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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted June 15, 2010

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  • Issue Number Number 5
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This edition of Avery is lovely for its cleverness. While each piece is unique unto itself, together they make for a satisfying romp through today’s literati. Chelsey Johnson’s story, “Devices,” for example, offers a surreal picture of attempted perfection in “Once There Were an Artist and an Inventor”: “They are right up next to the sidewalk, and the inventor is always drawing the curtains shut and the artist is always opening them. The artist needs light. The inventor needs privacy. In other words, they are deeply in love. But both of them are a little bit more in love with the artist.” Lovely writing. Of the artist, Johnson writes that when she takes self-portraits, the effect is, “a look of assured surprise, a look somewhere between caught-off-guard and ready-for-my-close-up.” And, “If everything becomes like love, the artist starts to wonder, what is love?” Analogies emerge everywhere, but she realizes she has no idea what the things is itself is: “It is the negative space of a drawing, its form determined only by what interrupts it.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 3 Issue 2
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Oh, how lovely! Produced and inspired by the power of wind (“The Bateau Press Office is run on the renewable energies of hydro and wind power”). Handsomely printed on a letterpress (a letterpress!). Small, square, a lithe 79 pages (poems, prose poems, reproductions of black and white woodcuts and drawings, and a two-page graphic story) that fit neatly in one hand. Unassuming, understated, unpretentious. And utterly gorgeous from cover to cover. I loved holding Bateau between my palms. I loved the work, poems that, for the most part, contain small lyrical mysteries and large telling silences. I loved discovering new writers with impressive credentials and stellar work, but who are not the same big name stars I encounter again and again. I loved the journal’s simplicity and elegance and quiet, self-assured lyricism.
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  • Issue Number Volume 9 Issue 2
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This journal defines itself as “a unique collection of issues, events, & images from the Great River Road,” and it publishes works of history, the sciences, business, photography, and creative writing. Works are not classified in the Table of Contents, so it can be a little difficult to distinguish between genres in some cases. Not in the case, however, of Phil Harvey’s short story, “Tomato Only,” which is typical of much of the poetry and prose in the issue, accessible, readable, and what, for lack of a better term, I’ll categorize as natural. Harvey’s story begins: “Albert had asked for tomato on his tuna salad sandwich, no mayonnaise, please. He had been very specific, very precise, taking extra care because the man behind the deli counter at the American Grill looked oriental and probably didn’t speak English very well.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 21
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
I always look forward to this large format annual with its glossy pages, beautiful artwork and photography, and well-composed and thoughtful works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. This issue also features a section titled “Siouxland,” which includes an interview with poet David Allan Evans, and reviews of books by Ted Kooser and Andrew Porter.
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  • Issue Number Volume 1
  • Published Date Summer 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Vibrantly produced, engaging, and fascinating for the sheer range of styles and tones in both the photography (amateur and professional) and literary selections, Camera Obscura must be terribly expensive to print – and the cover price of $18 suggests this is so. On the other hand, it’s less expensive than admission to many museums ($20 these days to get into MOMA), the magazine presents museum quality work, and you don’t have to wait in line for a ticket or battle the crowds in the galleries.
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  • Issue Number Volume 38 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
A semi-annual from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, Cold Mountain Review features writers with substantial and impressive publication credits and accolades, but who are still, in many cases, at “emerging” stages (few, if any, books published). The work tends to favor people/characters/personalities over ideas or philosophies, including many family stories and profiles of individuals. This issue includes the work of two-dozen poets, three fiction writers, and one essayist.
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  • Issue Number Number 7
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Big names (Rae Armantrout, David Lehman, Alice Notley, Amy Gerstler, Sherman Alexie, Lyn Lifshin, Elaine Equi, Denise Levertov). Pretty big names (D.A. Powell, Jeanine Hall Gailey, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Matthew Thorburn, Amy Newman, Catherine Pierce, Adrian Blevins). Names to watch for (Kate Thorpe, Carly Sachs). And lots of ideas, big, pretty big, and worth listening for. This issue of Court Green offers exactly what we have come to expect of this provocative annual, including its entertaining Dossier, which this time focuses on the 1970’s.
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  • Published Date May 2010
  • Publication Cycle Daily online
This magazine presents reading material nearly every day and a great variety of it. There is fiction, nonfiction, poetry, interviews, book reviews, observations of various sorts, and a selection of online stories from other online magazines. The magazine is a bit difficult to negotiate and archives are not easily accessible, but a monthly calendar is available and one simply clicks the day desired. Also, they do not label things well, and I often found myself unable to decipher what was fiction versus nonfiction.
