Literary Magazine Reviews

January 2007

6x6 literary magazine cover6x6

Number 11

Spring 2006

“Periodically”

Reviewed by C.M. McLean

The title is utilitarian, the cover resembles vinyl, the pages are held together by a large snug red rubber band and the price is sexy ($3). And the poets run six deep and publish six poems each. If that isn’t good enough for you, then the top-right corner is cut diagonally. Plus, there’s the John Ashbery effect. This isn’t wrong though. For instance, opening act Christina Clark says in the first lines of her fourth poem, “Vous avez les shoes of august / fine-willed and waning.” And Sue Carnahan writes, “The midwife parks in the pond while the breech baby / is turned birthed slapped.” That it whirls the chorals and courses plodding along in the overhead is just part of my sympathies. But, listen to these lines from the sad-eyed recovery poems of Rick Snyder, collectively titled “The Memory of Whiteness.”

The apartment vibrates slightly
my head is snowing
I’m sober
but my memories are drunk
it doesn’t matter much
what I am
people still say hello
they can’t all
be wrong

Ah, the alcoholic in repose, the warm appliance-filled home and “Jesus kick[ing] over / a moneychanger’s table.” Snyder is the highlight and headliner in 6x6. And so is the personal feel of this zine-like, hand-crafted journal in brown vinyl and red rubber. Clearly, 6x6 is shapely.

[6x6, Ugly Duckling Presse, 116 Ferris St., 2nd Fl, Brooklyn, NY 11231. Single Issue $3. http://uglyducklingpresse.org]

 

Antigonish Review literary magazine coverThe Antigonish Review

Number 146

Summer 2006

Reviewed by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

Very early on, the issue boasts the lines “Funny thing about the Autumn sun / how it warms the heart first / and later the skin” (Dexine Wallbank’s “Autumn Light”). And that is how this issue of The Antigonish Review sinks into a reader’s being. The issue continues with a Zoë Strachan (Betty Trask Award winner) piece, “Play Dead,” which adds another dimension to the fluidity of human sexuality, and makes sublime its otherwise trite last line: “I don’t suppose she’d ever felt so alone.” It’s a must read, if only to see how Strachan’s line makes the piece and vice versa. There’s a playful, narrative arc in every piece, even the reviews of Canadian poets. Ken Stange reviews Allan Brown’s Frames of Silence, a collection, beginning with: “This is not an unbiased review […],” for reviewer and writer are close friends. Stange does an evenhanded job, despite the admitted favoritismtreading finely the thin line between over- and under-whelming with his and Brown’s personal history; a fine place to start researching for an honest best-man speech.

There is one piece beyond the conceivable snapshot of narrative, an understated and untitled piece by Joel Katelnikoff. It contains two narrative arcs in different fonts (one a typewriter imitation, the other the journal’s regular font). These tell the story of a robot gaining consciousness, as well as a corporate lackey falling in love. Very 1984, very not. It contains tremendous leaps of imagination, yet harmonizes the two layers like brother-strands of DNA. A chest-pinching magic results. There are such lines in it as: “She drifts into me. Her top lip is fair and freckled. Her bottom lip is the softest thing I have ever touched […] Thermodynamically speaking, no two kisses can occupy the same space at the same time.”

[The Antigonish Review, P.O. Box 5000, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, B2G 2W5, Canada. Single issue $10. www.antigonishreview.com]

 

Bellingham Review literary magazine coverBellingham Review

Fall 2006

Volume 29 Number 2 Issue 58

Biannual

Reviewed by Anna Sidak

An elegantly slim volume, the Fall 2006 Bellingham Review is an eclectic collection with the slight political edge of interviews with two poets: Gerald Stern: "So I don't know where all my leftist influence comes from, maybe it was just in the air, but I identified with them. I was a socialist."in conversation with Kate Beles; and Robb St. Lawrence's interview of Rita Dove: "I admire the Star Trek universe for the way it has always encapsulated our social structures and put them on spaceships, and I love the way they disregard race and other ‘differences.’” The thirty-four poems include Paige Akerson-Kiely's compassionate "Greenland": "Dying is a woman so alone in the city that she does not think we see her adjusting her undergarments as she walks, head bent so that her hair falls across her face like the relief of driving snow just when you needed a reason to turn in for the night." This issue's four non-fiction works are high-lighted by Mira Bartok's "My Year with Audubon," sure to be nominated for Best American Essays along with Patricia Vigderman's "Good Manners," which is virtually a public service on how to behave as a hospital patient. I echo the words of Bellingham Review's Editor-in-Chief, Brenda Miller: "May you find in these pages at least a few encounters that change you, that perhaps will sustain you a little while in all the mutable seasons to come."

