The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Reviewers (see Contributors page):
- Mark Cunningham; WC - Weston Cutter; DE - Devon Ellington; JG - Jamey Gallagher; JHG - Jeannine Hall Gailey; GK - Gina Kokes; RL - Reb Livingston; DM - Deborah Mead; SRP - Sarah R. Payne; JP - Jessica Powers; SR - Sima Rabinowitz;  ST - Sarah Tarkington;  Contributing Editor: DH - Denise Hill

Posted April 17, 2004


Number 1


My background for loving art is completely pop-music based, so of course some aspect of me is eternally High Fidelity bound to rank and list and award and order all that I read. It is in this vein that I have to be completely, over-the-top hyperbolic and reverent and honest: Swink is certainly the best new literary magazine of the year, and if the last few years hadn’t been so great (One Story, Land-Grant College Review, further back to McSweeneys and Tin House) this journal would take the prize for best in a few years. Okay, why the lauding? First: poems from Bob Hicok, Cathryn Essinger’s “Fog”, Misty Harper’s “11 Years Old &” and “Slips of the Eye.” Chris Offut’s “Maybe DeLillo is There!” Charles D’Ambrosio’s “Doo-Wop Down the Road: Richard Brautigan,” and David Ulin’s “One-Hit Wonder.” Good god, just to get his name more and more in print: the interview with Adam Haslett. Notice I’ve not even touched fiction yet. Of which there’s very much too much to say. Andrew Foster Altschul, wherever you are, someone owes you a beer; Margaret Malone’s “Sailing Alone Around the World” is devastating and breathtaking, and if you read Deirdre Shaw’s “The Summertime Party” without wanting to be friends with her you need to find out what your heart’s made of. Still, though, it gets better: I can only presume and hope the Swink set will continue with what they’re calling, perfectly, Damaged Darlings, collaborative stories between two authors. One author with a work that’s loved but neglected, unfinished, hands the work-in-progress to another author, who finishes it, reworks it, brings a new breath. The results are fucking brilliant, to be blunt, and both stories within, David Hollander and Nelly Reifler’s “Whatever We Were Beforehand” and Amy Bloom and Chris Offutt’s “I Was Dancin’ with My Darlin’” work as stories, as mysteries (which author wrote what?), as strange and beautiful harmonies. Seriously, buy the magazine. Send Swink your money and gratitude. Pray for Volume 2. [Swink, 244 Fifth Ave. #2722, New York, NY 10001. Single issue $8.] - WC



Volume 53, Number 4

Winter 2003

Reliably excellent, Shenandoah delivers in this issue all that you expect – big names, solid writing, earnest essays – an overall package flavored with its slight regional tang. However, let it not be said that Shenandoah clings to the “merely” regional, as writers from farther afield – including, in this issue, Marvin Bell, David Wagoner, and Mary Oliver – crop up on a regular basis. In this issue, besides the usual offerings, you’ll find the AWP Intro Journals Project Award winners in fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

A surprise I found within these august pages was the short, charmingly fresh essay “On Rejection” (a subject, sadly, near and dear to my own heart) by Bret Anthony Johnston, comparing the writer trying to get published with the beginning skateboarder trying not to eat pavement - an analogy I don’t hear often enough in classrooms. His quotations from various rejection slips were hilarious and will be strangely familiar to any aspiring writer.

I also loved the art work by Suzanne Stryk, which featured feathers, nests and other bird-related artifacts in symbolic patterns and displays. [Shenandoah, Washington and Lee University, Troubadour Theater, 2nd Floor, Box W, Lexington, VA 24450-0303. E-mail:] – JHG


