Mini reviews of current issues of online literary magazines
Reviews by Kirsten McIlvenna
Posted June 3, 2013
ONandOnScreen publishes poems alongside videos, incorporating the “conversation between moving words and moving images, on and on.” This issue contains a variety of poetry styles as well as ways in which the “moving images” enhance the poems. It holds Looney Toons, dancing Goths, a videodrawing, a news clip, Jiujitsu, several artistic videos, and, of course, excellent poetry.
Charles Bernstein’s small poem “The Threshold” contains a quick image of a man who wakes in the night, “thinking she’s / sleeping beside him,” and “shoots through / door,” presumably killing her as “blood pours / over threshold.” This is paired with a news clip about how Oscar Pistorius, a South African disabled Olympic athlete, killed his girlfriend in the middle of the night, claiming that he thought it was an intruder.
Catherine Wagner’s video is a reading of her poem “A Pattern” over-top footage of a bird repeatedly flying into a glass window. “If you understand / away and home, the pleasure of refrain, / let me make you feel as if meaning,” she writes.
In Dorianne Laux’s poem, it’s the 2012 solstice, and the “end-of-the-world-light” is coming in through the blinds, “which never quite close.” The poem speaks of lifelessness, of “the evasive, the devastated,” of “the end-of-the-world clouds, / shredding themselves like tissue paper / above the uppermost fingers of the oaks, / like souls come apart toward the end of their days.” The images are haunting yet peaceful, paired alongside a video by Laux and Richard Nace in which, above a city skyline, lightening pierces and illuminates the night sky.
Be also sure to check out John Ashbery’s “Daffy Duck in Hollywood,” Tan Lin’s “+ —,” and others. Each piece in ONandOnScreen is its own conversation, its own unique experience.
Gris-Gris is a new online journal featuring poetry, fiction, and art. “We see the gris-gris as a rich symbol of creative cultural borrowing and blending,” write the editors, “an emblem of the unique mix of cultures that have shaped southern Louisiana. The gris-gris shares the root inspiration of the creative arts: the casting and the breaking of the spell.”
Karin C. Davidson’s “One Night, One Afternoon, Sooner or Later” was the first piece in the journal that I read, and it encouraged me to read the rest. This fiction piece gets in the mind of an “in-between girl,” both in between places in life, and in between her two best guy friends: “those boys were waiting, just waiting, to see what I’d do.” And while I didn’t immediately love the story, I was hooked after these two sentences: “The kiss is undeveloped, a precious thing, and I feel it working on me, undoing my spine. And then I realize it’s Micah’s fingers undoing the buttons down the back of my blouse.”
Jennifer A. Kuchta’s “Mosaic” was equally chilling. As a grown woman, the narrator returns to Italy to the place she and her family visited every year, but this year, her sister Lauren does not come—she had previously died in a snowboarding accident. The narrator gives us flash backs of her time here with her younger sister:
Pictures of Lauren and me wrist-deep in the gaping mouth of a large, round, stone visage: the Bocca Della Verita. The Mouth of Truth. Legend says the mouth will close around the hand of the person who doesn’t speak the truth while her hand is in it. Lauren’s face glows with a toothy smile, but I look nervous, as if I know that mouth will suddenly clamp down and never let me go, leaving me exposed for all to see.
She struggles to let her sister go, but her parents do not see things the way she does. She learns she must cope and grieve in her own way, the way she thinks is the best to honor her sister’s memory.
There is a massive sampling of poetry. Sort through it and find the pieces that speak to you. Poets include Jimmy Santiago Baca, Jack Bedell, Nancy Devine, Allison Grayhurst, Ed Hammerli, Robert S. King, Tony Morris, Frederick Pollack, and more.
May & June 2013
The writing in Split Lip pulls the reader in, immediately. All the pieces seem to have that attention-grabbing first line(s). Take these for example: “Jude discharges liquid through her mouth all morning. She suffers from the opposite of motion sickness—she can’t handle the stillness” (Genevieve Hudson’s “Even Wild Horses”). “It happens in a Hong Kong hooker hotel, / off Nathan Road. A round bed under mirrors, / girlie pinups gazing from candy-pink walls” (Lauren Tivey’s “The Breakdown Atlas). And: “You wake up on the toilet staring at your dick” (Sean Davis’s “Sudsy Penguins”). But, of course, first lines are the only part of the story. After each of these lines come excellent fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Davis’s nonfiction piece “Sudsy Penguins” is written in the second person and is a reality check that “you” need to get off the whiskey bottle and get back on track with life when you wake up with no memory of why you are in a foreign bathroom, one which is cleaner than yours and filled with “girl-shit like conditioner and colored bar soap and clean towels hanging neatly.” Humorously written, this small piece will speak to anyone who has woken up confused after a night of booze and (attempted) sex. Diane Payne’s “Damaged Goods” is also honest, admitting that no matter how far she gets in a relationship and how hard she works past an incident from the past, she will always be seen with baggage, and “No mother wants this for her son.”
