Literary Magazine Reviews
EN - Eric Nolan; GK - Gina Kokes; JG - Jamey Gallagher;
JHG - Jeannine Hall Gailey; SR - Sima Rabinowitz; TD - Terri Denton
Edited by Denise Hill
This issue of Field contains mostly poems along with four ‘review essays.’ The poetry here is sprightly and thought-provoking., a nicely put-together collection. There are many brilliant poets featured, several of whom I’d never read before, so this was a pleasure. Among my favorites were Charles Wright’s “Buffalo Yoga Coda I” and Alice Friman’s “Invitation #2.” Both deal with, in a sense, what is undone. From Wright’s “Coda I”: “he speaks about the undone nature of our words, / That which we leave unspoken is like the hail from last night’s storm / Still clustered and white / in the shadowy tall grass, as yet unreached by the sun.” In Friman’s poem, she muses about an unconsummated date with a lover and the way with which we spend our moments: “The time devoted to writing this / Could have been heaven on a hammock / Kissing the no out of your mouth.”
Other gems include Carol Simmons Oles’ “An Excuse for Not Returning for your Memorial Service.” She writes about loss of life and lost second chances. Her narrative speaks to those of us who have willed time to suspend itself, or at least rewind. She writes to her lost friend, “and it’s too dark now to find your house.” Camille Norton muses, in “Monday Music” of life as felt by the fingers of a pianist: “I wonder why it is I know so little / about the black keys / how they marry and come apart / in the history of a scherzo.” All of the poems in this issue are delightful to read, counting Bruce Beasley’s “The Atoms of Unmeaning” and Frannie Lindsay’s “Remains.”[Field, 10 North Professor Street, Oberlin, Ohio 44074. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $7. www.oberlin.edu/ocpress/Main/field.html] - TD
Volume X, Number 2
There is a certain thrill in discovery; one that kicks your heartbeat up just a bit and leaves you clamoring for more, one that makes you think and, perhaps, makes you glad that this ‘discovery’ was ever put there for you to find. This, the first issue of Lynx Eye that I’ve had the joy of reading, did just that for me. A compendium of short fiction, poetry, art and prose, Lynx Eye is a delight.
The “presenting…” section introduces us to three poems by Faith Gardner who, in her bio, notes that she “…assembles torpedoes for her humble living.” This got my attention, as did her poem “Heaven to Floor” – “feasting while endlessly desiring more / more truth, more connection, less disguises / It all shines darkly from heaven to floor.”
Most of the writing in this issue of Lynx Eye is serious, with one quite notable exception. Terri G. Scullen’s “A Christmas Tale” won 2nd place in their Captivating Beginnings Short Story Contest. This hilarious story of an older sister’s upstaging of a Christmas dinner by going into labor had me in stitches. Noting that her sister’s due date was a week earlier, narrator Ellie remarks that the sibling in question “probably crossed her legs and held her breath to propel the possibility of just such a self-centered holiday sendoff.” Ellie’s other troubles include, but are not limited to, a boyfriend who left her for a librarian “one overdue book at a time.”
Other gems in this issue are Gerald Wheeler’s poem “X-Ray,” involving the doubts and fears of a childhood spent wearing ‘seconds’ from the discount department store, and Maureen A. Sherbondy’s unsettling poem entitled “Removal.” [Lynx Eye, ScribbleFest Literary Group, P.O. Box 6609, Los Osos, CA 93412-6609. Single Issue $7.95.] - TD
The First Line
Volume 5, Issue 1
This tiny zine has a fabulous premise: each story must begin with a line the magazine has selected, hence the name, The First Line. The idea has always intrigued me, seeming that the stories come from near and far yet share a theme. But as Rob Keast’s essay, “The All-Important Lead” explains, I was, perhaps, wrong to assume a shared theme. Mr. Keast’s essay is written about the differences between the first line in newspapers and the first line in literature. While the news lead in is essential to its being read, he says, it’s not so the case in literature, where first lines are often forgettable and forgivable. This essay, found in the back pages, should actually be read first.
The stories are wonderful. Laila Strickland’s “Open Mic Night at Beethoven’s Tenth” leads you, initially, to believe that that you know exactly who fathered the child that narrates the story. In the end, you don’t know. It’s a gorgeously written story. Then there’s Janet Scouten’s “Missing Ties” which leads you through a young man’s search for his birth father. In Caroline Taylor’s “The Incident of the Rose”, we learn of loves lost and the wish of a child to find her dead mother’s true love. And “Composition” by Laura L. Jaworski is simply brilliant, exploring issues of, well, composition and discarded characters.
