Literary Magazines
The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

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

Posted June 16, 2004

The Canary

Number 3

2004

When you pick up this stylish journal, with its austere yellow cover, you notice its shape–-with longer pages that accommodate lots of white space and long lines. You might expect the poetry inside to be eclectic, experimental, and artistic–-and you wouldn’t be disappointed. I really enjoyed Kevin Young’s work in this issue, two poems from “Black Maria, a verse novel based on film noir” (I just enjoyed that description from his author notes so much, I thought I would include it in my description. Now I want to write a ‘verse novel based on film noir’ too!) called “(The Alias)” and “(The Suspects).” Hoa Nguyen’s “[Sopping in Juice        Melons Juicy]” was as fun and sensual to read as the title indicates. Don’t be intimated by the post-avant-garde attitude in some pieces here – you will find plenty of surprising images and intimations to enjoy throughout if you keep reading. [Canary, Canary River, c/o Joshua Edwards, 512 Clear Lake Road, Kemah, Texas 77565. E-mail: canaryriver@yahoo.com. Single issue $10. http://www.thecanary.org/] – JHG

 

5 AM

Issue 19

Winter/Spring 2004

5 AM is in a newspaper format, but printed on the pages, instead of the latest (mostly disastrous) accounts of the day, are poem after poem – hip, edgy, funny – that are actually a pleasure to read. The tone in this Spring Church, Pennsylvania-based journal is often irreverent, political, or conversational; the names inside may be familiar with fans (like me) of Charles Harper Webb’s anthology, stand up poetry, like Denise Duhamel, Virgil Suarez, Lyn Lifshin, and Charles Harper Webb himself. I especially enjoyed several poems by Shao Wei, who was featured on the front page of 5 AM, and several poems by Reginald Harris, particularly “Dinah James.” Ron Koertge’s work was charming, especially “Lunch Hour in Macy’s.” Here are a few lines from that poem: “…Nearby, the pearly nurses of Dior / talk softly about flesh. Dark Stranger is / this month’s rage. Ten promos show a coarse / but sensitive roughly tender atheist…” This is one newspaper I would be happy to wake up to at 5 am. Let’s pour some coffee and read! [5 AM, Box 205, Spring Church, PA 15686. Single issue $5.] - JHG

 

The Antigonish Review

Volume 136

Winter 2004

This Canadian journal out of Nova Scotia features an eclectic mix of writing, a few translations, and the sprightly but thought-provoking poetry of Jan Zwicky. The mix of interviews, reviews, short fiction, and poetry is very balanced, and, as always when I read Canadian journals, I am surprised and impressed with the quality and diversity of the work of writers from Canada whom aren’t as well-represented in journals here in the States. One of the most interesting pieces in this issue was an interview with Heather Menzies, an expert on technology’s many impacts on social structures, particularly in the workplace. Much of the poetry featured here was well-crafted free verse, with many exemplary pieces, only one of which I have the space to quote here. A few lines from Myka Tucker-Abramson’s “Lot and Eurydice, Based on Akhmatova’s ‘Lot’s Wife’”: “If you turned around, I would lick the salt off your skin / before tumbling back like Eurydice into slush driven days. / You taste like fire and turn slowly away, while I speak / loudly as anguish…” Poems by Li Qingzhao, translated with skill by Allen C. West and Gundi Chan, are also exceptional. [The Antigonish Review, P.O. Box 5000, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, CA, B2G2W5. E-mail: TAR@stfx.ca. Single issue $11. www.antigonishreview.com] – JHG

 

Interim

Volume 22, Numbers 1 and 2

2004

This double issue of Interim, out of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas English Department, features some names you will be familiar with (Cole Swenson, Donald Revell) and some you may not. This issue contains mainly poetry (including more than one poem for each poet, an editorial practice I applaud), with one piece of short fiction and a short essay, as well as a handful of reviews. The featured writers in this issue are poets Martha Ronk and Arthur Vogelsang. Some pieces in this journal have a somewhat intimidating, look-at-me brand of intellectualism/ ellipticism that is fashionable but leaves me a little cold, I admit. However, fans of the new and different will appreciate them. (P.S. Is ellipticism a word? Write in and give me your vote!) I enjoyed Red Shuttleworth’s satirical poem “Marilyn Monroe,” a few lines of which follow: “…A make-up girl offered / to go find her a Paiute cayote fetish. / ‘The gravediggers are waiting,’ Marilyn snapped. / Huston or Miller? She brushed her bone-blonde / dry-as-the-Great-Basin hair…She winked at Gable, ‘I used to remember / all my lines when I was an angel.’” [Interim, English Department, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada 98154.E-mail: interim_unlv@yahoo.com.  http://www.unlv.edu/Colleges/Liberal_Arts/English/interim/Index.htm] - JHG

 

