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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted March 17, 2014

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  • Issue Number Number 16
  • Published Date Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
While poetry and short story collections provide more in-depth exposure to the vision of a single writer, they don’t offer the same opportunity to unexpectedly stumble onto your next obsession like a good journal can. Able Muse, with its eclectic blend of fiction, essays, book reviews, art portfolios, artist interviews, as well as its focus on metrical poetry, provides readers with a bevy of opportunities to do just that. In fact, Able Muse even manages to offer a bit of an extended look at the work and processes of a featured writer and artist in each edition. This issue features poet Jehanne Dubrow and photographer Peter Svensson.
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  • Issue Number Volume 29 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Occasionally the predominant voice of a journal can be found within a single statement embedded indirectly in a piece within. For this issue of Boulevard, one turns to Robert Zaller’s essay on Robinson Jeffers. Zaller writes that Jeffers defines “the task of culture as the pursuit of truth.” The essay is about the poet not the publication, but it speaks in microcosm what the journal does throughout. Boulevard does not seek to categorize the journal as something as amorphous as “the pursuit of truth,” but I think it presents at least twenty clips of veracity from aperture to aperture, until we barely recognize the camera against the disciplines of truth themselves.
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  • Issue Number Number 10
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual online
As the title of the journal suggests, Breakwater Review is the in-between. “We are both the literal space between ocean and shore and the virtual space between reader and writer. And as it turns out, we want to read about other places like us—those liminal spaces in life.” Their tenth and current issue demonstrates this through a number of poems and a couple of prose pieces.
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  • Issue Number Volume 33 Numbers 2 & 3
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The theme of this issue of The Chattahoochee Review is animals, broadly interpreted enough to span war, destiny, and the romantic capitalization of road kill. Reading the journal straight through may change the way you perceive animals, art and even the construction of modern plot conventions.
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  • Issue Number Volume 3 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
A literary magazine succeeds when it induces its reader to go beyond the magazine, and look for more of the work written by the same writers or, in the case of a magazine heavier on commentary than fiction or poetry like Chinese Literature Today, to encounter a writer or a work for the first time. The very readable essays, stories, and excerpts written by and about two of the most celebrated Chinese-language writers today—Mo Yan, recipient of the 2012 Nobel Prize and Su Tong, whose novel The Boat to Redemption won the 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize—that anchor this double issue of Chinese Literature Today do just that. And personally, while I have read Mo Yan and loved Su Tong in the original, the quality of the translations here has caused me rethink my habitual rejection of English translations of Chinese literature (why go for the “substitute” when I can have the “authentic” experience?): as Mo Yan says in his interview, translations are almost originals in themselves.
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  • Issue Number Volume 16 Number 1
  • Published Date January 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
Now in its sixteenth volume, Cider Press Review has not only established itself as a quality journal that publishes excellent poetry, but a quality journal that publishes excellent poems that complement each other. All of the pieces in this issue fit, they go together, not like peanut butter and jelly (because while delicious, not really similar) but like cinnamon and sugar (both delicately sweet, combined to make an even greater flavor). The issue is prepped with the first poem, Lynn Pedersen’s “Begin.” It’s the start of a journey, but “How do you map that? What part of a mountain range, / what river corresponds to fantasy?” And while you cannot be sure what you will need, eventually you have to just go, “Otherwise, / there’s no one to tell the story.”
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  • Issue Number Number 84
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The latest issue of Crazyhorse has everything we expect from the best literary magazines, from familiar authors’ names—then those same authors delivering in expected and surprising ways—to previously unknown writers delighting with the same energy as those more widely known. I even learned a few things, seeing new ways to break and enjamb poetic lines, and new ways to use space and silence and sequence in verse and prose.
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  • Issue Number Volume 24 Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
After a brief, thirty-two-year interlude between this volume and its last, december is back with its latest anthology-format release. And while many Decembers have passed since the last december, Gianna Jacobson, who takes over editorial and publishing duties from the late Curt Johnson, has made certain that the poetry, prose, and art portfolios in the latest issue possess those timeless qualities which the original editors laid out for the magazine more than a half century ago when they described themselves as “humanists . . . far more concerned with people than we are with dogmatic critical or aesthetic attitudes.” With its unpretentiously elegant layout and the urgency of its content, december’s revival issue feels like a confident extension of this long-standing tradition.
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  • Issue Number Number 9
  • Published Date November 2013
  • Publication Cycle Triannual online
Dragnet: always a delight to read. This particular issue features an Ouija board, a calculator museum, a fortuneteller, a twin who loses his virginity with the presence of his conjoined brother, and watermelons that are not for sale. Sadly, Dragnet has announced that they are closed to submissions as they are on an indefinite hiatus. It’s sad to see such a quality digital publication cease—but perhaps one day they’ll be back.
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  • Issue Number Volume 46
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The journal Fiction International provokes fantastic response in its “Real Time / Virtual” edition. On the one hand, the crime fantasy of Michael Hemmingson’s “Tranquility” evokes Kafka in an astute commentary of family law in American jurisprudence: it presents content (the nature of freedom) and framework (idea of cyber-cognitive implementation of punishment). On the other hand, Robert Hamburger’s “The Michelangelo Massacre” is too convincing to be of the fantasy genre, but it is fantastic in the second sense of the word—superlative. The journal is uniformly excellent in its focus and quality of execution and exemplifies its mission to marry formal innovation and social activism.
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  • Issue Number Number 53
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Printed on the back cover of this issue of Hayden’s Ferry Review appears, along with front and back cover art by Carlos Jiménez Cahua, the word “DEPARTURE” broken into three lines: DEP / ART / URE, and I noticed this one afternoon picking up the issue from the coffee table. I had already become somewhat familiar with the contents of the issue, and my brain reversed the fragments of the word, reading from the bottom up: Your Art Dep(artment).
