Literary Magazine Reviews

June 2003

Reviewers (see Contributors page):
- Eric Nolan; GK - Gina Kokes; JG - Jamey Gallagher;
- Jeannine Hall Gailey;  SR - Sima Rabinowitz; TD - Terri Denton

Edited by Denise Hill


Shenandoah – Strongly Spent, 50 Years of Poetry

Volume 53, Numbers 1-2

Spring/Summer 2003

If almost every issue of Shenandoah has a table of contents judiciously sprinkled with well-known famous poets, this special double-length, 50-year anniversary issue reads like a who’s-who of literary stars - Rita Dove, Robert Lowell, Maxine Kumin, W.H. Auden, Carolyn Kizer. I’d be surprised if they could squeeze any more award-winning poets in here. I loved the witty juxtapositions throughout, like Andrew Hudgins’ “The Gospel Villanelle” across the page from Langston Hughes’ “Ballad of the Two Thieves” – evidence that someone was paying attention to the smallest details of layout. Even works by less famous contemporaries sparkle in this collection. This is a great cross-section of contemporary American poetry, worth special-ordering (for the special, double-issue price of $16) even if you don’t read this review regularly. The 200-plus pages of poetry are sandwiched by two essays, Richard Wilbur’s “Poetry and Happiness” and R.T. Smith’s “Afterword,” which was full of fond memories of the poems and poets in this issue. It was hard to pick my favorite single quote out of so many wonderful poems, but I liked the following lines from “Poem” by e.e. cummings: “when are we never,but forever now / (hosts of eternity;not guests of seem) / believe me,dear,clocks have enough to do / without confusing timelessness and time.” [Shenandoah, Washington and Lee University, Troubadour Theater, 2nd Floor, Box W, Lexington, VA 24450-0303. ― JHG



Volume 29, Number 1

Spring 2003

This issue of Ploughshares, guest-edited by accomplished poet Carl Phillips, features diverse works of poetry and short fiction that are drawn together by emotional intensity. For instance, these lines from Peter Gordon’s “Birds of Paradise” illustrate the tense melancholy that epitomizes the story: “They shot him en masse, the air crackling and popping, the skinny birds pecking at the dirt flying in all directions like confetti. // A few days after this story was relayed in a letter from Rita’s cousin Gloria, Oscar started appearing in Rita’s dreams, always acting out the same scene, showing up at our back door wearing a blood-spattered white shirt and holding a bouquet of birds of paradise. The not-quite fresh flowers jut out from the cylindrical newspaper wrapping like baby bird heads, their pointy beaks and orange-yellow markings making them look almost predatory.” Other notable pieces include Lise Haines’ story, “A Glue-Related Problem,” Rita Dove’s poem “Bolero,” and Jennifer Kronovet’s poem, “Her Version, with Interruptions.” [Ploughshares, Emerson College, 120 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02116.  Email:  Single copy $9.95.] ― JHG


The Journal

Volume 27.1

Spring/Summer 2003

The Journal, produced by Ohio State University, celebrates its thirty-year anniversary with a mix of poetry and short prose pieces. Nothing too experimental here, but you can expect satisfying and solid writing throughout. I particularly liked Carol Potter’s poems, with startling lines like these from “If You Could Call It God” – “If you could call it God, you could make a map of it. / Elements combining with elements. The comfort / of molecules.” - as well as these from “Tantrum Girl” – “One might envy the body of a child. / That fresh skin. Those limber limbs. / Bend this way and that so smoothly.” Miriam Gershow’s story “Little Girl,” the winner of the AWP Intro Journals project, made for a riveting read as well. [The Journal, Dept of English, Ohio State University, 164 W 17th Ave, Columbus, Ohio 43210. E-mail:  Single issue $7.00.] JHG


