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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted January 7, 2008

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  • Issue Number Issue 9
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Annual
580 Split calls itself “A Journal of Arts and Letters.” If there is any overall theme to its roughly one hundred and thirty pages of poetry, short fiction and single interview, it can be “seeking.” Many of the poems and characters in the prose seem to be searching, not necessarily for something, but in an existential manner. The poetry is quite modern. Derek Pollard’s “Vine Street Lightens the Streetlights Out” is arranged visually in something of an octagon, with words overlaid to the point of unreadability, yet readable enough to pass on a message, which manages to be stronger than the striking visual impact.
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  • Issue Number Volume 8 Number 1
  • Published Date Summer 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
A fascinating feature of this online magazine is that each issue is published “as it comes together,” right before your web-weary eyes. It is a double treat to witness the process as some of the finest poetry, fiction, and art available are assembled; however, that pleasure doubles a reviewer’s troubles. The “emerging” Fall issue waits while I offer a response to the summer issue.
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  • Issue Number Number 150
  • Published Date Summer 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The journal that calls itself “Canada’s eclectic review” very nearly earns the title based on the cover photograph alone. “Miss Julie” lounges in a flowered black overshirt, high-gravity malt liquor in hand, infinite stories to be told with her painted lips. Inside, Alberto Manguel’s essay could be a case for eclecticism. He contrasts the inclination of the great artist to produce a diverse range of works with posterity’s tendency to remember a single one the artist may not feel is representative. Nature themes abound, appropriate in a Nova Scotia-based publication. Eleonore Schönmaier’s poem, “Tracks,” features a protagonist challenging her place amongst the trees and clouds and snow. Karen Shenfeld’s poem, “Bathurst Manor,” evokes a simpler time “When the summer air cooled like bath water,” and time was passed by “squinting through the deepening dusk / to wait for the wishing star.” Human nature arises in Christine Birbalsingh’s story “Trapped,” which depicts a young mother whose eagerness to care for her children is her undoing.
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  • Issue Number Number 28
  • Published Date Spring 2007
This issue of the UK’s Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature features Lebanese poetry. The five prose selections are all novel excerpts – some contemporary, some from decades ago. Both poetry and prose are Arabic translations. This may be one reason why it took me so long to get through the journal. Another may be the very reason why I reviewed it: to relieve my ignorance to a culture’s literature.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Inspired by owner and chef Dennis Leary’s Canteen restaurant in San Francisco, which has hosted a number of “literary dinners,” “Canteen aims to engage readers with both the arts and the creative process,” say publisher Stephen Pierson and editor-in-chief Sean Finney. A prominent example of this intent is the poem “Song” and its accompanying close reading and reflective essay by Julie Orringer and Ryan Harty. I knew that it was only a matter of time before the words from the Magnetic Poetry Kit jumped off refrigerator doors and other metal surfaces to land – where? Here? In analyzing their process of cutting and sticking these dozen lines and photographing them, Orringer and Harty demonstrate and evaluate one experience of this gimmick’s effect on word choice and syntax. I’ve played this “poetry game” in several languages, but never have I believed that the restrictions it imposes are worthy of serious effort. Now I know why. Conversely, Katie Ford’s poem “The Vessel Bends the Water” deserves the reader’s attention for its pure beauty and, I think, perfect slipperiness.
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  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date Summer 2007
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Although unique is almost a clichéd word, one cannot but apply it to Conveyer. Conveyer is a literary journal, which, according to its title page, is in the business of “articulating and documenting Jersey City’s sense of place though image making and storytelling.” This second issue of the journal fulfills this purpose in a variety of ways. The first section is hand-drawn grid maps with accompanying pictures and anecdotal commentary. The comments are both quirky and informational and give an insider’s sense of place in specific neighborhoods.
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  • Issue Number Volume 31 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of The Journal reads geologically: something is always happening but its effect is perceptible only with the distance of narrative. A tornado, referred to “in code” by one family, is revisited decades later in “Finding Oz,” The Journal’s William Allen Creative Nonfiction Prize Winner. Connie Vaughn rediscovers affections for her father she had long since dispelled: “If our differences are the centrifugal forces that have sent us flying apart throughout our lives, the tornado might be a form of centripetal action bringing us back together.” That thesis-sounding sentence – and the tidy structure – are more essay-ish than creative nonfiction, but it’s a damn good story regardless.
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  • Issue Number Number 160
  • Published Date Fall 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue marks the publication’s fortieth anniversary with an entire issue in tribute to the founder, long-time editor, and guiding spirit, Robin Skelton. Here we have a “collage” of pieces from students, friends, peers, and people who never even met him – the “composite,” as Editor John Barton said, “emerging from the overlapping and multilayered reminiscences, essays, and poems by forty-one contributors from five countries is not exact, but the likeness suits our beloved, be-ringed, pentacled, cape-draped and walking-stick-strutting master.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 2
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
NANO Fiction is a small booklet, not much bigger than the size of my hand, and only about sixty pages. A wistful-looking woman adorns the cover, her shock white hair blowing in the wind, looking forward; the surrealistic scene continues on the back where a girl has antlers growing out of her eyes, flowing to connect with the hair of the woman on the front. Swirling strokes of blues, greens, reds, oranges and yellows engulf the two figures. The artist, Nomi Meta-Mura, has three enigmatic black and white drawings in the journal. Enigma is appropriate for a journal that consists of short-shorts.