Sean Lovelace contributes “May 11,” in which the narrator hates teaching so much that he starts “drowning in beer, rioting naked in beer—that won’t do!” Filled with excellent comparisons and imagery, this piece does not give the character a hopeful resolution: “Finally I go to Jaycee Park, where I find several bizarre steel baskets (I later learn they were constructed for a sport that involves Frisbees) and a large, pink, plastic sculpture in the shape of a hollow tree, much to my relief. I climb inside and read a little book (wet and wrinkled) of haiku and drink my seventh beer and sleep.”
In Kate Scarpetta’s “Four Eyes, One Rock,” the younger brother, who is narrating, is always into mischief—first electrocuting a cardinal, then, in an attempt to see what a lot of “real blood” looks like, dropping a sharp rock from the roof onto one of his classmate’s head: “It was even more beautiful than I had imagined. . . . He looked odd. Not because he had a hole in his head, but because he wasn’t wearing his glasses.”
I love when I see young magazines succeed so quickly. Split Lip has a handful of excellent authors and well written and engaging pieces of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. My only complaint is that when I went back to test my theory about the excellent first-lines in their archives, I couldn’t tell which pieces were from which issues—dating and labeling them would be more helpful.
Muse-Pie Press’s new magazine (they also publish Shot Glass Poetry and the fib review) puts out video and sound files of spoken word poetry. While this often includes slam poetry, it isn’t exclusively so: “Bent Ear Review is about giving a voice to poets, enabling them to express their work with their own emotions and passion in the form of the spoken word.”
In “Never Too Old to Slam,” M. D. Friedman says, “I’m not too old to slam because I’m not too old to love.” The piece is about how you can never be too old, or too anything but to just be yourself. It’s about acceptance and love, of both others and yourself.
I would love to see Vex live, as he knows how to entertain the crowd. He begins his poem, “Don’t Step” with “I may wear a frilly pink skirt, but I will take you in a fight.” It too is about acceptance, because “The world doesn’t owe you another lesson on how to hate.”
Amanda Arrieta Rodriguez is new to spoken word, but comes to the scene with a background in performance arts. She claims she has been a “secret poet” most of her life, and here she shares her words. Her poem delicately starts and ends with: “I built you a world of words, stocked high like my hopes and one key . . .”
There are also video and audio files of Henrietta Bollinger, Lois Elaine Heckman, Duncan Hope, and Randi Janelle. Another section on the site publishes some of the performances at The Kerouac Effect. In this annual event in New Zealand and Australia, poets and musicians are paired together to celebrate “all things Beat.” These video clips are definitely worth taking a look at. Bent Ear Review offers up more than the traditional online magazine, adding sound and often visual components to the literary experience.
The first step into the third issue of Apeiron Review is Jenny Taylor Moodie’s poem “I Am,” which speaks to not being the “perfect” looking woman, the one “dipped / in smooth cold plaster / filling all [her] cracks and hiding every insolent flaw.” Instead:
I smell like my children
their sweet clutching hands
their innocent skin
and the pink lotion I use
to bring my mother back to me—
roses and her soft voice
talking me to sleep
These things I carry like a swaddled newborn
close to my chest
The rest of the issue, too, is about holding those things close, whether it be love, hope, the beauty in everyday, or the memories of the past.
Arina Robb’s “Nameless” begins: “This morning I saw the way fall moves in . . . When was the last time I looked / at green and said it was lovely?”
In Steve Wheat’s “Translating Silence,” a man named Kobi makes art in a less traditional way: “sweeping debris from a gas station tarmac. / His art lies in removing color from the canvas”:
When his brush cannot dislodge a petal,
he bends down, and picks it up with his hands.
He has been sweeping the love from his life
for forty years, smiling at passerby,
with his cigarette stained teeth.
But yet, his memories are still kept, “his mind an attic” where they “hide themselves in blankets of dust.”
Don Kunz contributes a fun poem in which he imagines the characters in the Sunday comics all grown up. He says that again Lucy will try to fool Charlie Brown, but this time “When she pulls the football away, / He will kick her in the teeth.” Also:
In Zits, Jeremy will date a vacuum cleaner,
Pierce will be torn apart in an MRI,
And all the women characters will
Grow smaller lips and bigger breasts.
Mr. Wilson will take Dennis the Menace
To church where he will become an
Altar boy fondled regularly by a priest
Whom he will drive slowly insane.
Vincent JS Wood contributes a piece of fiction in the form of an autopsy report (“No blood remained in the body and no conclusion can be drawn as to how it became absent. The manner of death is determined to be: UNDETERMINED”). Stephanie Barbé Hammer’s nonfiction piece “Conversions” tells the story of a girl maturing, trying to find her footing in religion, faith, and Judaism. In Marisha Hicks “The Comic Book Store,” as a fourth grade girl, Hicks sifts through the comics of big-breasted women for one that will suit her, eventually deciding on an Archie-type comic: “They still had massive breasts, but they wore cool clothes . . . I wanted to read about girls with pink hair and leather jackets who went to school and had boyfriends. After finding out it was about sex, I wanted to read about it even more.”
There is much to enjoy here and plenty of pieces to go back to. Through scribd.com, you can download or print the issue for free. If you have a tablet, you can also experience it through the scribd app.