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  • Issue Number Volume 1
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Elder Mountain, published at Missouri State University-West Plains, will feature “manuscripts from all disciplinary perspectives (particularly anthropology, economics, folklore, geography, geology, history, literature, music, and political science), as well as interdisciplinary approaches; and high-quality short stories, poems, and works of creative nonfiction and visual art that explores the Ozarks.” Work must be “carefully wrought” and “free of common Ozark stereotypes.” This first issue includes the work of 8 poets, 3 fiction writers, 6 essayists, and 2 visual artists, one of whose photographs, a black and white image of house looking solitary and solid (by Barbara Williams) is reproduced on the back cover.
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  • Issue Number Volume 8
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The eighth issue of f-magazine: novels in progress and more – came forty two years after the first issue. The subtitle, “Story – Imagining: Departures and Arrivals,” gives a hint of what’s to be found inside. It is commendable to be so bold as to include so many excerpts of developing novels, with all their rough edges intact. For example, “Smoky Mountain National Park” from Where the Angels Are by Anne-Marie Oomen shows great promise. It touchingly juxtaposes a couple’s hike down the Appalachian Trail on the beginning of the second Gulf War, punching the narrator in the gut. She writes, “It is the last time I cry…Oh, let there be angels.” It is also heavy-handed, thinner on story and fatter on message, and very much inside the narrator’s mind. Still, it brings the reader along.
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  • Issue Number Number 35
  • Published Date Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
A great balance of prominent poets (Carl Phillips, Lawrence Raab, Kate Daniels, Jim Daniels, David Wagoner, John Burnside) and lesser knowns (Rhett Iseman Trull, Jessica Greenbaum, Luke Hankins, Martin Arnold). Editor Nathaniel Perry categorizes these poets’ work (“the poems that really began this thing, and they are still the boss of it”) as poems that “come to my door thundering and insistent, or quiet and strong, or sneaky and sidelong,” and I’d say all of these types make an appearance in this issue, along with two new features, book reviews and 4x4, in which four of the issue’s contributors answer the same four questions, resulting in “a hybrid between essay and interview.”
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  • Issue Number Number 1
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Jelly Bucket is a new journal produced by Eastern Kentucky University that gets its name, as editor Tasha Cotter explains in an introduction, from “archaic coalminer slang for lunch pail.” Cotter proclaims that the journal’s “only requirement is excellence.” Jelly Bucket’s aesthetic straddles these two aims interestingly, resulting in 185 pages of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction that challenges the mind while feeding a reader’s base, human desires for story, wordplay and visual art.
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  • Issue Number Volume 33 Number 2
  • Published Date Autumn/Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Journal is published semi-annually by Ohio State University. A journal of “literature,” entries are not classified by genre, so it can be difficult to know if prose pieces are fiction or nonfiction (though I sometimes wonder if we really need to know the difference), but the journal would appear to include poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and reviews. The most immediately recognizable names this issue are Elton Glaser, Renee Ashley, Denise Duhamel (whose “Backwards and Forwards” was co-written with Amy Lemmon), Patricia Lockwood, Jesse Lee Kercheval, David Wagoner, and Nance Van Winckel, but most contributors are widely published, many in fine and prominent journals.
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  • Issue Number Numbers 73/74
  • Published Date Fall 2009/Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Feral Issue. That’s right feral. In other words: animal studies. Guest editor Heather Steffen introduces this special feature section by explaining that animal studies has assumed increasing prominence over the last decade, but that our preoccupation with non-human animals is probably as old as the first human. As for this feral issue of the magazine, “if it has a leaning, it is to build a cultural materialist account of animals in our world…a cluster of essays that look at animals in literature, theory, the military, law, cultural history, and food production.” The work varies widely from personal accounts of relationships to animals and their larger implications, as in John Fried’s “This Treatment Isn’t in Any Way Cruel,” to analysis of the writing of Kenneth Burke by the guest editor, to an interview with vegan eco-feminist writer Carol J. Adams. A wide range of views and perspectives through essays, poems, short fiction, interviews, and reviews of animal studies publications is presented and offer the reader an excellent introduction to this growing field.
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  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Each piece in this second foray of Paul Revere’s Horse seems to encompass both denial and truth. Inasmuch as this not a remarkable combination, in the deft hands of these writers, denial, and the sometimes painful desire to find the truth, take on whole different meanings, each perfectly tailored to fit the writer’s needs.