Grain Magazine

Volume 31, Number 1

Summer 2003

With this issue, established Canadian literary magazine Grain celebrates its thirtieth anniversary, and displays a diversity of voice in the pages of poetry, fiction, and prose. Poems range from highly experimental to formal, and the short stories have almost nothing in common except a certain confidence of voice. This edition was a pleasure to read, and as an American, it was welcome exposure to mesmerizing Canadian voices like Bert Almon, Michael Hetherton, Lorna Crozier and Aviva Luria. Luria’s poem, “Concrete,” has almost song-like lyricism: “his mother plucks shards of glass / from the wounds / like pits from the flesh of fruit. / she touches the earth, desiring,” while Michael Hetherton’s short fiction piece, “Fatherland,” has a rapturous plainness in the terse descriptions of landscape and characters. [Grain Magazine, PO Box 67, Saskatoon, SK, Canada, S7K 3K1.  Email: Single issue $9.95.] JHG


Crab Creek Review

Spring/Summer 2003

This slim review showcases new voices from all over, but many from the Pacific Northwest. I like the ambition of this issue, even if some pieces lean slightly towards the unintelligible in their reach towards the experimental – as these lines from “idiot i” by A.K Allin may indicate: “by prodding out / someone’s soil / unto nevernothingness /selling goods/ to wherever town / is everlastingless.” Sometimes the experimental succeeds in being whimsical and thought-provoking, like Tom Chandler’s poem “Progress Reports.” If you like more down-to-earth, narrative pieces, make sure to read Nile Lanning’s story “Counting” and the poems “A Night So Pure the Love of God Seemed Real” by Fernard Roqueplan and “One Kind Boy" by Kevin Miller, the following from which I really enjoyed: "He remembers all the Sharons...sure he will be there when a sudden wind / makes them shudder, when betrayal / leaves them leaning towards the part of him / he's worked to scar with cuts of his own." [Crab Creek Review, P.O. Box 840, Vashon, WA 98070. E-mail: Single issue $6.00.] JHG


Gulf Coast

Volume 15, Number 2

Summer/Fall 2003

This luxuriously sizeable journal held interesting reviews, interviews, stories, poems and artwork, but one thing that I noticed that set it apart from other journals was that almost every single contributor had more than a page or two devoted to them - poets had three or four poems apiece, and the short stories and interview were long enough to be substantial. Especially with poets, this extended treatment of the writer’s work helps the reader get beneath the surface of their writing, and adds to our overall comprehension of the poems. So kudos to Gulf Coast for this practice! Another thing that surprised me was that although this review has a regional name and hails from Texas, it had an international flavor, with poets and writers from places as diverse as Alaska, Cuba, and Krakow. In addition to the creative works, I enjoyed the fascinating interview with poet Czeslaw Milosz, who spoke at length about the influences of communism and World-War II-era French intellectuals such as Camus and Sartre in his work. Also provocative were the photographs in the center of the issue, reminiscent of bio lab 101, which juxtapose sensual colors and textures with the cold scientific subject matter. [Gulf Coast, University of Houston, Department of English, Houston, TX 77204-3012.  Email:  Single copy $7.00.] JHG


Glimmer Train

Number 25

Summer 2003

If you only plan to read a few fiction journals this summer, be sure to include this one. Every story is worth your time. In this issue's interview, a regular Glimmer Train feature, Melissa Pritchard tells Leslie A. Wooten "stories repose deep within our flesh." These stories certainly got under my skin – original, beautifully composed, and for the most part ambitious, at least in terms of their subject matter. The most impressive work:  three stories by relative newcomers (meaning, no-book-yet) N.S. Koenings, Chieh Chieng, and Laurence de Looze, all, coincidentally, set abroad, in Tanzania, Malaysia, and Argentina. This issue's international component also includes another regular feature, a column by Siobhan Dowd, member of the PEN Writer's-in-Prison Committee in London, writing about jailed "cyberdissident" Zouhair Yahaoui in Tunisia. Every piece here has something to recommend it, the engaging and wholly credible voice of the young narrator in "Midnight Bowling" by Quinn Dalton, or the impossibly tender, controlled, but never sloppy emotion in Lisa Graley's story of an old man's losses, one of the finest stories about aging I've seen. Nevertheless, this issue would be worth reading, if not owning, for the first story alone, N.S. Koening's "The Accident, or, The Embrace."  Nearly every sentence is as masterful and original as the first: "By the time Gilbert Turner's wife had seen that the walnut-colored, scarlet-stripped log her daughter Agatha sat stroking on the banks of India Street was no log, but a leg which had come loose from its owner, it was too late for her to scream." According to the bio notes, this story is also the opening chapter of Koening's novel-in-progress. One of the pleasures of reading journals like Glimmer Train is discovering new writers, and there isn't a writer here I wouldn't welcome finding in any table of contents again soon. [Glimmer Train, 710 SW Madison Street, Suite 504, Portland, Oregon 97205-0837. Single issue $9.95.] SR