Yale Review

Volume 92, Number 1

January/February 2004

High-toned and academic, I can rely on the Yale Review to update me on the latest theories about contemporary opera, dance and art, as well as literature. The poetry and prose here are fairly traditional in form and erudite (bone up on your mythology before reading) yet rewarding. One story that stood out for me was “The Wedding Gown” by Jean McGarry, which starts with the fascinating image of organic wedding cake: “Mary had forgotten about the cake with its collection of indigestible grains and grasses, uncured sugars…Organic was never white; it was always brown, gray, tan, gray-green; even the fruit was flawed and grim.” - and continues in a highly engrossing and original vein about two affianced young people coming to know one another more intimately. As usual, the reviews and essays on poetics forward thoughts about current literary issues. One that I read with particular interest was Craig Arnold’s “Poetry in Review,” which laments the “autopoetic” tendency of much of today’s verse – that is, the writing of poetry that is of interest, for the most part, only to one’s self – and shares this thoughts on two poets he thinks write against this tendency – the odd pairing of narrative poet Tony Hoagland and lyric Olena Kalytiak David. An issue to be savored at leisure, and with your thinking cap securely fastened. [The Yale Review, Yale University, PO Box 208243, New Haven, CT 06520-8243. Single issue $9.] - JHG



Volume 31, Number 3

Winter 2004

In this issue of the feminist (and I use that term in the best possible way) journal Calyx, fertility, childbirth and motherhood are recurrent themes, in pieces such as the poems “Your Underwear Showing,” “Womb of Womanhood,” “Rags of the Moon” and prose pieces “Rest Stop” and “Forfeiting Motherhood.” I was especially drawn to the story “The Adeline Shop,” by Helen Alene Pollack, about a woman reunited with her grandfather, who, after abandoning his wife and daughter, has drifted into almost mythical status by the time he is found unexpectedly. The art work is Calyx always ranges from charming to astounding; this issue (and cover art) showcases the surreal work of Mary Josephson, whose paintings of women, often surrounded by symbolic objects such as snakes and fruit, might draw comparisons to Frida Kahlo, as her work has a similar ability to draw you into the inner life of the painter. But Josephson’s ability to conjure serene and pensive character into the faces of her women is all her own. [Calyx, PO Box B, Corvallis, OR 97339. E-mail: Single issue $9.50.] – JHG


Northwest Review

Volume 42, Number 1


This issue of the Eugene, Oregon-based Northwest Review is heavy on short fiction and light on poetry, which I, as a poet with poetry-advocacy issues, must disapprove of. However, the fiction and essays are quite lively, including Michael Mattes’ wonderful “Miles and Miles” about a frustrated comic book artist attending a wedding in Chicago. For you fans of poetry in translation, there are several pieces of the work of the remarkable revolutionary Qiu Jin, translated by David Lunde and Audrey Heijns. Here, the last couplet of her poem “Inscription on a Photo of Myself in Man’s Attire”: “When you see my friends from former days, / please tell them I swept the dust off the floating world.” Of interest here as well is an interview with memoirist and novelist Kim Barnes, often characterized as a “Western” writer – juxtaposed amusingly with the scenes of the Wild West – staged with toy horses and cowboys – by photographer David Levinthal. [Northwest Review, 369 PLC New Line, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403. E-mail: Single issue $8.] - JHG



Volume 6, Number 2

Fall/Winter 2003-2004

For a magazine justly famous for pioneering the way for experimental verse, Fence displays a surprisingly delicate balance of avant-garde and traditional work, with poets ranging from Mary Ruefle to Nancy Kuhl to Ray DiPalma. So, those of you who shun the hip pyrotechnics of the cutting edge, do not be scared away; see as evidence these opening lines from the wonderful “Mr. Mann Finds a Photograph of Daedalus”: “He had always believed the old stories. / Wolves in the forest. Children eating / candy houses. The savage etiquette / of queens…” This must surely be declared a fine poem no matter what your poetic preferences. The fiction chosen also showcases a range of diverse voices, including the whimsical and melancholy “Nine Attempts at a Life” by Danielle Dutton. This issue also includes the interesting “Cubism, the Blues, Visions: A Conversation” between Alice Notley and Edmund Berrigan. Also featured is a rambling yet entertaining review by Rodney Phillips of all the poetry books published in one year. The essay made me wince at times for the victims (“…BOA Editions, which – except for Michael Teig’s first book, Big Back Yard – wins the most boring award…” Ouch!), yet props must be given for tackling a task that seems Herculean. Phillips cleverly highlights as many good books as possible in top-ten-style with list names like “Best Books by Emerging Writers” and “Most Beautiful Books” - unconventional but useful. [Fence, 303 East Eighth Street, #B1, New York, New York 10009. E-mail: Single issue $8.] – JHG