[Bellingham Review, MS-9053, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225. Single issue $7. www.wwu.edu/~bhreview]

 

Chicago Review coverChicago Review

Volume 52 Numbers 2/3/4

Autumn 2006

Quarterly

Reviewed by Jeanne Lesinski

That a self-portrait of Kenneth Rexroth looks out from the cover of this sixtieth anniversary issue is à propos as its first 180 pages celebrate the centenary of Rexroth’s birth. Following 80 pages of previously unpublished letters are poems, remembrances, and appreciations, as well as a late interview—all mandatory reading for amateurs of Rexroth’s verse. Rexroth aside, the theme of collectivity informs this issue. Living in a country and an age of stalwart individualism, where the concept of collective authorship is anathema, I found particularly fascinating the two stories and an interview with a member of the Wu Ming Foundation (Wu Ming means “anonymous”), a collective band of novelists based in Italy. “We are a band, and our books are spontaneous compositions, results of a collective improvisation in which individual colorful leads and contributions are enthusiastically followed, not repressed in the pursuit of homogeneity,” explained Wu Ming 1. Furthermore, in their correspondence and poems, Christian Hawkey and Tomaz Salamun discuss the current explore-the-poetic attitude equated with the New York School. More contemplation of this topic arrives via a quartet of new poems by John Ashbery and reviews of the collected works of Kenneth Koch and Ted Berrigan. Also illuminating is John Matthias’s commentary on his “Thirty-nine among the Sands, His Steps . . . ,” which was published in the previous issue of Chicago Review. The two interactive poems by Jesse Seldess (“End” and “Thesis on the Ground”) will intrigue many readers, if only in puzzling out the instructions for reading them.

[Chicago Review, 5801 S Kenwood Ave., Chicago, IL 60637. This issue $12. humanities.uchicago.edu/orgs/review]

 

Conunctions literary magazineConjunctions

Number 47

2006

Annual

Reviewed by Miles Clark

Doing justice to the 25th Anniversary issue of Conjunctions in a brief review is almost a crime in and of itself. Simply put: you won’t know where to start. I recommend Bradford Morrow’s introduction; this interposition of historical details and expressions of gratitude proves good preparation for the aggressive experimentation that ensues. The first offering, by Jonathan Lethem, features the antics of various characters marooned on an island after an airplane crash, who, as they document their disparate reflections of the enclosed landscape, collectively call into question the anthologizing process. Similarly, Rick Moody’s contribution reads like an acidic installment of “Sedaratives” from The Believer: a verbose advice columnist’s gleeful delivery of Mencken-esque dismissals is interrupted by the intrusion of a square-jawed, simple-minded, weightlifting, gun-toting allegorical figure called “American Literature,” who eventually shoots out the columnist’s entrails before fleeing to New Mexico.

Conjunctions stories always gesture to something beyond the page, and almost as often, the gesture reveals a longing for the innocence inherent in the act of gesturing. To wit, Rosmarie Waldrop’s excellent “By the Waters of Babylon” offers tight-lipped factual descriptions of Iraq, tempered by statements like, “I would prefer to explain the wind. The sun. The Adam’s Apple.” If there’s something deliberately naïve in Moody, there’s something disturbingly satiated in Waldrop. In fact, the most arresting contribution to the anthology, Lydia Davis’ “Burning Family Members,” is the one that best synchronizes the inherent loneliness of an experimental gesture with an object (in this case, a dying professor). Unfortunately, adequate delineation of Conjunctions’ contents would take pages. At the risk of judging a book by its cover, I suggest simply turning Conjunctions #47 over and scanning its list of contributors. Joyce Carol Oates, William H. Gass, John Ashbery, Peter Straub, Edmund White, John Barth and Diane Williams—along with 38 others—fill the pages of this text. Or are you going to wait around until the 50th birthday?

[Conjunctions, 10 E. 10th St., New York, NY 10003. Single issue $15. www.conjunctions.com/]

 

Cream City Review literary magazine coverCream City Review

Volume 30 Number 2

Fall 2006

Biannual

Reviewed by Jeanne Lesinski

I wish I would have discovered Cream City Review twenty years ago. This issue on memoir, which celebrates the journal’s thirtieth anniversary, was the high point of my holiday reading because every piece offers something of interest. In his excellent introduction, an excerpt from his forthcoming book Then, Again: Aspects of Contemporary Memoir, Sven Birkerts draws distinctions between autobiography, memoir, and traumatic memoir. Wisely, the editors of Cream City Review also distinguish between “fictional memoir” and “nonfiction memoir.” Of these, I particularly enjoyed the fictional “The Fall of Iran” by Ed Meek—an adventure—and the nonfiction “Seven Dwarf Essays” by Michael Martone—an exploration of son Sam’s interest in dwarfs and the wider implications of dwarfism.

In his preface, the editor indicates that the poem selection “was guided more than usual by the test of how much of itself . . . a poem [is] giving us? How naked is it?” Thus I should not have been surprised by the frank language, explicit subject matter, and stunning imagery of Donald Platt’s “Les Papillons de Nuit.” Less explicit but very enticing is Thylias Moss’ “The Culture of Snowmen,” a meditation on particulate matter, frozen or otherwise, and Joseph Enzweiler’s succinct “The Burning” rests in the memory like a glowing coal. Also fascinating is “This Ain’t Precious,” a thought-provoking interview with graphic artist Art Spiegelman (Maus), who says that the simulation of reality that we experience in a mediated society “sucks the meaning out of everything.” Slowing down our consumption of media allows the art (written or visual) “to having meaning again, whereas for the most part I feel like I’m living in a bigger and bigger blur,” he said. Spiegelman is not alone. In the December 25 issue of Time, NBC Nightly News editor Brian Williams wrote about online national conversations, wondering “What if `talking’ means typing on a laptop, but the audience is too distracted to pay attention?” Blur, yes. Distracted, yes. Sigh.