Seneca Review

Volume XXXIII, Number 1

Spring 2003

Eclecticism is a highlight of this issue, which features work by more than twenty poets, including several translations, and several lyric essays, a hybrid genre for which the Seneca Review is known. From informal and conversational  ("I have been staring down the newspaper weather map / for at least a coffee drip's diameter now," from a poem by Jasper Bernes), to the more abstract and lyrical ("I speak spark to the sun" from a poem by Joshua Corey), there are some fine poems here. Among my favorites are poems as wildly different as Lynn Sermin Meskill's classically themed pieces "Lion-Gate at Mycenae" and "The Son of the Last Otroman" and Jasper Bernes' "Possum Gambit" – "Best worse days the depressives play chess, / refreshed by fenced-in celebration." Nothing compares, however, to the translations of work by Claudia Lars, Fan Chengda, Carlos Edmundo de Ory, and Yehuda Amichai – extraordinary, memorable poems, beautifully translated.  The translated poems represent, deliberately it would seem, the same variety in tone I find in the rest of the issue, de Ory's "machine built for pain" balanced by Chengada's "peach trees and plum with nothing to say." [Seneca Review, Hobart and William Smith College, Geneva, New York 14456. Single issue $7.00.] SR


American Literary Review

Volume XIV, Number 1

Spring 2003

It's hard to imagine two more unlikely pieces together– Neela Vasawni's powerfully quiet story of war, exile, and music, "Bolero," and Tracee Lee's aggressively brilliant "New York Amnesia." What they have in common – mad, poetic images of New York and their appearance in this somewhat uneven issue of American Literary Review. Vasawni's exceptional story, with a delightful poem embedded in it, is the best of five stories here, though Julia Ridley Smith's "Mrs. West" is also extremely fine. It's hard not to appreciate the skill it takes to pull off writing as pleasing as this about a subject (taking care of a parent with Alzheimer's) that sometimes seems all too familiar these days: "Her world was a perpetual summer, apparently, which sure was nice for her, but here, in the real world, where was Mrs. West supposed to get a perfectly ripe garden tomato every day of the year?" In addition to Lee's tense, noisy, crowded, exquisite couplets about New York, this issue features the work of fifteen other solid poets, most fairly well established, including Virgil Suárez and Mark Irwin. "The Hunger Artist," by Joanne Jacobson is a well written, if predictable, essay about finding if not comfort, then refuge in an obsession with food. A review of Joan Frank's Boys Keep Being Born is so entertaining as to make me wish there were more than one review here. [American Literary Review, P.O. Box 311307, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas 76203-1307. Single issue $5.00.] SR


The Antioch Review

Volume 61, Number 2

Spring 2003

This issue's theme is "In Search of Memory" which, writes editor Robert S. Fogarty, "plays a defining role for both our essayists and storytellers as they rework the past to make memory speak." These substantial pieces by highly credentialed writers hardly need much introduction, though, and are consistent with this journal's reputation for showcasing quality and talent. Nonfiction and fiction prose by such writers as Floyd Skoot, Joseph Goetz, Geoffrey Becker, Aimee Bender, and Rick DeMarinis, is followed by the poetry of such poets as Angela Ball, Eamon Grennan, and Alan Michael Parker, among others, and a half-dozen illuminating reviews. I was particularly taken with Karl Iagnemma's lighthearted but skillful story, "Kingdom, Order, Species" about a female forestry student who finds a way to meet her long-time idol, the outmoded writer of her favorite botany textbook. This issue also introduces Russian poet and writer Viktor Sosnora who is relatively unknown outside of his own country, despite his prestige there, and whose clever and sardonic voice is worth getting to know. And an essay by Gordon Lish, deceptively humorous, dazzles and disarms: "Don't you see what art is – and how it is, for all our sakes, all there is?" [The Antioch Review, Antioch University, 150 E. South Chicago St., Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387. Single issue $7.00.] SR


