an interest in contemporary literature and literary culture. This magazine takes big risks and never fails to be interesting—which is, in the end, what matters. [Brick: A Literary Journal, Box 573, Station Q, Toronto, Ontario, M4T 2M5, Canada. Single issue $12. www.brickmag.com] Laura van den Berg

 

Burnside Review

Volume 2 Number 1

Summer 2005

Biannual

If ever you’ve gazed upon artworks born of the Surrealist movement with awe, you’ll readily absorb the concept that not to understand is, in itself, a way of understanding. Just as Surrealists aimed to circle like sharks the locus of aleatory explosion, the subconscious surfacing, spilling forth through the murky waters of convention, so, too, do the writers that comprise the Summer 2005 issue of Burnside Review. In theory, Surrealist art, like artwork of any era, concerns itself foremost with itself, then its audience. Artists aimed to tear at the piñata of despair to reveal the ripe and virile confetti within. This is where some of the work in this issue breaks down, and where some of it really takes off. Whereas Nicole Walker’s poems “As if a fact” and “Where P is P & not P” succeed in their starkly vivid frankness and searing imagery—a pair of severed hands, nipples dragging slowly across a dirt floor—Rob Carney’s “She’s a Pisces; No Wonder I’m Capsized” and “Pour Another Round for the Fiddle Player,” mainly leave the taste of candy hearts in my mouth. And Jen Currin’s poem “String,” an apostrophe to a goat, Lorca-esque in its absurd catalogue of natural images, discomforts me, because it’s so difficult to say why it’s good. Thank you, Carney and Currin; jilt me or give me nothing at all. This unassuming journal is saddle-stitched and born of non-profit origins. The issue is almost entirely poetry, save a pair of reviews and an interview with Kim Addonizio. Though another read-through on the interviewer’s part might have made for a smoother read, Addonizio makes some poignant comments. My favorite, is accessibility in a poet a trait to laud or shadow? This issue of Burnside Review inadvertently answers and refutes this very question. [Burnside Review, P.O Box 1782, Portland, OR 97207. Single issue $6. www.burnsidereview.org] —Erin M. Bertram

 

The Chattahoochee Review

Volume 25 Number 3

Spring 2005

Quarterly

The spring issue of The Chattahoochee Review, a sleekly designed journal from Georgia Perimeter College, offers an excellent selection of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, book reviews, and art—in addition to a special feature on Brazilian poetry. The four outstanding short stories, two by notables William Gay (lauded by some circles as the next Faulkner) and George Singleton, center on down-on-their-luck characters and American domestic life gone awry. The poetry is equally impressive, in particular Chad Prevost’s stunning “Lyric of the Ever-Expanding Universe”: “You thought the dandelions stood / in one place, but come to find out they were / dancing across the wind like tumbleweeds / wheeling without the thought of gravity, / and what you thought was gravity / is only your body’s leaden weight / pinning down your dandelion soul.” The feature on Brazilian poetry begins with an interview with Ferreira Gullar and a selection of his poems, followed by the work of Paulo Henriques Britto and Idra Novey’s three-part “Property”: “My mother wants / a horse ranch, mornings / of mares. Enough land / to disappear on / and still know the gullies.” Claude Wilkinson’s gorgeous eight-page portfolio of oils and watercolors is another highlight, presenting resonant images that complement the tone and themes of the poetry and prose. Definitely a journal worth checking out. [The Chattahoochee Review, 2101 Womack Rd, Dunwoody, GA 30338-4497. Single issue $6. thechattahoocheereview.gpc.edu]Laura van den Berg

 

