Literary Magazine Reviews

Posted August 13, 2007

 

6x6 cover6x6

Issue 13

Spring 2007

Triannualish

Reviewed by Colin McLean

Ah, yes. Ugly Duckling Presse presents the most fashionable, talented and prescient poetry zine-journal of its time. That is, it will continue to advance the presentation and readability of great poetry. This is 6x6 at its most solid and diverse. Each poet in here is unique, touching and ingenious. Consider the first sentence of the first poem, which also appears on the cover, by Evan Willner: “If all tagalong creation insists on being.” A great enigmatic phrase of lucid abstraction. The kind that flourishes in this age. Willner’s poem ends, “. . . then this crunching must really be the / gravel begging beneath our feet. And if not, not.” A great tagalong ending of insistence and equanimity. Consider also the first line and title of this Lynn Xu poem: “IT IS THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY AND EVERY LANDSCAPE IS DIVINED, DARKLY,” which goes on to punctuate the title with the last lines “wrestling the one without language.” These Rilkean illuminations are distributed wonderfully throughout her work. I also enjoy the smaller and off-the-cuff poems of Matthew Gavin Frank and Matthew Rohrer. They perform linguistic leaps both rustic and modern and invite the reader in to laugh or wonder aloud.
[http://www.uglyducklingpresse.org/6by6.html]

 

Brilliant Corners coverBrilliant Corners

Volume 11 Number 2

Summer 2007

Biannual

Reviewed by Colin McLean

Brilliant Corners, “A Journal of Jazz and Literature” celebrates its tenth anniversary with this Summer 2007 issue, featuring numerous tributes to the late Whitney Balliet as well as poems, interviews and children’s poetry about jazz. For those like me wholly unfamiliar with The New Yorker jazz critic Balliet, you may be disappointed with the narrow scope of the journal. As subject, he occupies nearly the entire issue. This modest journal of jazz is still a blessing. Just like the slice of a hi-hat, its pacing is right on. Kim Addonizio and Ira Sardoff offer up some on-topic and splendiferous poetry. And Susan Weiner’s non-fiction piece, “Like Jelly Beans Falling On My Head,” describes the joys of teaching jazz to elementary school students for African American History Month. The most illuminating piece on Balliet is the interview conducted by Sascha Feinstein. You get the true crankiness and brilliancy of this lauded man’s temperament and his writing style, which is said to be synesthestic. For example, Ben Ratliff quotes Balliet as saying a piece of music had a “wheat-moon sound.” The jazzmen and writers who show up in Brilliant Corners give a good but incomplete view of Balliet. Any jazz fan should give this journal at least one shot or wail or riff. There’s sure to be some corner that will shine.
[http://www.lycoming.edu/BrilliantCorners]

 

Cave Wall coverCave Wall

Number 1

Winter 2007

Biannual

Reviewed by Anne Wolfe

The title Cave Wall might hearken back to days of Neanderthals and primitive times, but don’t be fooled: this literary magazine contains highly sophisticated, polished poetry. Still, it’s deep, not posh – it manages to touch you in a primeval sort of way – the way you want poetry to. The elegant blue vine on the white cover of this smallish collection gives a more accurate overall impression of its refinement than the title. If you want “high poetry,” try Dan Albergotti’s poems. He references Eurydice in “Surprising the Gods,” “the Camaean Sybil’s Curse” in “The Gods Have Given Up on Immortality,” and “the diphthong between birth and death” in “Song 378.” He gives an otherworldly tone to his poetry that edge on the sublime. His best verse is “Lost Birds,” about his mother, whose chief entertainment is watching the birds outside her window. On the other hand, “earthbound,” “rustic,” and “pastoral” are words that might be used to describe the poetry by Jim Peterson. “Woodcreek1977” gives the reader a tellingly familiar, satisfying memory of a wild youth recalled though strikingly evocative imagery. Peterson deftly reassures us of the longevity of love as passion burns to embers. He knocks you out with his droll poem about the whimsical adventure of an old man squatting in an abandoned building who consults a face he has drawn with chalk. “Original Face” is a satisfying verse that could be a short short. However, the careful wording and ironic phrasing make it poetry. Claudia Emerson, with “Hoarder,” “Cat Lady,” and “After the Affair,” packs humor, tight imagery and what seems like pages of information into a few stanzas. We leave her poems feeling like we’ve made an acquaintance. With seven other superb poets represented, plus some innovative cartoon-like art by Dan Rhett, Cave Wall is a primal urge you must satisfy.
[http://www.cavewallpress.com]

