Literary Magazine Reviews

Posted September 2, 2008

Brick - Feile-Festa - Jubilat - Marginalia - Mississippi Review- Open Face Sandwich - Pleiades - Prick of the Spindle - Raving Dove - River Styx - Seneca Review - Skidrow Penthouse - West Branch


Brick coverBrick

Issue 81

Summer 2008


Review by Dan Moreau

Brick is an excellent literary journal printed out of Toronto specializing mostly in nonfiction, though it publishes poems, stories and interviews.

The wonderfully riotous essay “Eat or Die” by Jim Harrison alone is worth the cover price. It chronicles a culinary romp through France where the author explains his love for the French dish Tête de Veau. “This dish of brains, cheeks, neck-meat, and tongue with sauce gribiche seems to bring me closer the playful serenity of the calf,” Harrison swoons.

This essay crackles with Harrison’s unique take on life, from his ailing health to his love of a greasy breakfast. Some of his asides are real gems. Take this one, for instance, on air travel: “Unfortunately flying involves airports, which in the recent decade have come to resemble giant restrooms with a touch of the dog pound added to sweeten the air.”

Lydia Davis’s excellent short story “Grammar Questions” examines the linguistic challenges of speaking about a dying father. In “Something Else is Created,” author Jonathan Safran Foer pays tribute to the late painter R.B. Kitaj.

In a lengthy interview with the novelist and short story writer, Thomas McGuane reminds us that writing isn’t for the faint of heart. By publishing a story in the New Yorker, later reprinted in Best American Short Stories (not bad work if you can get it), he made just enough money to pay an immigrant laborer to tile his bathroom.

He says he writes on a computer because his own handwriting is so terrible. I was surprised to learn that he doesn’t adhere to a strict writing schedule. Rather, he writes in spurts and slowly builds momentum, writing a little more each day.

Also featured are interviews with the writers Lydia Davis and Ali Smith.


Feile-Festa coverFeile-Festa

Spring 2008


Review by Sima Rabinowitz

Feile-Feste is a taut little review produced by Paradiso-Parthas Press in New York City, “an independent venture circumventing corporate publishing.” The press defines the work it publishes as “accessible and innovative.” I’m not sure this issue demonstrates a great deal in the way of innovation, but the work is definitely “accessible” and much of it is appealing. What is most innovative, perhaps, is the inclusion of several works in English/Italian alongside their Italian/English translations, both prose and poetry. These include a very long narrative poem by a New York-based poet of Sicilian descent, Maria Frasca, and an essay by Enzo Farinella, a native Sicilian who lives in Ireland.

The focus on things both Celtic and Mediterranean (the business address of Paradiso-Parthas Press is c/o the Mediterranean Celtic Cultural Association) is unusual, and the journal’s work reflects this unique combination of concerns. I very much liked a poem by Susan Moorhead, “History,” controlled and tightly constructed with a surprising conclusion, and Janet McCann’s poem, “The Roofs of Siena” (“Here everyone speaks everything.”).

What is truly extraordinary about this issue, however, are the ten fantastic photos of Ellis Island, including the cover photo, by Janine Coyne, a professor of photography in New York whose work is represented in the collections of a number of museums, including The National Museum of Immigration at Ellis Island. These are exquisite photos, unsettling and unforgettable. Coyne has an eye both for the grand and expansive, and the small and decayed. She knows how to frame an image to create an original impression of a familiar vista (the Statue of Liberty seen through a broken window) and how to defamiliarize the ordinary (a bathtub). In her gaze, a long mysterious hallway is both utterly accessible and entirely closed off. I am grateful to Feile-Feste for introducing me to her amazing work.


Jubilat coverJubilat




Review by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

“At last, terror has arrived.” Thus begins the big bang of this little journal in Arda Collins’s “The News.” Quality poems follow, as is guaranteed by titles like “Heaven,” the silly goodness of Robyn Schiff’s “Dear Ralph Lauren,” and “1450-1950” by Bob Brown, a picture-poem, for want of a better word. It has eyes surrounding the verses “Eyes / Eyes / My God / What eyes!”