[Cream City Review, UWM, Dept. of English, Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201. Single issue $12. www.uwm.edu/Dept/English/ccr/]

 

Fourth Genre literary magazineFourth Genre

Volume 8 Number 2

Fall 2006

Biannual

Reviewed by Aaron Gilbreath

In a rut? Need a break from the regular story-poetry-essay journal form? This unpretentious little mag takes you beyond the three genres. Published by Michigan State University, Fourth Genre dedicates all of its nearly 200 pages to narrative nonfiction—from personal essays to travel and nature writing to literary journalism—and has, since its 1999 inception, earned four Pushcarts and generated its own thick anthology. Though the quality is obvious from a quick flip-through, each issue merits extended quiet time in your favorite chair.

In the memoir “The Boy Who Didn’t Like Money,” a surprise call from an accountant leaves young Mort Zachter sated on the truth of his uncle’s seemingly impoverished life. The whole tone is playful and engaging, with sharp lines like “Mom doled out information as if it was sugar and the world was in a diabetic coma” and “Well into the Reagan administration, they wore suits dating back to the New Deal.” Essayist Barbara Hurd weaves merman mythology with natural and local history to birth a stellar piece of nature writing that brings to life the cold North Sea and human need for imagination, order, and meaning. After three months covering the war in Afghanistan and brief stints back home in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, J. Malcolm Garcia travels to Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras. The result is as vibrant and haunting a piece of personal narrative journalism as you’d find in the glossies.

Writing by Geeta Kothari, Meredith Hall, Donna George Storey, and Deborah Tall round out this issue along with a riveting interview with wide-ranging journalist Vivian Gornick and the mag’s regular full-length and capsule book reviews. Keep a pen handy; you’ll want to add some of these titles to your need-to-read list. This section is always rich with hidden treasures.

Fourth Genre is the Paris Review of nonfiction journals, minus the flashy covers and board of directors.

[Fourth Genre, Dept of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824. Single issue $20. msupress.msu.edu/journals/fg/]

 

Georgia ReviewThe Georgia Review

Volume 60 Number 2

Summer 2006

Quarterly

Reviewed by Miles Clark

The Georgia Review is a champion of verbosity, and this installment does not disappoint. The fiction is dense and energetic—particularly Julia Elloitt’s “The Whipping”—but entirely believable. The reviews, though brief, are given the room to expand. They don’t pull punches; Camille Paglia’s Break, Blow, Burn is dismissed as “showy,” for example. True, Paglia is a barnyard-sized target for a publication slinging MLA phrases like “postpartum existential quandary.” Nonetheless, any publication whose foray into “criticism” isn’t an opaque attempt to make friends is one to be admired.

David Wagoner’s one-act play depicting the personality of Theodore Roethke is the journal’s finest moment by far, not merely for its accuracy and flair, but because it also suggests that the impetus of The Georgia Review’s own verbosity can be found in the madness of isolation—or, if not, that it should. As he faces an ever-silent class of poetry workshop students, Roethke reaches further and further into the ether, throwing fragments of knowledge behind him as he goes. Even as Roethke cautions against empty extremes and pomposity, he grows more and more into an embodiment of his own imaginative principles—culminating in an image of himself in an ankle-length raccoon coat, dancing a two-step to a phonograph record, singing lyrics while his audience shuffles out of the class. It’s a strangely primeval, deeply unsettling image.

Though not a journal for the linguistically faint of heart, The Georgia Review rarely makes the mistake of sounding merely clever. 

[The Georgia Review, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-9009. Single issue $9. http://uga.edu/garev]

 

Greensboro Review literary magazineThe Greensboro Review

Number 80

Fall 2006

Biannual

Reviewed by Danielle LaVaque-Manty

Don’t judge Greensboro Review by its cover. Though the plain-brown-wrapper-style cover maintains the forty-year tradition of this magazine’s publishing history, the writing isn’t the least bit dated. The poetry ranges from the dense and intellectual, like Lisa Russ Spaar’s “The Fetish Hours,” which begins by describing a cobweb as “Spangled meniscus, hoarded levee / of dew, milky weird embroidery,” to the transparent and whimsical, as in Matt Hart’s “Matt Hart Running with Daisy, His Dog,” in which “Running with his dog, Matt Hart sucks in / big hunks of frosted air and then forces them back out / like barely visible tufts of pink cotton candy.” The fiction is easier to categorize. The stories in this issue all have richly drawn characters and strong narrative arcs, with one exception—Sarah Blackman’s “Impossible, Your Heart,” which tells three brief tales that link to one another only through objects and geography. In “Apogee,” by Anthony Tambakis, a boy gives up on his dream to be a rocket scientist the night he learns that his father has been cheating on his mother. “The Lord Is My Banner,” by Michael Hart, surprising and wonderful, features a down-and-out narrator who can only express his best intentions through astonishing acts of violence. What Greensboro Review lacks in visual appeal, it more than makes up for in substance, and at $5 an issue, this journal is a steal.