 

Columbia coverColumbia

Issue 44

Spring/Summer 2007

Biannual

Reviewed by Anna Sidak

The word for Issue 44 of Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art – Refreshing! In addition to the work of seventeen poets and four artists, the artistic layout and high quality construction contributes to the attractive overall effect.

The six fictions are immediate and lacking in exposition – not a bad thing – as in the following example from "The Contradiction" by Rebecca Curtis: "We said something that he didn't like. We were sorry but we had already said it." From "The White Fox," her second, and equally enigmatic, story in this issue: "The fox was struggling in my arms, its hind legs ripping my shirt and leaving long bloody scratches. I had slipped my hold a bit. Don't you realize, my sister said, that my work is important?"

In non-fiction, Scott Henkle's "They Reduced Us to Such a State We Became Like . . ." is a thoughtful meditation on the masking words public discourse uses – patriotic, sacrifice, heroic, etc. – to make the death and devastation of war and atrocity meaningful and bearable. Henkle uses the work of Lawrence L. Langer, which decries the use of subterfuge, as counterpoint while sidestepping ethical questions with the idea these words are ritual, and acceptable, assuagers of grief. Henkle's work is but one of six exceptional essays, including "Transparencies," Angela Autry Gordon's fascinating hair-care account: "I scanned the salon section for key words like weaves, Brandi Braids and relaxers." Dave Housley's "How to Listen to Old Hair Metal Tapes" is an amusing and informative overview of the musical era of Def Leopard and Motley Crue by a founder/editor of Barrelhouse Magazine.
[http://www.columbiajournal.org/]

 

Diner coverDiner

Volume 6

2006

Reviewed by Deborah Diemont

When considering how to describe Diner, some words that come to mind are grit, greasy spoon, kitsch (in the irresistible way of roadside diners, Frida Kahlo) and funky. From the dark blue cover with its diner photos (table and chairs in front of a window reading “breakfast, lunch, dinner”; juke box; cherry pie; Bunn coffee maker) to a variety of poems and stories, many of which seem unlikely to find homes in more conventional journals, this issue of Diner made me nostalgic for things I didn’t know I missed. Some poems are odd, emotional, and searing – if not always 100% clear and polished. An essay by Anne E. Michael posed a question I’d never considered: “Is poetry a DNA-based imperative?”; i.e., will scientists discover a biological or brain-chemical source for the uniquely human ability to create poetry and art? I was smitten by Irish writer Philomena Feighan’s story about a Catholic school history teacher who can’t release himself from the demons of his own personal history, no matter how many women he beds, no matter how many scotches he drinks. And anyone who has ever tried to teach literature – or anything – might delight in Judy Kronenfeld’s poem, “Old Teacher Cogitates Revenge While Trying to Teach Wallace Stevens to the Young at 2 P.M.” After an epigraph from Stevens, the poem begins: “A student in the middle row, suddenly awake, / cackles; then he and his girl / both grimace visibly when I point out / “If her horny feet protrude” alludes / to yellow calluses, not the lustful / dead. . . .” Diner’s cover reads “a journal of poetry,” but an editorial explains the decision to start including prose to attract a larger audience. The table of contents, called “Menu,” offers “Blue Plate Specials” (long sections with bios and poems by featured poets), “Mo’ Jo” (reminiscences by writers on discovering their favorite poets), and “Fresh Baked” (Book Reviews).

