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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted February 15, 2010

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  • Issue Number Number 70
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
From artist Joomi Chung’s colorful gouache on clayboard “Scapes” and her intricate ink drawings, to the many insightful personal tributes to the late painter Michael Mazur, Agni’s strength is, as always, distinctive and authentic voices and visions.
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  • Issue Number Volume 16 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
“After a disarmingly calm opening, this issue plunges right into the temptations of sex and chocolate, which even Death seems to find irresistible,” says editor and publisher Dan Veach in his “Welcome.” The calm is Catherine Tahmin’s “Small Talk” (“It’s raining and that’s all / we want to know.”); the sex is Michale Myerhofer’s “First Crush” (“Across our little circle jived this ribboned thing / with her anatomical differences / of which we Catholic boys knew nothing.”); Janet Jennings and Mary Soon Lee contribute the chocolate with “The Chocolate Factory” (“You can smell the roast from two miles away”) and “Master of Chocolate” (“After fifty-six years selling chocolate, / he knows what his customers want”). It’s Soon Lee’s poem that brings us death, too, though somehow it seems unfair that it’s the person who sells the chocolate, not the one indulging (“The old woman who leaves her dachshund outside / wants foil-wrapped liqueurs for her sister / and a single hazelnut cream for her dog.”) who must die. (To be fair, death eats her chocolate slowly and allows the salesman “to write a last note to his wife.”).
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  • Issue Number Number 2
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The front cover of the 2009 issue of Barn Owl Review depicts a destroyed playground, the aftermath, perhaps, of a tornado: a blue twisting slide on its side, trees smashed into the remnants of a swing set, what might have been a plastic fort. On the magazine’s back cover is a picture of a little plastic lion cub sitting on a toilet, tail lifted. These photos are nothing too out of the ordinary yet convey states of mind caught between damage and play, humor and humanity’s excreta, metaphoric and otherwise.
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  • Issue Number Volume 60 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2009/10
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Everything in this issue was (happily, happily) unexpected. Karl Elder’s “Snowman” in the shape of a snowman that could have then been silly, but was not: “this is snowballing toward a title below – / both visible and invisible like like without / the ‘k,’ like the buzz word for a buzzard / sitting on a blind man in a blizzard.” Mary Molinary’s series “poems composed for the left hand,” which combined verse in lines, prose poems, verse in columns, and childish hand-written scrawl (“to keep dementia away”). “Leaning in from the Sea” by Kerry James Evans, short bursts separated by bullets and punctuated by bold, violent outbursts (“Fucked the green out of her eyes,” and “All that blood. All those feathers.”). Philip Pardi’s “My Father’s Christening,” a poem in nine numbered segments that begins with the utterly seductive single line “After the story, its telling, and only then is it a story.” Don Shofield’s “Harmony, USA,” a poem in a dozen numbered segments that ends:
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  • Issue Number Volume 6 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
There are lots of reasons to read this issue, but here’s what you won’t want to miss: poet Khaled Mattawa, author of four books of poems (one forthcoming from New Issues Press) introduces and translates the poems of Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser (now based in London). The translations are lovely, fluid, authentic, and credible. Nasser’s poems are marvelous, deceptively simple and incredibly powerful in a subtle and lyrical way, as in this excerpt from “Once Upon an Evening in a Café”:
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  • Issue Number Volume 36 Number 3
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Great short fiction exists! This issue of Colorado Review confirms it. Volume 36, Number 3 features three extremely good short stories, including the magazine’s annual Nelligan Prize winner, Angela Mitchell, whose first-ever published story, “Animal Lovers,” is both unpredictable and reasonable, by which I mean credible, realistic, and emotionally compelling. Mitchell has an ear for natural and believable dialogue, a great sense of timing, and casual, but carefully composed prose that is readable, but not incidental.