[MFA Writing Program at UNC Greensboro, Dept. of English, 134 McIver Building, PO Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170. Single issue $5. www.uncg.edu/eng/mfa]

 

Harpur Palate literary magazineHarpur Palate

Volume 6 Number 1

2006

Biannual

Reviewed by Danielle LaVaque-Manty

Harpur Palate is a sharp little journal featuring a center section of striking and surprisingly well reproduced visual art: otherworldly photography by Robert Kaussner, architecturally inspired drawings by David Hamill, gloriously colorful mixed media images by Michael Sullivan Hart, and an intriguing, surreal ink and paper study by Joseph Hart. The fiction found here embraces a range of styles, from Jacob Appel’s traditionally structured “The Other Sister,” about a woman who makes up stories about her dead sister because she’s so dissatisfied with the living one, to Donald Francis’s sly, sidewinding tale of obsession, “The Roof Line,” built from snippets that slowly build in coherence. The winner of the John Gardner Memorial Prize for Fiction also appears here along with two other finalists. All three are solid, though I was most impressed by one of the runners-up, Tara Mantel’s “These Woods,” a tale of children gained and lost told in fearlessly rich language: “she discovered that the baby’s heart, like that of her husband, was a pulsing flesh grenade quickly counting down to zero. In time, both failed.” Aside from one playful sonnet by Martin Bidney that retains traditional meter and rhyme while using tercets rather than quatrains, the poetry here is free verse. Many of the poems are unassuming at first glance—I’m thinking of “The Piano Downstairs,” by James Pate, which begins, “There’s a piano downstairs / not a small one either”—but nearly all of them lead somewhere unexpected, and there wasn’t a single one in this volume that I wasn’t pleased to have read. 

[Harpur Palate, PO Box 6000, Binghamton University, English Department, Binghamton, NY 13902. Single issue $10. harpurpalate.binghamton.edu/]

 

Healing Muse literary magazine coverThe Healing Muse

Volume 6 Number 1

Fall 2006

Annual

Reviewed by Jeanne Lesinski

While storytellers have long known the power of story to heal, The Healing Muse gives this activity a new venue and readers a taste of what narrative medicine—a way of educating physicians, nurses, and other providers that uses storytelling and active listening to focus on the humanity of patient and caregiver—might mean. Through fiction, poetry, essays, and photographs these authors (medical students, physicians, poets, patients) and photographers “explore the connections between medicine and healing, science and art.” For example, poets wrote of “the dizzing fall into anethesia’s small death” (Heather Yando, “So Many Masks”), the torture of mammography (Barbara Lefcowitz, “I Think About Chagall”), and life amidst decay (Susan Cowger, “The Dead Shall Rise”). I was also moved by several of the prose pieces, including Jan Huber’s “Otsego,” about her physical and mental journey while her son struggled to regain his mental health; Thomas Gibbs’s recollection, “The Bruising,” about coping with a patient’s death; and Evan Williams’s strangely compelling short fiction “Sanibel’s Journey.” Though we might like to think that we live the life of the mind, our bodies have much to do with our health, both physical and mental, and this collection gives this unity its due.

[The Healing Muse, SUNY Upstate Medical University, 725 Irving Ave.,#406, Syracuse, NY 13210. Single issue $10. www.thehealingmuse.org]

 

Jubilat literary magazine coverJubilat

Number 12

2006

Biannual

Reviewed by C.M. McLean

Your ears are pricked. You’ve just read a good novel. You want more. You’re ready for a poem. And so is the newest issue of Jubilat. Though it has its luminaries, such as Ashbery and Salamun, they deliver – if only enough. The problem with Jubilat is not too little poetry, it’s the tidiness of the poetry. There’s meaningless metaphors like Allison Titus’, “O how we mine for artifacts the endless dusk.” Or there are the ones that deserve reflection like Rae Gouirand’s:

If the horizon—if the line—
pulls at the eye—pulls a thread
between presence and absence—
is a suture

A poem that is mystical enough to be ordinary. There are enough of these brilliancies to commend Jubilat. William May, in an essay on poet Stevie Smith’s poem and accompanying sketches, delves successfully. These very humble yet intriguing drawings are “combative” to the text and yet represent them, May says. The excerpts of Smith’s poetry for those who are uninitiated are probably the best verses in the journal. Jubilat does have talent and creativity. It is structured nicely, peppered with drawings, salted with Xeroxes and curried with textual art. The bulk of the issue is poetry after all. And the poets all sing, if only too predictably.

[Jubilat Department of English 482 Bartlett Hall, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003-0510. Single Issue $8. www.jubilat.org]

 

The Long Story literary magazine coverThe Long Story

Number 24

2006

Annual

Reviewed by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

A long story has the possibility of incorporating a handful of moments, and spanning a story over a considerable length of time. The narrative space of three pages might not allow for an engaging tale spanning several years as much as twelve to twenty pages do. One common theme running through the stories in this issue is that of entrapment. Protagonists are incarcerated in three of the eight stories, while in another a girl is branded with the letter “J” on her forehead. Three gems in the collection are Shawn Hutchens’s “Midnight and the Fleeing Phoenix,” Peter Chilson’s “Toumani Ogun” and Bruce Douglas Reeves’s “You Only Live Once.” Chilson’s story is a chilling and funny take on Africa’s multiple problems, and the continuing hopelessness of Western aid organizations in their ability to understand the situation, let alone bring it under control. Reeves’s Prohibition-era first-person narrative of a luckless bootlegger is tastefully layered with the antithesis of ordinary situations: a flood that smashes the protagonist’s booze-laden truck and also his future, and the way he hunkers down in a movie theater afterwards, plagued with hunger and danger as equal threats. Hutchens manages to create a credible bull (the animal) with feelings—no mean feat, even in a non-fabulous long story.

