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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted June 15, 2012

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  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
For such a tiny ephemeral-seeming publication, 5x5 delivers the goods with style. Not only is the publication itself small, but the literary pieces within are short, making 5x5 the ideal magazine to carry around with you everywhere you go. It fits nicely in your back pocket, and you can pull it out and read one or two pieces at a time whenever you have a spare few minutes.
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  • Issue Number Volume 15 Issue 54
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
American Short Fiction differs from a lot of other literary journals in that, as its name implies, it only publishes short fiction. The Editor’s Note for this issue says that the stories explore “the voice of the collective—in particular, the women’s collective,” and while that description is not one-hundred percent applicable to all five stories in this issue, it pertains to more of them than not. The Editor’s Note also claims that these stories contain an above average share of violence and that “all this first-person plural and womanliness (womynliness?) and crime and violence may not sound like a blast to read. And yet it is.” That description, too, is a pleasingly accurate one. Many of the stories explore the edges of darkness but then allow light to resurface through reflection and humor.
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  • Issue Number Issue 10
  • Published Date June 2012
  • Publication Cycle online
Anti- is, as the editors explain, “contrarian, a devil’s advocate that primarily stands against the confinement of poetry in too-small boxes. Anti- wants to provide a single arena for a wide range of styles and ideas, so these different kinds of poets and poems can either fight it out or learn to coexist.” What I found most interesting with this issue of Anti- is the vast breadth of styles that it packs; each poet seemed to bring something different. With some of the poems, I was just captured by the titles alone: "Dictator, By Which I Mean the Mother Brandishing a Pistol with a Piñata over Her Head" and "When they squeeze us the wind splinters where we used to be, which is also where we are now."
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  • Issue Number Number 5
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
You know that cousin you have who is really weird but whom you would defend to the death if anyone badmouthed him? He may be a little different, but you mean that in the best sense. He’s eclectic and creative and bound to do something amazing with his nontraditional life. That’s kind of how I feel about Barn Owl Review (BOR). There were times I was reading and shaking my head in wonder at the same time. BOR is definitely not bor-ing.
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  • Issue Number Volume 7 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle online
This Spring 2012 issue of Blood Orange Review is all about collections: collections of stories, of locks and keys, of facts, and even of elephants. What some of these stories also have are stellar first lines. Brently Johnson’s nonfiction piece “The Raisin Invasion” starts out with, “When my sister got kicked out of the house for good, my mother filled her bedroom with raisins.” With a line like that, I couldn’t help but click the “more” button to read on—and I’m glad I did. It is compelling and honest throughout. Stephanie Friedman’s “I Want the Copy that Dreams” starts off with, “Jean felt nettled for no reason she could name, a pricking just beneath her skin.” With just a few short stories, this magazine can be read over a lunch break or after work to unwind—it’s just the right size.
[www.bloodorangereview.com]
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  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 2
  • Published Date Winter 2012
Catch Up’s cover art bucks the usual trend of staid literary journal cover art. This issue features a lurid red, blue, and purple drawing by contributor Max Bode of a menacing figure with its head ringed with dynamite and its gloved hands holding detonators. So, the cover made me think more underground “litzine” or comics anthology than literary journal. However, I found, on the pages within, the work of some very widely published writers. Mixed in with this literary work are a few comics, including a nice series from Box Brown on Andre the Giant’s interactions with various cast members on the set of The Princess Bride, presumably from the comic biography of Andre that Brown is currently working on.
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  • Issue Number Number 23
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Who doesn’t dig the moon? This issue of Conduit is all about that orb out there beyond our atmosphere spinning around our planet while our planet, in turn, spins about the sun. For any lunar fanatic, this issue is a must have item. While non-poetry readers may puzzle over some of the poems in here, everybody is going to be down for the Buzz Aldrin interview—yes, the very same one-time astronaut Buzz Aldrin who touched down on that astro-hunk of lunar wonder. His perspective is counterbalanced by an interview with scholar Evans Lansing Smith titled “The Myth in the Moon.” In addition, a plentiful supply of attractive artwork featuring the moon is scattered throughout these pages, ranging from Warhol’s Moonwalk (1987) (here reclaimed from being used as an infamous ad for MTV) to Caspar David Friedrich’s Two Men Contemplating the Moon (ca. 1830) along with plenty of other art in between, everything from photography to sculpture.
