The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

September 2004

32 Poems

Volume 1 Number 2

Spring 2004

32 Poems once again impressed me, in its inimitable way, with the contrast between its modest appearance and superb content. The 32 poems (yes, hence the name of the magazine) in this issue lean heavily towards the lyric, and most have a playful sense of language that extends, at times, to their subjects. God, language, and poetry itself are interwoven in much of the work, including Heather McHugh’s clever “Ill-Made Almighty” and Lisa Gluskin’s wonderful “De Profundis.” There are so many exceptional poems I cannot quote from all of them. Do check out Daniel Nester’s “Prodigies” on the 32 Poems web site. Here are a few lines from Jill Osier’s melancholy “Kansas”: “The fields sweat into the air, a mild stew. / The ballplayer rolls over. His sheets are wet.

Mother and daughter come from the garage / leading bony bikes… / The daughter’s arms reach for handlebars. / Pedaling hard, she can imagine wind. / There are stars. This is as dark / intended. This is as light / as she will be…” Also of note in this issue: two humorous poems, Traci Elder O’Dea’s “Pot Luck” and Matt Zambito’s “Keeping it Short & Sweet.” This newer semiannual is one of the places I always check for up-and-coming as well as established talent, a journal that in just a few issues has already established a high standard of excellence. [32 Poems, P.O. Box 5824, Hyattsville, MD 20782. E-mail: deborah.ager@32poems.com. Single issue $6. http://www.32poems.com] – JHG

 

cover artAmerican Literary Review

Volume 15 Number 1

Spring 2004

Jim Meirose and Andi Diehn both are writers of at least one (presumably more, hopefully more) great story. G.C. Waldrep: thank you, again and for more—he is, dear reader, one of the poets whose work we may all, gladly, turn to, hopeful that people are still making language do strange tricks we can’t imagine. Also: Nancy Eimers—bravo, and I look forward to hunting down your two books. American Literary Review is another of those great reminders that literary journals can act as: there’s literally no limit to the number of these things, and the phrase “All boats rise together” has no stronger ledge on which to stand and preside over than the ledge above we scribblers the world over without contracts or even degrees. As ever, having heard of only one poet within, I come away, post-read, with a handful of new practitioners to mentally asterisk. It’s a fine, well-balanced little journal, with a wonderful duo of insightful, meditative reviews, a rough 2:1 poetry: fiction ratio, with a casual touch of both traditional and experimental forms. [American Literary Review, PO Box 311307, University of North Texas, Denton, TX 76203-1307. E-mail: americanliteraryreview@yahoo.com. Single issue $5. http://www.americanliteraryreview.com/] – WC

 

coverAmerican Poetry Review

Volume 33 Number 4

July/August 2004

This issue of the newsprint bimonthly American Poetry Review features an essay on Hayden Carruth (“In Measured Resistance: On Hayden Carruth’s “Contra Mortem”), along with a special supplement of Carruth’s poems, and seven outstanding poems by Adrienne Rich, which in itself is enough to satisfy most poetry addicts. But it also includes multiple poems by other well-known poets such as David Wagoner and Donald Revell. APR is justifiably famous for its essays, and usually also features a large spread of international poetry in translation – in this issue, six poems from Viktor Sosnora translated by Dinara Georgeoliani and Mark Halperin. Even the ads make for fascinating reading – one touting the newest poetry releases from Wesleyan, another for a new MFA program seeking students, and Contests! Contests! Contests! – those holy grails for upstart poets such as myself. I was somewhat taken aback by one or two of the Carruth poems in the special supplement of this issue; these poems seemed misanthropic and misogynistic. Here is an excerpt from one of them, titled “Crazy Women”: “…The world / is full of crazy women with their…voices like a wounded sow’s, breaking / the crockery, flailing their little fists. Raped / By their fathers, raped by their uncles, raped / By their brothers…” Then the short poem ends with “…Tell me, does anyone around here / Really believe this life is really worth living?” So much of Carruth’s work is marked by generosity of spirit that this piece seemed out of character to me. Overall, APR remains a must-read for those who want to consider themselves poetry-world insiders. [American Poetry Review, 117 South 17th Street, suite 910, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103. E-mail: sberg@aprweb.org. Single issue $3.95. http://www.aprweb.org] – JHG

 

