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NewPages Literary Magazine Reviews

Posted March 15, 2012

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  • Issue Number Number 2
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Occasionally Publishes
Armchair/Shotgun is certainly one of the most intriguingly named new literary journals around. The name is a reference to a Bob Dylan lyric, but the journal is more straightforward and less twisted in its mission than the average Dylan song. Their mission statement, which claims that they read all submissions completely anonymously, lays it out succinctly: “At Armchair/Shotgun we do not care about your bio . . . Good writing knows only story.” And story would seem to be a focus for this journal: tight, compact, highly inventive stories. Even the layout of the prose on the page, with its slightly wide margins, adds to the compact excellence of this edition; the wide margins seem to squeeze the prose to the middle of the page, up front and center, where it belongs.
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  • Issue Number Volume 6 Number 1
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Although Basalt is based in and linked to the state of Oregon—taking its name from the igneous rock prevalent in the northwestern U.S.—a number of the pieces in this latest issue seem interested in crossing or expanding borders. While the front and back covers feature photographs of Oregon’s geography, the roughly thirty pages in between discuss the idea of place, both literally and figuratively.
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  • Issue Number Volume 17 Number 2
  • Published Date Autumn 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
It would be a greater justice to write an eight-word review of this volume of Bitter Oleander. Stating simply: “Read the volume! It’s worth your time!” would spare having to select a few pieces from a collection in which each and every piece offers something insightful, interesting, or beautiful. The volume contains sixty-nine poems (free verse or prose), four pieces of short fiction, and an interview. It features writers representing many cultures: American, Azorean, Canadian, Chinese, Estonian, Faroese, French, and Korean (which doesn’t even begin to recognize the complex multicultural heritage/experiences of many of the writers).
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  • Issue Number Issue 177
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
“No easy answers” is the watchword for this issue.
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  • Issue Number Issue 25
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Opening any collection of international literature and art always generates a bit of apprehension on my part. So much depends on the credibility of the editors (whom I don’t know), the quality of the translators (whose skill I’m being asked to trust), and the value of the selections (read on) and their creators (whom I probably don’t know—“unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged”).
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  • Issue Number Number 57
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Before receiving my copy of Gargoyle 57, I had heard a lot about the magazine. I’d even ventured to their website a few times. When I actually received my copy, I had mixed feelings. Gargoyle 57 is gargantuan. It reaches nearly six-hundred pages. Unfortunately, due to its girth, I found it hard to invest myself into reading it cover-to-cover. The level of work inside also seems a bit unbalanced. Some pieces are great, while others don’t stand out. But putting aside my reservations about this issue, I did find some lovely work inside: “Dear Jimmy Connoll” by Patricia Smith, “Ye Ol’Fashioned Olfactory” by Alexander V. Bach, “Perfect, for You” by Susann Cokal, and “Jasper Owen Interview, 1957, Excerpt No. 6” by Benjamin C. Krause to name a few.
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  • Issue Number Number 30
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
For Inkwell’s Fall 2011 issue, the editors chose a super-charged theme: “Ripped from the Headlines.” Its poetry and prose takes subjects that range from crooked high school wrestling teams to private acts of heroism in the WWII Philippines. Because this material is “newsworthy” already, all of the writing has a pleasing urgency—none is here to play.
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  • Issue Number Volume 36
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The haunting cover art, an oil painting by Clint Carney titled “Humanity,” belies the diversity of content within this annual volume of Inscape. Inside, more full-color artwork and photography break up clean, airy pages of prose and poetry. One of the first observations I made was of the graphic design elements. It may be subtle, but the pages are laid out in a way that makes it easy to flip through the issue to find a particular writer. The writers’ names are underlined and aligned with the left margin, while the page numbers are set halfway up the page, close to the edge. This allows you to quickly find both writers’ names and page numbers. I’m not sure why this jumped out at me, but it did. Multiple-page stories also include a running title in the footer, which I thought was a nice touch.
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  • Issue Number Issue 9
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I’ve taught creative nonfiction writing many semesters, but I had never seen Memoir before this issue. Had never heard of Jacqueline May, whose “But All Can Be Endured Because . . .” is so perfectly satisfying a story about ordinary family and miraculous marriage, I think it must be fiction. Or Cindy Clem, who writes the flip side of May’s coin in words so beautifully measured—“My Husband Clive” is the title, but the first line is “Clive is not my husband”—I’m actually grateful not everyone’s relationship is terrific. Or poet Dianne Bilyak (“Reparation,” and “How He Described Her”), whose tone drops over youthful wounds a lightness that makes me smile. How could I have taught creative nonfiction (CNF) and not known these?
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  • Issue Number Volume 6 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Coming from the low-residency Master of Fine Arts program at Murray State University in Kentucky, this issue of New Madrid includes several stories that show how powerfully style can be used to concentrate narrative force.
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  • Issue Number Number 32
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Notre Dame Review is a sophisticated, erudite lit mag, not always an easy read, certainly not a quick one. “Our goal,” says the website, “is to present a panoramic view of contemporary art and literature—no one style is advocated over another. We are especially interested in work that takes on big issues by making the invisible seen.” This is an apt goal given the theme of the issue—The Gone Show—and how its contents reveal subject matter that seems to have disappeared, making it visible again.
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  • Issue Number Volume 33
  • Published Date Summer 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Even the cover of Permafrost looks cold. And this issue of the “farthest north literary journal in the world” is solid as a hulking glacier. It’s rare that I come across a journal where I am almost equally enamored of both its poetry and its fiction. But I could not stop turning the pages of this issue.
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  • Issue Number Issue 17
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
What most distinguishes Poetry International from among other similarly sized (600 page) brick, behemoth literary annuals is the emphasis placed upon poetry alone. Unlike many others, there’s no fiction here, no interviews, and barely any critical commentary or other prose. This uniqueness is undeniably detrimental. There aren’t even any contributor bios! But there is good poetry, even if little of it manages to be surprising or challenging.
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  • Issue Number Number 2
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Toad Suck Review has exploded with success since its debut issue in 2011. Volume 2 is titled “Obey” and follows well on the heels of a remarkable first issue. The table of contents is enough to lure you into a very different and fun structure. Included are: Nonfixion, High-Octane Poetix, Artist-in-Residence Features, Fixion, Translation, Eco-Edge, Critical Intel, and much more. This magazine features not only current writers, but honors great past writers as well. Everything is woven into an incredibly enjoyable read that leaves breadcrumbs along the way to find more where that came from.
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  • Issue Number Volume 86 Number 1
  • Published Date January/February 2012
  • Publication Cycle monthly
In her acceptance speech for the 2011 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature, Virginia Euwer Wolff emphasized an enduring dialectic of human existence. She juxtaposed Homo sapiens and Homo ludens—what she described as “man the thoughtful and man the playful.” Daniel Simon picks up this pairing, in his editorial introduction to the January/February issue of World Literature Today, and uses it to frame to the experience of literature, play, identity, and thought—themes central to the work in this issue of WLT. Somewhere within Zapotec poetry, Burmese poetry, notes about post-Fukushima Japanese literature, interviews and book reviews, the reader is reminded that the shared experience of poetry and literature between and across culture ought to be beautiful and mindful.
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