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  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Conium Review takes its name from a small but significant genus in the plant kingdom. Their delicately detailed leaves and small white flowers give little indication of their danger. Why, one wonders, would the editors name their journal after hemlock? The leaves of the plant contain chemicals that disrupt the victim’s central nervous system. The lethal dose Socrates consumed caused progressive paralysis that eventually prevented him from breathing, depriving his heart and that powerful brain of the oxygen they needed. The fiction and poetry in The Conium Review inspire the same feeling as a mild dose of the drug. No worries; this kind of conium is not deadly. The stories in the journal do not draw the reader in with whiz-bang narratives and cliffhanger plots. Rather, the pieces draw you in with character work that is compelling in a calm manner.
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  • Issue Number Volume 46 Number 3
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Most magazines will tell you they’re not concerned about subject matter or esthetic or stylistic approach—only about good writing. This one means it. There are poems here as rewardingly difficult as Leora Fridman’s “A Fattening,” and as direct as marc t wise’s “new jersey”:
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  • Issue Number Issue 5
  • Published Date June 2012
  • Publication Cycle online
Just from the cover, the graphics, and the presentation of the magazine—easy to read online and compatible with phones and tablets—I was impressed with this gem. The first story, Andrew Borkowski’s “Legomaniac,” drew me right in as a great nonfiction piece with a very interesting character, an old woman who is insistent on winning over the love of his daughter. I also really loved Nadia Ragbar’s “The Fair,” in which she denies her attraction to Rusty, a boy who gives her a gift of a small Chief figurine: “I left to buy a Coke, my left hand fiddling with the change in my left jeans pocket, the figurine jammed in the middle of my palm with the plastic headdress making a crown of points in the meat of me. My heart beating around it, in my right jeans pocket.”
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  • Issue Number Number 86
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
In Dana Gioia’s essay, “Can Poetry Matter?” published in May 1991 in The Atlantic Monthly, Gioia offers a prescription for poetry that includes writing prose about poetry more often. He observed that poetry as an art form had been partitioned within the wider culture. I quote his essay’s final paragraph here:
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  • Issue Number Volume 18 Number 1
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Fourteen Hills, staffed by graduate students of San Francisco State University, publishes “a diversity of experimental and progressive work by emerging and cross-genre writers, as well as by award-winning and established authors.” The journal claims that because it is independent, “its aesthetic is dynamic and fluid, ever changing to meet the needs of the culture and the historical moment as the staff perceive them.” It is a well-bound book, a nicely-edited artifact with a fabulous cover by John Masterson (is it a “real” photograph or a digitally enhanced one? I think the latter but I can’t be sure; it’s of a nine-point buck standing among the detritus of an overturned garbage can in a blue and silver winterscape), but I found the writing in it uneven, and not always to my taste. As the website makes clear, 14H does not aspire to extend the tradition of canonical literature in English or to demonstrate a high-minded cultural or theoretically-grounded aesthetic. Reviewers before me have lauded it for its diversity and spontaneity.
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  • Issue Number Number 91
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Greensboro Review, part of The University of North Carolina Greensboro’s creative writing program, is simply clad in thick paper which has a natural-pressed feel, with the title and names of the contributors on the front. The magazine opts for a simple cover, choosing instead to spend its efforts on the contents within. It is no surprise that the collection of pieces provided by MFA students is superb. The review features fiction and poetry, all of which feels effortless in its precise crafting. It’s handmade literature at its best.
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  • Issue Number Number 100
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Hanging Loose marks its 100th issue with a demonstration of why it’s been around so long. “Couldn’t put it down” is usually reserved for novels, but Hanging Loose keeps you turning the pages, wondering what strong, sly, smart or stunning piece is next.