The Spoon River Poetry Review

Volume 24, Number 1

Winter/Spring 2004

The Normal, Illinois-based Spoon River Poetry Review features some of the best writing from the Midwest and beyond. The lyrical and at times, dare-I-say-the-unfashionable-word, beautiful, writing reminds me why I started reading poetry in the first place. Holaday Mason’s “Seven Pairs of Swans” and Linda Schneider’s “Tomato” are particularly enjoyable. This issue also features a fascinating interview with poet and scholar Tony Trigilio, who talks about, among other things, H.D., Ginsberg, and Blake’s influence on his work. The issue also includes ten of his poems. I wish I could quote the whole of the poem “Certain Men of the Early Twenty-First Century,” by Cindy Washabaugh, because it is hilarious, touching, and despairing all at the same time, a marvelous feat. I tried to excerpt a few lines to give a sense of it: “…With solid names like Bob and John, the rock climb, cycle, recycle / and make art… Their mothers were restless and gifted… Their fathers drank too much or worked too hard. Eventually / someone left… They talk to my cats and play Scrabble with me. They love / foreign films. ‘We’re perfect together,’ they say as they drift away.” [The Spoon River Poetry Review, 4240 English Department, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4240. Single issue $10. http://english.illinoisstate.edu/affiliates/journals/spoon_river.shtml/] - JHG

 

Carnegie Mellon Poetry Review

Volume 1, Issue 1

Summer 2003

 With poetry from many familiar writers, this new journal manages to be simultaneously down-to-earth and playful. For those who enjoy the lighter side of poetry, there is plenty of pop-culture poetry and poems about the poetry biz – some sample titles include “Poetry Ought to Have a Mother as well as a Father” and “The Visiting Poet Gets Propositioned.” Moving poems from Marvin Bell (“Letter to an Eternal Future”) and Virgil Suárez (“Elsewhere”) are standouts, as is the poem “Sticky Monkey Flowers, Monterey Bay” by Ray Gonzalez, which begins: “Blossoms scrambled in the eye of tomorrow, bright little fires / outlining the shape of secrecy, actual light of measure wounded… Sticky money flowers spreading / into sunlit nerves…” I like the way the editors often include several poems by one poet, which allows the reader the opportunity to get to know each voice before turning to the next. [Carnegie Mellon Poetry Review, 26 Sherman Terrace, Apt. 2, Madison, WI 53704. E-mail: kgonzalez@wisc.edu] - JHG

 

Ploughshares

Volume 30, Number 1

Spring 2004

This issue of the venerable Ploughshares was guest-edited by Campbell McGrath, a poet famous for his exuberant descriptions of all things American, from pop culture to politics. You’re not in for a lot of surprises here as almost all the writers included in this issue are well-known quantities (Denise Duhamel, Stuart Dybek, Michael Collier, Rick Moody, Bob Hicok, Tony Hoagland, the ubiquitous Virgil Suárez…the table of contents reads like a directory of Poets and Writers magazine), but the quality is impeccable, and reading this cover to cover was enjoyable. And McGrath definitely makes an effort to include poets from a range of movements, from elliptical to expansive and everything in between. I particularly liked the tongue-in-cheek humor of Beth Ann Fennelly’s “I Need to Be More French. Or Japanese.” Other standouts include Cynthia Weiner’s ambiguously chipper story “Boyfriends,” the poem “Going Bananas” by Rita Maria Martinez and the poem “In the B Movie of Our Lives” by Dionisio D. Martínez. [Ploughshares, Emerson College, 120 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02116-4624. E-mail pshares@emerson.edu. Single issue $10.95. http://www.pshares.org/index.cfm] - JHG

 

Iodine Poetry Journal

Volume 5, Number 1

Spring/Summer 2004

Slim and lightweight with a plain purple cover, Iodine Poetry Journal isn’t much to look at. But it’s the perfect length, and depth, to tote along to Starbucks for a quick poetry fix. The poems vary in accessibility, but none can be called obscure. The editors appreciate the pleasure offered by the short poem—one such poem clocks in at a mere three lines and is not haiku. A few poems with social conscience appear, but more satisfying are the introspective moments, often commanding attention with a single sustained image. Michael Kriesel offers, I believe, the most breathtaking moment of this issue in “Feeding My Heart to the Wind”: “Emptying myself for winter / in a field of stubble / I’m a wind chime / made of bones.” A moment like that is enough to make you forget all about that double latte. Let it go cold, and savor Iodine instead. [Iodine Poetry Journal, P.O. Box 18548, Charlotte, NC 28218-0548. E-mail: iodineopen@aol.com. Single issue $5. http://www.iodinepoetryjournal.com/] – DM

 