*Editor’s note: Diner will cease publication after their next issue, September 2007.
[http://www.spokenword.to/Diner]

 

Forklift Ohio coverForklift, Ohio

A Journal of Poetry, Cooking, and Light Industrial Safety

Number 16

Winter 2007

Annual

Reviewed by Rachel Yoder

I have carried Forklift, Ohio on my person at all times for the last month. Aside from revealing that I’m a nerd, this also indicates that Forklift is the perfect accessory for any engagement (poetry is this season’s trendy clutch). It’s dense (70 poems in 146 pages), and fantastic for show and tell with like-minded nerdy writer-types. “Look at this cool journal,” I said to my friend Mark, first showing him the 1950s-style illustration of a nuclear bomb bunker, then the photo of prize-winning sheep at the Ohio State Fair, and finally the random excerpted indices (“‘Wild’ units (See Freaks),” etc.). Then I said, “Listen to this,” and read him the poem I happened to be on, Zachary Schomberg’s “The New Life.” It began, “Your limbs / will be torn off / in a farm accident.” When I was done, Mark said, “Hey, not bad,” paused, then added, “That was actually really good.” This sums up my overall reaction to the poems in Forklift – Hey, not bad; in fact, actually really good. Forklift is the kind of journal that you can open up to any page and find something surprising, interesting, musical, funny and/or weird. Like Mathias Svalina’s opening poem, “Creation Myth,” which begins, “In the beginning there was a void. There was a tuba. The tuba wanted to play some polka.” Or Sommer Browning’s, “We make love. We watch more television.”: “You pull up your bowling alleys disguised as khaki pants and reach for my boat disguised as a hand.” Other poets I enjoyed (among the many) in this issue: Kevin Oberlin with his poems in chart form, Richard Siken, and Allison Titus. And let’s not forget the recipes: “Port Wine Reduction in a Ton of Butter with Pumpkin Ravioli or Dead Animal of Your Choice” by Rebecca Loudon and “Punked Out Pumpkin Chicken Chili” by Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis. The final word on Forklift – yum.
[http://www.hubcapart.com/ink]

 

High Desert Journal coverHigh Desert Journal

Issue Number 5

Spring 2007

Biannual

Reviewed by Anna Sidak

The oversize High Desert Journal is a seductive collection of prose, poetry, art, and ambience. Michael P. Berman's photography – introduced by Charles Bowden's essay, "Under a Dry Moon": "You learn to love the white light of midday in June when everything is flattened by the molten energy of the sun." – is accompanied by that of Kiev Kirby, Fritz Liedtk, and others. Paintings include James Lavadour's haunting evocations of stone, shadow, and light, and Tracy Lengjeld's mysterious mono-prints. J. Anne Lazarus's poem "frontier spirit” is but one of eight fine poems, and includes these lines: "nevada and wyoming, / montana and arizona, new // mexico, idaho and colorado / respectively // in 1993 / lead the nation // in suicide / as salt // lake city leads / in per capita // consumption / of jell-o.” Karen Fisher's essay, "We Pioneers," correlates a risk-laden move from California to Idaho with perilous relocations from her family history. "Fruit Room" is Donald Snow's memoir of the sorting-through of the accumulations a death demands. "Teaching to the Epiphany" from Travels With the Lorax Generation, by Phil Brick, is an essay on the conflict between ecological and other interests: "Nature must just be the original Rorschach." In "The Buckaroo Way," Sandy Anderson interviews rancher/horseman Ron Miller to explore a little-known western sub-culture derived from ancestral sources in North Africa and Spain. Brandon R. Schrand's thoughtful essay, "All That Glows," reflects on the allure of explosives and the blight of mining. Josh Beddingfield's fiction, "Yellow Cake," is about danger and damage from what once seemed harmless. High Desert Journal is a splendid introduction to a region seldom seen.
[http://www.highdesertjournal.com/]

 

