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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted May 15, 2014

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  • Issue Number Volume 2 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual online
If Miya Pleines’s “These Orbits, Crossing” is the first thing you read from 1966 (it’s the first piece in this issue), I promise you’ll continue on. Mixing research about flying and falling, alongside memories of her grandfather, Pleines crafts an essay that isn’t just a memoir; it connects to all of us:
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  • Issue Number Volume 31 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Spring & Summer 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Good grief, literally. Don’t let the vibrancy of those yellow umbrellas on the cover lull you into a state of blissful aesthetic appreciation; a hard rain’s gonna fall. The short stories, nonfiction, and poetry in the Alaska Quarterly Review’s (AQR) latest issue are soaked with serious consequence, with writers delving into the subjects of madness, financial distress, war, disease, alcoholism, and plain old existential funk. Only the writers’ leavening of such heavy subject matter with great humor, insight, and tart individuality kept me from developing a low-grade Zoloft habit while making my way through the 300-plus pages of this literary squall.
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  • Issue Number Volume 43 Number 2
  • Published Date March/April 2014
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly
The name Donald Sterling underlines an un-sterling moment in ‘post-racial’ America, delivered in sound bites that, in many ways, reveal sensibilities lurking beneath the ‘post’ in post-racial. Sterling’s girlfriend or personal assistant, V. Stiviano, was the messenger, thanks to mobile devices that heighten our desire to spy on intimate conversations. Indeed, Stiviano had the ball; and then came the slam-dunk that catapulted the message to first-class scandal. Soon, race as topic of discussions and conversations in living rooms and social media is on center stage once again, quietly intrusive, at times, to a point where it taints the spirit of any material you’re reading in the context of race.
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  • Issue Number Issue 15
  • Published Date April 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
Anak Sastra is an online magazine that provides a platform for Southeast Asian writers to publish their work in English. It is also a place for “expats, tourists, and regional connoisseurs” to share their experiences in the area. And while I came in with little to no knowledge of Southeast Asia, I still took away important insights.
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  • Issue Number Volume 24 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The latest issue of Bluestem, based out of Eastern Illinois University, offers a hefty selection of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and art working in a broad spectrum of styles and aesthetics. The journal isn’t filled exclusively with big-name solicitations, but the range of work it includes is refreshing and strong.
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  • Issue Number Number 12
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The editor’s note in the latest issue of Cave Wall focuses heavily on the idea of time. The way it shifts all around us in an amorphous cloud, it seems that all we really have to hang onto is the moment right in front of us, to the beauty or pain of each experience as it happens. Memory, growth, and understanding come into play throughout, making for a quick read that’s both relatable and stirring.
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  • Issue Number Number 26
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual
When you read the 2013 issue of Columbia Poetry Review, sink into a comfortable chair without distraction and be willing to spend time with imagery that stimulates and verse that reconsiders how we define poetry and its evolution. If you are like me, you’ll want to read this issue a number of times to return to images that intrigue, disturb, or entice in poems structured and unstructured, evocative of surrealism in its almost purest form.
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  • Issue Number Number 11
  • Published Date 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Journals published annually like Columbia College of Chicago’s Court Green find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to capture and sustain a reader’s good will and attention during the long wait between issues. Court Green makes all this look easy, staying fresh in mind on the strength of its lively, unpretentious poetry and the unique artifact its editors create with each issue’s “dossier” on a special theme or topic. This year’s “dossier” on New York School poet James Schuyler, which takes up roughly half of the issue, truly harnesses the unique potential of the format, drawing together poetic homage, letters, photographs, flyers, the reflections of associates and admirers, as well as a small selection of Schuyler’s uncollected poems. This enigmatic bundle paired with over one hundred pages of new poems by an array of established and idiosyncratic poets is sure to demand prime coffee table real estate in perpetuity.