Bridge

Volume 2 Double Issue 7 & 8

Summer/Fall 2003

I urge you to check out, before even finishing this review, the website of Bridge Magazine, though I know the wish is sort of hopeless: there’s almost no way to conceive of the sort of madness and playful fun the magazine contains, promotes, inculcates, various other verbs. It’s sort of like McSweeneys, I suppose, though somehow more fun, grounded in a real world (perhaps this is the only magazine I can think of that’s made strangely more whole, more itself, because of advertisements [almost all of which are by/for Chicago-area businesses]). And I really don’t know which point I’d try and sell someone on, or which point I was most sold on, myself: was it the role-playing game? The brilliant fiction (this is especially about you John L. Sheppard and Beth Bosworth)? The poetry (everyone)? The various writings on music, culture and critique, and readings that, if you just open to them randomly and read beginning wherever you want, can convince your brain that you’ve wandered into a super-secret Mensa meeting that’s full of really cool people who have heard music that you really want to be listening to? I’m not kidding: buy this magazine, now, and read it until you get a fever, and then read it to make the fever come down. [Bridge, 119 North Peoria, #3D, Chicago, IL 60607. E-mail: info@bridgemagazine.org. Single issue $15. http://www.bridgemagazine.org] - WC

 

Cimarron Review

Issue 147

I have such a crush on this literary magazine that it’s not even funny. Two years ago, literally their spring 2002 issue, had a poem by Jennifer Boyden, a poem I fell in love with, and subsequently fell in love with the magazine, and since have read it, oh, quarterly basically (skipped one). I can’t say that each time I’ve found another Jennifer Boyden (seriously: as good as Waldrep, D. Young, OK Davis, Matthea Harvey, you name it), but each time I’ve found poems and fiction to gladly pass time with. This time, of course, is no different: Charles Harper Webb, Dean Kostos, Katherine Riegel, Lauren Goodwin, for example. In the best possible way, this magazine is like the Volvo of lit mags: imagine, literally wrap your head around, 147 issues (that’s, what...37 years? As in: august company, the group of lit mags older than ten years). And it’s never flashy, and I rarely find those ads for it in other journals that brag that the Cimarron Review is some amazing secret, publishing the best and the brightest faster and earlier than everyone else. No, it’s simple: it just publishes, consistently, four times a year, all sorts of work you need, even if you don’t know until that last line, the one that forces the quick inhale of recognition and gladness. [Cimarron Review, 205 Morrill Hall, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078-4069. E-mail: cimarronreview@yahoo.com. Single issue $7. http://cimarronreview.com/contact_us.html] – WC

 

Cranky

May 2004

Kary Wayson: you have uncountable volumes of love in store from all who read your poetry. Colleen J. McElroy: all men who read your poem “Boys Will Be” will, eventually, find the mirror that reflects them, and they’ll have that poem to thank, and also you. Cranky, overall, is strangely uneven: stylistically it swings so wildly it’s either vertiginous or thrilling just to turn its pages (dependent on mood, weather patterns, gastronomical states). There are poems as straight-ahead, digestible, as the best of, for example, Larry Levis, and also poems so careeningly experimental, Out, that even a devoted acolyte of Olena K. Davis has found himself pensive, rubbing a chin. It is, certainly, a good literary magazine, and astounding in its second issue-ness. Cranky has all the potential one could wish for a little and new literary journal, and here’s a metaphoric glass raised to their courage to pull it off. [Cranky, 332 10th Avenue E, C-5, Seattle, WA 98102. E-mail: cranky@failedpromise.org. Single issue $7. http://www.failedpromise.org] – WC

 

Elysian Fields Quarterly

Volume 21 Number 3

Summer 2004

Imagine being able to put into words the feeling of a home run on a summer night and you’ll have the All-Star issue of Elysian Fields Quarterly, a unique and unabashedly ardent literary magazine devoted solely to America’s once (and future—well, we can dream, can’t we?) favorite sport, baseball. What are the Elysian Fields? According to EFQ, they were “the grounds in Hoboken, New Jersey, where the old Knickerbocker Base Ball Club developed the game of baseball and played the first match game according to Knickerbocker Rules (the “New York game”) on June 19, 1846.” (Also, in Greek mythology, the name for paradise.) “The Baseball Review,” as EFQ bills itself, features expert commentary (Neil deMause on the fall in attendance despite {because of?} all the new stadium-building, and Tom Faulkner [who, his bio tells us, has a cat named Fungo Marie] on living through a losing season with the team you love: “it can always get worse”); history (Chuck Nan’s and Richard Leutzinger’s respective pieces on past tours of Japan by the Giants and the Seals); nostalgia (John P. Frey’s poignant “Memories of the Shibe”); reviews of baseball books both new and not so (Michael Sokolove on Darryl Strawberry, Charles Einstein’s reissued classic on the Say Hey Kid, Willie’s Time); and yes, even fiction and poetry. In addition, you’ll find quizzes (on trivia and trades) and ads for genuine big league baseball mud (individual booklets only one dollar each) and “Can the Commish!” t-shirts sporting the slogan “FIX BASEBALL: Contract Bud. (And do something about that hair, too).” If you’re a fan (and you aren’t Bud Selig), you’ll find yourself doing the wave (yes, right there in your chair, all by yourself) for this smart and quirky insider’s look at the game its contributors write about the same way many of them once played—just for the love. [Elysian Fields Quarterly, P.O. Box 14385, St. Paul, MN 55114-0385. E-mail: editor@efqreview.com. Single issue $7.95. http://www.efqreview.com] – AS