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  • Issue Number Number 63
  • Published Date 2007
Reading the NYQ, founded in 1969 but new to me, I felt as I used to when I met a man I’d later love. At first it was not terribly attractive; I did not think it was my type. These poems were not what I’m usually drawn to – new formalism, or free verse in which formal elements break the surface like shark fins, or tight lyrics that startle like a butterfly rising, or narratives that travel some scenic route, climaxing, not toward resolution but breath…
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall 2007
Oleander Review’s debut issue has a lot going for it: a couple translations of Kostas Karytoakis’ dark poems, some solid poetry and prose, and interviews with Elizabeth Kostova and Robert Pinksy. Karyoatakis’ poems are selections from Battered Guitars: Poems and Prose of Kostas Karyotakis. His haunting poem, “Optimism” begins its concluding stanza: “Let’s assume that we have not reached / the frontiers of silence by a hundred roads, / and let’s sing.” Joshua Olsen’s poem, “I thought I saw my mother in Detroit” reveals his mother’s sad past and then concludes “She seemed lost and I wanted to help her find her way / but didn’t, fearing it really was her.” And Emma Morris’ “Water/Music” demonstrates, once again, that water is an amazing property, and she does so in a much more artistic and compelling way than a high school chemistry book.
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  • Issue Number Number 76
  • Published Date November 2007
The Painted Bride Quarterly, published four times a year online and annually in print, has a long and proud history of giving voice to new and established talent. For over thirty years, PBQ has consistently sought and published writers whose very individual work seems to rush us to the edge of the known world, and then signal us to risk the leap; yet, as innovative and personal as these works are, they seem to belong, too, to the communities and cultures that gave rise to them. Perhaps more remarkable is that although PBQ is sponsored by great institutions and organizations (Drexel University is home), the magazine has retained its authenticity.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Slice Magazine is a high-quality production with a layout that is both stimulating and friendly to the eye. The inaugural issue appropriately takes shape around the theme of firsts and new beginnings. Jonathan Galassi, president of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, shares a short but moving account of how books being present during his childhood left “ineradicable interfused impressions” on him.
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  • Issue Number Volume 83 Number 4
  • Published Date Fall 2007
The Virginia Quarterly Review’s Fall 2007 issue, “South America in the 21st Century,” is a must-read for anyone interested in Latin American politics and culture, as well as those fond of New Journalism – using the fiction writer’s tools, like scene setting, character development, and dialogue to build news stories. The techniques have been accepted for decades now, but here they are spit shined to gleaming. I read the magazine from cover to cover. The poetry, fiction, cartoons, and collages are note-worthy, especially Chilean poet Marjorie Agosín’s poetry of exile; but the journalistic impulse dominates the writing and photography.
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  • Issue Number Volume 30 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
For their 30th anniversary edition, Watershed’s editors decided to choose one selection from each of the years 1977-2007 and arrange these selections in chronological order. While reading these pieces, I traveled both through the history of Watershed and also through the history of our nation and the world. Many – though definitely not all – of the poems respond to or refer to current events. For example, Greg Rappleye’s “Letters to Yeltsin” is a response to NPR’s statement that Boris Yeltsin suffers from weariness: “Word arrives in the steamy depths / of the American summer, / the torpor so general / I cannot rise from my couch. / I share your struggles, comrade.”
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  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date Summer 2007
White Chimney – “The Creative Arts Journal” – hails from England. The slim, magazine-size, thirty-page journal packs a punch. The cover art, by Christophe Reme, harks back slightly to the psychedelic sixties’ art, with fantastic smoke emerging from a building, and skulls peering from a cloud; bare trees in the foreground, jagged hills in the background – an incongruous yet interesting rendering that mimics the variety in this journal. It contains two literary interviews, six drawings or photographs, seven poems, and six short stories – my personal high point. The art is first-rate – engaging and well-chosen. Margaret Murphy, a crime-fiction writer, and the poet Jacob Sam La Rose, are both interviewed capably by Caroline England and Chishimba Chisala.
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  • Issue Number Volume 81 Number 5
  • Published Date September-October 2007
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly
World Literature Today, published by the University of Oklahoma-Norman, is international in scope, focusing on languages and cultures worldwide. It ambitiously considers the ways in which language and art are defined by culture, emphasizing that our own culture can only be enriched by exposure to others. In this way, it speaks against xenophobia, not through polemics but by its mere presence.
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