An interview with Peter Gizzi, a sketch-sample of American bats, and weaving patterns are spaced out between the gush of poems, easing them down the palate. Gizzi says, “To me naming Poe is like naming a tree – he’s absolutely real and a part of the living landscape now. And we could say that Whitman is the ground we walk on in the American language.” Smartly said in this issue, since there’s also an essay on “Abstract Practices,” by Maggie Nelson, exploring twentieth-century seminal artists, including Joan Mitchell, Barbara Guest, and “Their Others.”

I most like “A Hood is Like an Ancient Chalice” for its even lines, and similes:

A hood is like a maroon canoe, and the head inside it like a body
lying long in the canoe – the body in the hull,
and around the hull, the water,
and around the hull,
the lull.

A quiet weekend afternoon demands these poems to shake free the mind’s insistent slumber and inertia. Sketches of the Greater Doglike Bat and the Common Vampire Bat create the final mood of this volume, which culminates in “The Wolves” by Craig Morgan Teicher with the lines, “Pass through the woods whenever you like. What you have to fear is not / in the woods.”



Volume 3 Issue 2

Fall 2007


Review by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

Peripheral by nature, Marginalia’s slice-of-life vignettes range from titles such as “Other People are a Maze” to Barbara Baer’s “Korean Ribs.” The latter includes a wonderfully translated line, “Please hair that looks like sow.” Only an Animal Collective song can compare in its breadth of lyrics to the wonderfully captured sentiment and moment in each piece.

“Upstairs at the Clue® Mansion” is instantly one of my favorite poems, taking the flat board game to another dimension with the lines “Even Marco Polo stammered trying to describe / Kinsai ‘City of Heaven’ – the stammer enough / for some to cast doubt . . . stories of twelve thousand bridges and three thousand hot spring baths.” The writings are all experiments, some abandoned, others carried through the unnatural, but traditional story arc. A reunion between father and son in “The Father Sightings” by Ron Burch stutters the lines, “I love you, son, he said… I actually looked down embarrassed and shocked. That’s when he got me with the bottle across the head.” Magnificent treatment of sentiment, using it as a ruse.

Don’t cover letters make for marginalia, since they’re discarded? Like Michael Martone’s epic contributor’s notes-filled novel Michael Martone, Paul Hostovsky’s “Cover Letter” slithers in, camouflaged as background reading. It’s got the perfect tone: “P.S. If the poems disappear, please consider cover letter.”

Reviews in this issue include two of Tom Whalen’s works, and one by Steven Wingate titled “Steve Katz and the Experimental Fictionalist Identity.” As one of the founders of FC2, Wingate is a father of contemporary experimental fiction, and reviewing three of his books in one go is an inevitably shallow yet very Marginalia attempt at reviewing.

The best part about this journal is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It pokes fun of itself in the margins. Found poems occur here, as does a seemingly stolen, but completely original one: Matt Dennison’s “Eagered by the Sun a Thief,” with the lines: “(O the dry acrobats / in pitiful intoxication / against / the sky!).”


Mississippi Review coverMississippi Review

Volume 36 Numbers 1&2

Spring 2008


Review by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

Fiction’s first with the Mississippi Review, as usual, and this issue begins with a story about fake implants called “A Miracle of Nature” – oh, the irony! Things go wrong, as things should in short stories, and the final line clinches it with “But back then she couldn’t say no; she couldn’t.” Ten more short stories follow, including Colin Bassett’s “This is so We Don’t Start Fighting” and Jennifer Pashley’s “How to Have an Affair in 1962,” which begins as all thusly titled stories should, with the directness of the line “we meet in public.”