There are moments where the other stories shine, especially Paul Johnson’s “The Summer She Was Seven,” in which a seven-year-old girl teaches her six-year-old cousin the secrets of pre-pubescent sexual bliss. Johnson proves again that for a story, sex never gets too old, nor too young. Compelling as these stories are, they are made more so with the editorial “Prelude,” which argues successfully for the force of language, and dismisses linguistic and conceptual jadedness as a sign of an individual’s defeat rather than the loss of language as a medium. “[…] words are relational,” it says. And, “Nothing left to say? It is a ridiculous statement which is only possible to maintain when total self-absorption blinds someone to the pain and suffering of others.” If in need of an espresso shot of inspiration, this editorial is a worthy gulp. At the tail end, Laurel Speer’s poem “Abraham and Isaac in Armory Park” brings a grin at its anachronistic subjection of a prophet. The title says a lot, but it’s worth the read.

[The Long Story, 18 Eaton St, Lawrence, MA 01843. Sample issue $7. homepage.mac.com/rpburnham/longstory.html]

 

Louisiana Literature literary magazine coverLouisiana Literature

Volume 23 Number 1

Spring/Summer 2006

Biannual

Reviewed by Aaron Gilbreath

Far more than a survey of literary Louisiana, this university journal collects fiction and poetry from West Virginia to the Ozarks. Perfect-bound in a firm, glossy cover as arresting as any book, though more scholarly-looking than most lit mags, each issue comes crowned with a striking color photograph. If the cover is the front door, the photo is the welcome mat, so come on in.

Rita Welty Bourke’s very short story, “See Ya, Charlie,” features an aging widow who, fresh from a small town mental institution, prepares for her social worker’s arrival. In Rosemary Magee’s “The Old Highway of Love,” a reclusive South Carolina painter, tantalized by gossip fed by her housekeeper, succumbs to a basic voyeuristic impulse and gets wrapped up in her elderly neighbor’s drama. “Lizard Wizardry: A Reverie” is a quirky, meditative essay weaving reptilian ecology with raw emotionality. After returning to her native Louisiana from cold, gray Iowa, Sheryl St. Germain finds herself contemplating a green anole in a forest of water oak and sweetgum, comforted by the smothering humidity. “It’s a signal that I’m home,” she says, “and the heat is family.” Sign of a true native, but it’s a painful homecoming as well.

Kevin Stuart writes a very convincing female narrator in his story, one plagued by drunken car wrecks and reformed ex-husbands, and Shell Teague’s “Feeling the Burn” steps back into a time when Coca-Cola was still an exquisitely unfamiliar taste. In addition to fiction, this issue packs plenty of poetry and three extended book reviews.

You’re more likely to find this journal in university libraries’ reading rooms than bookstore shelves, but if you’re a fan of Southern writing, LL is well worth tracking down.

[Louisiana Literature, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA 70402. Single issue $8. louisianaliterature.org]

 

Murdaland literary magazine coverMurdaland

Issue 01

2007

Reviewed by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

One look at Murdaland’s cover and you know that you won’t be disappointed. It shows a potbellied assassin taking aim with a nearly-finished cigarello in his mouth, nothing but boxers on, and a look of precision in his one open eye. The slob is aiming just to the reader’s left, which makes a reading safe, but not for those around you. Kudos to designer Tyler Moore and photographer Terry Gratuity for letting us know that even in suburbia, our neighbors are nuts, and we’d better watch out. That, in essence, is Murdaland’s take on life: nobody is safe from the grotesque. All inclusions are either stories or novel excerpts, and most of them are sexy, bloody and very good. My favorite pieces combine gore and humor in uncanny ways. Such as Anthony Neil Smith’s “Lovers Through All Eternity and Forevermore” is about a Goth boy planning his girlfriend’s funeral. The first-person narrative is exquisitely macabre. This line is an example: “Oh, my lover Hannah. She was good in bed. Often at climax, she’d scream, ‘I hate you!’” This is an exclamation that belongs in Murdaland. It fits the theme like a telescopic lens snapping snugly into place above the rifle’s barrel. The journal also plays host to a Latin master of the gruesome, Rolo Diez, whose translated piece “Eclipse” contains the stunning lines: “As citizens of the twenty-first century, we believe we have brought our terrors up to date. Now that we no longer fear the thunder or the mammoth, what frightens is poverty, sickness, being rejected by others…” and “However, at night the house of fear is still erected. Neither the child nor the Cro-Magnon has left us.” Besides Diez, there are other masters here. An excerpt from Mary Gaitskill’s work in progress is included, as is a newly found novella by David Cassidy, the writer of life’s underbelly. By these first glimpses of the grand filth and unnerving mayhem, it looks as though Murdaland has found a comfortable place in our world.