Glimmer Train

Issue 50

Spring 2004

If you’re looking for perfect prose, look no further. This journal of short fiction has achieved a solid reputation in the literary field for good reason. There’s not a clunker among these thirteen stories, each sentence elegant, each nuance carefully explored. To be sure, we are in familiar territory here—the protagonists populating these pages are coping with mostly standard problems like parental mortality and marital difficulties. But the writers in this issue explore this terrain so lovingly and knowingly that the lack of novelty becomes a virtue, like spending an evening with an old friend. It’s in the exquisite rendering of small moments that these master storytellers shine. Daniel Villasenor gives us one such moment in “To a Stranger”: “Now he could not remember the last time he had made love to her, and the thought of that would enter him as a train approaches a tunnel and enters and rushes forth, blotting out the light of day, and with its insufferable clamor, all sound and sense and recognition […] He stood as the thought, in all its violent and remorseless inarticulation, entered and passed through him, rocked back on his heels by the wake of it.” Moment by memorable moment, Glimmer Train puts together a quiet but wonderful evening of reading. [Glimmer Train Press, Inc., 1211 NW Glisan St., Ste. 207, Portland, OR 07209-3054. E-mail: Single issue $12.] – DM


The Georgia Review

Volume 57, Number 4

Winter 2003

The Georgia Review represents a conservative, old-guard-style approach to literature, and the names of contributors are among some of the most elite in the literary world – Richard Howard and Michael Collier among them. While nothing in this issue will shock you, The Georgia Review represents very fine work. In this issue, I particularly liked the art work of Treacy Ziegler, “Fables of Light,” represented in color, which evoked a cold and desolate depth in her landscapes. Judith Kitchen’s essay/review of recent poetry anthologies, “Anthologizing – the Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent,” was another highlight. With her amusing quibbles and forthright opinions (On Billy Collins’ Poetry 180: “Still, here’s what I’d say to Billy Collins and to the students who have, because of him, turned back to poetry. Many poems speak to the human condition, not the adolescent condition. Read them.” On Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems: “In trying so hard to be populist, Good Poems offers up a lot of pablum.”), Kitchen sounds something like a brisk but slightly cranky schoolmarm rapping the knuckles of errant anthologizers. Which, let’s face it, is enjoyable, because no reader, including you and me, ever completely agrees with the choices of any anthology’s editors. [The Georgia Review, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602-9009. E-mail: Single issue $9.] - JHG


Beloit Poetry Journal

Volume 54, Number 3

Spring 2004

Beloit Poetry Journal excels at showcasing fresh voices with original and sometimes difficult things to say. They never exhibit the mediocre or merely pleasant, and I think that is a particularly trustworthy (and brave) stance for a journal’s editors. The dark side of sexuality and language is explored in this issue of the predictably good Beloit Poetry Journal, in poems like the exceedingly creepy “Molester” by Jeff Crandall and the delicate but heart-wrenching “Helen Keller Dying in Her Sleep” by Julianna Baggott. These poems are disturbing – in a good way. You’ll see what I mean in lines like these from K.I. Press’s “Born in the Parliament Buildings”: “As Speaker, Father seldom spoke. Sometimes he wore me under his robes, and smuggled me into the chamber. At first, when I was tiny, under his wig…Before, he brought my mother there, at night…They made love in the Prime Minister’s chair, inside the same enormous robe...The walls are red, the ground is red, the swords are falling all around me.” This issue did not feature any of the unusually sharp book reviews common to BPJ, which were missed. [Beloit Poetry Journal, P.O. Box 151, Farmington, ME 04938. E-mail: Single issue $5.] - JHG