 

Feminist Studies

Volume 30 Number 1

Spring 2004

This appealing journal out of the University of Maryland publishes feminist research, analysis, theory, reviews, art, as well as poetry and fiction; the overall flavor of this issue was resolutely academic. Particularly interesting in this issue was Stephanie Hartman’s essay “Reading the Scar in Breast Cancer Poetry,” which examined how poets like Hilda Raz, Audre Lorde, and Marilyn Hacker wrote about the physical and metaphorical scars of breast cancer. Also a startling discovery – the amazing art work of Betye and Alison Saar, whose work has both powerful symbolism and haunting directness. Their work is discussed at length in Jessica Dallow’s “Reclaiming Histories: Betye and Alison Saar, Feminism, and the Representation of Black Womanhood.” Anyone who wishes to avoid viewing diagrams of vaginal self exams from seventies self-help books, that would be pages 115-141, in which Michelle Murphy discusses “Immodest Witnessing: The Epistemology of Vaginal Self-Examination in the U.S. Feminist Self-Help Movement.” Another article that interested me was Carrie N. Baker’s “Race, Class, and Sexual Harrassment in the 1970s,” which challenged the idea that sexual harassment is a mainly white, middle-class woman’s problem. I also enjoyed Judith Sornberger’s poem “Our Lady of Guadalupe Appears to Me at Wal-Mart.” Here are the opening lines: “I’m flipping through teapot and teddy bear / toss pillows, when suddenly she’s there, / floating before me in her fiery bubble, / feet resting on the crescent moon…” A good read, especially for those interested in the newest studies with feminist themes. [Feminist Studies, 0103 Taliaferro, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. E-mail: femstud@umail.umd.edu. Single issue $15. http://www.feministstudies.org] – JHG

 

Fence

Volume 7 Number 1

Spring/Summer 2004

Fence opens with a reprint of Vladimir Nabokov's marvelous "Canto One," a tough act for any poet to follow. Eighth-grader Kyle Kenner does a good job with his two prose poems, including "Drafted," a powerful, understated piece which ends: "A couple of days after the war was no more, his mom received a letter. A letter from the U.S.A. The letter said the soldier fought well, the letter said the soldier was no more." Paul Long gives us a disturbing bit of sideshow history with "The Greatest Natural and National Curiosity in the World," which recalls P.T. Barnum's passing off of an elderly black woman as a 161-year-old who'd reared George Washington. The fiction here is often surreal. I loved Katherin Nolte's "Things Penguins Do," about the superhumanly strong teen, Bunny, who longs to go to Antarctica to save the penguins. Her dream is deferred by a set of grandparents who hold her back, enjoying the feel of being spun through the air by their gifted granddaughter. Another strong woman – this one part machine – is presented by Deb Olin Unferth in "Maybe a Superhero." Hers is not the typical extramarital affair story: "She had both of their babies and flew back and forth between planets." Fence is a magazine of imagination and style. [Fence, 303 East Eighth Street, #B1, New York, NY 10009. E-mail: fence@angel.net. Single issue $10. http://www.fencemag.com] – JQG

 

The Formalist

Volume 15 Issue 1

Spring/Summer 2004

Are you lonely for the music that used to inhabit the house of poetry? Do you miss the rhyme, though you visit it sometimes in the lyrics of your favorite songs? Does a stray phrase from “Prufrock” or “Innisfree” or “Stopping By Woods” pop into your head every now and again, wondering where you’ve gone? Perhaps it’s time for you to sample The Formalist, a “unique poetry journal which publishes contemporary, metrical verse written in the great tradition of English-language poetry.” Included here are unabashedly rhyme-rich and metrically-constructed poems on a wide variety of themes, from roof-walkers to infidelity. Allison Joseph’s sonnet, “Yes,” likes the capabilities of “all those little words” like “no” and “but” and “who,” but stands nervous before the three little letters of affirmation: “But how is it a tiny ‘yes’ can scare / the bravest of the brave? [ . . . ] The aftermath of ‘yes’ can leave us bare— / not yet prepared for all we’ll have to give.” A. E. Stallings’ “Bad News Blues” is a deceptively simple and accessible consideration of how, admit it or not, we’re all in line for an audience with Bad News: “His smile swings open like a pocket knife. / He smiles like he could slice right through a life. / Nobody’s daughter is safe. Nobody’s wife.” A new feature, “a focused interview with a poet about the genesis of one of his poems,” examines Anthony Hecht’s “It Out-Herods Herod. Pray You, Avoid It.” – a starkly powerful and heartfelt piece that explores, against the backdrop of the Holocaust (Hecht took part in the liberation of the Flossenberg Concentration Camp in WWII), a father’s anxiety as he hopes to protect his children from evil. And poet and Formalist editor William Baer offers this wonderful summation of the value of the sonnet, the little fourteen-lined poem that says the world: “I believe [ . . . ] that the sonnet is one of man’s greatest creations and accomplishments. [ . . . ] It’s one of those magical structures, like a snowflake or a baseball diamond, that’s both beautiful and good in itself.” That wants to sing for you again, if you will listen. [The Formalist, 320 Hunter Drive, Evansville, IN 47711. Single issue $7.50. http://www2.evansville.edu/theformalist/] – AS