After reading these stories and the others included, I’ve concluded that my assumption of a shared theme was, perhaps, not so far off. All of these stories deal with loss and a search for truth. Funny how it works that way. [The First Line, P.O. Box 250382, Plano, TX 75025-0382. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $2. www.thefirstline.com] - TD
Mars Hill Review
At first glance, the Mars Hill Review might seem to be your standard Christian publication. That, it is not. Between the covers you will find poetry, prose and interviews that feature coming to terms with your personal faith, the doubts that pervade us all in our search for religious meaning, and a wonderful essay that compares God to Superman. This essay, “God in a Cape” by Gary D. Robinson does a pretty convincing job of melding the two. He writes of the possible impetus of Superman’s creators to integrate their Judaism into a Christian culture. Of the 1978 movie about the Man of Steel, he writes: “a theologian interviewed by the Wittenburg Door complained that the average American Christian confused the cross with Kryptonite and the empty tomb with a telephone booth.” His essay tells how Christianity and the tale of Superman are intricately and immovably linked. “They water it down”, he says, “and wrap it in red and blue swaddling clothes, place it in a rocket, and send it hurtling to the earth.”
Also included in this issue is an interview with writer Lauren Winner, referring to her book Girl Meets God. A former Orthodox Jew, Winner’s conversion to Christianity was circuitous route. The magazine tells us the she is “a highly intellectual academic whose pivotal moments in her conversion to Christianity involve a dream featuring the actor Daniel Day-Lewis and her love for the admittedly middlebrow Mitford novels about a small Christian community living in the south.” Makes you want to read more, doesn’t it? It shows that this Christian publication should be prescribed reading for those of us in search of God. [Mars Hill Review, P.O. Box 10506, Bainbridge Island, WA 984110-0506. 1-800-990-MARS. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $12. www.marshillreview.com] - TD
The Literary Review
Volume 46, Number 3
Looking for fresh new stuff on Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven? Then this issue is for you. The "Dada Queen" is the focus this time, with her image on the cover, four of her "exhabitionist" poems, an introduction by her biographer, a review of the biography, and several photos of the baroness's artwork. Championed by such figures as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemmingway, and The Little Review (which was one of the first literary journals to publish Dada poetry and artwork), scorned and censored by many others, the Baroness is considered (by Linda Lappin, the reviewer of the biography) as "the great aunt of contemporary performance art." Some linked her nude public appearances and emotionally-charged poetry with madness, others to genius. Whatever the truth, she was a very visable figure of the New York literary scene who has since been mostly forgotten in a world where crazy unpredictable women are not welcome. Here is one of her poems in full, entitled, "She." "Moon / Tops / Olive / Firridge / Hazy / Waked - / Blue / Squats / Snow - / Stirless / Brush / Blacks / Mute - / She / Strips - / Naked."
I had a bit of trouble pinning down the rest of the journal. Certainly there was a strong element of the experimental, including a short piece by Rick Moody dealing with the troubles of one young chap capturing a plastic bag in the wind. Several other of the stories ran along this vein, in the lineage of Borges, Barthelme, Hannah, but what I found lacking was what is usually the saving grace of the style: humor. Also, the creed of Barthelme had been ignored: "What do wacky modes do? Break their hearts." But scattered throughout the issue were pieces attaining to more traditional values, including twelve pages dedicated to the poet John Kinsella and his Wheatbelt, America observations. Also noteworthy from the traditional corner is a poem by Bob Rogers called, "In Season" about bumping into an old acquaintance from the local poetry circle in the produce section. "He told me he wasn't writing anymore: 'The older you get the less you have / to say.' The world was no longer a place of mystery and voices for him, I could tell." [The Literary Review, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison NJ 07940. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $7.oo. www.theliteraryreview.org] - EN
The Yale Review
Volume 91, Number 2
A few things worth writing about in this issue of the well-established journal from New Haven. Debora Greger contributes a fine poem written from the endangered swamps of northern Florida, entitled, "Florida Apocrypha." It starts: "A Whooping Crane / had been sighted near St. Augustine. / Hand-reared, escaped / from a small flock of birds nearly extinct, / only to be shot ." Also in poetry, a less quirky, but worthy piece from Charles Simic, "Party Fiend" is about the awkwardness of entering a party full of strangers. Here the narrator expresses his self-doubt of accurately arriving at the correct house: "In any case, here I am worrying / How many matches I dare waste / Reading the names over the mailboxes." Among the essays, including a long-winded forty-pager meditating on three photographs, I found "The Complexity Complex," by Edison Miyawaki, a quick and interesting read about a 20th-century mathematics personality, John van Neumann, whom I knew nothing about previously. Side note: whatever the subject in The Yale Review, be prepared for a small dose of literary history. Noteworthy in reviews, Elaine Blair takes on Richard Powers latest novel with a vengeance, and a wired (as usual) Chaucer scholar finds fault with W.S. Merwin's translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, pointing out that Merwin breaks the end-rhyme scheme in his attempt to make the poem readable. Skip the single piece of fiction, don't miss the letters from Elizabeth Bishop's stay in Brazil - vivid stuff. [The Yale Review, Yale University, PO Box 208243, New Haven, CT 06520-8243. Single issue $9.oo. www.blackwellpublishing.com/journals/yr] - EN
Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review
The most recent issue of Borderlands offers a solid selection of fairly diverse, serious poems, along with a series of photographs, an essay, and artwork by Young June Lew. Many of the poems deserve a second reading. Highlights include Virgil Suarez’s vivid “Medicine Cabinet” and Eleanor Stanford’s beautiful and melancholy “Chronology.” Two poems by Susan Austin provide enigmatic and powerful imagery, natural details evoking emotional responses. In the editorial note, k. bradford and Amy Schrader try to maintain that these poems are a reaction against the war because “it is a radical act to tell the story of peace,” but none of the poems are overtly political, and they stand better on their own than as a collective call for peace. There are many talented poets working today, and a good number of them are represented here. The artwork by Young June Lew, featured on the cover and in black and white reproductions in the middle of the journal, is very interesting-- bodiless portraits in mixed media. [Borderlands, P.O. Box 33096, Austin, TX 78764. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $10. www.borderlands.org] ― JG
Volume 16, Number 38
This issue of Other Voices is a collection of mostly conventional short stories. “Elephant’s Pride,” one of my two favorite stories, by Heather Swain, follows a young traveler in Phnom Penh. This story does what all of the others at least attempt to do: it captures real people going through trying times. “Body Language,” by Joan Wilking, is the most structurally interesting story, dealing deftly and uniquely with cancer. There are very short, decent stories by Steve Almond and Greg Ames. An impressive selection from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie concerns a wronged African wife living in America. The end of the journal includes an interview with Josip Novakovich and three short book reviews. There’s a lot of valuable writing here. Some of the stories seem a little too conventional, too well rounded and carefully developed. In a few, I found myself knowing what was going to happen to the characters and not particularly caring. For the most part, though, these are solid stories. [Other Voices, University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of English (MC 162), 601 South Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607-7120. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $7. www.othervoicesmagazine.org] ― JG
Volume 31, Numbers 1 & 2
This prize edition of the Mississippi Review is remarkable for its cohesion. There is a clear editorial presence here, and it comes as no surprise that Frederick Barthelme and Mary Robison selected the winning stories and Angela Ball selected the winning poems. These practitioners obviously value both unique approaches to material and interesting subject matter. There is more depth than trickery in all these stories and poems. The poems almost all share a refreshing sense of humor, absent in more serious (and less enjoyable) journals, and range from James Grinwis’s bizarre quasi-homage to hats, “A More or Less Temporary Disorder,” to Marc Jampole’s “Dot and Sylvia,” a serious poem concerning less than perfect lives. The fiction selections are all interesting. The prizewinners in both the fiction and poetry competitions were deserving. Marlys West delivers potent and enigmatic poems that fracture with imagery. Lisa Glatt’s winning story, “The Geography of the Mall,” follows a young woman dealing with both her parents’ divorce and a father’s debilitating disease in fascinating ways. “Int. Los Angeles—Across, Others” was told effectively in the second person. The story “An Hour in the Day of Creation” was formed from minimalistic sections potently put together. [Mississippi Review, The University of Southern Mississippi, Box 5144, Hattiesburg MS 39406-5144. Single issue $12. www.mississippireview.com] ― JG
Nimrod International Journal
Volume 46, Number 2
The theme for this issue is “Who We Are,” which is about as broad a topic as there can be. Nothing really “unifies” these stories and poems. Many of the poems are less than exciting and many of them are too baldly emotional for my taste. There are some interesting poems here, though, including Virgil Suarez’s two opening pieces, “Tamarind” and “Orange Pickers,” and “Red Barn” by Ray McManus, which is very seriously dark. The nonfiction piece in this issue, “My Trianon: A Palimpsest” is an interesting look at a woman’s immigrant family history and personal debility.The piece of writing I enjoyed most was “The Escape Artist,” by David Cranes, which begins “They say it can’t be done, but in the end, nothing contains us.” [Nimrod International Journal, The University of Tulsa, 600 S. College, Tulsa, OK 74104. E-mail: Nimrod@utulsa.edu. One-year subscription $17.50. www.utulsa.edu/nimrod/] ― JG
Volume 25, Number 1
There is an almost overwhelming amount of quality writing in this twenty-fifth anniversary issue of Indiana Review. There is work from heavy hitters like Sherman Alexie, Stuart Dybeck, Angela Ball… the list goes on and on. Each of the stories in this issue is interesting in its own way. They include “Trim and Notions” by Rebecca Meacham, a sometimes funny look at impending single motherhood, and an incredible story called “To Hell and Back” by Michael Martone that I won’t even try to explain, but which should definitely be read. My favorite poems included “A Short History of Arm-Horses” (“These horses/ Obey horse instinct and coarse whim. These wild/ Horses rub her neck.”), and “Flight into Egypt,” Peter Cooley’s admonishment to fathers. But there is really too much quality work here to single out anything. [Indiana Review, Indiana University, Ballantine Hall 465, 1020 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405-7103. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $8. indianareview.org] ― JG
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