Literary Magazine Reviews
Return to Current Literary Magazine Stand
Posted Oct 27, 2003
Issue Number 1
The debut issue of this attractive, glossy saddle-stitched review features poems by the likes of A.E. Stallings, Molly Peacock and Annie Finch. The National Poetry Review “favors formal verse” as demonstrated in these lyric lines by Ellen Kirvin Dudis from her poem “Betta Splendens”: “Love never offers. I see another, / not the other. Nights, I rise for air / -O lost lagoon, O submerged fire- / and on three inches of water / float these kisses. Your heart’s no larger than the jar.” And these lines in unrhymed iambic pentameter from Rachel Losh’s “For Our of Man this One was Taken”: “O Eve, O darting proton, fitful eyes / as green as bottle glass – your skin’s aswirl / with rivers so swift, the fleet sails down you first.” Themes of science and spirituality run through this issue, which consists solely of poetry - no reviews, fiction, or essays. The art on the cover, a print of a painting by Bruce Brezel entitled “Fall Poplars-Provence,” is as lovely as the poetry contained within the journal. I hope the issues that follow are as ambitious and self-contained as this one. [The National Poetry Review, PO Box 640625, San Jose, California 95164-0625. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue: $6.00. http://www.nationalpoetryreview.com/] - JHG
The Southern Review
Volume 39 Number 3
The august tradition of Southern writing that is The Southern Review comes by its reputation honestly. The author list is always speckled with literary stars, mostly with similarly august traditions, like Louis Simpson and Richard Tillinghast. The content is usually rewarding, and this issue is no exception. The short fiction in here is as good as it gets; I found myself spontaneously reading the stories to others. “The Son’s Point of View” by Brock Clarke, a tale of family tragedy told by one character trying to see it through another’s eyes, and “Witness Protection” by Mark Jacobs were particularly compelling. “Witness Protection,” is a haunting story of a journalist who investigates a mysterious homeless woman: “Inocencia disappeared again. Several years passed. No one was willing to speculate in my presence about what was done to her. What lay beyond dispute was the appearance on Little Twig of a women in her twenties, disheveled and disoriented, too disturbing to be beautiful, who liked to play checkers.” Among the poems, the light-hearted “Grammar” by Michael Chitwood was particularly enjoyable. The reviews were intelligent and respectful. Overall, a good read and a good way to check the pulse of contemporary southern writing. [The Southern Review, Louisiana State University, 43 Allen Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70803. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $8.00. http://appl003.lsu.edu/southernreview.nsf/index ] - JHG
The Seattle Review
Volume 25, Number 2
The Seattle Review, which has been one of my favorite journals since before I moved to Seattle, has recently become the new bastion of the Pacific Northwest literary scene, and it certainly manifests a renewed glamour in its latest issue. The featured retrospective of Sharon Olds by Linden Ontjes, and essay by Olds herself, generously full of her poetry and personal photos, would, by themselves, make this issue a must-have. But, as added incentive, the lovely cover art from Do-Ho Suh and the gorgeous full-color cityscapes of Italy by Marcia Woodard appeal to visual arts lovers. The poetry throughout this issue, like the short stories, were moody but varied. I especially liked Ronald Antonio’s poem “When I Am Who I Am,” excerpted here: “Listen / I am a yellow cockatoo / playing riddles in a cage / through which no one hears… I am a monsoon in the eye of my ancestors / the heartbeats of those / who’ve walked before me / and planted their bones / here / in America…” I hope The Seattle Review continues to showcase the best new and established writers of the Northwest and beyond. (In the interests of full disclosure, I did contribute a poem to this issue. But don’t let that sway you one way or the other.) [The Seattle Review, Box 354330, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-4330. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $7.00. http://depts.washington.edu/engl/seaview1.html] - JHG