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  • Issue Number Number 53
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
There are so many stars in this issue one almost needs sunglasses to get through the Table of Contents. Reading the work, one sees that these bright names (Francine Prose, William H. Gass, Peter Gizzi, Maureen Howard, Cole Swensen, Nathaniel Mackey, Ann Lauterbach, Rachel Plau DuPlessis) deserve their shiny reputations. Some of their work conforms to the issue’s theme, “Not Even Past: Hybrid Histories,” described by editor Bradford Morrow as “works in which past moments in history play a centralizing role.” Other work is categorized simply as “new.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 37 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
I know I sound like a broken record, but I can’t say it enough. I just don’t think there is a magazine published on this side of the border that can compare with the Canadian magazines. Grain is published in Saskatchewan and like the many marvelous literary journals produced across the vast and exquisite land to my north, it is exceptionally good. The theme of this issue is “Conversation,” which I understand to mean dialogue, relationship(s), images that reverberate and connect, and language in the service of vision, understanding, and meaningfulness. Editor Sylvia Legris traces the word’s roots to “the act of living with” or to keep company. Grain is all this and more.
  • Subtitle A Diaspora Journal
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  • Issue Number Number 5
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This journal, by choosing a different international city with a substantial Jewish population for each issue, examines the effects of Jewish culture on its surroundings as well as its own evolution. In the Moscow issue, the brooding Russian presence digs deep into the Jewish cultural consciousness. Themes of loneliness, death, estrangement, emigration, and abandonment permeate much of the writing. However, hope and redemption also lurk. The journal itself is book-sized, with a brilliant night photograph of Moscow on the cover, and is less than 200 pages.
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  • Issue Number Issue 5
  • Published Date January 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Short and sweet is probably the most appropriate description of Magnapoets, a biannual literary journal out of Ontario, Canada. The 8x10, saddle-stapled journal features four essays on poetry, six pages of Free Verse and Form poetry, six pages of Haiku and Senryu, and six pages of Tanka.
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  • Issue Number Volume 5
  • Published Date June 2006-May 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
In this volume of Mare Nostrum, poems, prose, translation, and reviews are inspired by the traveling exhibit, to Seattle, of Florentine art restored after a 1966 flood. Each piece here is lively and deserving of praise, and has a prominent sense of belonging within these pages. The reader gets a glimpse of this in editor Kevin Craft’s foreword. To wit, “Seeing them restored was like witnessing the first gleam of the Renaissance all over again – the emergence, literally, of perspective as a compositional axiom, of naturalism in the fine shades of feeling etched into each attentive figure.” And, like art itself, the pieces here are both alluringly ambiguous, and wrought with imagination that begs to be understood.
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  • Issue Number Volume 3 Issue 1
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
As the average attention span continues to decrease and the printed page is replaced by the teeny tiny screen, practitioners of flash fiction seem poised to take advantage of this evolution. The editors of NANO Fiction take the idea one step further. While many flash fiction narratives extend into the several hundreds of words, the stories in this volume are far shorter. The great struggle for the writer is to increase the potency of their narratives as the word count decreases.
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  • Issue Number Volume 30 Number 3
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In these oh-so-unsettled times, I like to have something I can rely on. New England Review never lets me down. I know the quality of the writing will always be strong, serious, sophisticated, and that there will always be something unexpected, fresh without trying to impress. This issue lives up to the task – a good portion of the issue is devoted to an essay by the late critic and editor Ted Solotaroff (1928-2008), along with brief reflections of Solotaroff by more than a dozen and a half writers, editors, and literary colleagues. These remembrances are preceded by a long excerpt from Solotaroff’s, “The Literary Scene Changes,” an unfinished, unpublished memoir (his third). I enjoyed very much these personal recollections from Philip Roth, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Robert Stone, Robert Cohen, Hilma Wolitzer, Gerald Stern, Bobbie Ann Mason, Georges Borchardt, Gerald Howard, James Lasdun, Jill Schoolman, Russell Banks, Anton Shammas, Hy Enzer, Irene Skolnick, Douglas Unger, Allegra Goodman, Ehud Havazelet, and Max Apple. The diversity of ages, genres, and types of relationships to Solotaroff makes this little collection of tributes all the more appealing.
