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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted April 28, 2009

  • Issue Number Number 6
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The best part of Court Green, published annually by Columbia College of Chicago, is always the “Dossier,” featuring a special topic or theme. And this year’s, “Letters,” is my favorite so far. Whatever the reason – because letter-writing is, in its essence, about the printed word; or because so many of us have some things we can imagine saying to so many people; or because people who love to write and are, by profession, proficient at it, are also, naturally, great letter-writers – these “letter poems” make for extremely inventive and entertaining reading.
  • Issue Number Volume 33 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
In her entertaining and highly original Editors’ Note, Jocelyn Bartkevicius says at The Florida Review they’ve been “arguing over what counts as truth.” If names in the Table of Contents don’t make you eager to read the journal (Maureen P. Stanton, Baron Wormser, Tony Hoagland, Denise Duhamel, Michel Burkard, an interview with Terese Svoboda), the editor’s creative consideration of what constitutes fact checking, whether or not authors get to define the genres of their work, and the meaning of “truth” in these post James Frey Debacle times (as the Review’s staff refers to them) surely will.
  • Issue Number Number 35
  • Published Date Summer-Fall 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Mark Halliday, judge for the journal’s annual poetry contest, describes the winning poems as “ready to…confront contradictions,” “avoid dumb enthusiasm,” and provide “neatly managed endings,” which serves equally well to describe Fugue’s editorial approach, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve always liked the magazine. I appreciate Halliday's winning choices, poems by Lisa Bellamy, David J. Corbett, and Carol Louise Munn, three distinctly different examples of what it takes to make a poem, but all “strikingly alive,” as Halliday says, and all more emotionally charged and more satisfying than they appear on a first reading. These poems tell stories more moving and more complex than their language, at first, seems to imply. Bellamy, in particular, is both clever and tender, a combination of tones that can be difficult to pull off.
  • Issue Number Volume 21 Number 2
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The theme of this all-fiction issue is shame and glory, “which seemed a marvelously arbitrary way to come across good stories,” writes Leslie Daniels in her introduction to the issue. “As writers, shame set us wildly in motion. And glory is . . . transformation, the alchemy involved in making art,” she concludes.
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
J Journal takes a journey to the dark side of humankind – the criminal side, the enforcement side, to those who have been brutalized, taken advantage of…it uses literature to pose “questions of justice, directly and tangentially.” Each poem, each short story brings a situation laden with irony, and leaves it unresolved, leaving the reader to search within, find the discordant inner chord that has been struck and bring it back into tune.
  • Issue Number Volume 29 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The annual Fineline Competition issue is always one of my favorites. The contest is open to entries of prose poetry, sudden fiction or non-fiction, or other “literary work that defies classification” (500 words or less). There’s a kind of freedom in the “sudden” form that seems to bring out the best in writers of all types. This year's first-place winner is MFA student Ryan Teitman who creates a little museum of oddities, “The Cabinet of Things Swallowed,” that ends in a surprise or, more accurately, in the promise of a surprise. It’s the sense of promise that I appreciate most in these short works. Take, for example, the start of J.L. Conrad’s “Meanwhile,” one of the Editor’s Choice winners: “My dreams inscribe for me a world in which.” Or Editor’s Choice winner Alan Michael Parker’s opening line in “Our New System of Government”: “We believe we were misinformed.” The editors received nearly 2,000 submissions for the contest. I’m clearly not the only one who appreciates the form.
  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Starting a new publication, especially "in times like these" (TM), is a cause for congratulation, so here's celebrating the debut of Naugatuck River Review, "a journal of narrative poetry that sings." (Shouldn't all poetry?) The "narrative" label may bring to mind first person nature encounters and bittersweet childhood memories, and NRR contains its share. The real pleasures, though, are the memorable characters, the people whose lives show up in small glimpses between the lines. We meet a sawmill worker whose retirement ceremony belies his rough-and-tumble life, a bar patron who learns to resist being treated as an object and authors her own adventure, and a cross dresser who tries too hard to impress.
  • Issue Number Number 1
  • Published Date 2009
More props are in order for the inaugural issue of this Portland prose journal. The Ne'er-Do-Well carries itself like a zine, an enfant terrible sneering at the establishment as all rejected writers in tiny presses are wont to do. Founder Sheila Ashdown explains that her intention was to encourage writers struggling with doubt. To keep writing, she says, "requires a high threshold for psychic pain and awkward conversation."
  • Issue Number Number 27
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue’s theme is “bridges and views,” introduced by a stunning and unusual cover photo that merges beautifully the concept of bridge and view – the relationship of structure to perspective. The image does not have the appearance of stock photography, though I was unable to find a reference to the photographer. These are, of course, rich, provocative, and perhaps even favorite topics for artists from all disciplines and genres.
  • Issue Number Volume 15
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Quarter After Eight publishes prose-poems, short-short fictions, essays in-brief, etc., all of which must be contained within 500 words or less. The highlighted criterion encourages an “innovative address to the prose form…dedicated to blurring the traditional lines of prose and verse.” This issue features 28 short pieces including the 2008 Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest winners, with First Place going to Cynthia Reeves for “Naming the Dead.” As stated in a preface by contest judge Sean Thomas Dougherty, Reeves manages “In barely a page…[to] offer us [an] elegy for the loss of a friend, the gaining of sexual knowledge, and the subsequent hurt that follows years later through the ghost of memory.” “Naming the Dead” is so beautifully rendered it’s difficult to decide if its lines should be quoted in prose or verse, such as in the following:

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