Insolent Rudder

Summer 2007

Quarterly

Reviewed by Stefani Nellen

Insolent Rudder is an online magazine publishing flash fiction and very short "relatively" plotted stories of "no more than 1113 words." The stories in the current issue oscillate between the comical and the poetic, and almost all of them are perfect illustrations of the condensed observations typical of flash – those seemingly effortless "pow!" moments that pack a lot of truth into very few words. From Jamie Lin's Sequence of micros, "Falling Uphill": "She was the round, shiny apple. I was the rotten tomato with too many weaknesses." From Liesl Jobson's "Ashram": "I kneel before him, bending to kiss his instep. He loved it before when I sucked his toes. We must wait for the guru, he says, pushing me away." From Bosley Gravel's "The Bone Tree": "Mother said they buried him deep that autumn, and she imagined him frozen in the earth waiting for spring like a fresh seed as the snow blew the last of the orange leaves."

The stories in this issue cut right to the strongest image, the most astounding emotion – that's what flash is about. Surprise is only the beginning. At first glance, this might make the stories seem slighter than "full length" short stories, but this is not the case. The fiction in this issue tickles, surprises, pops – not only on first read. This is the kind of writing that satisfies the need for a quick literature fix but is profound enough to withstand attrition. The tones and moods vary widely between stories. Frank O'Connor's "Coffee" is an all-out funny homage: “Dolloped, Twisted, Shorted or Flatpack? Spiced, Spangled, Glucose or Creemeedunk? Grandee, Extra-Grandee, Grandee Dandee or Extra-Grandee Dandee?” In contrast, Liesl Jobson's "Saviour" is a sparse story about the loss of a child, which is nicely complemented by J.M. Patrick's "Lacuna," a quiet celebration of life. The reader is advised to enter the current issue during their coffee break and sample the buffet.
[http://www.insolentrudder.net]

 

The Iowa Review coverThe Iowa Review

Volume 37 Number 1

Spring 2007

Triannual

Reviewed by Stefani Nellen

My personal favorite among this issue's stories, Mary Slowik's "Teeth," takes the storyteller's doctrine (dig where it hurts) to a brilliantly literal level. In her atmospheric, sinister story, the narrator, a dentist's daughter, watches her father fix an exposed nerve: "The nerve waved blindly on the point of the probe. It reminded me of a single larva separated from its teeming kin, the heaving masses in our compost pile, the rows of soft grubs lined up in our beehives at home. And yet, I knew this tiny thread contained the most quivering pain." All the pain hiding inside all the teeth (false teeth, hidden teeth…the theme connecting the story's sections) erupts in a single, intense moment. Wow.

This issue's diversity of style amazed me; it was impossible to predict one story from the next. Stephen Spicehandler's "To Cavalry" describes the loving battles between the narrator and his dying wife – a surprisingly action-packed story considering the potentially static and depressing subject matter. The love depicted in this piece is still alive and kicking, and all the more heartbreaking for it. How interesting to compare Spicehandler's piece with James McKean's much shorter story, "Bound," which also describes a marriage. McKean's story is as calm and tense as "Cavalry" is twitching and struggling. Husband and wife go to visit their future plot on the cemetery; the incident reveals a seemingly enormous chasm between their personalities, which becomes – as the last sentence reveals – irrelevant in the face of their love.

And there's more: Phong Nguyen offers the hilarious "Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History: Columbus Discovers America," and Rusty Dolleman's "September, 1981" takes a more personal view on an historic day: the boxing match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns as viewed by a group of factory workers from Michigan who have bet all their money on Hearns. Another interesting pair of stories on a similar theme (history) – the surreal idea piece and the suspenseful, old-fashioned narrative. A strong mix here and throughout. [http://iowareview.org]

 