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  • Issue Number Number 9
  • Published Date November 2009
  • Publication Cycle Triannual online
This literary magazine holds a contest every four months with a theme. The contest is free to enter but has a number of prizes, the first prize being $140. This is obviously a great bargain, and consequently, the editors receive plenty of entries. I don’t know of another deal like this on the internet.
  • Subtitle Make Believe
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  • Issue Number Issue 11
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The opening invitational forum of PEN America was given to writers as choice on "Make Believe." The first option: “Imagine a book you wish you had written, either by yourself or by someone else, living or dead, real or imaginary.” I loved Cynthia Ozick’s playful answer:
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  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This lit mag is generally considered to be one of the better on the web at the present time. They state rather proudly that they have received a special mention in the 2007 Pushcart Prize anthology, along with two Best of Web anthology awards, and a top ten Million Writers Award – pretty good stuff. In reading their latest collection of fiction and poetry, it is easy to see why.
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  • Issue Number Number 9
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Never has PMS been so delightful! PMS PoemMemoirStory is a journal of women’s writing, full of energy, life, color, politics, love, and verve. Issue number nine combines 40 pages of poetry, 47 pages of memoir, and 41 pages of fiction—all well-crafted and all high-quality.
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  • Issue Number Volume 15 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue features more than four dozen poems in a general section, the work of Rattle Poetry Prize Winner Lynne Knight and ten honorable mention recipients, the work of 30 poets in a special “Tribute to the Sonnet,” and lengthy interviews by editor Alan Fox with Alice Fulton and Molly Peacock (Fulton and Peacock in the same issue! Too good to be true!). It’s hard not to be curious about nearly two-hundred pages of poems that begin, as this issue does, with Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s oh-so-American-current-preoccupation:
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  • Issue Number Volume 11
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
South Loop Review, a journal of creative nonfiction and art/photography published by Columbia College in Chicago, “publishes essays in lyric and experimental form.” The editors prefer “non-linear narratives and blended genres…montage and illustrated essays, as well as narrative photography.” While a good deal of the work in Volume 11 is considerably more traditional in both form and style than this description, there are a number of provocative “non-linear” and “blended” efforts. Among them are Kristen Radtke’s “Fragments of Teenage Magazine,” an essay on images of women in popular culture that takes the form of a survey or quiz in a popular magazine; Robert McClure Smith’s “The Spit: A Memoir of ’77,” a memoir that takes the form of an academic article with dense and complex footnotes; Sophie Ulmer’s “Waterproof Mascara,” a memoir/personal essay about self-image that takes the form of an outline with photos; Josalyn Knapic’s “Transfer: Journals on a Train,” a personal essay that takes the form of journal writing; Katherine McCord’s “My CIA,” a memoir that combines narrative and lists; Natalie Tilghman’s “Practice,” a memoir about illness recounted in short numbered fragments; and Pamela A. Galbreath’s “Three Note Song,” a family story told in brief discrete fragments.
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  • Issue Number Volume 27 Number 2
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The editors of The Southeast Review like to present the familiar in unusual form. This attitude is made clear with the playful front cover photograph depicting a baseball player with index finger extended at an umpire who was apparently in the wrong. Bat in hand, posture aggressive, the ballplayer clearly won’t tolerate an unfair call. The twist: the ballplayer is a woman, apparently a member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League’s Fort Wayne Daisies. The fiction, poems and nonfiction in The Southeast Review play by the rules, but reserve the right to imbue them with a slightly askew tone.
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  • Issue Number Volume 3 Number 2
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This edition of Straylight has everything: a life-like horror strike that comes on like lightning; a story that asks you to suspend your disbelief (and you willingly do); an amusing take on a bridge’s history; a travelogue of sorts; and a doppelganger in a poem. It gives the publication a sense of completeness rarely found in literary magazines. It made it, quite truly, a joy to read, and an honor to review.
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  • Issue Number Number 5
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Upstreet’s fifth annual issue contains over two-hundred pages of stories, poems, creative nonfiction essays, and a very entertaining and insightful interview with Robin Hemley by Vivian Dorsel.
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