 

Harrington Gay Men's Fiction Quarterly

Volume 6 Number 2

2004

HGMFQ is not only a fiction journal, but a wealth of scholarly articles on gay literature and academic history. Some of this issue's offerings include R. Joel Dorius's "1960 Revisited: Another Perspective," regarding the emotional scars left by the loss of his teaching job at Smith College for the possession of "pornographic" photos of men; an exploration of gay memoir in J. Allen Hall's "Towards a Definition of 'Transgenre': Paul Lisicky's Famous Builder"; and a piece by Tony Dobrowolski on the history of the novel The Green Carnation, written by Robert Smythe Hichens in the time of Oscar Wilde and now being adapted as a stage play by Dobrowolski. As for contemporary fiction, there are but two short stories; I'd have liked to see more. My favorite piece in this issue is Jim Gladstone's "Pop Music," in which the author is dealing with his father's leukemia as his relationship with a crap-pop-music-loving boyfriend is falling apart. It ends with a visit to the New Orleans home of the legendary Clarence "Frogman" Henry, one of his father's favorite singers. Frogman's hospitality, the father's survival, and the breakup of the bad relationship combine to give Gladstone a last line all about living on: "Sing it Frogman. Sing it." [Harrington Gay Men's Fiction Quarterly, Thomas L. Long, Editor-in-Chief, English Department, Thomas Nelson Community College, P.O. Box 9407, Hampton VA 23670. E-mail: longt@tncc.vccs.edu. Single issue $7. http://www.tncc.vccs.edu/faculty/longt/HGMFQ/] – JQG

 

The Land-Grant College Review

Number 2

2004

The second issue of The Land-Grant College Review is an interesting thing to behold: it features some charming old-timey illustrations by Joy Kolitsky, but its ten stories are anything but old-fashioned. There's a hint of mystery to many of these pieces. Particulars are not spelled out, be they plot points, specific locations in the real world, or motives. We get this in Nelly Reifler's "The River and Una," in which a girl experiences the first flush of love with a boy as her wild older sister lies ailing and unresponsive following a mysterious slip – or jump? – in the river where, perhaps, she most belongs. A surreal mindscape is presented by Jeffrey Renard Allen as he takes on racism and religious manipulation as well as the after-effects of a domineering mother on a young black writer/activist in "Same." In Jeff MacGregor's "Welcome to the Mystery Cabin," a couple visits a crazy small-town tourist stop, one of those houses where water flows upside-down, perspective is jumbled, and gravity seems to have taken a holiday. The husband is hellbent on figuring out the tricks, but his wife is content to relish the unbelievable, the unknowable. Readers of The Land-Grant College Review would do well to follow her example. [Land-Grant College Review, Inc., P.O. Box 1164, New York, NY 10159. E-mail: editors@land-grantcollegereview.com. Single issue $12. http://www.lgcr.org] – JQG

 

Lynx Eye

Volume XI Number 2

Spring 2004

To be lynx-eyed is to possess very keen sight, an attribute this magazine’s contributors bring to their considerations of (a sometimes remarkably disguised) human nature. In addition to poetry and prose, you’ll find here one writer’s print debut (Rick Stroud’s much rowdier than its title “Death Ship”), black and white line drawings, and the winning entries from the annual “Captivating Beginnings” short story contest. Wendy Breuer’s engaging poems “School Nights” (about the common I’ve-never-been-to-this-class-before-and-now-I-have-to-take-the-test anxiety dream: “you can leave school, / but you never really get out”) and “At the Oakland DMV” (the universal, bureaucratic back-to-the-end-of-the-line-with-you daymare) remind us that, though the world may seem (hey! you there!) personally inhospitable at times, the fact that it seems that way to all of us means we’re not alone. Darrel Dionne’s “Cotton” is a moving tribute to his mother, “who grew up during the Dust Bowl and traveled the Steinbeck trail as an itinerant farm worker”: “These fibers clutched in the talons of cotton bowls / Made my mother’s hands bleed.” Michael P. Greenstein’s lively, evocative ink drawings (on the cover and within) encourage you to make up your own story. And Jana Gardner’s “The Swan Wing,” featuring a character whose birth defect is a fully feathered wing, gently reminds us that being who we really are (that most difficult but inescapable of tasks) is better than being normal any day. With a preference for magical realism and rollicking plotlines, Lynx Eye has a keen eye for the essence of life, in whatever strange getup it may present itself. [Lynx Eye, c/o Scribblefest Literary Group, 581 Woodland Drive, Los Osos, CA 93402. Single issue $7.95.] – AS