March straight from prose to verse, and time slows down in Tina Barr’s sonnet, “The Guardians of Chocolate” with the lines, “Two red-haired girls, four brunettes, each / draw the shake up the straw so it melts / on their tongues.” Not every piece is as light, though. Elizabeth Harmon’s “The Dreams of Daughters” evolves the mood into a somber one, with the opening

I have had dreams where you are alive again
like you were never dead in the first place,
dreams where you are alive but I dream-know
that you will be dead again when I wake up.

Such a graceful treatment of grief is a marvel, and to be witnessed and hoped for in my own life, for it’s inevitable that grief will come. The narrative poem can admit to being sad like prose can’t, and the editors have chosen well to include this poem near the end, but not at the end, which still belongs to a levity-inducing “What She Found in the Meadow,” with the last mysterious lines left open:

There is a button,
friends tell her,
under the skirt.
If you can discover
it, push it,
your fingers
for its stem.



Open Face Sandwich coverThe Open Face Sandwich




Review by Sheheryar B. Sheikh

It’s here. It’s finally here. The first issue of The Open Face Sandwich. Is it glorious? Yes! It’s a breath of fresh air. It’s the cataclysm I’ve been waiting for. It destroys my sense of place; it unhinges my hold on reality. It de-clasps my notion of a literary journal. It’s been advertised in a million places with a small, tasteful card. And it’s finally in my hands. O, the marvel of it. I gush for reasons such as:

1. I find a postcard in the middle. “Kirkwood Road #1 (The Glutton)”, with a picture of a squirrel slumbering after a feast.

2. There’s a 30-page photocopy of a booklet called “My gernll” (the wonder of childhood phonetic spelling), with such magnificent lines as “The firs week of school was borring and horrabl and the wrrst week of my life,” and “Frogs are qute. They eat wrms, flis, and all cins of flis they eat mesketos, mesketo eaters.”

3. “at Majority” by Ariana Reines begins with a great R-rated line, and goes into the theory of crying in the outside and crying in a room: “People cry into the telephone a lot, that’s another thing.”

4. Photographs of road kill, “Found in Atlanta.” Not appetizing, but a great photo-essay.

5. A story called “Angles” begins, “He wanted to see everything from a new perspective.” Simple, fun, about a chair, a boy, and the lack of a light bulb.

The cover’s to be coveted, too. The hole at the front is filled in on the back, where text runs in the shape of a piece of bread. “Send works of wicked and unbearable tenderness. Send uncommon prose . . . Send absurdities, misinformation, pornography, libel, personal correspondence.” Receive these, when you open.


Pleiades coverPleiades

Volume 28 Number 2



Review by Sima Rabinowitz

If ever there were reason to reject the age-old adage never judge a book by its cover, this issue of Pleiades would be it. Amy Casey’s marvelous “upended,” an acrylic on paper, which reflects her perception “of the nervous state of the affairs in the world,” certainly upends that advice. Casey’s images of a world suspended make me believe there are wonders, marvels, and fresh perspectives ahead, and this is absolutely true. Tom Fleischmann’s essay, “Fist,” is one of the riskiest pieces of creative nonfiction I’ve seen in a long time, a meditation on fists that is linguistically and sexually provocative, without being forcedly edgy, odd, or experimental.

The fiction is particularly strong this issue, with solid, engaging stories by Gary Fincke, David Yost, and Ihab Hassan, and a fine translation of short fiction by Ukrainian writer, Effim Yaroskevsky, translated by Dinara Georgeoliani and Mark Halperin. Yost’s story, “Irregular Pasts: Stories in 12 Tenses,” is of particular interest for its clever structure.