Tar River Poetry

Volume 43, Number 2

Spring 2004

I don’t read literary journals for the reviews they publish, and I’m a little surprised to find myself mentioning them here—in a review. But I have to say that the three reviews in Tar River Poetry are themselves as compelling as the poetry in this small volume. Richard Simpson, Susan Elizabeth Howe and Thomas Reiter present careful, academic discussions of three new poetry volumes, discussions that presume a well-educated but not necessarily scholarly audience. Informative and never pompous, they are a pleasure to read. Tar River’s poetry is equally strong and accessible, making us see the extraordinary in the ordinary, like the everyday astonishment of swimming or the centurion stance of roadside mailboxes. In Mark Cox’s “Inner Rooms,” a speaker sorts through his late parents’ belongings, searching in vain for a lingering connection to his parents, eventually concluding “[t]here is no key / taped to a drawer bottom, not one fingerprint / on one dusty light bulb, no trace of the moment / before they let go, turned their faces to the wall.” The speaker is left at the end of the poem needing to “fashion the world again.” Such is the job of the poet, and in Tar River Poetry it is a job done well. [Tar River Poetry, Department of English, Bate Building, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858-4353. E-mail: makuckp@mail.ecu.edu. Single issue $6.50. http://personal.ecu.edu/makuckp/home.html/] – DM

 

Orchid

A Literary Review

Number 3

With so many outstanding stories in this journal, it’s hard to know where to begin. Does one talk about the honest, dead-on dialogue of Ron Rindo’s “Crop Dusting”? The dreamy and lyrical narrative of Anne Spollen’s “Fishdreams”? The landscape of losers in Andi Diehn’s “Burning Season”? It’s impossible to do justice to this fine fiction journal in two hundred words. One could say that haunted voices predominate, with a vein of sadness running through, but that would overlook the biting wit of Jo-Chieh Jennifer Chang’s short-short “Eating Seaweed” as well as the redemptive ending of Gary Eldon Peter’s “Skating.” The only commonality in this well-balanced issue is writing of the highest quality. Spollen’s narrator, a girl whose mother has recently died, offers this perspective on silence: “I learned that silence has a motion. It slides over you without shape or form, but with weight, exactly like water. It glides. It moves toward you in a river of silence, then it glides across you, only it doesn’t leave: it continues. Its color is silver. And silence has a sound, a sound you hear only after hours and hours of wading inside it: the sound is soft, flute notes rising up like the words of glass speaking.” On second thought, who needs two hundred words? Beautiful—there’s nothing else to say. [Orchid: A Literary Review, P.O. Box 131457, Ann Arbor, MI 48113-1457. E-mail: editors@orchidlit.org. Single issue $8. http://www.orchidlit.org/] – DM

 

Midnight Mind Magazine

Crime Issue

Number 6

Fall 2003

The staff of Midnight Mind Magazine must have a great time at work. At least that’s the impression you get from reading their latest issue. Yes, it’s filled with fiction, essays, poetry and reviews just like all those other “little” magazines. But what makes Midnight Mind such a standout is the exuberance with which it’s all executed. A letter to the editor could be a yawner, but not when it’s written by a fictional character from the previous issue—and addressed to the “assholes at Midnight Mind.” Even the column of subscription information will make you smile. This sixth issue takes crime as its theme, and many of the stories employ a fun noir tone. Also enjoyable are the regular columns such as “In praise of” (in this case, in praise of a hangover), the more serious “Literary Travel” and the sublimely random “Things of Note.” Don’t forget to flip the magazine over and turn it upside down—you’ll be all set to read one of the most entertaining short stories I’ve come across this year, Roderick Maclean’s “Beauty Knows No Pain, Redux.” In it, a depressed former actor, his last recurring role recently written out of Magnum, P.I., realizes that he harbors strong feelings for Tom Selleck and discovers cross-dressing while being chased by loan sharks. If you were a fan of Mad magazine as a kid, pick up a copy of Midnight Mind. You’ll find yourself saying, “I wish I worked with these guys.” I know I do. [Midnight Mind Magazine, P.O. Box 146912, Chicago, IL 60614. E-mail: info@midnightmind.com. Single issue $7.95. http://www.midnightmind.com/] - DM

 

Northwest Review

Volume 42, Number 2

May 2004

I find it impossible not to love – or at least admire – Northwest Review for allocating an entire white page to this epigraph by Leonard Bernstein: “Our response to violence will be to make music more intensely, more beautifully and more devotedly than before.” Two of the literary pieces that most directly follow that lead appear in the magazine’s category, Essays and Hybrid Forms. “Notes on Uranium Weapons and Kitsch” (George Gessert) decries the sale of war as entertainment by juxtaposing such politically expedient terms as “smart bombs” and “depleted uranium” with clauses like this: “Some kitsch is ineptly crafted ‘bad’ art, but today the rule is impressive technical skill. Hundred-thousand-dollar fashion ads are like Andrew Wyeth paintings: their high craftsmanship and aesthetic finish project vast authority.” A more traditionally structured essay, “Gringolandia” by Leah Halper, tells of one woman’s yearning to love her homeland while repudiating its aggressions in Latin America. Fiction offerings include Stephanie Harrison’s innovative quartet of short-shorts, single-sentence celebrations of dashes, colons and semi-colons. One is a heartful meditation on a phrase one utters so often and spontaneously that it comes to define oneself. [Northwest Review, 369 PLC, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403. E-mail: jwitte@oregon.uoregon.edu. Single issue $8. http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~nwreview/] – LKB

 