Sewanee Review

Volume 111, Number 3

Summer 2003

The Sewanee Review, for those of you not familiar, is one of the bastions, along with the Southern Review, of regional literary culture in the South and one of the reasons people talk about “Southern writers.” I always read the essays in the Sewanee Review with as much interest as the featured poetry and fiction because they stand out as vibrant and gripping. This issue is no exception, with lively essays on the poetry and lives of poets John Berryman (“Speaking in Tongues: John Berryman and the Lure of Obscurity” by Stephen Minot) and Edna St. Vincent Millay (“Edna St. Vincent Millay: A Literary Phenomenon” by Benjamin Griffith). While the work here is, for the most part, fairly traditional (which is not to insult, but merely an observation), I thought the short prose piece “Letter from Persephone” by Marisa Bulgheroni was particularly inventive. I also enjoyed the poem by Baron Wormser called “Inspections,” about children watching their mother clean the kitchen with obsessive vigor. [The Sewanee Review, 735 University Avenue, Sewanee, Tennessee 37383-1000. E-mail: Single issue $8.] - JHG


Alligator Juniper

Volume 33, Number 2


This annual journal of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and photography, published out of the Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, presents fresh voices that in this edition tend to focus on issues of social justice and responsibility, including, of course, environmental issues. I especially liked Susan Thomas’ poem “To Anna Karenina,” in which the speaker addresses and compares herself to Tolstoy’s famous tragic heroine, and Jendi Reiter’s poem “Hansel and Gretel: The Mother Speaks,” in which the speaker justifies to herself her decision to kill her children. Here are some lines from the end of that poem: “And sometimes even the queens abandon their own: / the children too beautiful or too deformed…are left on the hillside to die, / or locked away in towers / where their feet never touch the earth, and the sun / never lays its coins on their eyes – / because there’s not enough room / in this story for all of us.” Also a standout: Mark Liedel’s photograph “Milkweed,” which communicated eerie transcendence in the bursting of a milkweed pod. I found the emotional investment in much of the work here a refreshing jolt after reading the multitudes of more jaded, detached writers. I have found another journal to add to my must-read list. [Alligator Juniper, 220 Grove Avenue, Prescott, AZ 86301. E-mail: Single issue $7.50.] – JHG


The Los Angeles Review

Issue 1

January 2004

This new literary magazine, by the same people who run independent Red Hen Press, brings to life the vibrant literary scene of L.A. (Yes, you read that right – vibrant literary scene, L.A.) with an offbeat charm. By design, the editors differ from issue to issue in order to foster diverse work - so the poetry and fiction chosen for this issue may not reflect on future issues. In this issue, anyway, the quality of the work is pretty impressive. A standout is the story “Hailstones on Samfara” by Sefi Atta, which won the Red Hen 2003 Short Fiction Award. Here is a sampling of lines from Suzanne Lummis’ “Last Reports from the Gondola Suspended by Balloons”: “…In all the world there’s just one / Japanese piano tuner gazing down / on the Pacific from a gondola / help up by balloons. I am the last / possibility that has not been exhausted.” Good production quality – a glossy color cover, a nice overall heft and clean, easy-to-read type face – should be noted as well. Definitely an auspicious beginning for a journal I hope continues to be a beacon for neglected West Coast talent. [The Los Angeles Review, Red Hen Press, P.O. Box 3537, Granada Hills, CA 91394. E-mail: Single issue: $14.] – JHG


Hotel Amerika

Volume 2 Number 1

Fall 2003

The eerie black and white cover photograph ("Drunken Dream, Fatigue, 1936" by Koishi Kiyoshi) of Hotel Amerika sets the self-conscious tone for this issue.  Only the sophomore issue from this new publication out of Ohio University, it includes poetry, fiction, translations and essays from a broad mix of emerging, mid-career and mature poets. The poetry is what truly stands out, such the poems by Josh Bell, Tony Hoagland, Larissa Szporluk, Piotr Gwiadzda, and Lee Upton, varying in styles and subject matter, but all quite memorable. From Upton's surrealistic "The Hedge": "You without a reputation worth / protecting / behind the hedge. // A unicorn goring a maiden / behind a hedge." This issue is a keeper for any reader's journal library. [Hotel Amerika, Department of English, 360 Ellis Hall, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701. Single issue $9.] – RL


