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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted October 21, 2008

  • Issue Number Volume 26
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The Allegheny Review is a national undergraduate literary magazine published since 1983 at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. But, if you didn’t know these poems, stories, photos, and drawings were the product of undergraduate students, you might reasonably assume they were created by more experienced artists. And there is something refreshing about focusing solely on the work itself, forgetting about the name at the top of the page. It’s unlikely you’ll have seen this writer or artist’s name before, and it can be a pleasure to read without expectations. I was surprised by and especially liked a sophisticated poem by Robert Campbell, “An Appalachian Book of the Dead,” one of the issue’s award winners; a story by Heather Papp, “Consequences of Reproductive Success”; and a photo by Sean Stewart. I might have mistaken any of these for work by more mature artists, clear-eyed, original, and memorable.
  • Issue Number Volume 59 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
What I liked best about this issue of BPJ is the dissonance – the clash of tones, styles, voices, and intentions. “During the processing of new acquisitions / evidence of cogitation must be monitored” writes Paul Lisson in a tightly composed prose poem, “Cartesian Melody,” excerpted from “the Perfect aRchive.” “A little celebration: / it is six a.m. and I am not sick.” writes Muriel Nelson in “For the Night People.” “My day as a tragedy / brand manager: the red- / on-void block letter logo / for Backwater Black Widow” begins “If It Bleeds, It Leads,” by Steven D. Schroeder. In some ways, it almost seems as if the poems in this issue belong in 17 different journals (that’s the number of poets who appear here), but together they work to create a marvelous compendium of mismatched styles and tones that somehow coalesce into a unified whole. These poems are some of the most original I’ve read lately. I never had the impression I was reading a poem I’d seen a version of dozens of times before. I was always a little surprised, taken aback, stunned into paying better attention. What more can we hope for from poetry?
  • Issue Number Issue 5
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Located on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York, the Chautauqua Writer’s Center celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and its annual review celebrates writers who have contributed to its reputation, success, and creativity with a “moveable feast” in five sections: The Life in Art, Private Lives in Public Life, Our National Life, The Life of the Spirit, and Life Lessons – 360 plus pages of writing by such dependable greats as Dinty Moore, Carl Dennis, Susan Kinsolving, Alan Michael Parker, Ann Pancake, Maura Stanton, Laura Kasischke, Jim Daniels, Robin Becker, Carol Frost, Lee Gutkind, Diane Hume George, and many more.
  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
A brief introductory note lets us know that this journal exists “to explore the variety of life in the United States – to tell the stories that make up our past and our present. We especially appreciate stories about countries of origin, ancestry, and cultural identity.” “Variety” in Issue 2 includes the tale of a Chinese American boy, a visit to India, a family story by the child of Korean immigrants, a parody about the “global diaspora,” photographs that appear to be of Mexican American subjects (though I confess this is purely conjecture on my part), and an essay about “black hair,” among other stories. There is as much diversity in the style and tone of these stories as there is in the cultural identities they represent.
  • Issue Number Volume 9 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This was my first encounter with Iodine, and it was nice to see a magazine with so much space devoted to poetry. Over seventy poems are included in the 2008 Spring/Summer issue of this Charlotte-based journal! A few other things stood out to me, too: a Recommended Reading section in the back features a handful of fairly familiar journals (I hope the next issues feature an even larger selection, perhaps with some lesser known or brand new journals we wouldn’t see listed elsewhere).
  • Issue Number Volume 24 Number 3
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
I have long been a fan of this dependable journal. I like knowing what I’m reading (“poetry,” “fiction,” “creative non-fiction,” “essay,” and “art”).
  • Issue Number Issue 11
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Produced at Illinois State University, Normal, with the support of UC San Diego and the College of Fine Arts at University of Texas, Austin, Mandorla is a truly unique and exceptional publication that deserves a spot on the shelves of our country’s finest libraries and literary collections. It is a beautifully edited and produced volume of poetry and “poetic essays” in Spanish and English, the work of editors who clearly understand quality when it comes both to content and product (a fantastic cover; fine paper; professional, polished appearance; smart, appropriate and refined design).