This generously-spirited review produced at the County College of Morris in New Jersey focuses solely on New Jersey writers and artists, but contains a surprising diversity of work. Especially whimsical and fascinating were several black-and-white photos of poet Marianne Moore, including one of her dwarfed by elephants in the Bronx Zoo. The poetry ranges in style and form from traditional to experimental. Here are a few lines from Jamie McNeely’s obsessively lovely “Your Voice”: “…Your voice, a coral-scarred cave // now above sea level, hardly hollow: How I hear the white tides /…rushing violence down your throat.” And here are a few lines from Lee Slonimsky’s “Beowulf(s)”: “Our favorite vignette: / wood lice gliding out / from a windaxed tree’s floating trunk, / miniature Beowulfs braving black seas / beneath the glaze of forming ice…” This issue also contained a handful of poetry book reviews. An interesting peek into the literary talents of the Garden State. [Journal of New Jersey Poets, County College of Morris, 214 Center Grove Road, Randolph, New Jersey, 07869-2086. Single issue $10.00. http://www.ccm.edu/humanities/journal.htm ] - JHG
Volume 22 Number 1
Most of the poems in this issue of the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, with its cover picture of a dove with a peace sign and a giant “PEACE” announcing its theme, have to do, surprisingly enough, with peace. Consisting mainly of poetry written by people in the San Francisco area, this affordable, newsprint review uses this issue to loudly sound the anti-war cry, sometimes more successfully, sometimes less. Some poems were a bit didactic for my taste, but I know it is difficult to write about war without devolving into rant or political plea. I liked the poems that were a bit more oblique, such as Al Young’s “The Pianist Prepares Her Playlist,” which had a spoken-word, musical feel to it. Here are a few lines: “…she played juicy bebop piano, she hedged her tunes to satisfy lovers / and defectors alike… / The consummate music-mathematician, she knew and understood. / The answers, all multiple, stalked the cracks between the keys…” Interspersed throughout the review were black and white illustrations, which I also enjoyed. This is a journal that takes you to a place where the “beat” movement lives on. [Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, 558 Joost Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $2.00.] - JHG
Bathtub Gin is an irreverent little saddle-stitched journal that will appeal to those who love the literary world but could care less about the more academic aspects. This issue includes an interview with writer Mark Terrill, along with four of his poems, a series of photographs by Caryn Thurman, a couple of short prose pieces and an array of short poems, as well as some small illustrations by Harland Ristau. Some of the poetry in this issue tended towards the humorous, as was the case in Mark Terrill’s work, while other poems reached for the spiritual and scientific truths, like John Grey’s “Elizabeth Prefers Glow-in-the-dark Stars”: “You say real stars are just burning / gas, worse than that, they’re burning / themselves to extinction. Glow-in- / the-dark stars refuse to take such / a violent hand in their own demise.” This journal calls itself a “bootlegger of ideas, untaxed and unregulated,” and that spirit can be detected throughout this issue. [Bathtub Gin, P.O. Box 2392, Bloomington, IN 47402. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $5.00. http://home.bluemarble.net/~charter/btgin.htm] - JHG
Posted Oct 23, 2003
Poetry International is an annual journal out of San Diego that manages to present a collection of poetry, essays, art and reviews that feels thoroughly edited yet diverse and exuberant. The essays are original and lively, especially Jeredith Merrin's "And Damned If It's Not a Hart Crane-Azure Sky!--Some Notes on American Modernism and Influence," a discussion of how Modernist writers have influenced her writing, and Mark Weiss' essay, "The Worlds of Cuban Poetry." Mark Weiss is also the translator of the featured Cuban poems, including my favorites, "The Girl in the Forest" and "Mother Goose," two surreal but intimate takes on popular children's stories, by Eliseo Diego. A few lines from “Mother Goose”: “…Then / amid the golden flames / that cavernous mouth. / A hurricane whispers: / ‘Once upon a time…’ / And everything begins.”