Winter 2007The MacGuffin

Volume 23 Number 2

Winter 2007

Triannual

Reviewed by Anne Wolfe

It devours you, it challenges you. The fiction in The MacGuffin has muscle. The poetry can take you places in a few simple stanzas, with no visible effort. Such craftsmanship is hard to come by. Masterpieces adorn this 159-page journal. “Bed-Tea in New Delhi” is an efficient poem by Dawn McDuffie about the hedonistic world of a privileged person with a servant. It powerfully shames the rich while lamenting the poor. The reader is crushed by Trudy Seagraves’s “Cowboy,” an outstanding narrative about a brutal act committed by an ignorant father that changes a family. Seagraves weaves a spell while she brings the reader along to contemplate a horrible scene. In a very different manner, a female author writing about women brings a unique view of working mothers into focus. Two very different women, a Scandinavian nanny and a black married career-mother with a philandering husband, find common ground when it comes to facing the world alone. “The Easy Part,” by Joan Wilking, slyly challenges the reader to dislike its characters, then flips the picture, showing their complexities, and scores political points as well as dramatic points. On a wholly personal level, a moving poem digs deep into a now sadly common problem. N. S. Williams describes, with grace and fury, moments of unease that make up years of daily living with the dread disease in “Monitoring My Mother’s Alzheimer’s”. His dexterous imagery goes to the core of what makes the illness so heart breaking. Each character, in every story, in The MacGuffin is vivid; each poem makes the reader pause. With the cool cover art scene, “Gazebo at the Summer Palace in Beijing,” by Gordon L. Wilson, depicting an exotic grove of trees in green and pink overlooking a blue river, this journal takes us to real and mind-blowing places. The MacGuffin is a must-read. [http://www.schoolcraft.edu/macguffin]

 

Missouri Review coverThe Missouri Review

Volume 30 Number 1

Spring 2007

Quarterly

Reviewed by Anna Sidak

With The Missouri Review now accepting e-mail submissions, who can say what masterpieces will now arrive; although this issue seems to have been assembled without that benefit, it is an intriguing collection. In addition to slaking my thirst for good fiction – stories by Jacob M. Appel, Erica Johnson Debeljak, Rachel Swearingen, and others – the contents include essays, poetry, and an interview with the disarmingly honest David Sedaris: "I'm not apolitical; I just don't consider myself an original thinker, [. . .] I'm more the kind of person who might read something and then try to pass it off as my own."

Especially noteworthy are this issue's book reviews. From Steve Street's knowledgeable review of The Jacoubian Building by Alaa al Aswany (translated by Humphrey Davies): "Controversy has surrounded this two-year Arabic-language best seller [. . .]. Readers who until now have not been particularly interested in Egypt and the extremes it embodies – East and West, secularism and religiosity, haves and have-nots, globalization and colonialism's continuing legacy – will be interested by the book's end." And this from the editor of the Missouri Review, Speer Morgan, in conclusion of his review of The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford: "Aside from the reanimated 'dead' husband, this third of the Bascombe trilogy is a compelling portrait of a man approaching old age, still fighting, and in some ways even better company than in the earlier books."

From Editor Speer Morgan's foreword to this issue: "Important scientific ideas become metaphoric vehicles for theories that have little connection with objective truth." This sentence pinpoints, for me, the flexible beauty of English, a language wherein my thirst for good fiction is slaked, and lime is caused to crumble, although he continues, "Through no fault of its own, what starts as true science can become a rich source for nonsense."
[http://www.missourireview.com]

 

Polyphony HS coverPolyphony H.S.

Number 3

2007

Annual

Reviewed by Anne Wolfe

If you think that high school poetry and fiction tends to be clever and stocked self-consciously with modifiers, you could be at least partly right, but if you passed up Polyphony H.S., you’d be missing a whole lot. This 98-page literary magazine has a slick, colorful, collage art cover by Tony Fitzpatrick: faces, figures, signs, musical notes and images all surrounding a train coming right at you! The smorgasbord of poems and short stories is imaginative with a capital “I.” They are full of angles that only young people with few preconceptions can come up with, making up for what they lack in life’s experience with insight and ‘what-ifs’. A fond, eloquent ode to aging mothers who are not aging gracefully is the subject of “Only Her Lilac Tears,” a short-short by Minh Ha. Pyro” by Amanda Kaufman will both fascinate and horrify the reader with her highly imaginative tale. An intriguing ‘what-if’ scenario spelled out in eerie, potent 1984-style, is about human’s future battle to conquer emotions. In this short fiction, “Emotion Control,” by Lindsey Maxson, the reader is actually drawn emotionally to a cyborg or robot with a purpose –a spy? It deftly begs the question, “What is life?” Jacob Walters’s “The Color of Sound” asks “What is the sum of the life of an old man, and what does he lose when he dies?” Walters intrigues us by playing with opposites using words and phrases and effectively puts to the reader the eternal question: What is death? This publication is chock-full of amazing stunts of youthful creation and well worth the time. [http://www.polyphonyhs.com]