 

North Dakota Quarterly

“Hemingway: Life and Art”

Volume 70 Number 4

Fall 2003

This special issue of NDQ, more than three hundred pages long, covers Hemingway’s involvement with the theater, his 1935 trip to China, his relationships with nurse Agnes von Kurowsky and “spiritual kid brother” Arnold Samuelson, and much more. (Don’t miss Heidi Brotton Hudson’s linoleum-block print of a reflective Hemingway looking down, which seems somehow more essential than all the handsome hale fellow photographs we’ve seen.) There’s even a scholarly examination of why the film In Love and War (starring Sandra Bullock and Chris O’Donnell) failed so miserably (it jettisoned the “literary underpinnings” that might have given it weight and substance). Included here are conversations with sister Carol Hemingway Gardner (at 90), who spent vacations with Ernest and received help from him with college and travel expenses, but was banished from his life (a pattern of his) when she married a man he didn’t like. John E. Sanford considers Hemingway’s connection to painting, with particular regard to the works of his mother Grace, who took up the art at the age of fifty-two. Sanford argues less for her work’s influence on her son than for the bond they shared as creative artists, and offers up this startling fact: “at her son’s request, Grace sent Clarence’s [her husband’s] suicide revolver to Ernest,” “in a carton that contained a chocolate cake, some cookies, a book for Bumby and a roll of Grace’s two best canvases of desert scenes.” Poet and Hemingway critic H. R. Stoneback contributes a fascinating exploration of Hemingway’s symbolic treatment of diving, swimming, and sunbathing (heliophilia) that, despite its title, is quite accessible and swims right up to the essential mystery that is Hemingway in his attempts to convey (not to explain) in words “all the power and glory and beauty and strangeness of the great shadowy depth of being,” as Stoneback puts it. Near the end, you’ll find an elegy for Johnny Cash that has no stronger thread of connection to the Hemingway theme than that it’s written by Stoneback and mentions Hemingway’s name once, yet seems appropriate here, where two larger-than-life holdouts for art are remembered by a mutual friend who still loves them both: “at my door the leaves—everything falling but snow / the good songs always sing you where they want to go.” [North Dakota Quarterly, The University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND 58202-7209. E-mail: ndq@und.nodak.edu. Single issue $8. http://www.und.nodak.edu/org/ndq] – AS

 

Painted Bride Quarterly

Print Annual 2

2004

A little thicker than Bridge’s double issue, PBQ is, for those of us not in the know (which includes me until recently), now entirely an online presence and then, once a year, published as a print anthology. I’ll fully admit to the prejudice: I love print journals, and am always somewhat nervous or anxious about online stuff. Which, thankfully, PBQ has cured me of. This anthology/annual/whatever is, literally, luscious: reading it solidly through seems a little reckless, but as a bedside book, as a couch-arm-rester, it’s right up there with any Best Of collection out there. Being so mammoth and covering so much ground, it’s hard to describe the range of contents within, so statistics might be easier: poetry slays fiction in terms of exposure (there were 6 stories in 69, twice as much as the runner-up), though nonfiction/prose pages are roughly equal to fiction’s. There’s no theme except for Issue 70, which is a New Jersey issue. Roughly every few pages you’ll be bowled over by some line (chances are, statistically, it’ll be a poem). It’s an elegant, generous volume, and strangely, despite its thickness, it feels like a bit of a secret, about which the less I say the better: open it, fall. [Painted Bride Quarterly, English Dept., Armitage Hall, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ 08102. E-mail: pbq@camden.rutgers.edu. Single issue $15. http://www.pbq.rutgers.edu] – WC

 

The Paris Review

Number 169

Spring 2004

The venerable grand-dame of literary journals has been through some major changes lately, with the recent sad passing of enthusiastic founder, George Plimpton. However, the quality of the journal has remained very high, as might be expected. This issue features interviews on the art of poetry with poet Paul Muldoon and Paris Review’s own Poetry Editor Richard Howard. These sections (“The Art of Poetry” and “The Art of Fiction”) are often the reason I find myself digging through old issues of The Paris Review, when I start reading a favorite writer and suddenly get inspired to find out all I can about their thoughts on writing. There’s fiction by the likes of Rick Moody, a long essay about Dylan Thomas’s childhood and a pair of sonnets by the sharp Karen Volkman, if you’re a fan of hers. I very much enjoyed “Beast,” a poem by Sarah White which begins: “She looked like milk / She smelled / like vines curled with fruit. // Hunger with no form / propelled me / toward her, one maw.” Another poem not to be missed: Christian Nagle’s “Father Cleaning My Nails.” A satisfying and diverse read, as always. [The Paris Review, PO Box 469052, Escondido, CA 92046. E-mail: postmaster@theparisreview.com. Single issue $12. http://www.parisreview.com] – JHG