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  • Issue Number Volume 65 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The Hudson Review is more thoroughly an academic/cultural review journal than many of the magazines reviewed at NewPages. Its essays, “Chronicles,” “Comments,” and the six pieces actually categorized as “Reviews,” are all provocative, erudite reviews of literature and the arts, aimed at an audience of well-educated, well-informed critics equal in measure to the authors themselves. This is a serious, high-minded journal well worth your time if your interests include analysis of the dramatic verse of Ben Jonson, the music of Philip Glass, or the autobiographical fiction of Gregor von Rezzori. Flawlessly edited and professionally impeccable, the writing here is secular, humanistic, and strong.
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  • Issue Number Number 108
  • Published Date 2012
Although Iconoclast may not appear to be your typical magazine, it contains a plethora of magical writing just waiting to be discovered. The magazine itself is stapled-stitched on non-glossy paper, and some works share pages based on size (which to me seems like the ecologically friendly route to go). Something that also intrigued me is that they have a lifetime subscription to any country for a base rate. If you like what you read, this seems like a great investment. The magazine is mostly poetry and prose; however, they normally include reviews which were excluded from this issue (their next issue will be even bigger and include the reviews).
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  • Issue Number Number 72
  • Published Date Winter 2011-12
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In its two-plus decades of existence, Image has garnered a reputation asa unique forum for the best writing and artwork that is informed by—or grapples with—religious faith.” This is no small calling. Not content to provide rote answers, convinced that beauty transcends trite aphorisms, the editors of the journal focus on verbal and visual art that “embody a spiritual struggle, that seek to strike a balance between tradition and a profound openness to the world.” In this issue, the fiction is compelling, and the nonfiction and poetry illuminate with heartbreaking effectiveness the tension between contemporary socialized intelligence and the fierce desire for God. Its theme seems to be fervent searching. I found it very moving.
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  • Issue Number Issue 5
  • Published Date June 2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual online
This issue of inter|rupture certainly had me lost in the words. With each author’s work, I anticipated something fresh, and I wasn’t disappointed. The imagery in this issue is what has lingered with me, long after I finished reading. I was haunted (in a fantastic and exhilarating way) by the imagery in Peter Jay Shippy’s “Last Requests” in which the narrator doles out a list of strange requests for the body the narrator will leave behind:
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  • Issue Number Issue 31
  • Published Date June 2012
  • Publication Cycle Monthly online
This issue of Jersey Devil Press magazine, as the editors indicate, is “chock full of stories about people betrayed by self, undermined by their own best efforts, and ultimately destined to fail because of their inherent, incurable flaws.” Inside the issue, each character and story is definitely unique, pulling the reader through the issue to figure out what the next surprise is.
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  • Issue Number Number 9
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Juked’s website says, “We don’t adhere to any particular themes or tastes, but some people tell us they see one, so who knows.” I’m not going to make any broad declarations of a theme connecting the stories, poetry, and interviews in this issue; I’m just going to highlight a few of the better selections.
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  • Issue Number Number 74-75
  • Published Date Autumn/Winter 2011-2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Near the end of the latest issue of Light—which is twenty years old and probably the most important venue for humorous verse in the country—there is a note saying that unless financial support or volunteer editors come forward, the upcoming issue will be its last.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
I am not a native Californian. I was raised in the great state of Missouri, thank you very much, and it is a state that I sorely miss sometimes. This is why it was an immense pleasure to find in my mailbox The Lindenwood Review, a literary journal from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. It was like receiving a love letter from a friend I haven’t heard from in years. Cultural biases aside, the inaugural issue of this university press features a strong line-up of fiction, poetry, and essays from various talents across the country and abroad.