This issue lives up to the international part of its title, with poets from Chile, Germany, Russia, Mexico, China, as well as America and a special focus on Cuba, including literary luminaries like Octavio Paz and translator-poets Tess Gallagher and Marilyn Hacker. I particularly enjoyed the poem "It sometimes happens that the forest disperses itself..." by Vénus Khoury-Ghata, a Lebanese poet who writes in primarily in French. (Here beautifully translated by Marilyn Hacker.) The artwork throughout was is fascinating as the writing, many of the pieces surreal and metaphorical. A very interesting journal, especially for those who want to keep a finger on the pulse of poetry worldwide. [Poetry International, Department of English & Comparative Literature, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile, San Diego, CA 92182-8140. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $12.00. http://www.rohan.sdsu.edu/dept/press/poetry.html] - JHG
eye-rhyme: The Infidel
A little journal. Sometimes when we say "little" we mean inconsequential, insubstantial, or sometimes we may mean unnoticed or even unpretentious. But when it comes to eye-rhyme, I mean, literally, little. This diminutive volume measures about 4 ½ x 4 ½, which gives it an "experimental" aspect from the get go. I appreciate the opportunity to think about the meaning of "experimental literature," which in the case of eye-rhyme includes: unusual, original, and/or hybrid forms, language that deliberately strives to break the conventions of normative logic, attention to non "mainstream" or "commercial" literary endeavors, a preponderance of images and language from "popular culture,” an eroticism that borders on the pornographic, and a tone, in much of the poetry, as well as the prose, that defies definition, but that somehow manages to be both bold and casual.
In their opening note, titled "Attention Reader!" the editors tell us, "We are fierce and handsome, soft and lovely," and it's true; there is fierceness and loveliness here. Fierce: "…I've met John / the Baptist and would have liked / to deliver his head / on a platter / to my drunk friends" ("City Bus Ride in April," by S. Asher Sund). Lovely: "This morning I bathed / my eyes with the tiny / star shaped blossoms / of the Jade plant / in this cold sunlight" ("My Landscape" by Yumiko Tsumura). [eye-rhyme, Pinball Publishing, 2621 SE Clinton, Portland, OR 97202. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $9.00. www.pinballpublishing.com] - SR
Volume 3 Issue 2
There is something delightful about opening a literary journal, especially one with this title, to find the score for a string quartet. Beautifully printed, lovely to look at, it is possible to appreciate the "Quartet For Strings #1" by Nicholas Morrison whether one reads music or not. The music is followed by a dozen or so poems, photographs, including stunning portraits by Wynne Harrison Hutchings, fiction, and several essays in criticism, a form that is somewhere between a journal-length review and an in-depth critical essay. Published at the University of Chicago, much of the work here is authored by undergraduate and graduate students from around the country. Fiction writer Mathew Raymond and the Euphony editors get my vote for publishing the best bio of the year: "a drop-out from Columbia University's MFA program."
For the most part, the poems and stories in Euphony are, quite pleasingly unpredictable. By this I mean they have the capacity to surprise, to move in unexpected ways or to reach unanticipated conclusions. Mathew Raymond's "Essaouria Quartet" (a short story, not another music score) presents four versions or perspectives of the same scene. Jenny Grassl's poem, "Falling Rocks," falls on the page in an unusual layout, a form that seems, appropriately, to work for and against the poem's language. A review by Liam Jackson of a new biography of Byron begins, exuberantly, "How long ago it was that Byron died!" That explanation point is all the motivation I needed to read further. [Euphony, 5706 S. University Avenue, Room 001, Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail: email@example.com. http://euphony.uchicago.edu/ ] - SR
The blood red cover announces this volume's theme "Blood/Le Sang," as well as this Canadian journal's bilingual presentation. The Canadians are leaders in feminist writing that crosses "the boundary between creative and theoretical texts," and this issue's introductory essay by editors Martine Delvaux and Catherine Mavrikakis is an excellent example. This exciting work links personal story and reflection, ideas about the meaning of "blood relations" and the language and uses of blood from writers and philosophers and religious texts, and explores the meaning(s) of "blood" in advertising and social interactions ("Blood. It's in you to give" – from the Blood Services of Canada). Alternating between French and English, Delvaux and Mavrikakis’ piece sets the stage for the essays, poems, other prose texts, and artwork that follow.
