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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted January 18, 2010

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  • Issue Number Volume 16 Number 1
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Keith Flynn, the editor, proudly states that this is the only poetry journal in the United States that subsists entirely on retail sales and subscriptions. It boasts a circulation of 3000 and has fourteen staff members. The latest production is 223 pages and contains a wide variety of poetry, interviews, essays, and book reviews. It was founded in 1994, and my only regret here is that I lack sufficient space to give this subject proper justice.
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  • Issue Number Number 8
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
It’s a good thing Aufgabe only comes out once a year because it takes nearly that long to read the whole issue – and the whole issue is worth reading. The 2009 special feature is a huge section on Russian poetry and poetics guest edited by Matvel Yankelevich, who teaches Russian literature and language at Hunter College in New York and is a founding member of Ugly Duckling Presse. Poems, essays, and manifestos by fifteen contemporary Russian poets appear in translation (no originals are included), along with Yankelvich’s introductory essay. The poets’ essays are of particular interest, offering insights both about the nature of poetry in general and of contemporary Russian poetics in particular.
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  • Issue Number Volume 14 Issue 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009-2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Aurorean seeks to publish poetry that is inspirational, meditational and/or reflective of the Northeast.” In this issue, the magazine carries out its mission to reflect the Northeast with poems that specifically name or make reference to the area: “Mohonk moon” (“Scarlet Turnings” by Mike Jurkovik); the Atlantic ocean as seen from a “bed & breakfast” in Ogunquit, Maine (“Yellow Monkey” by Lainie Senechal); New England’s “slate skies” (“January Poem” by Ellen M. Taylor); a frosty New England context for the hammering of fence posts (“Fences” by Olivia Wolfgang-Smith); a salt marsh at Plum Island, Massachusetts (“Boardwalk” by Margaret Eckman); a weeping beech tree at Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston (“Weeping Beech” by Alice Kociemba); a cranberry harvest near Beaver Dam Road (the specific state is not mentioned in Judy Snow’s “Harvest off Beaver Dam Road”); a nighttime ride to Mt. Riga (“Mt. Riga” by David Sermersheim); an unusually warm first-day-of-fall near Mt. Adams (“If, Ands, or Buts” by Russell Rowland); a view of middle age as seen against the context of the view of a heron at Hall’s Pond (“Middle Age” by Robin Pelzman); the varieties of apples grown in the Northeast – McCoun, Northern Spy, MacIntosh, and Cortland (“The Ingathering” by Carole W. Trickett); and the wild Lake Superior cold (“Lone Baptism” by Steve Ausherman).
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  • Issue Number Volume 15 Number 2
  • Published Date Autumn 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The first few pages in this volume of The Bitter Oleander feature international poems, each first in the author’s language followed by the translation. I’m not multi-lingual, but I like seeing the poem in its original form. It gives me a feel for what can’t be completely translated. One such challenging poem is Rafael Jesús González’ Mexico, a “homage to the country in erotic hue.” The sexually charged imagery, such as “The banana bloom hangs like a horse’s sex / & your rough breasts give oil to suck,” makes me wish I could read and understand it in its original Spanish, as some of the nuanced sensuality is probably lost with the hard consonant sounds of English.
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  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The Broken Plate is an annual produced by undergraduate students at Ball State University, which includes the work of many novice writers alongside more accomplished contributors. Particularly noteworthy are poems and essays in the "In Print Section," which  features the work of authors celebrated during the University’s In Print Festival of First Books (March 2009). This section is composed of essays on craft by fiction writer Kyle Minor and memoirist Laurie Lindeen, and the poetry of Nickole Brown. Minor and Lindeen’s essays are insightful explorations of their own artistic processes. Brown’s poetry is expertly crafted and polished. Her voice is wry and worldly, feigning innocence, but demonstrating savvy.