 

Quarterly West coverQuarterly West

Number 30

Fall/Winter 2006/2007

Reviewed by Rachel Yoder

The 30th Anniversary Issue of Quarterly West is, from cover to cover, consistently and astonishingly good. This issue features AWP Intro Award Winners in fiction and poetry, and the Writers@Work Fellowship Award Winners in nonfiction and poetry. It opens with two stories that examine moments of grace: Steve Almond’s short-short “Phoenix” in which a john is redeemed by a thieving hooker, and Quan Berry’s story “Daily at the Gate of the Temple Which is Called Beautiful,” which, with just its title, promises to deliver us to a hallowed place, perhaps even to offer a moment of transcendence. I tried to decide what other of the six remaining stories to mention in this review, and could only come to this: you should read them all. The Writers at Work award-winning nonfiction piece, “16 Doors” by Brenda Sieczkowski, is structured in 16 numbered segments, each a door into the author’s memory and dreams, traveling from ancient China to modern-day Vermont, examining everything from family genealogy to cell structure.

QW also features a satisfying mixture of poetry, with two particularly engaging prose poems by Dave Snyder: “Pica: On Happiness” and “Hexagon: On Truth.” Snyder is the Writers@Work winner in poetry and for good reason; these poems are interesting and original, moving like Rubik’s Cubes with their shifting ideas and images that click into multiple patterns as they examine birds and bees, a man who eats airplanes, robots who polish glass, and intelligence itself – both natural and artificial. Tracy K. Smith’s skittish poem “Nocturne: Andalusian Dog,” poses the question, “Isn’t there anything / You’ve lived wanting / Like a dream that won’t // Resolve?” And this issue of QW answers her question, 48 different and dazzling ways.
[http://web.utah.edu/quarterlywest]

 

Quay

Volume 1 Issue 1

May-June 2007

Triannual

Reviewed by Stefani Nellen

A new journal appearing both in print and online, Quay offers a crisp collection of fiction, non-fiction and drama. The print issue's format (almost square) is unusual without trying too hard, and the same is true for the content. One of my favorites among the fiction pieces was J.P. Briggs's "American Debut," in which an agent and a producer discuss a starlet called Eva, "the next big icon of a generation," while "[t]he snakes darted and skimmed in the swimming pool with their arrow heads flexed above the blue water." I was also impressed with Myfanwy Collins's "Cowless, Rainbowless," a sequence of vignettes revealing the narrator's hurt in nightmarish slow-motion. The beauty of the writing is an almost perfidious contrast to the narrator's pain and loneliness. Completely different in style: Scott Humfeld's "Capt. Spaulding and the Missing Motor," a tale set in the Peruvian jungle, delivered with the authority and wit of first-hand experience.

While I enjoyed most of the fiction, I was blown away by the dramatic writing – brilliant one-act mini-plays, all of them funny, profound, ready to be performed. Wow! This is new. It's hard to find a favorite among the four offerings from Lisa Soland, David Robson, Timothy Braun, and Ross Brown – I recommend you pick up an issue of Quay and read them all.

The non-fiction offerings were exceptional, too. Matthew M. Quick's "One Cigarette a Day," a loving memory of his grandfather (and the many cigarettes he smoked) thankfully avoids "just quit" slogans in favor of honest exploration of the meaning of smoking: "Whenever I smell cigarette smoke now, I think first about my grandfather, then about how many inhalations I have left, and I slow my breath and breathe in deliberately and savor the filling of my lungs." Neil Landau's prose-poem "Foregone Conclusions" reflects on aging and death and exposes our inadequate dealings with these issues with an acuity that belies the dreamy, free-associative format.