Given the consistent quality of the work in Tessera, it's difficult to single out only a few authors or pieces for special mention. "Marrow: 1-9" (a work that explores family violence and racism from a child’s perspective) by Melissa Jacques is the sort of prose-poem-essay-sudden fiction hybrid that I hope to find in journals like this one. "Blood Courses Through the Veins," a poem by Nancy Viva David Halifax offers a lyrical contrast to the more academic writing, but seems entirely natural alongside it ("Thoughts course / through these veins / one deep cut and / the earth will rise to meet her.") David Biale's essay, "Does Blood Have Gender in Jewish Culture?" presents meticulous scholarship and wholly readable prose. If it seems that more than 200 pages on the "blood theme" could become difficult (family relationships, vampire literature, the blood of violence, considerations of the body), it's true. This is often dense, slow, intense reading, all of it worthwhile, but all together these texts can be overwhelming. These pieces demand and deserve the most careful and discrete kind of reading. [Tessera, Women's Press, 180 Bloor St. West, Suite 801, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S2V6. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $20.00. http://womenspress.ca/] - SR
In his Editor’s Notes, Gerry LeFemina, who here edits his last edition of Controlled Burn, admits his preference for poetry. That’s evident from the journal itself, which offers solid and interesting poems along with some decent fiction pieces. The fiction highlight for me was Dan Leone’s “Balboa Park,” which is simple and humorous and involves an old chess player with no legs. Good stuff. A few minor structural criticisms would include the use of an overly fancy font, differing type sizes and a number of typos. All in all, though, the poetry is so good and diverse that any criticism is minor. Poems that impressed me included Robert Dunn’s “A Procession, Ghana,” and Jim Simmerman’s more comic poems. While it’s sometimes easy to get slogged down with a journal devoted primarily to poetry, this one is varied enough to hold the reader’s interest throughout. [Controlled Burn, Kirtland Community College, 10775 N. St. Helen Road, Roscommon, MI 48653. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $7.00. http://www.kirtland.cc.mi.us/cburn/] - JG
The magazine 96 Inc. is better than expected. It’s a simple production with the focus squarely where it should be—on the writing. Inside, there are three decent realistic stories and a lot of poetry. Some of it is by young writers, some is by established poets, and all of it is high quality. The mission of the magazine alone makes it worthy of attention. The editorial board of 96 Inc. runs youth programs and is devoted to “the new voice.” Even though these goals are admirable, the writing stands on its own. This is not a pity read. Quality work includes Lyn Lifshin’s poems, and a very nice piece, “What I Didn’t Know” by Judy Katz-Levine. “Her name was one not to be spoken,” the poem begins, and it layers personal recollection with ambiguity. It was the one poem in the magazine that made me write “wow” in the margins. Don’t be put off by the simplicity of the design; this is a good journal. [96 Inc., PO Box 15559, Boston, MA 02215. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $5.00. www.96inc.com] - JG
"We welcome writing that makes us feel and think deeply about serious human concerns such as tolerance, diversity, freedom, nonviolence, multi-cultural awareness, healthy relationships, environmental justice, globalization, personal growth, and spirituality," say the editors of this annual publication from Ohio, now in its fifth year. This issue features writing on peace and social justice and includes stories, poems, and short personal essays on a wide range of themes, among them: war, the conflict in the Middle East, anarchist organizations, the life of the Pueblo community in the southwestern United States, racism, the life of migrant workers in the United States, the internment of Japanese American citizens, living with disabilities, domestic violence, and the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001. Contrary to what one might expect, encountering these themes together is not overwhelming. In fact, this accumulation of social justice themes actually seems to work in their favor, creating a large and more commanding vision.