Gulf Coast

Volume 18 Number 1

Winter/Spring 2006

Biannual

If you’re looking for one-stop shopping of the smartest poetry, fiction, non-fiction, reviews, and interviews there’s only one place to go: Gulf Coast. Let’s start with poetry. Work from Paul Muldoon, Barbara Ras, Denise Duhamel, James Shea, Robyn Art, Trent Busch, and Len Roberts, among others, that is playful, gorgeous, and challenging. Addressing topics as wide as a defense of rural America to a critique of writing workshops to a dying father, these poems raise the bar intellectually through formal innovation and erudition. When it comes to Gulf Coast’s fiction, John Weir’s “Neorealism at the Infiniplex” can serve as an example of the complexity and careful development common in these stories. The speaker in Weir’s tale deals with the death of a friend from AIDS. He begins, “I had planned to be sad about it, but it turned out I was relieved . . . What happened instead was that he was so mean for the last three months of his life that I stopped liking him. Not just at the time, but for all time…” Weir skillfully leads the reader through the days leading up to and including the friend’s funeral, during which the speaker reflects on the relationship, asserts, and revises his stance, and comes to terms with being a survivor in a generation laid to waste by the disease. For the quality of non-fiction, look no further than Joshua Harmon’s “The Annotated Mix-Tape, #2,” in which he parallels his recollections of a middle school Spanish class to buying vinyl singles in 2000: “It’s easy to fetishize a language one does not speak, easy to lift that language from the culture—or to lift the culture from the language—and to imagine it as some sort of romantic ideal. It’s similarly easy to fetishize a vinyl seven-inch record in these last days of vinyl…” In addition to all of the above, Gulf Coast offers some of the best reviews and interviews found in literary magazines. Of special mention in this issue is Ilya Kaminsky’s review of Peter Streckfus’s The Cuckoo and James Hall’s interview with Richard Siken. Do yourself a favor and buy this magazine. [Gulf Coast, Department of English, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-3013. Single issue $7. www.gulfcoastmag.org] —Dan Brady

 

The Hollins Critic

Volume 42 Number 5

December 2005

Five issues per year

The Hollins Critic publishes a single, digestible piece of criticism in each of its five issues per year. This issue George Garrett examines the genre of the Hollywood novel with special attention paid to the work of Bruce Wagner. The journal’s economy and presentation, rather like a chapbook, makes the sometimes unenviable task of reading criticism more palatable. This is only aided by Garrett’s easy-going prose and obvious love of Wagner’s work. Garrett argues that the Hollywood novel, defined as “stories about movies and movie people,” is a “conventional, self-reflexive, allusive arrangement and rearrangement of various versions of itself.” However, amid all this re-shuffling of the deck, Wagner “has managed to go his own way, working variations on the classic Hollywood novel, while transcending the parameters of the genre he has so adroitly exploited.” Like John Updike, Garrett is a true fan of Wagner and his compelling argument is sure to win over a few nay-sayers or at the very least bring a few new readers to Wagner’s Hollywood. Also included in this brief volume of 25 pages are books reviews and poetry. The insightful reviews, written mostly by the editorial staff, are a little less than a page in length but, like the magazine, are not to be judged by their size. The journal concludes with five poems by Russell Edson and one poem by James Tate. In Tate’s poem the speaker is solicited to speak at a nursing home. The nurse in charge of booking him tells him “It just gives them something to look forward to, and then they can argue about it later.” While the speaker in Tate’s poem ends up as an absurd account of a made-up trip to Newfoundland, the words of the nurse are true to The Hollins Critic, as each issue is something to anticipate and always leaves room for discussion. [The Hollins Critic, Hollins University, P.O. Box 9688, Roanoke, VA 24020-1688. Subscription: $8/Five issues. www.hollins.edu/grad/eng_writing/critic/critic.htm] —Dan Brady

 

MARGIE

The American Journal of Poetry

Volume 4

2005

Annual

Margie’s slogan is “strong medicine.” If you’re looking for a shot of poetry, this is the place. In this fat volume you’ll find over 400 pages of poetry by over 100 poets. Published annually, Margie’s generous offering appears as a cross-section of the poetry landscape. Well-known poets such as Denise Duhamel, Campbell McGrath, Linda Pastan, Molly Peacock, Charles Simic, Tom Sleigh, and James Tate act as mile markers as the reader moves through this expansive journal’s wilderness of new voices—a wilderness in the sense of wild, new, and unexplored. The poems are arranged alphabetically by poet, which give the volume a certain democratic editorial feel, putting the new and emerging poets on the same level as some of the more prominent poets mentioned above. Despite the arbitrary arrangement by last name, the journal has a cohesion based on a sense of fun and serious examination of language. In Khaled Mattawa’s “In Praise of Praise,” he defines praise as “To give what is deserved, to polish / what had never dimmed or been allowed / to slip away from luster.” In that sense, I am certainly praising Margie, which continues to provide the strong medicine of eclectic poetry that it has since its first issue without fail. [Margie: The American Journal of Poetry, P.O. Box 250, Chesterfield, MO 63006-0250. Annual issue: $13.95. www.margiereview.com] —Dan Brady

 