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  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
An especially appealing issue, often playful but not merely for the sake of fun; attuned to poetry lovers’ interest in language, but not merely to invent or experiment; inventive, but not merely to impress; clever, but not merely to show off; serious, but not merely gloomy or solemn; well crafted, but not stodgy or overly formal; surprising, but not merely startling or crass or shocking.
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  • Issue Number Numbers 81 & 82
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
This thirty-fifth anniversary issue features poetry from several dozen poets with largely, though not exclusively, narrative tendencies, two essays, six works of short fiction, and three illustrators. Stephen Dunn, Maxine Kumin, Molly Peacock, and Charles Harper Webb are the headliners, joined by such other familiar, it not household names, as Leslie Adrienne Miller and Sarah Kennedy. Bret Gottschall’s charcoal on paper drawings are stunning (“I am interested in the allure and mystery of beauty in the nape of a woman’s neck or the light that, reflect off breasts, illuminates the lonely underside of a chin. In the right light and surroundings, we are all beautiful in one way or another.”). The issue is, overall, extremely pleasing, creating a sense of satisfied, contented reading, a story to sink your teeth into (whether in verse or prose).
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  • Issue Number Volume 59 Number 3
  • Published Date Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The cover (“Posted”) of this issue is a starkly beautiful oil painting of late fall/early winter, a house and grounds in the backcountry west of the Blue Ridge mountains, painted by Barry Vance. In the middle of the journal is a portfolio of his utterly marvelous work, “Dwelling in the Backcountry,” seven paintings accompanied by excerpts of the work of writers, past and current, of the region (Billy Edd Wheeler, John O’Brien, Matilda Houstoun, Charles Wright, Wendell Berry, Louise McNeill, Ann Pancake). The work is from a recent exhibition of 24 paintings of the Potomac Highlands, and together with the literary selections, “express sentiments nurtured by the life of the backcountry,” writes Vance. These paintings are uncanny in their blending of elements that are both lush, yet finely etched, so that the paintings are focused, yet somehow dense; colorful, yet often stark; dreamy, yet realistic; precise, yet textured. They evoke a particular and unique atmosphere with a kind of palpable certainty of sensation. And they are simply exquisite. I couldn’t stop turning to them again and again.
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  • Issue Number Volume 38 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Sou’wester is a journal produced by the Department of English at Southern Illinois University nearing its 50th year of publication. New poetry editor, highly acclaimed poet Adrian Matejka, expects to choose poems “appreciated for their varied timbres, dictions, structures, and strategies” and to continue the journal’s tradition of cultivating “a dialogue between the diverse aesthetics in contemporary poetry.” I think it is safe to say that he’s off to a good start with this issue. The work of a dozen and a half poets is accompanied by nine short stories and one essay. They reflect Matejka’s desire to present a variety of modes, styles, and approaches, as well as varying levels of publishing experience.
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  • Issue Number Number 11
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
If poetry is the food of love, then Spinning Jenny is a five-star restaurant. Whether you’re in the mood for sweet or savory, their menu has it all. This modern delicacy features eighty-plus pages of delicious poems, with a center insert of eight pieces of unconventional art. It’s straightforward. You open Spinning Jenny up. You flip through the first few pages of copyright and staff information, and voila! One page lists the titles of the poems. The rest is love. Or food. Something like that.
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  • Issue Number Number 39
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Always handsome and beautifully printed, this year’s edition features, for the first time, visual art from the nineteenth century reproduced from the Tampa Book Arts Studio Library, and it’s glorious. Oil paintings, illustrations, drawings, a color letterpress print, the cover of a blank writing book, and engravings in a broad range of styles. The Tampa Review’s large format provides an appropriate platform for these works, and they are carefully selected to be appropriate in their placement alongside the literary works.
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  • Issue Number Volume 3 Issue 2
  • Published Date Winter 2009-10
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Big skies. Big mountains. Big bears. Whitefish Review is an ambitious magazine that operates out of Whitefish, Montana, a place of natural beauty and wonder, harsh winters, and glorious summers. The magazine’s mission is to give its readers a hearty dose of mountain culture and an appreciation of the natural world. Whitefish Review publishes emerging and established writers, as well as art, essays, interviews, and book excerpts, and the work featured in its pages is mostly concerned with nature and our place in it. Montana is a place of stark beauty, and Whitefish Review seeks to explore and emulate this type of beauty. It is both rustic and thoughtful.
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