[Murdaland, 1739 East Carson St., #355, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. Single issue $12. www.murdalandmagazine.com]

 

Pebble Lake Review literary magazine coverPebble Lake Review

Volume 3 Number 3

Summer 2006

Triannual

Reviewed by Jeanne Lesinski

I love it when I open a journal and serendipitously the first piece I read is a winner. This recently happened when I picked up Pebble Lake Review and turned to Ted Gilley's poem "Password," which begins "Young Dewey's head / was shaped like a melon. / His password was I'm ripe. / His brother Matthew's was / I blow up mailboxes. / Mine was just ignore me." Although it includes several book reviews and works of fiction, including Dave Housley's hit-the-nail-on-the-head, slice-of-life piece, "Where We're Going," this issue focuses on poetry. It includes poems by Denise Duhamel, Kelli Russell Agodon, Judith Skillman, C.J. Sage, Dan Rosenberg, Barry Ballard, Paula Bohince, and some two dozen other poets. For their wonderful imagery, I recommend "Measure Twice, Cut Once" and "House Diptych" by Bernadette Geyer. I also suggest that readers visit the journal’s website, where they can listen to selected audio files of the authors reading their own works—a great addition to the print journal.

[Pebble Lake Review, 15318 Pebble Lake Dr., Houston, TX 77095. Single issue $10. www.pebblelakereview.com]

 

Pool literary magazine coverPool

Volume 5

2006

Annual

Reviewed by Jeanne Lesinski

Pool is a great name for a poetry journal—all those denotations, connotations, symbols, and similes. Spanning a wide range of styles, this volume contains multiple poems by Gareth Lee, Bob Hicok, Elizabeth Horner, James Haug, Amanda Field, Paul Fattaruso, Tony Hoagland, Campbell McGrath, and Mary Ruefle, as well as single poems by three dozen others. Although many of the poems in this issue fell flat (belly flopped?), I enjoyed the playfulness of Jeanne Marie Beaumont’s language in “In Pursuit of the Original Trinket” and “Mosey Is as Mosey Does.” Corey Marks’s long poem “Lullaby” is this volume’s graceful dive from the high platform. In it he demonstrates skillful interweaving of avian imagery and symbolism with a fairytale motif and modern medical dilemma:

. . . your body
unstitched our trust in it, thread by thread, pocking
itself with blood that no longer knew to contain itself
capillaries split and spilt across your face and hands
into a map of a country you’d never thought to visit.

The soulful interior landscape Marks creates in “Lullaby” is one I urge readers to visit again and again.

[Pool, P.O. Box 49738, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Single issue $10. http://poolpoetry.com]

 

Quarter After Eight literary magazine coverQuarter After Eight

Volume 11/12

2004/2005

Annual

Reviewed by Danielle LaVaque-Manty

Quarter After Eight describes itself as publishing “some of the most innovative and significant experimental prose in contemporary letters.” This issue contains plenty of prose poetry and flash fiction, but the pieces that strike me as most unusual and interesting are the longer ones. Karrie Higgins’s essay, “State Lines,” about her epilepsy, is a standout. “People are offended at my anger when the ambulance takes me away,” she writes, “or when I find a spoon was shoved between my teeth, or that strangers wrapped their arms around my torso to try and hold me still […] There is a breakdown of borders, a sense that this body can be touched and stroked without permission.” It’s hard to decide whether Rebecca Cook’s fascinating “Stories in the Shape of Objects” is fiction or nonfiction. Its narrator calls it a story, but it moves ruminatively, like an essay. In “Magnolia Lyric,” Erin T. Pringle introduces her tale through fragments that only make sense once the second, more conventional half of the narrative has been absorbed. In addition to a wide variety of prose, this issue contains an adequately (though not beautifully) reproduced center art gallery, an interview with Steven Millhauser, and a small selection of book reviews. I’d be lying if I said all the experiments to be found within are successful, but Quarter After Eight lets a hundred flowers bloom, and some of those blossoms are rare and lovely. 

[Quarter After Eight, English Department, Ellis Hall, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701. Single issue $10. www.quarteraftereight.org]

 

Rambler coverThe Rambler Magazine

Volume 3 Number 6

November-December 2006

Bimonthly

Reviewed by Jeanne Lesinski

Gracing the cover of this issue is a photograph of Spalding Gray, an actor-writer known for his humorous monologues and who long suffered from depression and committed suicide in 2004. Dave Korzon's moving interview with Gray's wife, director Kathie Russo, provides insights into Gray's life and art, as well as Russo's efforts to keep her husband's legacy alive (Swimming to Cambodia; Monster in a Box; Morning, Noon and Night; It's a Slippery Slope; Life Interrupted, among other books). Regular departments in this magazine include "No Do-Overs" (in this issue, Stephanie Johnson's at turns hilarious and poignant essay "Girly") and "Voices," collecting the opinions of selected people on a certain topic. The magazine’s subtitle, "Your World, Your Story," is apt, for, like the alternative magazine The Sun, The Rambler solicits works from readers, though instead of written thematic prompts, The Rambler offers readers photographs as inspiration for nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. In this issue, Kerry Jones’s perfectly modulated short story, “So Glad We Had This Time Together,” is the sole fiction selection. It reads so well that were she not writing in the first-person voice of a male character, it could easily be mistaken for memoir.