  • Issue Number Number 20
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The rest of this issue’s title is “The Story of Clyde as told by Kemel Zaldivar.” This journal, featuring just nine poets (including guest editor Kemel Zaldivar, Octavio de la Paz and J.P. Dancing Bear), opens with a brief story about Clyde and Jessica, two lovers who mistakenly drift into the open sea. We are told by Zaldivar, that “this [story] is ultimately about the poems appearing in this issue.” In between the poems of authors, we are given more poem-chapters of Zaldivar’s Story of Clyde, which evolves into a myth about humanity, language, life, love and even God.
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Having never visited the Henry Miller Library, I had no idea what to expect from Ping Pong, the Library’s annual art and literary journal. When it arrived, I was impressed with the exceptional production quality: thick and glossy paper, beautiful print, vivid and colorful art pieces and, yes, the work inside the journal was striking, too.
  • Issue Number Volume 7 Issue 1
  • Published Date May 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This journal publishes work that “pays attention to formal requirements.” That, of course, means rhyme: “Though public / private lives draw swarms of pests, / Xeroxoxymorons are the irksomest” (“Doppelganger” by Alfred Corn) and “After the service, when the neighbors left, / breathing their last condolences like prayers, / it startled him that he was not bereft” (“Idle Comments” by Rhina Espaillat); established forms, most notably the sonnet, represented here by numerous contributors; invented forms, like a “villanette” from Anna Evans; and meter, what the editor refers to as syllable stressed verse – many types of formal strictures and discipline prevail in this issue. The poets represented here are not novices either to poetry or to “traditional” forms: Alfred Corn, Philip Dacey, Molly Peacock, Rachel Hadas, Richard Wilbur, W.D. Snodgrass, X. J. Kennedy, among others, and their work is polished, often exemplary.
  • Issue Number Volume 9 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Despite the journal’s self definition – nonfiction narrative – one of this issue’s highlights is a piece that defies categorization, “On Dusk” by Teddy Macker, where the narrative is, I suppose we could say, implied and what we’re given to read is a series of observations: “Dusk’s antonym is cataclysm,” “This is not a dream, says dusk,” “There are mountains, says Dogen, hidden in mountains,” “The greatest gift of dusk is unassailable mildness.” There are three pages of these poetic remarks, as short as a sentence and as long as a short paragraph. Dusk is just the sort of emotional and physical experience that begs for this type of treatment, and I appreciate the shape of Macker’s thinking and the shape of the piece. But, it does call into question the meaning of “nonfiction narrative,” which serves, otherwise, I think, as a fine alternative to “creative nonfiction.”
This issue would be worthwhile for the artwork alone – stunning reproductions of photos paintings, and drawings by Sialia Rieke, Ana June, Richard Sullivan, Norm Hamer, and Kim Gibbs, Rebecca O’Day, and Kira Becvarik, among others. Many of this issue’s poems and stories are equally memorable, and I was happy for the opportunity to get to know the work of writers I’d not encountered before, in particular poetry by Anne Valley-Fox Christien Gholson, and Mary McGinnis, and prose by Laura Madeline Wiseman. Wiseman’s essay, “To Starve to Die,” is a carefully crafted meditation on anorexia, more lyrical, less self-indulgent than much of the writing about “disordered eating” and more powerful for its balance between revelation and restraint.
  • Issue Number Volume 33 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Editor Bruce Guernsey’s introductory note is nothing if not frank: “We . . . have no use for the celebrity mentality that infects the current poetry scene.” It’s a laudable sentiment, and one I share, though I’m not certain that the refusal to provide contributors’ notes is a meaningful way to respond to the “star scene.” Nonetheless, it does force me to focus exclusively on the work presented, poems by more than two dozen poets, including featured poet Michael Van Walleghan, with whom an interview also appears, an essay on pedagogy, and a review essay.
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