 

Poetry

Volume 184 Number 4

August 2004

After all the hullabaloo over Ruth Lilly’s recent gift to Poetry of an estimated one hundred million dollars (possibly a bit of a curse as well as a blessing?), I found myself approaching the magazine with some caution, wondering, as you might about a friend who’d won the Powerball, whether success would make a stranger of my old companion. But no worries. In this issue, you’ll find Poetry’s customary mix of expertly crafted verse both free and formal, by roughly equal numbers of well-knowns and newcomers. Danielle Chapman rescues from obscurity octogenarian New Yorker Samuel Menashe, a gifted and original poet who elicits broad meaning from the narrowest of lines: “Disbelief / To begin with— / Later, grief / Taking root / Grapples me / Wherever I am / Branches ram / Me in my bed / You are dead.” Farmer poet Timothy Murphy’s at once fatalistic and self-indicting “Mortal Stakes” yokes an absolute mastery of form and rhyme to a subject equal to it in weight: the age-old human propensity for self-inflicted harm (in this case, excessive drinking) or, as a Counting Crows song puts it, “How’m I gonna keep myself away from me?” And in Dave Lucas’ exquisite lament “Suburban Pastoral,” a poem about lost times recollected in maturity, regret and acceptance shine softly, side by side, fireflies and stars indistinguishable above a summer lawn, with the long night of mortality (and the heedless/hopeful latest generation) always coming on. Despite Poetry’s enviable good fortune, when you read this issue, you’ll be able to see for yourself that, in all the best ways, the ways that really matter, your old friend hasn’t changed a bit. [POETRY Magazine, 1030 N. Clark St., Suite 420, Chicago, IL 60610-5412. E-mail: circulation@poetrymagazine.org. Single issue $3.75. http://www.poetrymagazine.org] – AS

 

The Powhatan Review

Volume 3 Number 4

Summer 2004

The Powhatan Review is a testament to the tenacity of the creative impulse. Its founding editor Greg Avila, a heating/air conditioning installer and roofer as well as an artist, hoped it would be a stop against the voicelessness and invisibility that sometimes threaten the working class. In this issue, Richard Allen Taylor’s poem “Tuesday,” is a toast to the glamourless, taken for granted, not first or middle or last workday of the week: “Tuesday is grossly underrated, glad to be here, eager to get going. / [ . . . ] Tuesday is morning news and handy tool, the good dog / that comes when you call, the horse saddled / and ready to ride.” The subjects in Jason Hanasik’s photographs exude a kind of somber, world-weary strength that doesn’t seem to expect much anymore, but which achieves a kind of (cast in stone) transcendence simply by continuing to exist. Like some of the other work here, Hanasik’s people are presented largely without context, as if you sat down next to someone on a bus and he began telling you his life story. But since the particulars of a life are often used to discount the powerless, lack of background information can actually bring about a new attentiveness and sense of connection. The old paradox: sometimes the stranger on the bus will tell you more of his true story than he might ever bring himself to share with those closest to him. As Lee Minh McGuire puts it in his story “The Jesus Christ Smackdown,” “On the street, everyone is family, even though you’re never quite sure of a person’s real name.” McGuire continues, in what could be the creed of The Powhatan Review in its mission to chronicle the small, daily acts of hope and human endurance that receive so little attention: “But life goes on, I reassure myelf, and everyday above ground is a good day. As sure as I’m still breathing, things can change.” [The Powhatan Review, 4936 Farrington Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23455. E-mail: powhatanreview@hotmail.com. Single issue $3. http://www.powhatanreview.cjb.net] – AS

 

Rattapallax

Number 11

2004

A number of literary magazines claim a focus on international writing; Rattapallax is one of the few that truly feels like it does. This issue features poets from Chile, works in translation (often side-by-side with the originals), and a section (with accompanying CD!) celebrating Pablo Neruda. The poems here tend toward the political, as in Urayoan Noel's "Puerto Rican Pastoral": "This is the death of my chloroform island: / Puerto Rico / drowning in sanitary odes / Puerto Rico / the naked smiles, the failed city, / the 7-Eleven / the formless prophecy of starlight that explodes." Rattapallax is a good choice for those with a taste for the experimental, or for rhythmic poems with a righteous, streetcorner sensibility. (Tom Savage, "City of God": "Who sweeps the streets in the city of God? / Who does the laundry in the city of God? / Who runs the gyms in the city of God?") But fear not if you like your poetry a bit more conventional; there are poems for you too. Fredrick Zydek's "Mammoth Hall" is a museum meditation on the passing of time and the mortality of us all: "We will be gobbled into the dreams of stone, / a massive nothinglessness fading like autumn." Ah! [Rattapallax Press, 532 LaGuardia Place, Suite 353, New York, NY 10012. E-mail: info@rattapallax.com. Single issue $7.95. http://www.rattapallax.com] - JQG