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  • Issue Number Issue 51
  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Writers for this issue were asked to tackle the subject of “Human Face of Sustainability.” It was a widely interpreted phrase, as proven by the included interview and ten essays. Individual subjects range from cancer-causing carcinogens and their effects on both children and our ecosystem (“Acts of Courage” by Mary Heather Noble), to a bicyclist’s perspective on individual activism (“Trapped” by Sarah Gilbert), to how one of the poorest cities in America is working on changing for the better (“Iyabo is Yoruba for ‘The Mother Has Returned’” by Amy Hassinger).
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  • Issue Number Volume 48
  • Published Date 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Unlike most literary journals, which separate their content into specific genres, the Denver Quarterly has a much simpler table of contents. The writing in this journal is lumped into two categories: “Work” and “Conversation.” The content of the “Work” section is creative work, e.g. prose and poetry, while the “Conversation” section consists of interviews, critical passages, and the like.
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  • Issue Number Number 258
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The Winter 2014 issue of Fiddlehead turns on moments of awareness of awareness, capturing the instants we catch ourselves catching ourselves, revelations of self to self, to the reader, and to other characters. It’s charming, this subtle focus moving from piece to piece, from poem to prose to poem to poem, and the sequence suggests this international journal from the University of New Brunswick is edited with precision.
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  • Issue Number Volume 6 Issue 2
  • Published Date January 2014
  • Publication Cycle Triannual online
It is with sad hearts that the editors announce that this will be the last issue of Glass: “We love Glass but we must acknowledge the amount of work it takes to keep it going,” they write. It’s always sad to see magazines fold, but I’m glad that they are making the effort to keep all the past issues accessible: “we want to make our commitment to our poets clear: we will make sure your work stays published and stays available for your readers.”
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  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The slim, 8x8 format of Green Blotter was what first attracted me to this publication. It is some kind of revival publication of the Green Blotter Literacy Society of Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pennsylvania. I wish I knew more about its history, but despite nearly four pages of separate editorial commentary from two co-editors-in-chief, readers outside of the community will be equally at a loss. I consider myself a connoisseur of editorials (as one editor to another), but these four pages could have been better devoted to a combined effort of a page, personal thanks on a dedication page, and some more solid information for readers about what this is as a publication with some history. Given the fact that this takes up 10%+ of the writing space in the publication, it deserves comment.
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  • Issue Number Number 18
  • Published Date Winter 2013/2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Hunger Mountain announces itself quietly. The cover looks like a mixture of a chess piece and a road map. Reading the issue’s first poem, Annie Lighthart’s “White Barn”, prepares me for pieces featuring a home on the range, or of lives lived under a guise of simple lives and simple times. There are no flashy mechanics to the journal itself—the art is in black and white, the poetry and fiction well-worded and sometimes blunt, and the creative nonfiction as well as the young adult offerings all carry voices frank and honest. Fiction editor Barry Wightman even states it in his foreword letter: “You may ask yourself, ‘what’s this all about?’ . . . Horses. Horses. Horses. Horses.” I was prepared for horses. But what I received was much more than that.
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  • Issue Number Volume 39 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I cannot remember when I have ever made reading poetry in translation part of my reading habits, but after the experience of reading this issue of International Poetry Review, I am humbled and convinced that I have been missing out on unique and profound experiences with poems that are significant and at times transcendent.
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  • Issue Number Volume 41 Number 3
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The large, red circle in the journal’s cover makes sense, because family and blood runs deep in this issue, in poems and short stories that talk about husbands and wives, sibling rivalry, or fathers and daughters.
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  • Issue Number Volume 39 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Do dimensions matter? Most literary journals are considerably taller than they are wide, often in the 6 by 9-inch range. The New Orleans Review is a compact 5-3/4 by 6-3/4 inches. For this reader, the size has a focusing effect that magnifies the significance of the words, for better or worse. Also as a result of size there are only seven offerings therein, perhaps a budgetary decision, but in any case one that channels attention towards the text. Two short stories, conventional in structure but not in their degree of excellence, contend with five pieces that variously blur the lines between poetry, prose poems, fiction, and essay.
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  • Issue Number Volume 20 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue of Off the Coast carries a cover theme of “Ice Fishing,” but I am under the firm belief that was somebody’s joke to play on an outdoorsman like myself. Luckily, I really enjoy poetry, and this issue contains 41 poetic offerings for readers to peruse. None of them deal with the directive of “Ice Fishing,” but for a bad pun laced with reality, I will say that the issue felt to be casting about a bit.