Red Rock Review

Spring 2003

"Those readers who would like to enjoy our literary selections, please skip immediately to our table of contents," advises the "Disclaimer" that precedes associate editor Todd Moffett's long editorial about "Baseball Reform." I took the advice and proceeded directly to the "literary selections" which include eight stories, poems by three dozen poets, and several reviews by editor Richard Logsdon. I found the poetry more memorable than the fiction here. My judgment must coincide with the editors who printed one the finest poems in the issue on the back cover, "Shattered Ruby" by Christine Boyka Kluge: "They have her cornered, / not knowing / diamonds and pearls are sewn / to the ribs of her ivory corset." The titles of many of the poems in this issue, oddly enough, are as evocative and original, if not more so, than many of the poems: "When My Haiku Was Accepted by Haikus Unlimited, the Editor Asked for a Brief Biography to Put in the Contributors Notes" (James Doyle), "Afterwards, Baby Blue" (Laurie Byro), "Certainly in Los Angeles" (Rich Furman), "Starting with a Line in a Room with Picassos." [Red Rock Review, Department of English J2A, Community College of Southern Nevada, 3200 East Cheyenne Avenue, North Las Vegas, Nevada 89030. Single issue $5.50.] SR


Room of One's Own

Volume 26, Number 1


One of Canada's oldest literary magazines, Room of One's Own publishes "short stories, poems, art, and reviews by, for, and about women."  "Worth Living" is this issue's theme, which editorial collective member Zoya Harris explains in her introduction is as much about choices as it is about circumstances. Every piece here feels necessary, and many feel urgent. A few are deeply moving, including Jalina Mhyana's poem, "August 6, 1946": "Women who wore kimonos on August 6, 1945 / still have the flowered designs of the cloth / photographed onto their aged flesh- / cherry blossoms that never fade or fall, / a promise of eternal springtime / branding them as Japanese." There is joy, too, "worth living" among these difficult, pressing, themes, as fundamental and urgent, in its own way, as the darker subjects. And humor, too: "Her chronic need to tell jokes / is a personality trait. / But that was before my grandmother announced / to a table full of dinner guests / that my mother wore a padded bra. / After that it was called a disorder." ("Don't Ask My Grandmother for Advice" by Sherry MacDonald) I was surprised to find reviews principally about mainstream books, reviewed in dozens of publications, and would have liked to see more reviews on books from small presses. On the other hand, these are straightforward, honest reviews that inspired me to read a few books I'd ignored or overlooked, including Nadine Gordimer's novel The Pickup. [Room of One's Own, P.O. Box 46160, Station D, Vancouver, BC., Canada V6J5G5. Single issue $7.00.] SR



Volume 23, Number 2


When you pick up this one, give yourself plenty of time – it's an exciting issue with a terrific mix of newer and more established writers and numerous insightful, deftly composed reviews. The writing throughout is sophisticated, savvy, skillful.  A relatively new feature of the journal is the introduction of lesser-known poets by better known writers. My favorite is Dan Bellm's choice of Helen Wickes, who needn't worry about the mediocrity she bemoans in "The Chaperone:" "My mediocrity accompanies me to the café / coughing gently when I think or speak." Much, though not all of the poetry in this issue is edgy, ostensibly casual, conversational. Yet, none of it is predictable or trite, and there are some truly breathtaking moments, for example, "To Examine a Dead Thing" by Rusty Morrison: "Follow the expenditures of gray, limitless in each strewn / feather. Travel the small pain behind your ear. / Concede to an invasive, perhaps usable, / dismay." There isn't a poem among the several dozen here I don't want to read again and again. There is nothing stale or tired or trivial. This issue is heavier on poetry than prose, though the prose, several pieces of short fiction and three substantial essays, is of equal interest and caliber. Particularly noteworthy is an essay by Geoff Bent "Fabricating History: The Paradigm That Ruined 20th Century Art." Whether one agrees with him or not about what creates "lasting appeal," it is a pleasure to find serious, thoughtful art criticism that is also accessible, readable.  [Pleiades, Department of English and Philosophy, Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, Missouri 64093. E-mail: Single issue $6.00.] SR


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