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  • Issue Number Volume 36 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Every issue of The Kenyon Review offers reason to celebrate, but this issue is particularly special, as it commemorates the journal’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Even better, the editors are taking a look back as they continue to publish cutting-edge work. The Kenyon Review’s first editor, John Crowe Ransom, published philosophical and aspirational statements composed by prominent intellectuals of the day. The tradition will continue in the coming year; sixteen writers who published in The Kenyon Review early in their careers will offer their own “contemporary credos.”
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  • Issue Number Number 35
  • Published Date Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Ledge, lyrical and relentlessly beautiful, may lead a reader safely away from any kind of cliff or precipice, despite the suggestion of its title. The connotation for this volume does ring true if one reads ‘ledge’ as an embodiment of ‘edgy,’ but not with the metaphor of a natural feature entailing the risk of falling. The work is precise and challenging and invites further consideration; I examine a few especially rich works here.
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  • Issue Number Volume 74
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I’ve admitted on several different occasions, perhaps even during previous reviews, that I absolutely judge books by their covers. Sure, maybe this is partially because of laziness, but also I believe a journal’s aesthetic comes through not just in its material, but also in its design. It’s not a strategy I swear by, but very often a journal’s look can be telling of the type of material inside.
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  • Issue Number Volume 52 Number 4
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Published at the University of Michigan, The Michigan Quarterly Review is an attractive journal. At roughly 150 pages, it is fairly slim, with a vibrant glossy cover. More importantly, what’s inside is also interesting: an attractive mix of the creative and academic essays alongside fiction and poetry.
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  • Issue Number Number 30
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The cover of this slim volume (nine poems, three short stories, one great interview) depicts an ethereal white horse splashing in, or wading through, or rising up from, blue waves of grass against a stark black background. The spine is the blue of the grass; the title is the white of the horse. The whole effect is classy and dreamlike at the same time, a little like the contents of the journal—an image you want to remember, and yet it doesn’t feel quite like home.
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  • Issue Number Volume 9 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I loved learning that New Madrid (emphasis on “mad”) is named for a seismic zone in Mississippi and Kentucky where, in 1811-12, four earthquakes struck of such magnitude that they changed the course of the Mississippi River. Great power follows the name of such a place!
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  • Issue Number Volume 6 Issue 2
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
One of my favorite things about The Normal School is that the editors are so willing to try something new, but they never leave the reader behind. Managing Editor Sophie Beck and her team begin a new experiment in this issue, adding recurring columns: Joe Bonomo will write about music, William Bradley will take on comics, and Phillip Lopate will submit musings about films.
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  • Issue Number Volume 14 Issue 2
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual online
Put forth by the Department of English and Foreign Languages at Cameron University, The Oklahoma Review publishes a mixture of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and reviews. Although I found a couple of pieces in this issue to be a little too daring (to the point they weren’t successful), there were several pieces that made it worth the read. James Brubaker contributes a whimsical piece titled “Three Television Shows About Familial Love.” Both comedy and social commentary, the fiction piece accurately picks out key elements of television shows and turns the elements in on themselves.
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  • Issue Number Number 5
  • Published Date 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
The Ostrich Review, founded in 2012 and having put out five issues so far, offers fiction, poetry, and artwork. This issue holds several pieces worth reading. If you read Chris Lowe’s “Kudzu” for face-value and you’re just along for the ride, you may not get much out of it. It’s not just about wrestling, football, and pre-teen sexual desire. The reward comes with a close read, piecing together all the subtle references to the character’s mother...
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  • Issue Number Volume 36 Number 4
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Room is Canada’s oldest literary journal that is both by and about women; each issue focuses on women and gives them a space to “speak and connect” with one another. This issue tackles the theme of “A progressive lens,” promising to bring forth and support new ideas in the form of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction along with an interview and a few book reviews.
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  • Issue Number Numbers 180 & 181
  • Published Date Fall 2013/Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Reading Salmagundi is like sitting in a graduate school seminar in the humanities or a panel at the 92nd Street Y. Confidence, and sophistication, big names, and the requisite originality ooze through the page. Fortunately, it never quite tips into snobbishness, and following the writers’ trains of thought was for me a demanding but enjoyable exercise. Depending on your background, though and I use the word “background” broadly to mean cultural, ethnic, class, academic, professional, or simply experience or preference as a reader—it may be hard to miss the milieu in which Salmagundi situates itself: among the cerebral, among those who do not have to or who do not worry about money, those who have already carved out a place for themselves in the world, the arrived.
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  • Issue Number Issue 10
  • Published Date Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Eleven writers and four featured artists share space in this 98 page-long issue. The glossy finish on every page, a very artistic layout, and deep thought writings make this issue of Stone Voices a perfect coffee table magazine. It carries a byline of “art-spirituality-mindfulness-creativity,” calling out for readers looking inside to invest some time rather than a distracted flip through. That is not to say the material is not entertaining.
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  • Issue Number Issue 9
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Sugar House Review is an independent poetry journal based in Salt Lake City, UT. It is named after one of the oldest and most artistic neighborhoods in the city, Sugar House. The journal aims not only to be rooted in their region and to gain local recognition, but to also appeal to a larger national and international audience. This desire for a global reach ensures that each issue of Sugar House Review is filled with great poetry and thoughtful reviews. As the artwork of this issue suggests the underlying theme is of the honeybee, each poem calls upon the “spirit” of the honeybee in some form of another making issue number nine a delectable issue.
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