 

Red Rock Review

Issue 15

Spring 2004

The Red Rock Review presents a mix of straightforward poems and engaging fiction. Most of this issue's stories are focused on failing relationships. In Blair Oliver's "Missing Things," someone repeatedly breaks into a couple's apartment. The petty thefts feel liberating to the husband, but his wife, disturbed by her husband's inaction, leaves him. A more humorous take on wife-leaving is presented by "The Vicinity of the Truth," Justin David Hamm's wry tale of a smooth-talker who can sell computers to Jehovah's Witnesses but can't keep his gambling in check (even his bookie wants him to seek counseling.) There's a spiritual theme as well, and my favorite example of it is Stanley Wright's "Cold, Snowy Bridge," in which a yuppie dives into the Chicago River to save a junkie suicide-jumper. This act is the first decent one of the man's life, and not entirely understood by himself; however, he recognizes it as a turning point at which he is saving his own soul as much as the woman's life. As for poetry, mention must be made of Leslie Findlen's "In Hand" – its first stanza is the perfect expression of the human condition: "The truth, my friend, is the planet is festooned / with what we have-not-got; garlands of years and lifetimes / hang from all the trees and mock us with their blooms." [Red Rock Review, Richard Logsdon, Senior Editor, Department of English J2A, Community College of Southern Nevada, 3200 East Cheyenne Avenue, North Las Vegas, Nevada 89030. E-mail: todd_moffett@ccsn.nevada.edu. Single issue $5.50. http://www.ccsn.nevada.edu/english/redrockreview/default.html] – JQG

 

River City

Volume 24 Number 1

Winter 2004

This glossy, student-run biannual features a lot of experimental, edgy poetry in the Iowa vein, and several short fiction pieces that center around graduate-student-aged characters (some of them actually in graduate English programs) struggling with unfriendly surroundings and difficult relationships. One story entertainingly outside of that mold was Glenn Deutsch’s “Leaderful,” a tongue-in-cheek insiders’ look at the business world’s responses to traumatic events, told from several employees’ points of view. The production values on this journal are very high; even the list of contributors on the back is designed whimsically. And the black-and-white and color art work included is unexpectedly wonderful, especially the eerie charcoal works by Joe Myer. I also enjoyed Robert Wrigley’s “For the One Who Prays For Me” and Frances Sjoberg’s poem “The Flight”: “1. // Say the bird was charmed by / the hand, scooped just so. // There in the hollow, a beating. / There is not a Leda. // This is not a swan…” Great design and worth the cover price just for the art work inside. [River City, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, 38152. E-mail: rivercity@memphis.edu. Single issue $7. http://www.people.memphis.edu/~rivercity] – JHG

 

Salamander

Volume 10 Number 1

2004

Clocking in just under 100 pages, Salamander is a sweet little journal of well-crafted poetry, short fiction, and memoir. Though many of the pieces in this issue reflect themes of illness and dying, there is often a sense of coming to terms with loss, accepting the cycle of life. "Rupture," by Judy Katz, recalls the author's weariness of helpful friends and relatives after her mother's death, and how her son's existence became everything to her after his birth. Anna Mitcov's "Cloud Formations" is a poignant story about a woman whose father develops memory loss on a visit to the village where he grew up; he loses all recollection of his life in New York, and of his daughter, who must return home without him. A wonderful excerpt of Carmit Delman's memoir, "Burnt Bread and Chutney," is featured here. Delman, who explores her identity as both Jewish and Indian, finds a journal written by her Indian grandmother after the woman's death. The journal opens the grandmother's thoughts and history to her. "There was something stunning here in the existence of it," she writes, "quests and revelations, traces of my ancestors, secrets even. It was suppressed and intelligent and trying to leave a mark somewhere, if only on a piece of paper." I highly recommend this magazine. [Salamander, 48 Ackers Avenue, Brookline MA 02445-4160. Single issue $7. members.bellatlantic.net/~vze2fh4r/index.html] - JQG

 