Zoetrope: All-Story

Volume 8, Number 1

Spring 2004

The edgy fiction in Zoetrope chronicles our hard-won (if dangerously tentative) status of humanity. Primal bullies lurk throughout the stories in this issue: a family simultaneously imprisons and abandons its defenseless, unmarried kin; a man exploits a toothless orphan reduced to turning tricks by the freeway, an anonymous driver works up a deadly malice. Consistent with this issue’s theme of place, all protagonists grew up in/immigrated to/are visiting California. Fittingly, the guest designer is Wayne Thiebaud, whose works appear on 22 of the issue’s 106 pages and prove that a waterfall can be a street and the sky can be an honest yellow. While Zoetrope is one of only a noble few literary magazines to reprint classic short stories (one per issue), the unique angle in these pages is that the fiction has inspired a film and is presented with commentary by the author or filmmaker (i.e. Steven Spielberg, Mary Gaitskill and Hanif Kureishi) on the relationship between the two art forms. [Zoetrope: All-Story, The Sentinel Building, 916 Kearny St., San Francisco, CA 94133. Single issue $6.95. http://www.all-story.com/] – LKB

 

Shenandoah

The Washington and Lee University Review

Volume 54, Number 1

Spring/Summer 2004

At least half of the stories, poems and essays in Shenandoah feature explicitly southern environs: a contemplation of the moniker, “Southern Writer,” a reflection on the racial understory of magnolia-blossomed Mississippi, a woman’s return to the Carolina blackberry patches (and chigger bites) of her youth. However, it’s the artistry, not the regionalism, that distinguishes the most vivid writing in Shenandoah; personal, penetrating, savingly unsentimental. Some enticing opening lines of poetry: “Always my grandparents arrived/disguised as harmless elders.” (Andrea Hollander Budy); “Let’s say the self is a story.” (Forrest Hamer). Some of the most arresting short stories deal with personal violence – a woman slugs the hated tattoo on her husband’s chest, a millworker is run through the stomach with a wooden board and an eldest brother protects his younger brothers from their violent father. Society is always the conspirator, but you’ll find no facile conclusions here. The magazine boasts an acclaimed fifty-four year history without shunning currently fashionable forms like the short-short story. Some stories offer their insights by flicker, others, by floodlight. As the editor accurately calls it in the introductory pages, the journal is an investment in beauty. [Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review, Mattingly House, 2 Lee Avenue, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450-0303. E-mail: rodsmith@wlu.edu. Single issue $10. http://shenandoahliterary.org] – LKB

 

Sewanee Review

Volume 111, Number 4

Fall 2003

If personified, Sewanee Review would be an accomplished scholar, wry professor and imaginative writer, persisting with an evening pipe and pale cardigan despite colleagues who have lurched forward into dark jeans and lunchtime smoothies. Indifferent to keeping up with any literary Cloneses, its spirited criticism, fiction and poetry abide no indulgent memoirs about tallness or the curse of an Irish childhood, no sneering hepcats, noble gang members or hyper-realist bodily functions. Three short fictions address destruction euphemized as progress – venerable oak trees felled for a new mall; reredos destroyed in the name of modernization; the visible ravages of cosmetic surgery. The literary criticism is particularly energetic in essays and reviews devoted to the issue’s theme of Explorations in the 18th Century: James Boswell “can barely open his mouth without sounding fatuous, self-absorbed and sublimely foolish...”; Edward Gibbon (“The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”), “laughs more than he weeps at the folly of mankind.” Hume and Franklin are vividly discussed, along with Enlightenment antecedents, Defoe and Pepys. The milieu is male and clubby, but Sewanee Review (like Samuel Johnson, appearing frequently as the unannounced patron saint of the issue), promotes “solid conversation” and yields solid reading. [Sewanee Review, University of the South, 735 University Avenue, Sewanee, TN 37383-1000. E-mail: jpatters@sewanee.edu. Single issue $8. http://www.sewanee.edu/sreview/home.html] – LKB

 

Arts & Letters

Journal of Contemporary Culture

Issue 11

Spring 2004

I'm hooked. I was a sporadic reader of Arts & Letters, but no longer. I've just finished this issue and I can't wait for the next one. I read from cover to cover, not tempted to skip or skim or even come back to something later — every piece, from the A&L Prize for Drama winner, "Left" by Sourbah Chatterjee, to reviews of work by Judson Mitcham, Annie Finch, and Vivian Shipley drew me in and satisfied me. With so few opportunities to read new play scripts, I was thrilled to read Chatterjee's clever one-act play about a family of siblings, abandoned by their father as children and their adult solution to father-less-ness. I'd call Chatterjee's piece a highlight of the issue, if it weren't for the fact that it is followed by fiction, nonfiction, and poems that could all easily qualify as highlights. There is a delightful interview with Janisse Ray, author of The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Wild Card Quilting: Taking a Chance on Home; pleasing, read-me-more-than-once fiction by Janice Eidus, Barbara Haines Howett, Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer, among others; and read-again-and-again poems from Jesse Lee Kercheval, Roy Jacobstein and others, including newcomer, Israeli poet Rosebud Ben-oni. [Arts & Letters Journal of Contemporary Culture, Campus Box 89, Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, GA 31061-0490. E-mail: al@gcsu.edu. Single issue $8. http://al.gscu.edu] – SR