[The Rambler Magazine, PO Box 5070, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. Single issue $4.95. www.ramblermagazine.com]

 

Renovations coverRenovation Journal

Volume 3 Number 1

Spring 2006

Reviewed by Jeanne Lesinski

I picked Renovation Journal from a shelf of journals because of its theme: “The Letter Issue.” You see, I still feel the presence of my deceased father when I reread the letters he sent to me while I was away at college. I still cherish the love letters my boyfriend sent to me in France before he became my husband. So I expected a great deal from this slender volume. Cornelia Veenendaal’s, “I Must Tell You about a Trip to Zweeloo,” based on the letters of Vincent Van Gogh, well portrayed the pre-South of France painter, and editor Kate Hanson’s letter to Franz Wright caught the all-too-familiar timidity when in the presence of celebrity. Felicia Sullvan’s humorous “Dear Landlord Letter” justifiably won the second annual Vinyl Siding Award (I’d like to hear the story behind the naming of this award), and the anonymous quotation “E-mail has killed the letter, and AOL Instant Messenger has pissed on its grave” (Around Town) seems an apt epitaph to the paper letter. I also much appreciate the Thomas Moore quotation about the words of letters speaking “at a different level serving the soul’s organ of rumination rather than the mind’s capacity for understanding.” Yet if this is so, only a few of the letters presented here delve that deeply, one of them being Dave Robinson’s “Letter from a Ruined Desert.” I was nonplussed by the scanned “archival” material—paper notes, e-mail, and “How to Write a Love Letter (according to the Internet)”—and the amount of advertising for Renovation’s online site, subscriptions, and Hanson’s blog.

[Renovation Journal, PO Box 778, Lowell, MA 01853. Single issue $5. www.renovationonline.com]

 

Salmagundi literary magazine coverSalmagundi

Number 152

Fall 2006

Quarterly

Reviewed by Anna Sidak

This non-fiction issue of Salmagundi includes, along with much else, Richard Howard's response to disdain for works older than one's self—"A Lecture on a Certain Mistrust of the Past among Young Writers"—and "The Women of Whitechapel: Two Poems" by Nancy Schoenberger, whose second victim, remarkably perceptive under the circumstances, comments: "[. . .] a gentleman's a man where darkness lurks until it's sprung by some medicinal." Linda Simon's curious title, "What Lies Beneath," is a review of Virginia Blum's Flesh Wounds, the search for redemption via cosmetic surgery. From David Bosworth's "Auguries of Decadence – American Television in the Age of Empire": "If the rude yoking of the picayune to the profound is a feature of the post modern [. . .]," his brilliant 50-page rumination on TV's spectacles of pain and folly—weeping Kurdish women, Extreme Makeover's cosmetic-surgery desperadoes—is postmodern, indeed; and also a hard-hitting indictment of the Bush administration. "D. H. Lawrence, Comedian" by Jeffrey Meyers must concede the humor of Lawrence may be easily mistaken for misogyny, as in this example: "[. . .] I feel such a profound hatred of myself, of the human race, I almost know what it is to be a Jew." Informative and entertaining as all this is, one expects no less from a journal claiming Russell Banks, Carolyn Forche, and Mario Vargas Llosa among its regular contributors.

[Salmagundi, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Single issue $7. www.skidmore.edu/salmagundi/]

 

Shenandoah literary magazine coverShenandoah

Volume 56 Number 2

Fall 2006

Triannual

Reviewed by Jeanne Lesinski

American folk music enthusiasts will want to check out this issue devoted to traditional music of the Appalachian region. It includes interviews with Janette Carter and Mike Seeger, whose families have long performed and preserved mountain music and culture. Other essays highlight the careers of fiddlers J.P. Fraley and Tommy Jarrell, as well as guitarist and singer Elizabeth Cotten. Among the poems in this volume, several honor particular performers (Jeffrey Harrison’s “Homage to Roscoe Holcomb” and Ron Rash’s “Elegy for Merle Watson”), while others evoke the songs themselves (Candice Ward’s “Ballad Child” and George Scarbrough’s “The Old Man”), or explore their power over listeners (Judy Klass’ “Conundrum and Fiddle” and “The Tao of Twang” and John Casteen’s “Insomnia”). An excerpt from the novel Fiddler’s Dream (SMU Press, 2006), about a young musician who wants to play bluegrass and find his missing musician father, amply demonstrates Gregory Spatz’s ability to write lyrically about music and music makers.

[Shenandoah, Mattingly House, 2 Lee Ave., Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450-2116. Single issue $10. http://shenandoahliterary.org]

 

Sow's Ear literary magazine coverThe Sow's Ear Poetry Review

Volume 15 Number 4

Quarterly

Reviewed by Jeanne Lesinski

The Sow's Ear Poetry Review does better than many literary magazines at integrating poetry and visual arts. In fact, marrying the two genres is the express intention of its "Crossover" section, which features the 8 x 10-inch digital mixed-media selections Wholeness and Eternity by Jing Zhou. Part of a series called "Ch'an Mind; Zen Mind," these black-and-white pieces demand repeat "readings," as does Sandra Kohler's nine-part poem cycle "The Unveiling." With its elliptical structure, recurrent imagery, and timeless theme, this poem amply rewards the reader who peels back the layers of craft and meaning. More direct but no less moving are Christine Leche's "Three-Minute Egg" and "Eye of the Storm," and upon reading Kelly Jean White's "I Cannot Say How Deep the Snow," I felt a chime of recognition. I would have positioned "The Drowning Man" by Nick Conrad as the issue's finale poem, for its haunting quality will linger with readers long after they have set the journal aside.