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  • Issue Number Number 6
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Cave Wall is a modest literary magazine that succeeds in its simplicity. It is a thin volume and consists exclusively of poetry, though it doesn’t leave you wanting anything more. The quality of the selections is consistent throughout. In the Editor’s Note, Rhett Iseman Trull sets the tone and the context for the issue saying “we cannot remain in one place. The circle of life keeps turning. In memory and in our art, however, we can revisit a moment, letting it touch and change us anew.” Organized by author, each address this theme in their poetry; it is interesting to see each approach as a powerful examination of this very important human issue.
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  • Issue Number Volume 36 Issue 4
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This “general” issue of the journal includes analytical/critical essays on Archibald MacLeish, current writing about fatherhood, an examination of burlesque in classical myth, an exploration of a novel by Gail Godwin, review essays on Melville and books on pedagogy, and book reviews of books on poetry, rhetoric, and film. While clearly intended for an academic audience, the journal is nonetheless quite readable for a less specialized audience, in particular essays by Raymond A. Mzurek, “Work and Class in the Box Store University: Autobiography of Working Class Academics,” and Arielle Greenberg and Becca Klaver, “Mad Girls’ Love Songs: Two Women Poets – a Professor and Graduate Student – Discuss Sylvia Plath, Angst, and the Poetics of Female Adolescence.”
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  • Issue Number Number 81
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The most recent issue of Field, Oberlin College Press’s magazine of poetry, begins with a symposium on Phillip Levine’s work, including some of his most famous poems, like “Animals are Passing From Our Lives,” along with short essays analyzing each. Even those readers who are not interested in the analysis of poetry will find the poems themselves excellent. The strength of this issue, however, is in the original contributions, many of which take inspiration from nature and are full of references to wolves, foxes and various birds, including ravens, crows and swans.
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  • Issue Number Number 74
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
I would move to Canada just for the magazines, Geist among them. Geist is published in Vancouver (one of North America’s most creative cities on so many levels), and I don’t imagine it’s easy to find this side of the border, especially on the east coast. But, I doubt they’d turn down your subscription! And I doubt you’ll be sorry if you subscribe.
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  • Issue Number Volume 2 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
An eclectic and sophisticated journal that aims to sustain the past (a posthumous short story from Walker Percy), enliven the current moment (new poetry, fiction, and essays from a dozen writers), represent a range of nonfiction options (from a historical look at the use of puppets to literary criticism), serve as a mini gallery of visual artistic expression (fascinating drawings by Graham Nickson), and serves as an arbiter of current reading (reviews of fiction, poetry nonfiction, and other media by five experienced reviewers).
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  • Issue Number Volume 10 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009/10
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Just as the mother of a large family on a tight budget attempts Christmas shopping by making her dollars work magic, so Iodine Poetry Journal is economic with its pages; by spending space only on poems that will satisfy in numerous ways, the poetry journal fulfills and exceeds expectations. This volume, like the foolproof gift of assorted chocolates, captures an array of artfulness. The goods of both established and emerging writers are found here, all under a cover adorned with an abstract painting by editor Jonathan K. Rice, who is also a visual artist.
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  • Issue Number Volume 12
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Mandorla subtitles itself “New Writings from the Americas” and also identifies itself in Spanish as: “Nueva Escritura de las Américas.” The magazine is a bilingual collection of essays, poetry, short stories, and excerpts published mostly in untranslated English and Spanish. If you are uncomfortable with the conventions of Spanish-language literature, the fast switches from one style to another may require you to adjust your expectations. You’ll need to embrace some confusion.