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  • Issue Number Issue 16
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
LITnIMAGE fuses flash fiction with edgy visual art to make a quirky online mag. My favorite piece from this issue is Justin Lawrence Daughtery’s “The Lobster Queen” which uses the symbol of the last lobster left in the tank at the grocery store to represent a young woman’s view on life. I loved the subtle hints and details, the interactions between the narrator and her sister and father, and the language that is used throughout. I was eager to read on after the first paragraph:
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  • Issue Number Volume 53 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
There’s something faintly whimsical about this issue of The Massachusetts Review. Maybe it’s in the tone of “Bad Meditator,” a poem by Doug Anderson whose list of distractions isn’t a complaint but rather a love letter to all the occupants of Monkey Mind:
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  • Issue Number Volume 3 Issue 5
  • Publication Cycle Monthly online
The Molotov Cocktail is interested in, as the submissions page indicates, "volatile flash fiction, the kind you cook up in a bathtub and handle with rubber gloves."
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  • Issue Number Volume 10
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Before reading The Mom Egg, one might question why, if thousands of successful contemporary writers are also mothers, do we need an annual literary publication which “publishes work by mothers about everything, and by everyone about mothers and motherhood.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 107 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Poet Lore was established in 1889 as a brilliant exploration of literature. It expanded through inspired conversation and has grown over a century into a repertoire of well-known and new authors, each issue a beautiful collection of work that deserves the reputation. The spring/summer issue is no exception.
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  • Issue Number Volume 2
  • Published Date 2011-2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
A young magazine, only on its second volume, Raleigh Review pulls off an understated maturity in its choice of fiction and poetry pieces, while the artwork is playful and quirky. It is a magazine that takes itself seriously, but not to a fault, with an impressive list of heavy hitters. The interior and exterior artwork are the creations of Geri Digiorno, a set of themed mixed-media collages, intricate paper mosaics that are jolting, haunting, and yet strangely sweet and light all mixed in together, a lovely invitation to read what’s inside.
Sententia opens with a kind-of abridged editor’s note on the inside of the front cover. The title name is “Latin for sentence, but also means thought, meaning, and purpose.” The magazine couldn’t be more appropriately named, and, in fact, I would’ve described the works in the journal with these three adjectives prior to reading this note. The editors of Sententia had a goal in mind, and they achieved it.
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  • Published Date April 2012 [Place Marks]
  • Publication Cycle Triannual online
Browsing Short, Fast, and Deadly is like walking into an old house, one where the floors creak and you expect things to pop out of you. Each time you turn the corner into a new room, you discover something new, some treasure. This mag, posted every month on the 19th, is doing a lot of great and interesting things. Every piece in it is short and snappy with all of the prose under 420 characters (no, not words) and the poetry under 140 characters. There are several sections, including a themed section (this issue's is [Place Marks]), a featured writer, prose, poetry, views, and a nifty section called BlackMarket that includes mash-up pieces of "found"
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  • Issue Number Issue 6
  • Published Date January 2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual online
In sixteen lines or less, these writers serve up a shot of poetry each. Some of them are sweet and some burn on the way down, but all of them prove the ability to convey meaning and emotion in a small amount of space. Just take a look at Burt Kimmelman's piece which accomplishes this with only 23 words or Dan Sklar's three shots of reflection. I certainly can't get over my sinking gut after reading Neil Banks's cinquain poem "Lost Words"
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  • Issue Number Volume 48 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
“Foreign countries exist.” – Geraldine Brooks, The Best American Short Stories of 2011
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  • Issue Number Number 12
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The Spinning Jenny team at Black Dress Press has put forth no lack of effort. The magazine’s cover design, as well as the first few pages, index, and footers, speaks of a literary sense of humor. The editors manage not to take themselves too seriously while also producing a line of beautifully fashioned issues, and issue number twelve is no exception. An equally as well-designed website for the magazine sports past issues and reviews, all of which are positive and a good introduction to a first reading of Spinning Jenny.
