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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted April 16, 2012

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  • Issue Number Number 12
  • Published Date Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Although it’s slightly twee, David J. Rothman’s Able Muse conversation with poet David Mason exemplifies the sort of experimentation that makes the magazine well worth reading. Rothman plays with the interview format by occasionally posing questions in poetry, wondering why “prose is what we have to use when we / Decide to have a conversation on / Why we write verse?”
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  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Strong first lines. That’s the highly enviable trait shared by several of the pieces in Bacopa, the Writers Alliance of Gainesville-produced journal named after a family of aquatic plants with medicinal strength.
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  • Issue Number Volume 38 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
After thumbing through, then devouring, the 2011 Fall/Winter issue of Black Warrior Review, I’m convinced that this publication is one I need to keep my eye on. Reading work from nearly thirty different writers and poets has simply impressed me with not only the quantity but also the quality, the originality, and the freshness of the prose and poetry in this magazine.
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  • Issue Number Volume 37 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Bombay Gin, the product of The Naropa Press and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, continues its legacy of eclecticism and experimental genre-bending in the Fall 2011 publication. Before a word of text is displayed, there is a black and white photo of a woman, handsome in a neck tie delightfully draping dreadlocks. Friends and former colleagues at Naropa and the world of poetry lost Akilah Oliver in 2011. Eleni Sikelianos reflects on the memory of her friend, “She never settled on an identity handed to her, be it her name, her gender, her genre, her theories, her performances, her race—she made herself, from scratch.”
At a time when so many publications are folding or going paperless, here comes Carbon Copy, all bright and bold and glossy. All chock full of art, stories, essays, plays and poetry. All bursting at the seams with Jim Daniels, Denise Duhamel, Charles Harper Webb, and David Trinidad.
  • Subtitle A Literary Rag
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  • Issue Number Volume 2
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
At first glance, Clover has a unique style and appeal. Rather than a typical paperback literary magazine, this rag has a letterpress cover; pea soup green border with plum purple lettering. The cover drew me into the magazine, and I dove in, ready to dig up some kind of treasure. Although the beginning of the magazine is rather bland, it works up momentum to about the middle where it just explodes.
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  • Issue Number Volume 35 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Cream City Review’s glossy cover design first caught my eye. Alerting readers to this issue’s focus on local events, the cover features an outline of the state of Wisconsin and contains a photograph taken during the 2011 protests against the Budget Repair Bill. Complementing the cover’s theme, an entire section, called “Voices from the Front,” is dedicated to nine creative works that speak to the state’s protests.
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  • Issue Number Issue 43
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The 43rd issue of this award-winning publication packs a punch: not just because of the bold graphic of an automatic pistol on its orange cover or its special section on anger and revenge, but because of the high quality of the writing, the fun with 130-character tweets, and the straight-ahead editorial approach. With the confidence attending decades of success, an enviable reputation, and a star-studded editorial advisory board, the publication rewards the reader by delivering on its promise: “True stories, well told.”
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  • Issue Number Number 3
  • Published Date 2011
Fractured West is a new, innovative journal for flash fiction. Although sponsored in part by a grant from Creative Scotland, it features writers from all over. Fractured West’s editor says, “We want readers to see things in a different way. For this, we need writers who write things in a different way,” and the intricate, precise prose found in this sleight journal, in a pocket-sized, compact format, proves that they have found writers who present different delight after different delight.
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  • Issue Number Volume 65 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The Winter 2011 issue is something of a special one, special in two ways, actually. First, there’s the actual content, which is anchored by a nonfiction piece and a fiction piece by Harry Crews The opportunity for connection was too great to pass up, and rightfully so: the editors of The Georgia Review were able to treat readers with an excerpt from Crews’s novel The Gospel Singer, featuring a character inspired by the very events in Crews’s nonfiction piece.
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  • Issue Number Volume 24 Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Winter/Spring issue of Gulf Coast is a pearl. This issue contains the 2011 Gulf Coast Prizes awarded to Brian Van Reet (fiction), Arianne Zwartjes (nonfiction), and Amaranth Borsuk (poetry), not to mention dozens of other poets, six other short fiction stories, and six nonfiction essays. This tome-azine also includes four interviews, seven translations, two reviews, and a collection of high-gloss color photographs including a centerfold of Cy Twombly work, which is also featured on the cover.