It’s difficult to single out strong poems with so many equally worthwhile contributions, but there are indeed a few standouts: “Notes Toward a Social Realism” by John Isles; Kristin Bock’s “Before Poetry;” and a portfolio of poems by Laura Jensen, part of the “Unsung Masters” series. The portfolio includes thoughtful short essays by Martha Collins, Katie Peterson, Joseph Campana, Jacqueline Lyons, and John Gallaher. I found Jensen’s work uneven (a euphemism, I suppose, for I liked some of it but not all of it), but the work is deceptively simple and I found myself becoming more engaged and impressed with each new poem in this small collection. “Window Views,” a poem in six parts (“Egret Window,” “Earthquake Window,” Owl Window,” “Moon Window,” “Goodbye”) is particularly fine. Finally, Shpresa Qatipi and Henry Isareli contribute translations of two wonderful poems by Albanian poet Luljeta Lleshanaku, especially good was “The Mystery of Prayers”:

In my house praying was considered a weakness,
like making love.
And like making love
it was followed by a long night
of fear
so alone with the body.

Fully a third of the nearly 300-page volume is book reviews, largely of books from better known or major presses, but not exclusively. Books from Mid-List Press and Backwaters are also included in the mix. For the most part, these reviews are substantive, well written, frank, and useful, reflecting an intelligent balance of analysis and opinion.


Prick of the Spindle logoPrick of the Spindle

Volume 2 Number 2


Online Quarterly

Review by Micah Zevin

Prick of the Spindle is a journal that fills its literary itinerary with almost every literary genre imaginable. It is one of the most comprehensively complete journals in terms of its subject matter as well as its devotion to the concept of representing large intellectual and culturally diverse writing communities. One unifying image of the type of writing that they publish is a merging of a chaotic and energetic prose flowing rapidly but with a structure grounding each piece in a specific style or meaning.

In Matt Lavin’s essay “Day 37,” he describes his mother’s self-prescribed cancer treatment in gut wrenching detail:

I am visiting her on day 37 of a forty-day starvation marathon, a quasi-suicidal holistic cancer treatment that consists of taking into her body only water and vitamins -- no bread or blintzes or flan or eggs – to kill the tumors in her chest by feeding them not one ounce of protein. She said once, by way of refusing chemotherapy, “I don’t think I want to do that,” and would say no more.

The fervor in which this non-fiction piece is written and depicted also shows the determination of the piece’s central figure in winning this fight.

In the prose poem “Company” by Brian Foley, the inanimate objects in the narrator’s house are his closest and dearest friends, and in the tradition of most surrealistic works, these objects have funny personalities as well:

All of my friends have arrived. I can tell by the sudden absence of space in the room. The Wood quickly takes to the corner. He will not make a sound until he's lit. The Ottoman is having considerable success at turning the Television on. I pull out my salami and share it. Grandfather Clock separates his hourly laughter into seconds. The House takes years to warm up to us. No one notices.

With his quick wit and precise and short sentences, Foley endears the reader to the world he has created almost mirrored by such Disney friendly cartoon movies like Beauty and the Beast where inanimate objects in the castle also come alive. In another poem “Rue Du Coq d’Or, Paris” by Christopher Barnes, he relates the drama of a mother facing the day to come, and all the duties that entails. “She’s sensate, \ Radioluminescence at the glass \ From sore red sun, \ And gaunt, frail to the bones. \\ Rue Du Coq d’Or, Paris, seven in the morning. \ He spick-and-span elf-boy sleeps \ On the twists of the mattress.” This poem is like a luminescent vision that reaches out to as if a bright sun was blinding your eyes until they watered and opened up to the present before you and this character's eyes.

In the fiction piece “Uncle Doubt” by Elliot Krop and translated from Russian by I.I. Dubinov, then translated back, and so on…(whatever this means), the main character and narrator describes his uncle’s maladies:

I looked him up and down then, still not recognizing the features. Time had not been kind to my poor uncle. His face had the texture of rubble and he hunched so badly that one could mistake him for a circus performer – a contortionist. Moreover, his hands shook, and the cataracts in his eyes made me wonder how it was that he faced the correct direction when talking to me.

Elliot Krop is not only a master of minutely detailed descriptions of character and action, but is also a master of quick-paced dramatic dialogue as well.