I read Quay on a plane and found it very absorbing – An interesting new journal that opts for the quirky and unusual without sacrificing substance. I look forward to Issue 2.
[http://www.quayjournal.org]

 

Smartish Pace coverSmartish Pace

Issue 14

2007

Biannual

Reviewed by Deborah Diemont

Smartish Pace is exclusively a journal of free verse poetry. It was a treat to read translations from Hindi – to have, as renowned translator Elliot Weinberger might say, “the news” of a faraway country brought to me through poetry. In Katyayani’s darkly-playful poem, “A Woman Hiding in Language,” a woman seems to disrupt language itself by hiding inside of it, such that, “. . .the dictators / didn’t get a wink of sleep all night. / That day the poets couldn’t play / with words searing as a mass of fire.” Shrikant Verma’s “Hastinapur” reminds me of how anyone might feel about a city or village in times of war or simply rapid change: “Just think / about that person / who comes to Hastinapur / and says: / “No, no this can’t be Hastinapur!” Though the average reader, like myself, probably speaks no Hindi, I thought it would have been illuminating to see the original poems – how they look on the page – as well as a read a translator’s note on the challenges in translating from Hindi to English. I’d have favored fewer poems in the issue to make space for this (several poets have 5-6 poems included).

In general, I found the issue to be a mixed bag. Some poems use flat language to try to “tell us” something. In others, highly elaborate language play or intellectual exercise seems to be the poet’s main motivation. Then, there are also plenty of the kind of poems I like best, which open the heart and mind freshly to the world. Among the latter are Rosanna Warren’s “Le Silence” which considers love while viewing two sculpted figures: “crystal figures in a / mineral world call forth // Ionic orders and / a spherical, halogen, blinding / deity clearly deaf.” Robert Wrigley, in four poems, manages to capture that intangible surprise we sometimes glimpse in ordinary love or in nature. Finally, Suzanne Roberts’s “Hesitation – Cuernavaca Mexico,” one of the finalists for the 6th annual Erskine J. Poetry prize, is one of my favorites for its subtle capturing of infidelity through a landscape’s details and a few human gestures.
[http://www.smartishpace.com]

 

Versal coverVersal

5

2007

Annual

Reviewed by Colin McLean

Amsterdam – city of hashish, soccer riots, bicycles – city of canals, tall people, and even taller people – continues now to bring us this international literary journal. The word versal means rare or universal as defined on the inside of the superbly designed cover. In this Versal 5 are indeed rare words that will cut edges in your mind. If you seek Versal for the atmospheres of Amsterdam, though, you will be disappointed. Versal is perhaps not the best of international literature, but holds a sure-shot at becoming just that. “Answer The Question” Jeffrey Beam titles his 21st century haiku, which then seems to respond with: “Question the answer // Narrow the way this way that way.” A poem that at once conjures up spiritual fine-tunings as well as what could be easily be irreverent remarks to a police officer. There are quite a few remarkable poems in this issue like Beam’s that crash against the pages to reveal greater truths. However, the prose poems often lapse into feigned importance: a literary trick that at once helps purge and mock not only yourself but others. There is an exceptional piece by poet Matt Sadler titled “Letter to Mary from the Future.” His driving questions and intuitive phrasings cause the reader to linger over the lines and dig into them. No false guides, just honest speculation ripened into verse. A fine momentum for Versal. Also of note is a “Waiting,” a short story by Billy O’Callaghan, all-around great illustrations by half a dozen artists (including color reproductions throughout), and solid layout and design. For lovers of literature, Versal 5 beckons with a broad sampling.
[http://www.wordsinhere.com/versal.html]

 

 

Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand recent reviews:

July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
Apr 2007
Mar 2007
Feb 2007
Jan 2007

Cumulative Index of Literary Magazines Reviewed