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  • Issue Number Volume 11 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Editor Daniel W. Lehman says his own stories seem like dreams: “Real-life writing sometimes is that way: the stakes are high; the details sting.” In a world where what constitutes “real” (nonfiction) and invented (fiction) is not merely blurred but often obliterated, the stakes are, indeed, very high. And River Teeth deserves high praise for recognizing and honoring the difficulty of the task and for selecting work that respects readers’ commitment to and on-going interest in the nonfiction enterprise. Alongside the masterful work of well-known prose stylists Rebecca McClanahan (an interview with her also appears in the issue) and Brent Spencer, there are worthwhile essays here by ten other writers.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall 2009
The title page of this inaugural issue lists Mary Gordon, Paul Muldoon, and Michael Burke as the “featured contributors” – pretty impressive for the debut of any magazine. All the more impressive when we realize, though one has to read the contributor’s notes to figure this out, that The Round is essentially an undergraduate student publication. Nowhere does the journal announce affiliations, but several writers, all undergrads at Brown University, are credited with being co-founders of the magazine in their contributor’s note. The issue opens with a foreword by Gordon who compares the writing in this issue – at least in its aim to “invoke large terms” to Donne, Herbert, Dickinson, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Flaubert, Proust, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, both Eliots, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Auden, James, Cather, Faulkner, Welty, Porter, Trever, Coetze, and Morrison. This magazine’s work will remind us, she says, that “literature is beautiful and joyous and the place where we [are] reminded what it is to be most fully and richly alive.”
The Santa Monica Review has little space for drawings or photographs. From cover to cover, pages are packed with writing presented in a generic font as though it were simply a college essay waiting to be graded. It is rare to see a nationally distributed literary arts journal with a layout entirely devoted to sharing high quality writing without unnecessary visual distractions.
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  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Winners of the Third Coast fiction and poetry contests are announced on the first pages of this issue, with a justification for their choices written by judges Stuart Dybek (fiction) and David Rivard (poetry). The gambler in me skipped those pages and went right into the content of the magazine hoping to suss out the winning pieces. Would anything distinguish their work from regular submissions, except they got publication and a thousand bucks for their effort? Maybe it was the frame of mind in which I read, or the preference of the editors, but there seems an element of risk, physical and spiritual, running throughout the writing in this issue.
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  • Issue Number Volume 11 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
“If you’re not seized by dread you’re not paying attention.” “We are now recognizing each other’s humanity, are connected and transformed by each other’s experiences. Or so we hope.” Do these statements contradict each other? Yes! Do they represent the realistic dichotomy of American life in the current moment? Yes! Do they summarize the dual themes of “dread” and “hope” that organize the work in this issue of Tin House? Yes!
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  • Issue Number Volume 6 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
A special theme issue on play and the absurd, which includes the Children’s Poetry Contest Winners, an interview with composer Ruth Fazal, who sets excerpts (some of which appear here) of the widely acclaimed and popular book of children’s writings, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, from the Terezin concentration camp, to music; Ariela Freedman’s essay, “Letter from Jerusalem”; reviews; and more than two dozen playful poems. Contributors include the prolific and well known writer Lorna Crozier and a contributor too young to have made much of a name for himself yet, four-year old Mikhael Dylan Auerbach, who – absurdly or at least incredibly – “is currently interested in Spiderman, trains, soccer, and copying Old Masters like Braque, Matisse, and Da Vinci.” His drawings are exceptional, and if he really is only four, this is not so much absurd as frightening!
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  • Published Date December 2009
  • Publication Cycle Weekly
This lit mag specializes in flash fiction and publishes stories on a regular basis nine months of the year. Then they publish their Top 50 selections: fifty short fictions that come from other journals. Several editors from Wigleaf routinely monitor what is being published throughout the country, select the two hundred they like best, and send these stories to another editor who chooses the fifty he judges to be the best of the best. A wearying process to be sure, but it makes for some great reading.
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  • Issue Number Volume 6
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This is a thick, meaty text. At slightly more than 350 pages, this publication looks brilliant standing toe-to-toe with any anthologies you have marching across your shelf. The volume is packed with fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from over 50 contributors. The cover is described as a Po-Collage, a combination of poetry and visual art, by artist Valery Oisteanu. The collage of cupids striking at Siamese twins under the cover of umbrellas lends a threatening edge to a broad context. Appropriate, as the entire issue is devoted to commemorating the twenty years since the fall of Communism in Europe as depicted through the writing of mostly Eastern Europeans. The selected writings echo the disjointed nature between the menaces of both the past and present. The most striking example of the issue's focus comes in the opening stanza of William Doreski's moving “Life Studies.”
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