The Means

Issue 1

October 2005

Biannual

Congratulations to Co-Editors and proud parents Tanner Higgin and Christopher Vieau on the birth of their child, The Means. The Means, a Michigan native, at once temperamental and charming, incubated for a full two years, paralleling the gestation period of an elephant. In concert with the already unraveling mammalian theme, Higgin writes, in his Editor’s Note, “This first issue contains a virtual Noah’s ark of writers […] absolutely necessary in our rebellion against the literary establishment.” Their complaint? Scarcity of literary journals willing to publish the risqué and the silly, which is exactly what they set out to do. The Means’s debut issue presents readers with seductive ideas in newfangled form. Rebecca Brown’s hyper-experimental essay “The Reading of Water: Subjective Surging Based on Graham Swift’s Waterland” simultaneously annoys and dazzles readers with its meandering style. But Brown ultimately comments steeply, I think, and not un-clearly, on time and its relevance—or irrelevance—to narrative. C.L. Bledsoe’s is-it-a-poem “What To Do In Case of a Locked Door” reads like a set of fold-out directions, making sense even without those tiny useless diagrams. As much sense as preparatory advice for a locked door situation can make. Both pieces are delightful endeavors, and they aren’t on their own. Admittedly, The Means is a new kid on the block, a strange new kid, both in approach and tenor, in a subdivision of more traditionally ‘serious’ journals. In a recent interview, Kim Addonizio commented on this strange new-ish approach to poetry: “earnestness […] to get at that from a different way, irony through humor, some kind of movement sideways.” The Means line dances its way to the dignity it already knows it deserves. [The Means, P.O. Box 183246, Shelby Township, MI 48318. Single issue $8. www.the-means.com] —Erin M. Bertram

 

Natural Bridge

Number 14

Fall 2005

Biannual

This issue of Natural Bridge, a beautiful journal produced by the University of Missouri-St. Louis, is guest edited by Ruth Ellen Kocher and explores the theme “fragment and sequence.” The roster of contributors includes both established writers like Denise Duhamel and Timothy Liu and lesser known authors. The locales are exotic and varied—Iraq, Bombay, Mexico, Romania—and much of the fiction involves domestic life. Melinda Misuraca’s gritty “The Basket” and Trevor Dodge’s cheeky “Dear That Lane Bryant Girl” offer a welcome rest from familial concerns, while Allyson Stack flips the domestic story in “Cinderella,” a narrative that consists of four short parts, told with serious grace and bite. Standouts in poetry include Jason Stumpf’s “Gift Drawings” and Sarah Vap’s “Originally, The Earth Was Loving-Water”: “Of a loving couple, the one whose love / is deeper dies first. Fire-ants stitch the wound / They bite the two edges of the skin—the heal holds / and the bodies are pinched off. Another reason / we’re forgiven too quickly.” The work is this edition of Natural Bridge tells the stories of fractured families, nations, relationships, and identities—a rich and rewarding read. [Natural Bridge, Department of English, University of Missouri-St. Louis, One University Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri 63121. Single issue $8. www.umsl.edu/~natural] Laura van den Berg

 

The New York Quarterly

Number 61

2005

New York Quarterly has emerged as not only a fine journal of poetry, but a publication that explores the state of contemporary poetry, the elements of craft, and the poet’s life. The latest edition begins with a craft interview, a regular feature in NYQ, with W.D. Snodgrass, followed by three of his poems. In this genuinely engaging interview, the poet discusses his collaborations with visual artist DeLoss McGraw, writers block, Lowell, the graduate program at Iowa, and psychotherapy—a discussion that offers far more insight into Snodgrass’s craft and artistic development than most literary interviews. The rest of the contributors range from notables—Denis Johnson, Virgil Suarez, David Lehman—to lesser-known names. Stylistically, the journal is somewhat eclectic, with a definite inclinations towards the bold, gritty, and political, such as Antler’s raw howl of a poem, “How to Explain War to your Children.” Another favorite was Ira Joe Fisher’s lyric “Intrusion”: “Spear-topped pines stab a storm, warm and splotching / There’s rain and wind but no alerting note / That this sky is deviling, needs watching / And it slyly slips lower quiet quiet.” Justin Marks’s “Three Rooms” provides another highlight. The essay is designed to address “newness in contemporary American poetry,” another regular feature in NYQ. If you enjoy a dose of contemporary poetics alongside your poetry, then consider a long-term subscription to NYQ. Regardless, the strength of the writing in NYQ is enough to make this journal a must have for any serious reader of poetry. [The New York Quarterly, P.O. Box 693, Old Chelsea Station, New York, NY 10113. Single issue $8. www.nyquarterly.com]
 —Laura van den Berg