Smartish Pace

Issue 10

April 2004

Devoted entirely to poetry (this double issue runs 162 pages), Smartish Pace is a physically beautiful specimen, with Gaugin’s Woman of the Mango gracing the cover. Issue Ten celebrates a fifth anniversary (no small achievement for a literary magazine these days) in a novel format: for each previous issue, all the poets’ names are listed, then followed by a selection of new work by some of those same contributors. If there is a typical Smartish Pace poem, it’s thoughty—the things of this world existing as fodder for ever-restless minds—but this elegant journal makes a home for a wide variety of approaches. Claudia Emerson’s “Waxwing” gives us a wistful reversal of the good, even self-congratulatory, feeling you get when returning a lost creature to the wild. Patricia Clark’s “Fifty-Fifty” and “Forked Tree” are like the words of the quiet woman at the party who hasn’t said a word all night long and then hesitantly opens her mouth and sums up the whole world in one shy sentence. The phrase “ghosts in the machine” takes on new meaning in Claudia Keelan’s “Consequence 895-3333,” in which a “woman leaves a man and a child / & for years they leave messages on [the] machine”: “Quando” and “‘Come home Mama,’ in English.” And Dick Allen’s wonderful “Bravo,” dares to declare that “the universe is not an empty dodecahedron,” praises “spumoni, African violets, Apple computers,” and says “for all that befalls us: rain, snow, spiders, moonlight . . . / and for rice pudding, Bravo.” And bravo, too, to Smartish Pace for giving us so many intelligent and finely wrought poems. May they keep up the pace for many more years. [Smartish Pace, P.O. Box 22161, Baltimore, MD 21203. E-mail: inquiries@smartishpace.com. Single issue $10. http://www.smartishpace.com] – AS

 

Terminus Magazine

Issues 4 & 5

2004

The moment I read the first few lines of this poem, I knew I was going to enjoy this issue of Terminus: “My larynx & its misfiring synapses. / The coeds scooting to the end of the bar.” ("Chalk This Up" by Joseph P. Wood) While, admittedly, my taste in writing has taken a recent shift toward the more avant-garde, I find most of the writing in this double-issue engaging and well-wrought, and I very much enjoy the beautiful photography of Lotte Hansen. Terminus presents us with a personal, friendly magazine (it even places contributor's bios on the last page of the work!) that is full of high-quality, sometimes entertaining poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and interviews. Plus a touching travel narrative of Travis and Caron Denton's summer excursion. It's difficult to encapsulate this double-issue here. But, as Leon Stokesbury's epigraph to "The Gold Rush" – a pretty little poem – reads: "We must make our meek adjustments..." (Hart Crane). An excellent place to begin: Dan Marshall's "Writing the Postmodern Short Story," which begins thus: "Irony Irony Irony. If you can't be ironic, be laconic. Readers often confuse the two; in fact, since Alanis Morissette, nobody's sure what's ironic anymore, so even if you're describing a coincidence like rain on a wedding day, if you are laconic enough your readers will mistake it for irony." A really smart essay. Also recommended is James Iredell's interview with Pauls Toutonghi, an illuminating read for anyone working on writing. And, of course, lines of poetry, like the aforementioned. Highlights include poems by Abby Millager, Leon Stokesbury, J.S. Absher, Philip Kobylaiz, Matthew Rohrer, Sean Brendan-Brown, and others. And, of course, the short stories. Did I mention the artwork is fantastic as well? [Terminus Magazine, 1034 Hill Street, Atlanta, GA 30315. E-mail: terminusmag@aol.com. Issue $10. www.terminusmagazine.com.] – LC

 

The Threepenny Review

Number 98

Summer 2004

The quarterly, upscale-newsprint journal is always an entertaining read, especially its erudite but fascinating prose, such as the essay by Todd Newberry on the nature of aquariums, or the featured symposium of Realism including musings on the subject by writers like Louise Glück, Tobias Wolff and W.S. Di Piero. But the poetry is nothing to shake a stick at either – Paul Muldoon and Robert Pinsky grace this issue, as do the wonderful poems “The Word Given Back to the Mouth” by Michael Chitwood and “Death: a poem in two parts” by Daisy Fried. Here are a few lines from Fried’s poem: “…and ‘Look!’ – my husband poles me, points – / a dead deer is pushed into this poem. Junior / the butcher rolls it forward, laid out across / a low dolly: a button buck, tiny spikes, / read eyes clouded over-stiff like a toy horse…” There seems to be a Francophile mood throughout the pages – in “French Without Tears” Luc Sante describes his struggles and fascinations with the French language, there’s Bert Keizer’s “Proust at Home,” a review of Celeste Alberet’s book Monsieur Proust, a translation from the French of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne’s short story, “Monsters,” even the photographs of French scenes (charmant!) scattered through the issue by Eugène Atget. [The Threepenny Review, P.O. Box 9131, Berkeley, CA 94709. E-mail: wlesser@threepennyreview.com. Single issue $7. http://www.threepennyreview.com] – JHG

 


Reviewers (see Contributors page):
LKB
- Lisa K. Buchanan; LC - Laura Carter; MC - Mark Cunningham; WC - Weston Cutter; DE - Devon Ellington; DH - Denise Hill; JG - Jamey Gallagher; JHG - Jeannine Hall Gailey; JQG - Jennifer Gomoll; GK - Gina Kokes;  KL - Kathe Lison; DM  - Deborah Mead;  SRP - Sarah R. Payne; PFP - P.F. Potvin; JP - Jessica Powers; SR - Sima Rabinowitz;  AS - Ann Stapleton; ST - Sarah Tarkington; TW - Toby Warner

Edited by Denise Hill

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

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