 

The Virginia Quarterly Review

Volume 80 Number 2

Spring 2004

VQR gets the award for the most evocative juxtaposition this spring — illustrator Eric Wight's blond, broad-shouldered "Escapist," from Michael Chabon's comic book story ("The Origin of the Escapist") practically leaps off the cover, heavy chains broken and loose in his hands, locks flying, white teeth gleaming, and then the first entry in the magazine, Carleton J. Phillip's "Capturing Saddam." (And 200 pages later, when we encounter an exquisite painting of a soldier in battle at Mt. Fuji, from Deborah Parker's "New Perspectives on Japanese Prints," spear and grimace facing right, where the Escapist faced left, we begin to think editor Ted Genoways is either very lucky or a genius). VQR is a museum inside a magazine or a magazine inside a museum, and the whole issue is a glorious set of juxtapositions as startling as the first one. And just as in any fine museum, one visit won't suffice. It could take the entire three months between issues to get through this one before the next arrives. There is new work here from essayists, fiction writers, and poets whose names are as powerful as the image of the Escapist (E.L. Doctorow, Robert Bly). But, if you only have time to stop and appreciate some of these masterpieces, don't overlook Greg Rappleye's poem "The Salt Cairn" or Jane Jacob's "Credentialing vs. Education." [The Virginia Quarterly Review, One West Range, PO Box 400223, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4223. E-mail: vqreview@virginia.edu. Single issue $7. http://www.virginia/edu/vqr] – SR

 

Posted June 1, 2004

The Missouri Review

Volume 26 Number 3

2003

Because The Missouri Review has such a strong tradition of excellence, it is used by many of my friends as a sort of literary bellwether, a steady source of reading pleasure over the years. The theme of this issue is “Fusion” and features an interview with Tobias Wolff as well as some early, previously unpublished work (“The Swan”) by Tennessee Williams. I continue to applaud The Missouri Review’s regular practice of publishing more than one poem by each poet they feature, which enhances the reader’s sense of the individual poet’s voice rather than having all the poems run together in a jumble, as they do in even the best journals. Also, I admit that I like reading the subversively zine-like cartoons. The note that opens the issue from the editor, Speer Morgan, “Pirate Publishers,” is an amusing look at the trials and foibles of literary publishing, and includes such interesting tidbits as language from the rejections by various publishers of The Bell Jar, Lolita, and Wide Sargasso Sea. I also liked Catherine MacCarthy’s poem “Deluge.” One standout piece in this issue was Lissa Franz’s short story “Islamadora,” which begins: “The women of the office gather around Pilar’s desk to play Who Has the Worst Children. The higher up they are in the office hierarchy, the more offensive and shocking their offspring…Pilar is the secretary…Her daughter, Thea, is sixteen. She is six foot two and plays the flute with a timidity that makes people look away while she performs.” [The Missouri Review, 1507 Hillcrest Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, 65211. E-mail: tmr@missourireview.com. Single issue $7.95. http://www.missourireview.org/] - JHG

 

Fourteen Hills

Volume 10 Number 1

Winter/Spring 2004

This refreshingly energetic and well-produced journal from San Francisco State University may have a confusing table of contents, but once you find yourself between the covers, you won’t want to leave. The content is just as colorful - and at times as jumbled - as the image on this issue’s cover, “Cityscape” by Chris Johanson; this is a lighthearted romp rather than a doleful stroll through the works of the writers. Pieces with extraordinary flair include Bianca Diaz’s short prose poem “Postcard from the Frangipani,” Lisa Wallgren’s surreal short story “Division of Assets,” Kim Addonizio’s poem “The Work” and Susanna Childress’ poem “Rhabdomancy.” At the center of the issue is the somewhat unusual “In the Penal Colony,” an opera by Philip Glass based on a story by Franz Kafka with a libretto by Rudolph Wurlitzer. Subversive art work scattered throughout the issue increases the sense that the journal wants to challenge the status quo. [Fourteen Hills, c/o the Creative Writing Department, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132-1722. E-mail: hills@sfsu.edu. Single issue $7. http://www.14hills.net] - JHG

 