 

Phoebe

Volume 34 Number 2

Fall 2005

Biannual

“Nothing original can ever be said about a trip to Paris; in some ways, that is its saving grace.” Kate Peterson may be right, in her installment-style story “Eighteen Conjugations of Cambridge,” which delights and ultimately stirs the dirty waters of nostalgia to a point that parallels “The lights in paintings […] afterglows: just-extinguished candles, early morning streetlamps, or dying stars.” Stunning in its candor, covering a dozen pages, Peterson’s piece closes the curtain on this issue of Phoebe, bringing its theme, exploration of language, to a soft diminuendo. The same comment about Paris may well be true of reviews, including journal reviews. The superlatives, one day, will run dry, but until that day, I’ll keep combating the cliché. Phoebe is a journal that makes me want to be a better writer. Given its immense and various content, and this issue’s excited playfulness with language and what it can do for both its writer and its readers, it’d have to try quite hard not to have that sort of effect on a reader. As I was reading and re-reading this issue, I kept returning to one of my largest writerly endeavors—combating the cliché. Sam Taylor, in his poem “Postscript,” end with a serendipitously fitting line: “As if even this fear belonged to us.” The fear of language that adheres to convention when you don’t want it to. What a fearless collection of a journal, in the face of the ever-creeping in cliché. Phoebe masters the art of sidestepping what is expected, and supplants expectation with door after door filled with novelty. On top of that, Claudine Hellmuth’s petite dossier of collages serves as a welcomed visual red, black, and white jolt. [Phoebe, MSN 2D6, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444. Single issue $6. www.gmu.edu/pubs/phoebe] —Erin M. Bertram

 

Quick Fiction

Issue 8

Fall 2005

Biannual

From the moment you pick up Quick Fiction, something tells you it isn’t a standard literary journal. There’s the diminutive size, the quirky cover art, and, most notably, the refreshing and innovative selections of flash fiction. Each piece clocks in at five hundred words or less, the subject matter ranging from a surreal sexual encounter to sea turtles to an overdue library book to an interview with the CIA, featuring styles both lyrical and gritty, with some entries blurring the line between prose and poetry. The issue opens with a wonderful short-short by Pamela Painter, “Your Letter in an Envelope in the Mail”: “A short letter, but it is oddly all still there. The frenetic, unpredictable hodgepodge of printing and script. The narcissism of the ornate capital letters—except for your lazy disinclination to flow with the capital letter F when a demonstrably intelligent right angle will do.” Other favorites include Joel Best’s “The Nothing Bird” and Susan Woodring’s “Clutch.” I cannot praise this inventive magazine enough; spend a few hours with this issue of Quick Fiction for a dose of creativity and uniqueness of vision that’s all too rarely found in the contemporary literary landscape. [Quick Fiction, 26 Jefferson Street, Cambridge, MA 02141. Single issue $5.50. www.quickfiction.org] Laura van den Berg

 

Verbatim

The Language Quarterly

Volume 30 Numbers 1 and 2

Spring and Summer 2005

Verbatim is a magazine that gets right to the heart of writing: words. I was initially afraid this journal would be stuffy, academic and boring, but my fears were allayed by the cover article of issue 2: “The Simpsons: Embigging Our Language with Cromulent Words.” Verbatim knows how to take language seriously in a fun way. Marcelo Rinsesi takes us into the slightly disturbing (for me at least) world of fan fiction in “Fan Words.” Here we learn the notation Harry Potter fans use to explain what romantic relationships exist in the story. “Harry Potter fans have written stories about practically any possible permutation of characters, from “Hr/R” (Hermione and Ron), to “H/R” (which can refer to either Hermione and Ron or Harry and Ron) to extensive “H/D” (Harry and Draco) relationship stories.” C.J. Moore has an interesting essay about finding a patch of Spanglish words in a Spanish-English dictionary, which included pronunciation guidelines such as “es-spot” for “spot.” Anyone intrigued by this description should find plenty to enjoy in Verbatim. Oh, and it also has the hardest crossword puzzles I’ve ever seen. [Verbatim, 4907 N. Washtenaw Ave, Chicago, IL 60625. Single issue: 6.50. www.verbatimmag.com] —Lincoln Michel


Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

January 2006
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Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed