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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted November 17, 2014

  • Subtitle A Journal of Delta Studies
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  • Issue Number Volume 45 Issue 2
  • Published Date August 2014
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Ordinarily, this interdisciplinary journal (formerly the Kansas Quarterly), focuses on the seven states of the Mississippi Delta. This special issue of Arkansas Review grew out of the 100th year anniversary of the arrival of the Pfeiffer family in Piggott, Arkansas, as celebrated by the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center there. Its director, Adam Long, guests edits this exploration of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer connection.
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  • Issue Number Issue 10
  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
“I like folksy vulgarity. I don’t say that because ‘folksy vulgarity’ is a good way to describe the contents of this issue of Bat City Review. I say it because one of my favorite scenes from a novel takes place in Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel,” writes Alen Hamza in the editorial preface. And thus begins the Fall 2014 issue of Bat City Review.
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  • Issue Number Number 6
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2014
  • Publication Cycle Semi-Annual
Only two stories—but two big stories, longer than short stories and shorter than novels, big in word count and big in quality—is what this beautiful issue of Big Fiction offers. When you read the website, you think: big ambition! When you hold the book, you think: big, admirable taste in design and material! When you dive into the stories you think: big winners! big pleasure! big success! This issue is, to put it in big letters, EXCELLENT. SPECTACULAR. WELL WORTH YOUR TIME.
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  • Issue Number Volume 14 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of Big Muddy contains a lot of technically very good writing. Descriptive pieces of fiction and poetry are showcased throughout its pages. The glossy cover photo of a filthy rider by Bradley Phillips should be interpreted as an invitation to explore in detail the trails that others have forged. I am left feeling the pages are a little devoid of emotion compared to a number of other publications I've reviewed, but that is the wonderful thing about the wide world literary magazines: there is a venue for all types! Speaking of trails, one of the 18 poems included is titled “Trails Are Trials” by James Valvis. The poem speaks to giving over to circumstances in life and surviving, regardless. I especially enjoyed the following lines, "Each step I could not be sure / the ground would catch my foot. / The trail grew muddy, treacherous."
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  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 4
  • Published Date Fall 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
One thing that sets Driftwood Press apart from the crowd of literary magazines is that following each piece of writing is a quick ‘interview’ with the writer, asking about inspiration for the piece and the writer’s creative process. A few writers get asked what drew them to the magazine, and the resounding answer seems to be the cover art. So go ahead, judge the book by its beautiful cover; the writing inside is just as pleasing. One writer who agrees is Jillian Briglia, who contributes the poem “Insomniac’s Eulogy to the Moon.” With a young girl’s imagination, the narrator keeps a suitcase by her bed, only half asleep as she plans escape routes in case of “fires floods earthquakes pirates.” But later in life, this backfires as insomnia ensues: “alarm blinks red every six and half breaths and the dancing shadows are a folded page I can’t help turning to and I think what if what if what if I could fall . . . ”
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  • Issue Number Issue 4
  • Published Date Summer 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual online
Started in April of 2012, Embodied Effigies puts an emphasis on creative nonfiction writers, “and the bonds that hold us together as we explore our pasts, presents, and futures.” A long time coming, the Summer 2014 issue is now out, and it was worth the wait.

