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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted March 15, 2010

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  • Issue Number Number 159
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This volume features the first-, second-, and third-place winners of the Great Blue Heron Poetry Contest and the Sheldon Currie Fiction Contest, as well as poems, fiction, and book reviews from other writers. The first line of Jennifer Houle’s first poem – “I don’t listen much for birds” – sets the tone of the issue by inviting the reader to look for birds and every manifestation of the flighty or strange, both in this poem and throughout the rest of the issue.
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  • Issue Number Issue 69
  • Published Date December 2009
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly online
I read a selection of stories from three different online publications and was bored with the same old same old (I find it hard to believe that editors think anyone is going to read this banal stuff), and then I stumbled on to The Barcelona Review. Thanks goodness! The editors really live in Barcelona and say, “We like good, powerful, potent stuff that immediately commands attention, shows stylistic and imaginative distinction, and is literarily sound.” Well, who doesn’t? But these people really publish it.
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  • Issue Number Volume 36 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The selections in this issue reflect the goal of the editors who claimed they sought to “embody different methods of collection and obsession.” The magazine is rich in literary diversity from Jesse Jacob’s comic, “Oh, What a Cruel God we’ve Got” to K.A. Hays’s chapbook, Some Monolith.
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  • Issue Number Volume 5
  • Published Date Fall 2009
I opened Cadences, a Journal of Literature and the Arts in Cyprus wondering whose story would be honestly told and how well. Having lived in Turkey for a couple of years in the 1990s, I knew Cyprus – a pretty island in the Mediterranean and “shared” by both Turkey and Greece – to be caught in a political tug of war between the two countries. Published by the European University of Cyprus, Cadences presents itself as a bridge between the Greeks, Turks and other peoples on the island and lets the reader know its advisory board is made up of writers from the Greek Cypriot, Turkish Cypriot, Armenian Cypriot, Palestinian-American, American and London Cypriot communities. Once the “Editorial Statement” covers all these bases, the editors get down to business, stating: “Writers inevitably see things differently from politicians.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 2 Issue 4
  • Published Date October 2009-January 2010
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Carpe Articulum defines itself “the original magazine of its kind,” its kind being a “cross-genre international literary review that embraces all of the peripheral literary arts, including non-fiction, interviews with accomplished writers, novellas, short fiction, scientific papers, and even photography, understanding that a great photo is in fact, worth a thousand words.” The journal is not “barred from timely issues” or to “hundreds of pages of colourless excavations.” It’s also as heavy as a globe. Printed on glossy stock with a thick perfect binding, oversized (probably 9 x13 or so), photos that bleed across the page with poems printed in the foreground, and ads that look like feature pages and feature pages that look like ads, the journal is, indeed, one of a kind.
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  • Issue Number Volume 22 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The winter issue of The Gettysburg Review features the captivating and bizarre artwork of Mark Greenwold. In her insightful essay on his work, Shannon Egan writes, “The paintings consider the societal boundaries and concerns of sexuality and physical decorum and, as such, pictorially catalog certain Freudian anxieties, corporeal urges, and dreamlike situations.” So, too, do the essays, short stories and poems in this issue. From Aaron Gwyn’s “Drive,” a short story depicting a couple’s highly sexual flirtations with death, to Kim Adrian’s “Questionnaire for My grandfather,” an essay in the form of questions through which the narrator explores the physiological motivations for her dead grandfather’s molestation of her mother, and how this abuse continues to shape her, this issue is all about the fascinatingly twisted psyche.
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  • Issue Number Volume 11 Number 6
  • Published Date December 2009
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly
Shannon Canning’s bold, yet intricate painting of a revolver, “Balance of Power,” sets the tone for this “Open Issue” of the magazine – works with bullet-like precision that are also foreboding or dark or solemn. Like Canning’s close-up of the gun handle, they reference danger, without being dangerous, and they intrigue us because they dazzle (the gun is quite beautiful), but their beauty is derived from their darkness.
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  • Issue Number Volume 32 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2010
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue is dedicated to work by North American indigenous authors. With work from emerging voices like Sara Marie Ortiz, Eddie Chuculate, and Eric Gansworth as well as the acclaimed writers like Leslie Marmon Silko, LeAnne Howe, and Joy Harjo, the writing in this issue is as vibrant and dynamic as the indigenous literary tradition it represents. Compiled here is a stimulating survey of indigenous poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
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  • Issue Number Volume 43 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
In this issue, an essay by Lisa Ohlen Harris most stirs my mind, encouraging me to return for a second and third look. I like her outlook on life as much as the writing itself. In the piece entitled “Exiles,” the author ponders the death of her father-in-law. She lives in Jordan with her husband and two children, one a newborn. When her husband returns to the U.S. for her father-in-law’s funeral, leaving her alone, she becomes contemplative about her father-in-law’s anger toward religion that alienated him from his three sons, who chose to become Protestants. She also mourns the hope, now lost, that the relationships may be mended. The piece explores challenging family relationships, feelings of being cut off by distance and religion, and then expands to discuss broken ties between nations and with the land. I loved the history, as research abounds in the piece.
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  • Issue Number Volume 53 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue is themed “The Therapy Issue” with a disclaimer that they “promise it won’t cure you.” Instead, this compilation of poems, short stories, and an essay offers multiple views into the human psyche.
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  • Issue Number Volume 50 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Hayan Charara’s poem, “What Is Mine,” begins this issue and sets the tone for remaining selections of exemplary fiction, non-fiction, poetry and artwork. Charara writes, “It’s like that – / to know something / is for it to become / something else.” Multiple pieces in this volume seem to explore the idea of knowing, of seeing something more clearly through experience and knowledge. One example is Melinda Moustakis’s mother character in “This One Isn’t Going to Be Afraid,” who is known in body parts: nails, biceps, calves, shoulders, hands, feet, skin, teeth, eyes, stomach, and cheekbones. Each part tells a different story of a life, told through the daughter, as she seeks to understand the mother and herself. Or in Sara Majka’s “White Heart Bar,” where the disappearance of a young woman is explored from multiple perspectives.