River Styx

Issue 66

Fall 2003

In the “Route 66” issue, River Styx succeeds in its “homage to that lingering spirit of the road” with poems (by Gaylord Brewer, Walt McDonald, Nancy Krygowski, Rafael Campo, among others), short fiction, essays, illustrations and photography. These lively pieces concentrate on the vast subject matter encountered during automobile travel around the United States. Anyone who’s done a family beach trip down south on 95 can relate to the disappointment in Lori Jakiela’s essay, “South of the Border,” upon stopping at the heavily bill-boarded tourist trap by the same name. Jeffrey Hammond’s essay, “My Life at the Comfort Inn,” is a skillful and amusing telling of what it’s like to spend half a week at the same motel for eight years straight. This issue demonstrates that there’s much one can experience and confront while en route, which sometimes can be more significant than arriving at the destination. [River Styx, 634 North Grand Boulevard, Twelfth Floor, Saint Louis, MO 63103. Single issue $7.] - RL


The Chatahoochee Review

Volume 24 Number 1

Fall 2003

The Chatahoochee Review has put out a sparkling issue, with dazzling poems and evocative nonfiction. In "Swimming at Sounion" (in the Greek headlands), Stephan Malin paints a work of stunning description, creating the sensation of swimming through clear water surrounded by blueness. "Conjuring the Whole Note" by M. Ayodele Heath winds its way down the page like the trip of fingers down the keyboard. Meanwhile, "Song of the Short-Necked Woman" by Capers Limehouse is evocative and unusual, commanding the reader's sympathy with each word. While works of fiction are absent from this collection, readers will never miss them. Creative nonfiction piece abound, such as "Twenty-nine" by Carla Panciera. In this piece, the author tells the story of the most obnoxious, ill-tempered, and stubborn cow her family owned, while showing a great deal about her father and her family with their quiet determination to succeed. "Recalling Cody" by Michael Bishop is a memoir, bringing the author's dearest mentor and family friend back to life through astounding personal details. All of the pieces in this journal are warm and descriptive, reaching out and pulling the reader into the world of imagination. [The Chatahoochee Review, 2101 Womack Road, Dunwoody, Georgia 30338-4497. Single issue $6.] - VF



Issue 39


StoryQuarterly, an annual lit mag out of Chicago, is a tome of pure fiction that, if somewhat uneven, is never dissatisfying. The stories here range from minutely crafted and often beguiling flash fictions to virtual novellas. Then too you’ll find translations, such as Amy Schildhouse Greenberg’s interpretations of Mexican writer Angeles Mastretta’s “Tia” vignettes. And finally StoryQuarterly 39 features an intriguing black & white photo essay by photographer Christy Karpinski. Even with such a scope of material, no single genre feels crowded for space, since this issue weighs in at 500-plus pages. Only a handful of stories seem somewhat ill-contrived, but they are couched in a body of such fine work that you choose not to notice. Among the gems are Michael Knight’s “Smash and Grab,” the tale of a civilized burglar caught up in the teenage angst of a spoiled but under-loved girl out to teach her wealthy parents a lesson, and Michael Poore’s “Chief Next Lightning’s Phantom Hand,” which is so rich with sad humor, so lovingly wrought, that it delivers full-force the bittersweet, fleeting pleasure of the short story at its most perfect. Dan O’Brien’s “Apocrypha” is also fine, adeptly handling the quirks and diversions of memory lent to the aims of story. [StoryQuarterly, 431 Sheridan Rd., Kenilworth, IL 60043. Single issue $10.] - MC


Call: Review

Number One


Clearly I can’t claim that Call is, as well, the best damn debut of the year, but an argument can and should be made that: 1. It’s very, very good, with some brilliant work within (this means you T. R. Hummer); 2. All this neighing about the poor state of the literary condition seem, if not exaggerated, then at least nonsensical: if Call and Swink can both debut, we’re all fine. Call is slim and elegant and totally boundless, as in: the contributors within aren’t the ones at coffee shops or dinner parties arguing that form dictates function. Stephen Dixon has two stories that, like most of his latest work, seem breathless and so condensed as to be supersaturated. The aforementioned T. R. Hummer’s poetry, along with a great sampling of others—Jordan Davis, Fiona Templeton, Timothy Liu, and Medbh McGuckian, all have comet-bright poetry within—pushes the journal down a markedly poetry heavy road. And all that isn’t poetry—the excerpt from Carla Harryman’s “Mirror Play,” for instance—carries a sort of poetic DNA of incantation and sound, meaning: every single thing in here could be brilliantly read aloud. Be the first at your local independent to pick this up and read for everyone. [Call: Review, JB Pinker, Inc., 908 Amsterdam Ave., #3A, New York, NY 10025. Single issue $7.] - WC