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  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
The cover of this issue is a photograph of what appears to be the end of a spinning tunnel in a fun house. The end is in sight, but getting there is the hard part. There isn’t much to hold onto, and your travel is shaky. The same could be said of the experiences people face both in life in general and in this issue of Olentangy Review.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
Hailing from Dawson City, Yukon comes a brand new online quarterly, One Throne Magazine, publishing fiction, nonfiction, and writing. And while the visual element is what will initially draw you in, it’s the writing that will keep you there exploring.
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  • Issue Number Volume 8 Issue 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2013/2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
If you read only one issue of a literary magazine this year, let it be this issue of Poetry Northwest, if only to read Stanley Plumly’s gorgeous essay “The End of Keats.” Plumly writes with gentle reverence of the poet who famously died too young, in poverty and failure. Plumly’s writing kept me reading to the end of Keats’ life, and I learned so much. At the end of the piece, Plumly shares his view of Keats’s short life and painful death and writes that the tragedy “lies in the not knowing; or worse, knowing the wrong thing.” He goes on to say that “that is true for most of us: we never know, we never really know the long consequences.” This theme runs through the essay and through many of the poems in the magazine that also deal with truth and the experience of dying and how the living deal with it all. In many of the poems in this issue narrators speak to lost loved ones in sadness and in hindsight at what might have been missed in lives ended too soon. Plumly’s essay is a perfect ending to this issue that deals with endings.
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  • Issue Number Volume 47 Number 4
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The Southern Humanities Review, published at Auburn University and affiliated with the Southern Humanities Council, is a humanities journal with a Southern flavor, not a review of the humanities in the South. This means it publishes fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews that may or may not be anchored in Southern culture. For example, the lead piece, an essay by James Braziel titled “The Ballad of JD,” is set in Georgia and Alabama and is rich in down-home, colloquial language and detail. “I’ve seen him drinking Thunderbird before, what we call hog liquor back home because it smells like a pig farm and gasoline and faintly of overripe oranges,” he reports of a man who has nearly burned himself up in an apartment fire. JD, the title character, works at the pulpwood yard and sometimes at loading watermelons badly, a nobody whose anonymous, hard life makes him, paradoxically, memorable. To tell his story, Braziel takes the long way around, making the side trips as important as the destination, the way Southerners do. So the essay is both set in the South and is Southern in its delivery.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1A and 1B
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The inaugural issue of this stellar new litmag “devoted to stories of all kinds, focusing on a single theme each issue” is a double steal. To access Side B from Side A, readers have to turn the volume (the same size and shape as The Believer and Creative Nonfiction, two similarly innovative mags) over and upside-down. In either side, said reader will find herself “innovated” and turned more than a bit upside down, on purpose and with undeniable, delighted affirmation. I can imagine a cadre of new readers sitting around a table drinking wine and rehashing this issue with high gratification deep into the night.
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  • Issue Number Volume 7 Number 66
  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
subTerrain has a youthful feel. But rather than the ages of the characters or speakers themselves, the feeling is borne more of a sense of dislocation and disorientation. Even when they are seen in an adult habitat—job, relationship, a rhythm that most of the over-25 set settle into—the bleakness, the weirdness, and the whimsy in these pieces recall an eighteen or twenty-two-year-old’s fantasy of what life may turn out to be like down the road, if they remain on the edge of convention either internally or in society and haven’t become more content than they are now. Perhaps the fantastic and the rootlessness are a product of the issue’s theme, “This Carnival Life,” which throws up and tears down an entire mesmerizing world in the space of a few days. And true to the chaos in a carnival, subTerrain isn’t interested in tidy structures. The stories end abruptly, the poems demand considerable powers of association from the reader, the commentary can take leaps of logic, and the book reviews sometimes grope unsuccessfully for the right word. Yet the talent of these writers is evident; the skill they have for creating worlds is a promise for greater things to come.
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