Throughout the many intriguing narrative, interviews, drama, fiction, essays and yes, even a special review section of the most recently released poetry chapbooks, the reader too would be gasping for breath if he tried to mete it out all in one sitting. One thing that makes this journal stand out in the large online literary magazine crowd is not only that it is willing to publish challenging and engaging new work, but that the tempo and rhythm of this work is like the best punk or heavy metal song, full of both sound and fury that will pummel the reader in pummeling the words on the page with their tongues as quickly as they turn the pages enthusiastically to see what will happen or what will be said next.


coverRaving Dove

4th Anniversary edition

Number 13

Summer 2008

Online Triannual

Review by Micah Zevin

Raving Dove is like an impressionist painting that you have continuously observed in order to view obscured or distant images or ideas that you may have missed at first glance. Its literary sensibility seems to be one of simple and precisely written elegance to evoke serious political ideas, such as the affects of war, a central focus in this issue, and how it defines our “humanity,” whether it is in the form of nonfiction, poetry, fiction or photography.

In “Haunting Dreams” by Joshua Lee Painter, the main character describes the horrible world that surrounds survivors and patients in a war zone:

The stifling heat permeates the tent, draining my energy and motivation before the day’s trials even begin. I stand up to clear my head and begin my first laborious journey around the hospital, a name it barely earns by modern standards. This collection of dusty tents connected together by planks and tarps does next to nothing to shield its inhabitants from the oppressive desert sun. The hot, dank air within has a sickening smell that becomes overpowering in the heat. It is everywhere, even in my secluded area of the complex.

Painter creates a concise picture of the realistic hardships soldiers had to face fighting a war in the oppressive heat of Iraq’s deserts.

In the poem “‘SAVE THE BATTLEFIELDS’: Ohio Bumper Sticker,” the great or momentous battles in history and memory are recounted. The poem poses a question about how we will commemorate the victims of present and future conflicts: “Can there be monuments enough \ for all who starved or died slowly \ shrieking in agony \ or were blasted into shreds of flesh?” In “Shag’s Flag” by Willie K. Everhart, a survivor of the Vietnam War attempts to theorize what a friends life would be like if he had lived:

He might whittle
while he listened to the patter
of rain tapping the tin roof
of his front porch
and remember
adventures untold,
jungle heat,
battles won and lost.
He would have seen
an endless stream
of graduations,
births and deaths
the comings and goings
of all his friends.

This poem takes a potentially clichéd war ‘what if’ style poem and makes it new by making it honest.

In the story “Sarah” by Tovli “Linnie” Simiryan, Sarah, an Israeli, encounters a young boy who appears to be a suicide bomber on a bus:

Scorched air amid chaos smothered the quiet hysteria invading her soul. Soon Jerusalem, the holy city, would demand vengeance, like a lioness protecting her cubs. Sarah’s body dictated a need for stillness. She calmed herself with a sigh that answered her rescuer’s frantic calls. She was that kind of woman, concerned for the success of others. She was not interested in retribution. There would be time for anger when the missing emerged unscathed from darkness and fire.

Here, Simiryan manages to invent a character that is not only noble but courageous and profoundly concerned with the welfare of others too. And, we the reader are convinced of Sarah’s sincerity.

This is why we continue to read these short fiction, nonfiction and poetry works in Raving Dove. They offer a singularly direct clarity and vision that immediately connects you with a character and idea until you are immersed in their experiences and are affected by their emotions, painful or otherwise. Here, you are always at war, and always displaced whether you are in your own homeland or on foreign ground.


River Styx coverRiver Styx




Review by Sima Rabinowitz

Fast for a few days first so you’ll be good and hungry. This is a double issue, “A Readable Feast,” featuring poems, stories, essays, art, and “Real Recipes by Real Writers.” (It does make me wish, perversely, for some fake recipes by imaginary writers, I must confess.) The great eating (I mean reading) begins with the delicious cover, “Plenty,” by Billy Renkl, a splendid buffet of typically American foods. The issue is crammed with delectable art, including sweet black and white illustrations, sensuous charcoal drawings, and dreamy, surreal drawings that have the quality of papercuts.