ZYZZYVA

Volume 20 Number 1

Spring 2004

I read this San-Francisco-based journal, an eclectic grab-bag of West Coast writing, on a regular basis, because I have a vested interest in West Coast writing, but also because I am always interested in what will show up next. The editors always have surprising delights hidden among the pages, often in their “First Time in Print” section, where debuting authors are showcased. This issue has a sprinkling of poetry, art, and one farcical script (involving Jorie Graham, the author, an angel, and various other entities), but is overwhelmingly made up of short fiction. (Come on, Howard Junker, would it kill you to include a few more poems?) But props to ZYZZYVA for including a couple of weird, funny pieces I’m not even sure how to classify, like Aimee Bender’s “Some Romans,” Benjamin Chambers’ “It’s Not Enough to Own the Original,” and the aforementioned script “The Big Keep” by Kevin Killian. It’s nice to see editors with a sense of humor. The poignant “Blue” by Holly Chase Williams and the short-short/prose poem “Don’t Say Mulatto” by Roxane Beth Johnson are high points of this issue, elegant and intimate. I also admire the surprisingly sensual photo “Cabbage, Palo Alto,” which somehow resembles a set of gleaming closed eyelids, and William Rehm’s landscape photo, “Fry Canyon Slick Rock.” [ZYZZYVA, P.O. Box 590069, San Francisco, CA, 94159-0069. E-mail: editor@zyzzyva.org. Single issue $11. http://www.zyzzyva.org/index.htm] - JHG

 

Image

A Journal of the Arts & Religion

Number 41

Winter 2003

This somewhat conservative, glossy-covered journal publishes art, poetry, fiction and essays that focus (mostly) on the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but the work is surprisingly diverse and thought-provoking. (Production quality note to artists: The art work is featured beautifully in full color and heavy paper.) In this issue, I especially like the poems of Madeline DeFrees, a tremendously intelligent and entertaining poet who happens to also be an ex-nun, and the candid and brave essay by Valerie Sayers “The Word Cure: Cancer, Language, Prayer” about her experience with melanoma and spiritual crisis. I was hoping, based on previous issues of this journal, that this issue would take a few more risks and display a bit more edge, as found in the recent collection of intellectual writings on spirit and religion in the book Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible, but I think it will be a pleasant surprise for most readers to find the cerebral, honest work about religion that Image provides. [Image, 3307 Third Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119. E-mail: image@imagejournal.org. Single issue $10. http://www.imagejournal.org] - JHG

 

Bellevue Literary Review

Volume 4 Number 1

Spring 2004

The Bellevue Literary Review explores the connective tissue between the practice of medicine and literature in a way that is sensitive, surprising, and compassionate. I routinely read and love the work of this journal, in part because the subject matter is so intensely personal, the vulnerabilities of illness and injury, the uncertainties of working with the ill and injured. This issue is sprinkled with the work of well-known authors like Alicia Ostriker and Hal Sorowitz and focuses on the impact of relationships with others in a medical setting. For instance, in one story a rape victim is comforted by a nosy woman in a proctologist’s office, and in another, a medical student falls briefly in love with a beautiful patient repeatedly infected with gonorrhea by her boyfriend. In a third, the relationship between a husband and wife is damaged while they are in Venice seeking fertility treatments. I like too many pieces here to call out just one or two, but I will quote the poem “The Initiation,” by Alicia Ostriker, in its entirety: “I was still a kid / interning at Bellevue / It was a young red-headed woman / looked like my sister / When the lines went flat / I fell apart / Went to the head surgeon / a fatherly man / Boy, he said, you got to fill a graveyard / before you know this business / and you just did / row one, plot one.” [Department of Medicine OBV-612, NYU School of Medicine, 550 First Avenue New York, NY 10016. E-mail: info@BLReview.org . Single issue $7. http://www.blreview.org] - JHG

 

Witness

Volume 27 Number 2

Summer 2003

Witness runs a lot of issues with political themes; the theme of this issue was “Ethnic America,” and contributors like Naomi Shahib Nye, Joyce Carol Oates, and Bib Hicok examine the lives of immigrants, of outcasts, of refugees, and of the assimilation of individual cultures. The history of American diversity has not been a happy one, and this issue takes an unflinching look the past and current realities of that diversity. From “Untitled” by Andrei Codrescu: “often after a public event // a pretty girl…or a shy tall boy…will say something in a foreign / accent to me we are from bosnia / Hungarians or jews my mother / was born near your city…now we are from here what should / we do with our accents // do like me I say / keep talking.” The photographs of people (cheerleaders in uniform, children in dress-up clothes, sulky teenage boys on bikes) throughout the issue are as effective at displaying diverse lives as the written work. [Witness, Oakland Community College, 27055 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48334. E-mail: stinepj@umich.edu. Single issue $9. http://www.webdelsol.com/Witness/] - JHG

 

Ascent

Volume 28 Number 2

Winter 2004

This issue of the Minnesota-based Ascent is focused on the contemplative, the intellectual, and the spiritual - most of the pieces are focused in some way on individuals contemplating their world and their place in it. In one story, the balance of the universe rests on the subversive tendencies of a man at a newspaper who inserts people’s names into the text of classified ads; a poem compares the speaker’s actions as a new father with the actions of Caligula. Entertaining and somewhat erudite, I enjoyed Jean-Mark Sens poem “Doubling,” which begins: “Your mouth articulates / outside words: / and bit by bit you’ve grown / a guardian angel.” and the poem “Watching” by Jesse Lee Kercheval, about watching movies -  “…Now when the movie comes I’m already restless, thinking one step ahead. / I’m questioning everything even before the academy leader counts down. // Now when I’m watching a movie, it may happen that another movie / fills my head & keeps me from watching the movie I am watching.” I enjoy reading the new voices and new ideas found here. [Ascent, Concordia College, 901 8th Street S, Moorhead, Minnesota 56562. E-mail: ascent@cord.edu. Single issue $5. http://www.cord.edu/dept/english/ascent/] – JHG