One of the most unusual, surprising, and rewarding pieces is Ann Lewison’s short fiction, "Rose Petals," which begins: "After the flood we built our house of rose petals." The house is condemned, as it's a federal offense to build a house out of rose petals. I was impressed not only by the story's success, but also by the inclusion of the theme of coping with "natural disasters" in the spectrum of issues related to social justice. A short poem of effective three-line stanzas by JoAnne Growney, "Pages of Unsaid Words," is memorable, too, mindful of the women "without wages" in a prison in Nanjing who make the "black spring clamps" that "wait for manuscripts" in the poet's desk drawer. Most impressive, though, are translations by Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani of the work of Japanese poet Ayukawa Nobuo, one of the founding poets of the "Wasteland" group and a pacifist war veteran. Some of Nobuo's work is frighteningly apt for the current moment, such as these lines from a poem titled "Solzhenitsyn": "Because everywhere you go/you don't stop to be yourself,/you're always watched and shadowed." [Out of Line, P.O. Box 321, Trenton, Ohio 45067. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $10.00. http://www.readoutofline.com/] - SR
This annual journal from Truman State University tips the scales at a hefty and generous 250 pages —18 stories, 32 poems, an essay, and 3 reviews. Don't skip the reviews; admirably, GHLL reviews poetry and novels from lesser-known, independent presses.
By chance or by design, many of the stories in this issue recount the experiences or perspectives of children, adolescents, or young adults, including Mark Wisniewski's, "Cecilia," winner of the journal's fiction contest. Wisniewski's story is a sarcastic look at the underbelly of MFA programs for writers: "'MFA –at-NYU—that's how she always said it, 'MFA-at-NYU," as if it were a code that meant whoever heard it should kneel at her feet and kiss them." Another highlight is Jennie Rathbun's "Lark Ascending," a funny and atypically upbeat story about a marriage in trouble.
GHLL's one essay is by novelist and founding editor of Ploughshares DeWitt Henry. "Dress Rehearsal" recounts Henry's trip to the emergency room. Henry is told he has a muscle tear and is sent home from the hospital with pain medication. "No sooner did we get home, however, than the phone rang and another doctor who had just read my X-rays told me excitedly that I had pneumonia. He had seen the small spot on my lung that the others had missed." This piece belongs to what is becoming, in some ways, its own mini-genre: stories of misdiagnosis, medical mistakes, and bungled care.
The poems, as a group, are more eclectic than the stories, though narrative poetry predominates. "Poems for Buttercup" by Trish Lapidus is one of my favorites: "Pregnant with me, my sister on her shoulder, / she stokes the wood cook stove and pulls yesterdays // corn chowder from the icebox…//…When my father steps in from gathering eggs, // her mind boils out her mouth." Virgil Suárez’ poem, "The Face of Jesús in Campbell's ABC Tomato Soup," is as memorable as the title. And I must mention Julie Lechevsky's "Suppplicant": "I would like to develop more positive / thoughts about my lovers. / I will do this by entering into prayer." You'll have to pick up this issue to find out what she prays for. [The Green Hill Literary Review, P.O. Box 375, Trenton, MO 64683. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $10.00. http://ll.truman.edu/ghllweb] - SR
A Magazine of Writing & Art
Volume 69 Number 4
Editor Robert Stewart's interview with Renée Stout — reproductions of her mixed media assemblages, paintings, and sculptures appear on the cover and on sixteen pages within — is reason enough to look at this issue, but, not the only reason. Poems by Sherman Alexie, Simon Perchik, Diana O'Hehir, short fiction by Lance Olsen, and essays by Janet Burroway, and Jodi Varon make spending time with the most recent New Letters especially worthwhile.
Stout approves of NL's assessment of her work as "gritty" and "edgy," though the word "political" does manage to work its way into the conversation. Often, it's her combination of language and visual images that makes the work gritty, or edgy, or political. In the interview, Stout talks about her alter egos Madam Ching and Fatima, about a job painting signs and how that influenced her work, and about her artistic vision: "Part of me feels like my art should be about self-examination, and then I also want to record what I'm observing outside of myself. So there's a balance. I want to know, ‘Where do I fit in this?’"