The menu is divided into Appetizers, Small Plates, and Side Dishes; Main Courses, Entrees, and Larger Fare; and Desserts; with a palate cleanser of the “micro fiction” pieces by the winners of the magazine’s Schlafly MicroFiction Contest. Recipes do, indeed, conclude the feast. My favorite of recipes are those intended to be funny, all of which succeed in amusing and delighting me, most especially Lee Upton’s “Pineapple Thrill” (“Pineapple Thrill must never be eaten more than once a year”) and Jeffrey Allen Price’s “Recipe for Disaster + Price’s Perfect (Sacrificial) Baked Potato” (“Here is a recipe for disaster – cook a baked potato in a microwave!”)

Food isn’t just fun and games, of course. On the more serious side, there are poems that can fill you up with their good taste and flavorful images, Jacqueline Berger’s “My Mother’s Refrigerator,” for example:

My mother is smaller than ever
in her turquoise rubber clogs,
pegged pants and sleeveless shirt,
yet she looms like a heat moon
rising over the overpass in August,
legendary as the light I learned to read by.

A Goldbarth poem is typically meaty and recognizably sly. Andy Mozina’s short story of life at the Frito-Lay company is a salty satire on the snack industry. George Bilgere’s “Sunset Knoll” is a surprising reflection on what it means to serve food to others, one of those poems that at first seems too easy, and then catches you unaware. Andy Mozina concludes his recipe, “Midnight Snack,” (1 bottle of beer, 16 wheat thins, ¼ lb. sharp cheddar cheese) with these instructions: “Eat, drink, stare into space. Become slightly stupefied.” If you become slightly stupefied after chowing down on this issue of River Styx it will be from pure, unadulterated gluttony.


Seneca Review coverSeneca Review

Volume 38 Number 1

Spring 2008


Review by Sima Rabinowitz

As a group, the titles will tell you a lot: “Little Incisions,” “From God’s Notebook,” “In My Version of the Afterlife Grandma is Riding an Elephant,” “When Dada Ordered Chinese,” “Apparatus for the Inscription of a Falling Body,” “Scar Art,” “Six Whole Ducks in the Belly of an Ounce I Once Killed,” “The Middle-Class Philistine Heartfield Gone Wild.” Was Seneca Review always this, well, edgy? Is edgy the right word? Inventive? Out of the ordinary? Provocative, that’s it!

The first lines are pretty exciting, too: “As soon as I learned in science class that bodies fall apart into something useful I chose burial,” from Alice George’s “In My Version of the Afterlife Grandma is Riding an Elephant”; “Sooner or later all blindfolds come off” from Christopher Kondrich’s “Elegy for Digressions with Charlie Chaplin”; “On the third week in January, upon the lacquered concrete reflecting white light, in a Plexiglass box measuring one foot by one foot by one hundred and twenty feet, transparent through five sides with black fabric on the sixth,” from “Scroll” by Riley Hanick.

Even the contributors’ notes are unusually captivating: “Elizabeth Rush is a problem, a pirate, a bore.” A recent graduate of Reed College who now lives in Hanoi, Vietnam, Rush’s first-ever publication appears here, an accomplished poem with a title that seems almost out of place in this issue. The poem, however, does not: “And the world – // the world is a crocus, a clam, a book.”

Also rare in the world of literary publishing, and most appreciated, is the journal’s reprinting of a marvelous essay by Beth Bosworth, “A Burden is Also a Song,” which appeared, unfortunately, with many typographical errors in the Spring ’07 issue. I am glad not to miss the essay and impressed with Seneca’s Review’s decision to make amends and print the piece properly. The work in this issue may push the envelope, but the editors’ values couldn’t be more sincere, respectful, or, dare I say it, traditional, in the very best sense of the word.