 

The Kenyon Review

Volume 26 Number 2

Spring 2004

This issue of Kenyon Review might help a newcomer to the literary world learn who’s who; there are so many well-established poets and writers here: Alice Hoffman, Stanley Plumly, Marvin Bell, Carl Phillips, David Lehman…and the list goes on. This Ohio-based journal may not hold many surprises, but it does contain a good deal of excellent writing, including a long poem (a form sadly often neglected in page-miserly lit mags) by Beth Ann Fennelly called “Telling the Gospel Truth.” Here are a few lines from Alice Hoffman’s lyrical “The Witch of Truro”: “Witches take their names from places, for places are what give them their strength. The place need not be beautiful, or habitable, or even green. Sand and salt, so much the better. Scrub pine, plumberry and brambles, better still. From every bitter thing, after all, something hardy will surely grow.” The reviews and essays here are also intelligent and probing, especially Kim McMullen’s “New Ireland/Hidden Ireland: Reading Recent Irish Fiction” and Thomas Gardner’s essay “Restructured and Restrung, Charles Wright’s Zone Journals and Emily Dickinson.” [The Kenyon Review, Walton House, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH 43022-9623. E-mail: kenyonreview@kenyon.edu. Single issue $10. http://www.kenyonreview.org/] - JHG

 

Journal of Ordinary Thought

“Cause I Wanted To”

Fall 2003/Winter 2004

This slim quarterly, published by the Neighborhood Writing Alliance in Chicago, is one of the more fascinating literary magazines out there. Hardly intending to be ironic, the work within is, by ‘writerly’ standards, ordinary: there’s hardly a trace of the purple prose or tightrope walking eccentricities to be had in the more well-heeled literary rags. The poems, reflections and stories within are incredibly ordinary—most of the writing focuses on quotidian life, on the little miseries and injustices and small miraculous moments of life. At the (admittedly large) risk of going completely gooey, the magazine is devastating because the work is simply, over and over, real: people hate their jobs and write accordingly; someone had a horrible experience in youth and simply relates it. I’m as ready as the next guy to trade ten Grisham books for one by Lydia Davis, but there’s a shocking beauty and simplicity in the direct, inspired writing within. [Journal of Ordinary Thought, Neighborhood Writing Alliance, 1313 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail: editors@jot.com. http://www.jot.org/jot.html] - WC

 

Conduit

Number 14

Spring 2004

While it’s tempting for me to enjoy Conduit because we are of the same city, or because I think Conduit does many things tremendously well—among them risk annihilation, use words instead of page numbers, gather incredible poetry—the clearest reason in this latest issue to enjoy it is because of the poem, “My One Paneled Wall,” by Crystal Curry, though ‘enjoy’ is far and away far too weak a verb for this startlingly sharp and perfect poem, and she should, like many other poets within (C.G. Waldrep, Olena Kalytiak Davis, etc.), have whatever choice of beverage she prefers purchased for her. Conduit is nothing if not daring, and their motto of risking annihilation is not at all some clever ruse for your hard-earned literary magazine dollar. (For the record, as well: Sarah Manguso, an internet high five to you for both poems.) These poems are reckless, not necessarily pushing language so much as alchemizing it, restructuring the pyrite of life and love and longing into something glintier and more mercurial. [Conduit, 510 Eigth Avenue Northeast, Minneapolis, MN 55413. Single issue $8. http://www.conduit.org/] - WC

 

Quarterly West

Number 57

Fall/Winter 2003-4

A bizarre admission: I write and, much more often than not, read fiction and poetry, and Quarterly West, seemingly without intent, has made a nonfiction convert out of me. It’s not that I am not enthralled by the two novellas from the biennial contest within this issue (and pity Kevin McIlvoy for having to choose between these two, let alone however many countless others). It’s nothing about not enjoying, with that sort of creeping case of the willies that sometimes happens, Dan O’Brien’s story. G.C. Waldrep, as ever, does it for me, and Kate Gale’s “Demanding Barbados” is luxurious. But Ander Monson’s “I Have Been Thinking About Snow” and Sarah Madsen’s “Movement: a photographer’s alphabet” are both beguilingly great. Structurally they’re dissimilar, from each other and from nonfiction in general: Monson uses periods to space sentences, fragments, words, weather reports out from each other; Madsen has each page be an entry for a word (aperture, heat, wretched), and for each entry there is a listing of the image, the technique, and the caption. Both works are mesmeric, lingering - like those conversations we carry with us and recall over and over. [Quarterly West, University of Utah, 200 S. Central Campus Dr., Rm. 317, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-9109. E-mail: dhawk@earthlink.net. Single issue: $8.50. http://www.utah.edu/quarterlywest/] - WC