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  • Issue Number Volume 41 Number 3
  • Published Date Winter 2011/2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
The Iowa Review is one of the longer running literary journals in the U.S. It continually puts out excellent issues, and this edition is no exception. The editor’s note starts with a musing about St. Basil’s Cathedral and how its construction can be a metaphor for constructing each issue of the journal. That is, the people who do the shaping (editors, etc.) are kept in the background, but if a viewer scuttles close to the wall (or, a reader, the interior of the journal), its structure becomes palpable and its “shapes and colors” are made “that much sharper.” It seems that if one scuttles up close to the construction of this issue, two superb stories with a certain theme connected to misplaced or misunderstood sex become apparent.
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  • Issue Number Volume 28 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
A short story, a piece of flash fiction, and the winners of the magazine’s 16th National Poet Hunt are the cream of the crop in this issue of The MacGuffin, which comes out three times a year at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan.
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  • Issue Number Volume 31 Number 2
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Mid-American Review’s most recent volume seems to catch the reader in that moment between sleeping and waking, grieving and surviving, forgetting and knowing. A dream-like quality pervades the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry chosen by its editors, who claim to be “on the lookout for work that has the power to move and astonish us while displaying the highest level of craft.” Faculty and Masters students from Bowling Green State University’s MFA program in Ohio weave together each piece to create a state of reverie from the very first pages.
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  • Issue Number Volume 78 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In his editor’s note, Robert Stewart reveals that this most recent issue of New Letters may “expose idealists among us.” Those idealists certainly include the martyr poet Jose Domingo Gomez Rojas. His poetry inspired Pablo Neruda and, more recently, New Letters contributors Thomas E. Kennedy and Raymond B. Craib. Through their fiction, essays, and translation of Rojas’s poems, Kennedy and Craib give us the opportunity to hear the voice Chile’s prisons could not silence, the “tender cry that still beats in cradles, / Of the divine voices that vibrate in the pure / sky beneath the light of virgin moons.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 8 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2011 - 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Ninth Letter has a reputation. It’s the exuberant, popular-as-a-result-of-being-odd kid on this gigantic playground of literary magazines. It’s the kid you want to camp out with, eating cheese puffs and limeade, snorting over politically fueled fart jokes that are at the same time above your understanding and hilarious. The front and back covers offer photographic evidence of what this kid might look like at his senior prom, ironically carrying an orchid and non-ironically wearing a glittered turtleneck under a glittered blazer. But once you get past this exterior, this metaphorical playground persona, the brilliance of the work inside dominates all reputation. The fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art are some of the finest I have experienced all year. I read each piece with energy and took each one as inspiration and aspiration.
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  • Issue Number Volume 37 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2011-2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Ploughshares is one of the most prominent literary journals on the market because of its long tradition of quality and ability to publish and discover leading writers. The journal is also notable for its practice of working with guest editors for each issue. Alice Hoffman, the editor, has taken the reins of this issue and presents work unified by a simple but powerful theme: the glorification of the storyteller present inside each of us.
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  • Issue Number Issue 4
  • Published Date Winter 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Themed “Beginnings & Endings,” this is a slim but tightly packed journal. Though fiction takes precedence, the overarching editorial preference is for strong character development, regardless of genre. This also lends itself to exploring relationships, but thankfully, the theme does not draw upon clichéd beginnings and endings. Instead, editors have selected works that blur these boundaries, reach for them but fall uncomfortably short, and force the reader to accept that there are rarely clean starts and finishes in life.
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  • Issue Number Issue 22
  • Published Date Winter 2011 - 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Although I had read some of well-known Christian author C.S. Lewis’s books, I didn’t realize until I watched the movie Shadowlands that Lewis wasn’t always a believer. The movie captures part of his struggle with faith in a simple, but striking quote: “I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived.” The contributors to Ruminate come from a variety of Christian denominations, but their messages in the Winter 2011–12 issue all seem to resonate with this quote from Shadowlands. Whether they choose to address the magazine’s theme “Up in the Air” literally or figuratively, they rely on the authenticity of their experience rather than the authority of scripture to explain their devotion. Instead of offering answers, they offer us glimpses into every day, uncertain, and often uneasy lives.