Six strong poems by Sherman Alexie open the issue, and I am drawn to the work "Avian Nights," with its verses like "The starlings don't understand synonyms." Diana O'Hehir’s poems are two of the most affecting and effective imaginable. "Without," influenced by a news photo of a woman whose hands were amputated in a civil war begins: "Last night I dreamed my hands were back / I held something between them." Lance Olsen's story "Sixteen Jackies," picks up where Warhol's famous "Sixteen Jackie's" leaves off. Simon Perchik, who never disappoints, is at his best here: "The moon behind the moon / works its tides / the way you rotate this switch // and the wall still warm / dims…" Burroway is always edgy and political on some level, and her essay here about "high" and "low" culture is, as always, thoughtful and satisfying reading. Varon's essay is an outstanding example of the way in which a writer can integrate personal or family story, history, and social observation, in deft and agile prose. [New Letters, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 5101 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $8.00. http://iml.umkc.edu/newletters/] - SR
Posted Oct 5, 2003
This is a journal that prides itself on taking risks and elevating the new. In this case, one of the new things it introduces us to is the poetry of Picasso, featured across seventeen pages, in translation, with lines like “III and in the organ fry up the dead leaves/ II that draw blood/ III that the lake’s light astonishes/ I and makes sing.” This issue is rich with allusion to visual arts; the first section of the journal, Richter 858, includes responses to painter Gerhard Richter’s work, excerpts from a multimedia anthology on the same subject. While a fair amount of the poetry appeared barely comprehensible, someone with an eye for talent seems to have placed the bets here. Big names like Jorie Graham and Edward Hirsch dot the pages, and poems like Donna La Perriere’s “Gospel” and the erudite, complex “The Beheading” about the life of Caravaggio by Clayton Eshleman give you hope that New American poetry might be something you actually want to read. At least the work, with its dazzling array of forms, from densely-packed prose to different fonts clustering around the page in different sizes as if they were afraid of each other, won’t bore you. The challenge may just keep you engaged long enough to figure out the puzzles inside this issue. [New American Writing, 369 Molino Avenue, Mill Valley, CA 94941 Single issue $8.00. www.newamericanwriting.com/] - JHG
Volume 54 Number 1
Beloit Poetry Journal is one of the journals that poetry junkies in the know call a must-read because of the consistent quality of the poetry they publish, the freshness of the voices, and the terrific reviews. There can be no “ho-hum” response to this journal. In this slim but mighty issue, not only did I thrill to the emotional zing and wit of every single poem, I delighted in editor Marion Stocking’s review roundup of recent books by poets on poetry. Her pithy, intelligent descriptions helped me sort my own shopping list (check Roethke’s On Poetry and Craft, check Kim Stafford’s The Muses Among Us…) The melancholy themes of many of the poems here revolve around social, political and financial injustices, like Nicole Cooley’s “Madame X—about the connection between the famous portrait and a murdered girl X in the Bronx and a baby X in an ICU. The language in many of these poems leans towards the lyrical, as these lines illustrate, from Corinne Lee’s “Fulgent” about a poet who reads futures in palms in a concentration camp to save his life:
Your life will be a velvet Möbius strip, embroidered
with milky galaxies of children. Another hand
presses forward, twists up as if turning
a knob, opens like a heart
to sacrament. Your violin playing
will purify, evolving into drunken ether:”
A true pleasure to read. When I finish BPJ, I always wish for more pages. [Beloit Poetry Journal, P.O. Box 151, Farmington, ME 04938. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $5.00. www.bpj.org] – JHG
A Journal of Art and Literature by Women
Volume 21 Number 2
This issue of Calyx showcases art, poetry, and prose pieces that describe women overcoming adversity and celebrating their individuality. Susan Brown’s acrylic “Monument to New York City,” which uses intricate bird-symbols to communicate her feelings about September 11, was intelligent and moving, truly a visual poem. Equally moving was Smoky Trudeau’s short fiction, “Good-Bye, Emily Dickinson” about a homeless woman who is convinced that she is Emily Dickinson’s daughter. I enjoyed the lyrical images of bats in “I Watch Nature While Breastfeeding” by Melissa Crowe:
The bat threads night with ribbons
of sound, and everywhere her call gets lost
she flies. Sometimes the sky
reveals itself a trail of crumbs, sometimes
a maze of walls, trees. Before her
flight, food fracture, and only her voice
tells which is which—
Clever and humorous, Chauna Craig’s “Pluma Piluma and the Utopian Turtle Top: A Bedtime Story for Women Writers” weaves a tale of two young girls with speculation about the inner lives of Marianne Moore and Gertrude Stein. This ambitious journal out of Oregon displays a different facet of women’s artistic endeavor in each issue, and presents new voices for use to enjoy. Keep up the great work! [Calyx, PO Box B, Corvallis, OR 97339. E-mail: email@example.com. Single issue $9.50. www.proaxis.com/~calyx/ ] – JHG
Volume 3 Number 1
Diner serves poetry Fresh and hot, just the way you like it! This issue of “Diner” satisfied my craving for concrete, prose, and other experimental forms, while serving up some of the more traditional fare. (All right, I’m done with the diner jokes now.) Although generally I prefer more traditional syntax in my poetry, I found Karen Neuberg’s prose poem, “Persephone,” evocative, especially these lines:
“Above the trees are died. The mountainous night holds thrall. He uncovers my heart. One swift tug I’m bare…Though I am sorry, I am more not. I am story. I am stalk, bud, flower, fruit—cycle arrive after my pleasures.”