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  • Issue Number Volume 2 Issue 2
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
Spittoon magazine says, “To us, the form is as important as the content, and both form and content should work together to develop the intended effect,” and I think the pieces in this issue certainly hold true to that. When I was reading, I noticed a lot of different forms—something I always find endearing. The issue starts with a dialogue, “Phaedrus 2” by Stephen J. West, and continues through with forms such as Nathaniel Tower’s “Suicide Prevention Survey,” which asks nine questions about a person’s risk for suicide, and a detailed description of “Infant Intermittent Explosive Disorder” by Joseph Celizic. I was most taken with Anne Kingsfield’s nonfiction piece “Almost Places” in which she includes a collection of small sections portraying her relationship with an unnamed man, a man who seems to dismiss her and not pay attention to her as much as she would like. The writing is casual and conversational as it is directed toward this character, but there are brilliant lines throughout as well such as, “We thought we snuck in the wide open doors of the theatre in the middle of a practice, but sneaking is hard to do when the doors are wide open” and “I dreamt of your name last night, stuck between the empty lines of a poem where no words would fit.” Only at its fourth issue, this magazine is well on its way to something great that will continue to publish solid and interesting work.
[www.spittoonmag.com]
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  • Issue Number Volume 14 Issue 6
  • Published Date June 2012
  • Publication Cycle Monthly online
Stirred is exactly how I felt after reading the fiction piece in this issue of Stirring; Lisa Locascio’s “Friend Request” made this issue well worth the read. The story is narrated by the father of a teenage girl whose username on “YourPage” is Susiecide. Throughout the story, the father monitors the young girl’s posts and photos, taking a peak into her personal world that she limits him access to. As I was reading it, I had to constantly remind myself that it was a piece of fiction: the characters and narration her felt so real and authentic that it seemed like it could be nonfiction. Locascio certainly did a great job taking on the voice of the father. She is careful and crafty in making all of these characters seem like real people.
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  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date June 2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual online
Straight Forward is a newer mag that includes both poetry and photography. While I wasn’t impressed with most of the photography—but that’s really a matter of opinion because I know nothing about the art—several of the poems stuck with me. I enjoyed the first poem of the issue, “On Jeans Vs. Skirts” by Meg Eden, for the interesting concept it provided about how women are now expected to wear tight jeans and leggings instead of skirts and about how much more freeing skirts are. I was easily entertained by David M. Harris’s skeptical view of Disney in “The Great Mouse” in which he ends the poem, “Mickey looms, exaggerated, / over my daughter. / She is terrified. / Unsurprised, I try to comfort / us both.” And Changming Yuan ends her poem “Phonism” with two excellent lines: “Are you listening to what you have heard / Or can you hear what you are listening to?” Although there weren’t any in this issue, the magazine also publishes “guest blog entries and academic essays about poetry.”
[straightforwardpoetry.wordpress.com]
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  • Published Date Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
This issue of The Summerset Review marks a ten year anniversary. Although I had not read this magazine before this issue, if this issue is any indication, I can see why they have made it this far. While small and simple, this publication has a lot to offer. The poetry that started the issue, two poems by Ha Kiet Chau, was especially inviting. The words in “Dizzy Distraction,” easily glide over the tongue in a summer haze that is perfect for the June issue:
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  • Issue Number Volume 24 Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
“A conversation,” says Editor-in-Chief Jessica Jacobs of The Sycamore Review, “involves two people who know each other sitting down in a familiar room. But as anyone who’s ever picked up a book and had it speak to her knows, conversations can also occur in which not even a single word is said aloud, in which two minds engage each other outside the immediacy of same time, same place.” Jacobs’s words provide an appropriate introduction that mirrors the fantastical cover art by Kathleen Lolley. The latest issue of this journal from the Purdue University English Department wants to have a conversation with you, dear reader, and to share its poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, art, and book reviews.
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  • Issue Number Volume 9 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Vallum has been encouraging an international literary collaboration of established and forthcoming writers for a little over a decade. The publication is dedicated to fostering communication in and around its home in Canada as well as with countries that range from Australia to India. This issue features a special focus on Pakistani poets. Pakistan is “often portrayed as one of the world’s most dangerous countries,” and so it is no surprise that a collection from its poets is astonishingly beautiful and powerful.
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