[The Sow's Ear Poetry Journal, 355 Mt. Lebanon Rd., Donalds, SC 29638-9115. Single issue $5. http://sows-ear.kitenet.net/index.html]

 

StoryQuarterly literary magazine coverStoryQuarterly

Issue 42

Annual

Reviewed by Anna Sidak

Since this is an annual publication—despite title—the short story's continuing evolution may be visible—although not yet deciphered—over even the one short year of this stellar 528-page collection. Examples of concepts discarded long before now include epiphany endings—see Robie-Macauley-Prize winning "Above Asmara" by Tamara Guirado: "A woman in a white coat hovered near him with her arms raised hesitantly, as if deciding whether to embrace of restrain him. I kept breathing." No suicides—and here's "Ketchikan" by David Vann: "[. . .] the place where my dead father had first gone astray, the place where this father and his suicide and his cheating and his lies and my pity for him, also, might finally be put to rest: Ketchikan." Standing upon the shoulders of giants (name-dropping of writers and titles, also movies and actors), everyone does it these days. Stories without serpents—I made up the last rule and, sure enough, it's not heeded—see "Pig Helmet" by Pinckney Benedict and Daniel Orozco's "Shakers," the last a vivid catalogue of earthquake in all its terrifying forms and portents, and then, reading Andrew Foster Altschul's account of wildfire, "Leaving Idyllwild," I nearly forgot how much I love California. Perhaps the unifying factor of these stories is their sense of place, of explicit place and time—except Tom Kealey's haunting "The Boots," which reminded me of Kafka's timeless "The Hunter Gracchus"—either that or the educational history shared by most of the contributors and by the guest-editors of this special issue, all of whom are Stegner Fellows.

[StoryQuarterly, 431 Sheridan Road, Kenilworth, IL 60043-1220. Single Issue $9. www.storyquarterly.com]

 

Tin House literary magazine coverTin House

Volume 8 Number 1

Fall 2006

Quarterly

Reviewed by Miles Clark

If there’s been a push as of late to break the glass ceiling of female graphic artists, then little magazines stand in the vanguard: this summer Marjane Satrapi was interviewed in The Believer; a little later, A Public Space came out with an excerpt from Lauren Redniss’s Century Girl. Now comes Tin House’s graphic issue, which goes further than either publication, featuring articles with Satrapi and earthy icon Lynda Barry (whose curiously scatological and entirely dualistic rumination on the nature of mental imagery graces the cover), and, later, a vignette on the dearth of female graphic artists. An interview with Satrapi follows, wherein this “queen” of graphic novels discusses how she reworked the flurry of misconceptions surrounding her Iranian heritage into the intelligent, darkly humorous Persepolis, now the subject of a movie deal.

I found myself drawn, perhaps chauvinistically, to the teenaged drawings from Michael Chabon’s childhood, and Lord Whimsy’s scientific nothingnesses. Most promising, however, might be the preview of Zak Smith’s Illustrated Gravity’s Rainbow, which boasts 800 color illustrations of Pynchon’s opus, one for every page of the manuscript.

Tin House’s fictive efforts are disappointingly deterministic, though rich in imagery. But this is a truly “fun” issue of an invariably “fun” magazine, and I recommend it without reservation.

[Tin House, P.O. Box 10500, Portland, OR 97296-0500. Single issue $12.95. www.tinhouse.com/index.htm]

 

Yalobusha Review coverThe Yalobusha Review

Volume 11

2006

Annual

Reviewed by Jeanne Lesinski

Listening to NPR recently, I heard an interview with the new PR guru for the state of Mississippi, who was touting the state’s heritage as the birthplace of famous writers and entertainers. Right away I thought of The Yalobusha Review. This volume, which is dedicated to novelist and essayist Larry Brown (Father and Son, Billy Ray’s Farm, Feast of Snakes), who died in late 2004, has much to recommend it: a moving if episodic eulogy “Larry Brown: Passion to Brilliance” by Barry Hannah; the heartfelt appreciation “Larry Brown: Mentor from Afar” by Joe Samuel Starnes; the fiction “Niche” by University of Mississippi writer-in-residence, Michael Knight, who as judge for the Barry Hannah Prize for Fiction chose Patrick Tucker’s story “The Course of History” for that honor because, he noted, it “doesn’t feel like it’s had the guts work-shopped out of it”; haunting poems by Nicole Foreman, Larry Bradley, and Joan Payne Kincaid; and Christopher Brady’s untitled print of an elderly woman (p. 33), which begs viewers to hear the story told in the wrinkles of her face and hand. Fans of Aimee Bender’s fiction (An Invisible Sign of My Own, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, Willful Creatures) will certainly want to check out the interview, in which the author discusses magic as sleight of hand, realism as a bogus term, and holding something back from the reader. Finally, while some readers might say that the plot of Ron Pruitt’s story “Meth Lab” hinges on coincidence, I found it right on target with the unknowing ways things happen in the universe.

[The Yalobusha Review, Dept. of English, Bondurant Hall, P.O. Box 1848, University, MS 38677. Single issue $10. www.olemiss.edu/yalobusha]

 

Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand recent reviews:

Dec 2006
Nov 2006
Oct 2006
Sept 2006
Aug 2006

Cumulative Index of Literary Magazines Reviewed