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  • Issue Number Issue 7
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The image on the cover of this issue of Saranac Review is arresting: a full-bleed shot of moldering books, their pages waterlogged and swollen, their fore edges painted green and brown with several kinds of mold. In an opening note, Editor J.L. Torres points out that the image is taken from an interesting work of art by Steven Daiber, who built a wall of books in a forest in the year 2000 and has been chronicling the books’ decay and slow transformation into compost. The installation begs several questions regarding the relationship between print and digital media. Torres invokes the ideas of Walter Fischer, “a rhetorician who argued that the human species should be called homo narans rather than homo sapiens: narrating man.” Mankind is above all a storytelling creature; the medium may change, but the instinct will not.
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  • Issue Number Volume 120 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
William E. Engel’s compliment to J.D. McClatchy’s critical comments included in his Seven Mozart Librettos: A Verse Translation holds true for this issue of the Sewanee Review itself as a whole: “Written in an easygoing prose style, there is something in each section for every kind of reader.” George Bornstein adroitly reminds us readers in his essay on W.B. Yeats the irrevocable delicacy of the fact that “in poetry how something is said is what is said.” And throughout this issue all the writing explores and expounds upon this basic principle further demonstrated by Ben Howard in “Firewood and Ashes”:
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  • Issue Number Volume 30 Number 1
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I grew up on the classics and consequently nursed a bias that minimalism restrained the imagination. Then, I read the most recent Southeast Review where minimalism is done so well that the volume became, to me, a classic itself. I was especially floored when I read Maria Kuznetsova’s short story “Before and After.” The language was certainly careful and restrained, but she mastered the best parts of modern craft while telling at least three mesmerizing stories about innocence, growing up, and the spectrum of emotions that, collectively, we call love. While there is only one narrator, the possibilities of interpretation and meaning explode like a rash of fireflies.
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  • Issue Number Volume 40 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Published by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (not to be confused with The Southwest Review published by Southern Methodist University), Sou’wester celebrated its fiftieth anniversary edition in 2011 and succeeds in the commemorative issue in creating a balanced fugue of themes, style and subject.
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  • Issue Number Issue 13
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Subtropics is the literary journal from the English Department of the University of Florida, and this issue is a true mix of fiction, poetry, essay and translation. The journal is hard to define and doesn’t offer a clear editorial or mission statement to go by. One can assume, though, that they are dedicated to publishing “the best” (as the submission guidelines on their website states) as this issue offers a mix of exceptionally strong writing.
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  • Issue Number Number 42
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Tampa Review is a literary magazine published with glossy pages and hardcover binding. Elegant, but not exclusive, connections to the Tampa Bay region in Florida emerge. You can hear the brackish river boiling up in the valley in some of the poems, and taste the mist of the Gulf of Mexico estuary in some of the raw fiction. As for presentation, as the old joke goes about Playboy, “I read it for the articles,” but found the art to reflect a certain careful sensibility, an allegiance to the editorial insofar that there was a basic realism bearing with it the promise of extended interpretation.
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  • Issue Number Volume 51 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I’m the type of girl who crushes on poets, hard. If Robert Frost was still kicking, I’d be tripping through his shrubbery as we speak. So I was pretty excited to open the Fall 2011 issue of Tar River Poetry (TRP) and see Sherman Alexie hanging out in the contents. Yes, please, I thought. Little did I know I’d close this magazine with a handful of new love interests. Yup, I’m that girl.
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  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Third Coast, “founded in 1995 by graduate students of the Western Michigan University English department,” invites its readers into personal narratives, imaginative lyricism, and in-depth interviews for its Fall 2011 publication. Editor Emily J. Stinson compiled a collection of creative poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, an interview, and reviews that resulted in an experience that takes us through the fire of creative minds. Its features fiction first-place winner, Sarah Elizabeth Schantz, first-place poetry winner, Jennifer Perrine, and thirty-two other polished writers who leave the reader feeling closer to understanding the depth, cruelty, and beauty of human nature.
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  • Issue Number Issue 129
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue continues the quarterly magazine’s tradition of intelligent, accessible writing over a wide range of topics in the arts and literature, in addition to high-quality poetry and fiction. As a previous NewPages reviewer commented, “It’s a bit like the New Yorker, only without the self-importance and the umlauts.”
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  • Issue Number Number 69
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
West Branch, the semiannual publication from Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry, features twenty of today’s hottest writers in its Fall/Winter 2011 issue. The literary journal “takes pride in its openness to a wide range of literary styles and in its pairing of new and established voices,” and this issue is no exception. Featured within are nineteen poems, four short stories, one nonfiction piece, and one translated work, all showcasing the publication’s literary range. Also included are eleven book reviews and recommendations from the editors, a regular feature of West Branch.
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