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  • Issue Number Volume 76 Number 1
  • Published Date 2009-10
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue of the magazine seems particularly serious (in the sense of “of consequence”), which I find entirely appropriate for the present moment (historically, politically, socially) and in keeping with my expectations for New Letters. Steve Paul interviews poet Edward Sanders and in his introduction quotes him as having said, “Poets should again assume the responsibility for the description of history.” And as it happens, this issue’s special feature section, guest edited by Mia Leonin, is titled “This Side of War,” with work by 15 poets who, for the most part, explore both recent and current wars, accompanied by the black and white photographs of soldiers by Stephen Grote. The poems offer a range of perspectives on “being at war,” from deployment abroad to the civilians who remain at home to the experience of civilian victims of military violence.
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  • Issue Number Volume 6 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009-10
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Art Director Jennifer Gunji-Ballsrud introduces the latest edition by saying, “We struggled with the line between elegant restraint and dullness, between expressiveness and eye-candy.” These are tensions exclusive to the talented, and they are made possible by the equipped and impressive staff of artists, alumni from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Indeed the issue is visually striking, but it is also careful and deliberate. Add to it new fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry from Sherman Alexie, Ander Monson, Benjamin Percy, Matt Donovan, Stephan Clark, John Warner, Robert Campbell, Marianne Boruch, Cathy Day, among others, and the result is a sexy literary journal, filled with substance.
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  • Issue Number Volume 75 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Higher education is the topic of this edition of North Dakota Quarterly, featuring the trends, idiosyncrasies, problems, joys, and goals of the college and the university examined in poetry, memoir, and prose that both engages and challenges, providing a wide variety of views on academia.
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  • Issue Number Volume 195 Number 5
  • Published Date February 2010
  • Publication Cycle Monthly
Martha Zweig’s poem “Carolina” could be an ars poetica of sorts, or a Poetry manifesto, or the platform of a new (and possibly more satisfactory) political party, or a prayer: “Won’t somebody please start / something other & oddball soon // narrow her down out of folly /& trivia to destiny?” Or perhaps she is (without knowing it) responding to Robert Haas, who begins “September Notebook: Stories”: “Everyone comes here from a long way off / (is a line from a poem I read last night).” Maybe they are both responding (without knowing it) to J. Allyn Rosser’s “Impromptu”: “as if something I could say were true, and every / moment from now on would be my cue.” And all of them would have to ponder, with Joshua Mehigan what it means to be at the “Crossroads”: “This is the place it happened. It was here. / You might not know unless you knew.” Clive James seems to want to help them sort it out in the concluding lines to “A Perfect Market”:
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  • Issue Number Volume 43 Number 4
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
A dormant but beautifully ominous volcano sets the mood for this compelling issue of Southern Humanities Review (SHR). From the Japanese art on the cover, to the final poem “Resurrection: Ivorybill,” by Ashley Mace Havird, an undertone of imminent eruption, and the realms that will be, are, or have been downstream from the event, pervades each piece. This is not to say that every piece is dark and looming; rather, whether fissures of perception, or pyroclastic flows of meaning and connection, this issue conveys that the effects of earth-shattering change are worthy of being felt, remembered, and revered.
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  • Issue Number Volume 21 Number 3
  • Published Date Autumn 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Thema, the literary journal that boasts “many plots/one premise,” stepped into the kitchen for this edition. Editor Virginia Howard, drawing on memories of her time at a New Orleans bed and breakfast, called for short stories, poems, and artwork “varied as a recipe collection in a cookbook . . . concocted from a wide variety of ingredients for the theme ‘In Kay’s Kitchen’.” The result is a delightful compilation of five illustrations, eight poems, and eleven stories that transport readers into the various interpretations of Kay’s kitchen.
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  • Issue Number Issue 120
  • Published Date Winter 2010
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This thirtieth anniversary issue of the magazine (noted only on the cover, no grand recapping of great accomplishments or even an editorial remark on the milestone publication) is like every issue that has preceded it and, let us hope, every one that will follow – intelligent. I count on the The Threepenny Review to reassure me that there are intelligent voices, thoughtful and critical minds, broadly educated thinkers, careful writers, and intellectually viable perspectives producing consistently high quality work that doesn’t seek to grab attention, shore up trends, or even to set them.
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  • Issue Number Number 65
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of West Branch contains a single piece each of fiction and nonfiction, and the work of eighteen poets. To begin, this excerpt of Kelle Groom’s nonfiction manuscript City of Shoes is particularly frantic and gripping. Groom – a mother who gave her son up for adoption – yearns for her now-dead and buried boy with a childlike fear of loss and faith in re-finding. She asks her own father, “‘Can we go to Brockton today, to Tommy’s cemetery?’ I wouldn’t say grave.” Her father resists, worried (Groom thinks) that in asking the adoptive parents for directions, “We’ll remind them I gave them Tommy, and Tommy died.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 84 Number 1
  • Published Date January-February 2010
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly
Putting together a journal on literature from across the world would be a daunting task, but the editors of World Literature Today have pulled it off wonderfully in the January-February 2010 edition. The journal’s international scope is clear from the cover, which announces its two special sections – one on Taiwanese literature, another on Korean – as well as introducing a poet from El Salvador. The journal further contains an essay from a Croatian writer and Mayan poems, with the Mayan and Spanish versions included with the English translation. A pair of Irish poems and an excerpt from US author David Shields’s forthcoming book round out the range of nations represented here.
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