In Mark Lewandowski’s piece, he admits to having commitment issues, but not those of the romantic variety—he can’t pick a hairdresser:
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  • Issue Number Issue 27
  • Published Date August 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
As part of the Texas State University MFA program, Front Porch Journal publishes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, reviews, and interviews. I’ve perhaps come across it too late to enjoy on those final summer afternoons as the editors suggest (especially since I swore I saw snow this morning), but it’s never too late to enjoy the writing. As I do with most journals, I gravitated to the nonfiction section first. The first of the two selections is Wendy C. Ortiz’s “September 1986,” which was first published in issue 10 and republished here to honor the publication of her collection of essays, Excavation: A Memoir. After reading it, I certainly wanted to pick up her book. Set in a junior high classroom, this essay explores a moment in which, despite her desire to come off as disinterested, Ortiz is first recognized for her writing.
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  • Issue Number Volume 27 Number 3
  • Published Date Autumn 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The Autumn 2014 issue of the Gettysburg Review is utterly absorbing. Its writers are not coy about the heart of the matter; readers know exactly what they’re trying to get across. It is very accessible reading. The most straightforward sentence is also fresh, and the most commonplace sentiments come wrapped in stories that linger. In “The Woods Are Never Burning,” Steven Schwartz weaves together different strands of his childhood and adolescence in Chester, Pennsylvania, anchored by his eternally optimistic furniture salesman father. In the background, there is the quiet hum of racial tension, the strangeness of growing up, and changes to Chester itself. Marian Crotty recounts the beginning of a romance in “Love at a Distance,” where the narrator is in Dubai and her lover, Chicago. The language has a touch as light as a ballerina on pointe: “When we talk, it is almost always on the edges of sleep, one of us newly emerged from the unconscious and the other ready to fall.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 36 Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Permafrost is an unusually entertaining collection of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews, drama and art published in “the farthest north literary journal in the United States.” All of the works provide perspectives that are fresh and introduce a broad variety of creative talent that doesn’t often appear in the same place. If there’s one characteristic throughout the entire collection, it’s the detailed imagery.
Rust, dust, lust is the three-pronged theme carried in the pages of this year's Slipstream. Poems start on page 5 of this issue and continue, unrelentingly in all the right ways through page 92. That's 87 consecutive pages of notable work! Janet Warman and Margo Davis do an absolutely amazing job, separately, in weaving a compelling link between all three themes in a short space. Warman's poem “Tin Man” uses familiar subject matter for the most part and left me cringing in anticipation. School plays, for their derision among parents, foster a necessity for creative ingenuity and a waypoint for future childhood memories. The lines "She made us rust, / and I was to grab his legs / as he told his Beautiful story." showcase this perfectly.
  • Subtitle A Literary Confection
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  • Issue Number Volume 7 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2014
  • Publication Cycle Triannual online
One thing to be said about Sweet’s publications is the creative “cover” of each online issue, making the issue even more of an experience. With this issue, it’s all about the autumn treats: the table of contents is set up like a tray of blueberry pie, the section titles powdered with sugar. And each slice, each piece of writing, is a delicious treat. Courtney Kersten’s very short essays are easily relatable and allow the metaphors to provide all of the insight. For example, in “My Father in Wisconsin,” her father experiences a tragic event, and as a result of it, he has large scars from the gashes: “When I was younger, I would watch him shirtless and swearing and lugging things around the front yard unable to fathom how such deep gashes were able to heal.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 16 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
For their latest issue, the editors of Tin House have gone tribal, calling on some of their “favorite storytellers and poets” to help explain “what life is like in our contemporary tribes.” In creating their “Tribes” issue, they’ve assembled a trenchant and soulful collection of poetry, fiction, and essays that unsettle as they entertain, exploring the consolation and alienation of belonging or wanting to belong. Poetry from Tony Hoagland and Cate Marvin, fiction from Jess Walter and Julia Elliott, essays from Roxanne Gay and Molly Ringwald, as well as the work of many other well-known writers, all share communal space in this lively gathering of the literary tribes.

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  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 74
  • Published Date Fall 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Willow Springs has a thirty-year tradition of publishing fine contemporary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. With this edition, the tradition continues with an impressive body of work. This is a strategically compiled collection, replete with recurring thematic and structural patterns. A striking feature in the issue is Jeffrey Bean’s series of “Voyeur” poems. The pieces, which comprise this series, are interspersed throughout the issue, presenting the speaker as voyeur. But his voice is not menacing or threatening. Instead, it is a gentle voice of longing and inquiry.
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