Skidrow Penthouse coverSkidrow Penthouse

Number 9



Review by Sima Rabinowitz

I confess I missed the first eight issues, but now that I’ve become acquainted with this unconventional journal, I’d recommend it, especially to readers who prefer a great, big messy read of a review to more slender volumes. Everything about this magazine is big from its oxymoronic title, to the type size of its 300 pages, to the startling amount of space devoted to this issue’s “featured poet,” Anthony Seidman – a whopping 60 pages. I’d venture to say that Seidman is the most widely published writer in the issue, though it would be impossible to judge based on credentials.

Skidrow Penthouse includes no contributors’ notes. Except for a page-long bio of Seidman, there is no bio data at all. This is not necessarily a negative. It forces me to take the work at face value, unless I recognize a name – Catherine Sasanov, Colette Inez, Philip Memmer, Charles Harper Webb, Philip Dacey, for example. But, I don’t know a thing about Edgar Cage (which demonstrates more about my limitations, I know, than his), except that I like very much his poem, “A Trace of Fear on the Bedroom Wall.” And I don’t know if Kenneth Frost is a teacher or a psychotherapist or a journalist (all professions that have appeared in contributors’ notes I’ve read recently), but I do know that I appreciate the poems he’s contributed, which are deft and clever.

Much of the work, both poetry and fiction, is edgy and a little raw, but not all of it. Sasanov, as always, is masterful in an understated way. Tony Gloeggler’s poem, “Spaces,” couldn’t be sweeter. (“The spaces / between the notes kept getting / bigger; and somehow I knew / Thelonius had made those places / so my mother could cry / and I could listen.”) The art, of which there is a lot, is fierce, more skid row than penthouse, but it suits the journal with its funky fonts and titles the size of small skyscrapers. The one drawback without contributors’ notes is that when I discover a writer whose work I did not know and want to read more of, I don’t know where to look for him or her, poets Terry Ann Thaxton or Dan Raphael, for example. Finally, I must say, since the journal’s title introduces the subject, that at $12 this is a lot of bang for the buck – probably not viable if you do live on skid row, but a definite bargain if you’ve got a roof over your head and money to burn.


West Branch coverWest Branch

Number 62

Spring/Summer 2008


Review by Sima Rabinowitz

West Branch is the semiannual poetry publication of the Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, though the journal does not restrict itself to poetry. This issue’s prose includes a beautiful essay by J. Malcolm García, and a short story by Christopher Torockio. García’s contribution, “A Good Life, Cowboy,” is the story of his saving a puppy in Afghanistan from a deadly, staged dogfight. As a journalist, García has a reporter’s eye for detail. As an essayist, he has a creative nonfiction writer’s gift for pace and timing. Torockio’s story, “Weights,” is a family story told in the authentic and appealing voice of a teen-aged boy, the kind of sturdy, traditional narrative that can be extremely satisfying. Torockio, happily, has a book of short stories coming out soon from Carnegie Mellon.

This issue also features seventeen poems from a dozen poets, which include poets as distinct from each other as Cornelius Eady, whose terse and tender poem, “The Hammer,” is quite marvelous; Robert Hedin, whose prose poem, “Houses at the Arctic Circle,” imagines the lonely landscape of ice houses melted in a summer thaw, a watery metaphor that is as expansive as the arctic is frigid; and Zachary Harris, who offers up three poems with coarser themes and an edgier tone (“That summer / everyone needed an abortion,” from “Provincetown, 1952”).

Sarah Kennedy contributes reviews of five books of poetry from Wales, work I venture to guess most of us would not know existed if it weren’t for Kennedy and West Branch. Ellen Wehle contributes reviews of new books from BOA, Illinois, and Arkansas, books that will “haunt us,” she claims, in different ways, all of which sound worth seeking out: Fire Baton by Elizabeth Hadaway, Darling Vulgarity by Michael Waters, and In the Black Window by Michael Van Walleghan.




NewPages Literary Magazine Stand recent reviews:

August 14, 2008
July 14, 2008
June 16, 2008
May 27, 2008
May 8, 2008
April 2008
March 2008
Feb 2008
Jan 2008

Cumulative Index of Literary Magazines Reviewed