Oyez Review

Number 31

Winter 2003/04

This is a very fine literary journal. It has solid, considered and considerable writing throughout, the presentation is clean, there’s a great section of photography in the middle, there’s a good balance of poetry and prose, there’s no one single style to force an analysis of what type of writing is being championed. It’s good. There are some pushes, too, of course, into stranger and murkier corners. Heather Corrigan’s nonfiction “Ordinary Assassins” made me sweat in good and bad ways, Sean Padraic "McCarthy’s Rabbits" made me never ever want to drink too much again, and Emily Morganti’s “Story of O” is perfectly hot and shockingly cold in such quick succession it’s jarring. The poetry, throughout, is calmly beautiful, a total shift if one’s on the hunt for more Matthea Harvey, for example, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing: Willie James King, Michael H. Brownstein, and Mary Crow all jumped out and knocked me down, and a rereading brought more to the category. [Oyez Review, Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605. Single issue $4.] - WC


ON SPEC Winter 2003On Spec

Volume 15 Number 4

Winter 2003

This little journal is subheaded “The Canadian Magazine of the Fantastic,” and the absolute best praise I can give is that I’m vehemently not a fantasy reader, but pretty much every story I opened to in the magazine kept me reading all the way through. On Spec maybe should be required reading for all literary writers who, as Michael Chabon wrote last year (in the intro for McSweeneys 11), like to finish their stories and leave them “glistening with epiphanic dew.” There are no Updike or Carver or Munro stories within On Spec: plot alone would take any of those guys out of the running in the first paragraph. What we have instead of quiet, earnest stories are stories about people who send themselves through the London mail, racing each other the whole way; two terrifying short shorts by a woman named Catherine MacLeod; a story about the world after oxygen is gone. Another thing: you will find no boringly named characters in this journal. The journal’s heavily tilted toward prose (a single poem), and I don’t know how much sense it makes to talk about the feel of a literary magazine, or what feel it may evoke in a reader, but for all its craziness and whim and fantasy, this journal made me believe, again, and made me glad to believe: anything that pushes the boundaries that far out and away seems, to me, always worth it. [On Spec, P.O. Box 4727, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6E 5G6. Single issue $5.95.] - WC


Five Points

Volume 8, Number 1

Special Fiction Issue

The quiet, simple beauty of Paula Eubanks’ black and white photographs featured in this issue tells you all you need to know about the fiction you’ll find here. These are high-quality stories, told in clear, confident, but unadorned prose. This issue opens with “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” by Alice Hoffman, with strongly depicted characters and a keen sense of place: “I could place a single blade of eelgrass between my fingers and whistle so loudly the oysters buried in the mud would spit at us.” In “An Only Child,” Julia Lamb Stemple gives us a heartbreaking look at a boy’s ambivalence towards growing up: “He wanted to hold himself close to [his babysitter] again but thought that she didn’t want him to, and something seemed to come loose inside him. He looked over at the triangle of shadow between the ficus and the entertainment center where he had been hiding and saw that she must have known he was there all the time.” Traditional stories like these anchor this journal, and truly they are masterful. Too much of a good thing can be cloying, however, and the editors wisely enliven this issue with a few offbeat selections. Michael Knight defies our expectations about believable characters and motivations in “Midnight at the Admiral Semmes,” where bizarre characters cavort joylessly on New Year’s Eve. And in “Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain,” George Garrett bares the fiction writer’s art, and artifice, as he discusses his choices for characterization in the course of telling the story. Yet his characters, also writers, are themselves engaged in the American middle-class obsession with “defining and redefining themselves.” While Five Points remains traditional at heart, the edgier pieces provide a balance that keeps this well regarded journal feeling fresh. [Five Points, MSC 8R0318, Georgia State University, 33 Gilmer St. SE, Unit 8, Atlanta, GA 30303-3083.  Single issue $7.] - DM


NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003

Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed

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