 

Iron Horse Literary Review

“First Frost”

Volume 5 Number 1

2003

I go back and forth about the debate regarding whether or not there are simply too many literary magazines. There’s the statistic that the majority of amateur authors spend more money per year on sending work out than they do on the literary magazines they’re so desperately trying to garner an acceptance from, and there’s the notion, to me anyway (an admitted elitist), that if there’s eventually a venue for every piece of writing, what does that do to writing overall? Iron Horse Literary Review is exactly the type of magazine that acts as soothing antidote to the insta-headache above. I’ve never seen the magazine before, I recognize just a few of the names in the issue, I haven’t the slightest who the editors are, but the magazine is coherent and well organized and neat and good, and it passes the pick-up-and-flip test better than many: I literally picked it up ten or so times, flipped open to a random page, and was hooked, if not by one page than the opposite or, sometimes, both. No style is outlandishly favored in terms of quality or page space, and the best feeling is that strange sort of trust a magazine or book exacts as it does the job well: you don’t know what’s next, but you know it’ll be worth it. [Iron Horse Literary Review, Texas Tech University, Department of English, Box 43091, Lubbock, TX 79409-3091. E-mail: ironhorselr@netscape.net. Single issue $6. http://www.english.ttu.edu/IH/] - WC

 

Harpur Palate

Volume 3 Number 2

Winter 2003-4

Jeff Walt has written one of the sexiest poems about smoking ever and Jennifer Perrine makes me want to hold someone’s hand. Lexi Rudnitsky’s “Malaria” is beautiful and Harpur Palate (which is what, by the way, anyone? sorry I’m dumb) is a fine magazine. M. Nasorri Pavone’s “Rick on His Way to Rachel” surprised the hell out of me and took three readings, and Mary Anne Mohanraj’s story, like Jenny Steele’s, is well paced and moves like a cloud, then stays like one in your head. Out of Binghamton University in New York, this magazine feels more than many, like it’s still growing into itself in good ways. There’s no pedantry, no hint that if I were to pick up the magazine in a year it might be totally different, meaning: there’s a flexibility to it that’s welcome. Again, there’s little formal inventiveness within the pages, there are simply well-written, solidly structured poems and stories. [Harpur Palate, English Department, Binghamton University, PO Box 6000, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000. E-mail: hpfiction@hotmail.com Single issue $8. http://harpurpalate.binghamton.edu/] - WC

 

The Long Story

Number 22

2004

I know it’s not polite to talk about politics, and there’s hardly a gray zone in the polarized debate regarding politics in this country right now, but the Long Story is specifically political, so it bears discussion. For the uninitiated: the Long Story is one of the few literary magazines that focuses pretty much exclusively on novellas/long stories (more than 8,000 words), and has done so for a long time and very well. There are eight stories in here, total page count 160, so the magazine in practical terms more resembles a thick collection of stories or essays than a ‘typical’ literary magazine. R. P. Burnham, Editor, begins this issue with a prelude that is so coherent and good, I nearly missed the pedantry, though that may also because I’m sympathetic with his views. He describes, eloquently and at length, the need for writers to tell the Truth, to see the actual world and write of it, and while he has overt political views that he’s making obvious, Burnham’s introductory essay is right up there with some of the things Remnick’s written recently in the New Yorker. The eight stories within are, unfortunately for them, follow Burnham’s essay, which for me meant each was read with new consideration for the world, for what to do next, for how to see better those around me. That said, the stories were uniformly good, readable, and better: each confirmed Burnham’s call for humanistic fiction. [The Long Story – Single issue $6] - WC

 

Third Coast

Issue 18

Spring 2004

Consistently one of the best, cleanest-looking, most affordable and most interesting literary magazines, Third Coast seems incapable of ever making a bad move. If you go to it for your fix of Bob Hicok, for example, you might get distracted by a story by Kieth Banner - lines like “I love her like you might love a stubbed toe if the rest of your body was numb.” Ryan Van Cleave and Ptim Callanboth have short-short stories in here that are as good as you’ll find anywhere, and the poetry is consistently wonderful. From Western Michigan University, out of Kalamazoo, this magazine seems to actually go a long way toward defining and clarifying a certain aesthetic, one that’s neither rigorously formal nor wildly inventive simply for inventiveness’ sake. The work in Third Coast, over and over, is excellent, engaging work that does the hardest of things quite well: each piece is its own piece, following its own rules and fulfilling its own needs. Deborah Landau’s poetry can precede Myron Hardy’s, and both sets of poetry are fantastic in their own ways—stanza’d or un-/metered or otherwise, more language or more image focused. And in what may be most shocking: the book reviews in the back are always fantastic, and in this latest issue inclue a review of another literary magazine - Orchid Literary Review. An incredible magazine, always worth double the necessary $6. [Third Coast, Department of English, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5331. E-mail: gdeutsch@wmich.edu. Single issue $6. http://www.wmich.edu/thirdcoast/] - WC

 


NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

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