Besides reviews and poems, this issue includes two “Blue Plate Specials” which are profiles of two writers, Gertrude Halstead and Dan Lewis. The bios in the back reveal a balance of new and experienced voices in the poetry. I’d say this Diner merits a return visit. (OK, now I’m done, seriously.) [Diner, PO Box 60676, Greendale Station, Worcester, MA 01606-2378. Single issue $9.95. www.spokenword.to/diner/] - JHG
Volume 6 Issue 1
I wasn’t sure what kind of experience to anticipate from a journal named HazMat, but I was pleasantly surprised by most of what I found between the perfect-bound covers. Not every piece is a hit, but the ones that don’t make it fail for lack of craft rather than heart. And there are enough ambitious and smart pieces to keep you reading all the way to the end. A couple of my favorites are clustered towards the front of the journal, including the very first poem, “Soup,” by Molly Scott and “Permission,” by Tami Landers. Here’s a few of the energetic lines from “Permission”: “Back then, I wouldn’t even have a female pet – / girls were wimps; everyone knew that. / I can remember the fat guy in Boyd’s pet shop / trying to find me a boy box turtle; / he said I was cute. / May I please (have what is mine)?” Interspersed with the poems are pieces of short-short fiction, or “flash” fiction, which feel fresh and fun. Pieces with political/activist bent combine with more whimsical work to provide a nice cross-section of young-feeling, contemporary literary work in this issue. [HazMat Review, PO Box 30507, Rochester, New York 14603. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $10.00. www.hazmatlitreview.org.] – JHG
This issue of Rattapallax focused on new Brazilian poetry, presented in the original Brazilian-Portuguese along with the English translation, as well as a scattering of experimental American writings. Quite a bit of the poetry in this issue was a little too clever or experimental for me, but I warmed up to some of it after more than one reading, particularly Rodrigo Garcia Lopes’ “Thoth.” Here’s an excerpt from the English translation of the final paragraph of that prose poem:
“The scintillae of the invisible, splinters of Osiris, silence denuding the secret made of dry petals; rain’s paradox refining its metals. All is made light when light liquefies into sound, rain out of season. Signs. Serpents spiral in their skin…”
Kudos to translator Chris Daniels for his work on that poem as well, as he really got the fabulous sound effects from the original to come through. I also liked Brenda Coultas’ “An Early Alphabet” and Fabio Weintraub’s “Universal Gravitation.” The issue included a CD (a practice that this journal pioneered and is starting to catch on) that had audio files of poets from the issue reading their work as well as some Brazilian electronic music classified as “Now Sound.” This style of music is referenced in a short essay in the journal so you can use that as your guide to this experimental sound of the moment. If you are feeling adventurous and want to get a peek at the avant-garde writers of Brazil, this is your issue. [Rattapallax Press, 532 La Guardia Place Suite 353, New York, NY 10012. Email: email@example.com. Single issue $7.95. www.rattapallax.com/index.htm] – JHG
This journal out of New Hampshire features work from both familiar and unfamiliar names. While the aesthetic leans towards a free-verse, relaxed sort of poetry, nothing here tries too hard, and you will occasionally find seemingly effortless, beautiful feats, like these lines from “Susann” by Cecil L. Sayre:
“How does a woman / with broken fingers / play guitar? / Delicately, / as if she were / the remains / of something / valuable…her whispered / strumming / of the strings / almost / inaudible, / she plays / everything / she knows, / everything / she remembers.” Humor and poignancy walk a tightrope between the poems in this issue. The textured paper in grey and white is a beautiful background effect for poems by the likes of J.P. Dancing Bear and featured poet Nancy A. Newsted. By the way, don’t be put off by the howling wolf on the web site – it features downloads of poems being read, which is a nice multimedia extra. [Concrete Wolf, PO Box 730, Amherst, NH 03031-0730. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $10.00. http://concretewolf.com/] - JHG
Some rare and unusual features make this issue an especially worthwhile. In one of only three interviews he has granted in the whole of his long career, the prolific and mysterious Simon Perchik describes his unusual method of working and discusses his philosophy of poetry. Perchik tells writer Susan Tepper: "I try to reach back so you almost feel as if you are the first life form on earth, the first living cell…" Insights about his daily practice of poetry and about the submission (read rejection!) process are as fascinating as his approach to metaphor.
Equally exciting is the translation of Gagan Gill’s poetry and prose from the Hindi by Arlene Zide. Gill has a special talent for combining intense, almost desperate themes with casual, matter-of-fact language, and the result is evocative and powerful. Quirky and original is how I would describe the half dozen or so stories and dozen and a half poems that make up the rest of the issue, which includes poems by Kim Addonizio and James Tate, as well as many skilled, but lesser known writers. As opposed to quirky, edgy, and even sometimes wacky, like much of the work in this volume, Christopher McCann’s essay “Through Dark and Deeper Dark,” about the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo, New Jersey, is down to earth and sincere in the extreme: “…many of us were walking around Waterlook Village with these strange smiles on our faces; we were all suspended in a kind of delirious feeling of well-being.” [Salt Hill, Syracuse University, English Department, Syracuse, NY 13244. email@example.com. Single issue $8.00. http://studentssyr.edu/salthill/] - SR
The Baltimore Review
Volume 7, Number 2
Sponsored by the Baltimore Writers’ Alliance, this journal features “the short stories and poetry of writers from the Baltimore area and beyond.” There are more writers representing “beyond” this issue, including Virgil Suarez of Florida who must certainly be among the top two or three most frequently published poets in literary journals in the country. His “Recitative of a Moment’s Fugue” is a fine example of why: “In Havana the old street vendors / sell their coconut death masks, / fiber-wigged, a kiss of crimson lips” – he is undoubtedly the best known writer to appear in this issue. Other memorable offerings here include “What Robin Hood Really Did,” a poem by Ruth E. Dickey, the title borrowed from Andrew Applewhaite of the Writing Workshop for Homeless Writers at Miriam’s Kitchen in Washington, D.C.: “Hundred and fifty people sitting in here hungry. You do the math. / That’s two grand a piece. That’s security deposit, first month’s rent. // That’s new clothes, food that I picked. Stop keeping a man down. / You wanna help me, you gotta give up what you got.”; and “Catch a Falling Star,” a story by Lori Hultin; and “Boy on the Train Platform in Calcutta,” a deeply moving poem by James C. Hopkins, which I dare not quote here in fragments as its appearance on the page cannot be adequately rendered by citing a verse or two. Hopkins has just published his first full-length collection with The Word Works, and after reading his poem in The Baltimore Review, I am eager to read more of his work. [The Baltimore Review, P.O. Box 410, Riderwood, MD 21139. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Single issue $7.95. www.baltimorewriters.org.] - SR
NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives
Note: If you are interested in writing reviews for the NewPages Literary Magazine Stand, please look over the reviewer's guidelines.