The NewPages
 Literary Magazine Reviews

Posted Dec 21, 2004
[reviews in alphabetical order by title]

The Bellowing Ark

Volume 20 Number 4

July/August 2004

This newsprint journal out of Shoreline, Washington declares on its web site that its editors embrace the romantic tradition, are biased towards narrative, and pointedly are not interested in academic exercise, minimalism, or surrealism. I believe those declarations to be true, especially when I found that the cover art was photographed by someone named “Moondoggie” and that this issue features parts II and III of a story called “The Elf King.” It is indeed an eclectic mix of poems, art, and prose. Many of the poems contain the words “God,” “Heart,” “Sadness,” and there is a lot of weather present in the poems as well – rain, moonlight, snow, Springtime, etc. So be prepared for open-hearted (if sometimes simple) writing, and you won’t be disappointed with what you find. Mary Carol Moran has two poems in here that I liked, “The Dance” and “X’s and O’s.” Here is the first stanza from “X’s and O’s:”

Blackberries from your ex-husband
are never plump and juicy. He
will not cull the unripe pipe, the ones
You argued about when you were
still married. His bitter berries
bruise your tongue.

A gentle and spirit-lifting, if sometimes less than intellectually rigorous, journal. [Bellowing Ark, P.O. Box 55564, Shoreline, WA 98155. E-mail: Single issue $4.] – JHG


Burnside Review

Volume 1 Issue 1

Summer 2004

The slim, saddle-stitched new poetry journal out of Portland, Oregon looks like care and attention has been lavished on its design; it resembles a well-done chapbook, with its heavy cardstock paper and clean, clear typeset. And the poetry you’ll find won’t disappoint either. Many of the poems have a lyrical bent and pack an emotional punch. I particularly liked Virginia Mix’s piece, called “Boundaries,” which culminates in these eerie lines: “And I can also fast-forward five years, and / squat down in her tiny kitchen, 29 years / old and pregnant, whispering into the / goat’s silky coat after he spent the day / munching on toxic rhododendron. / I cover my ears as he moans and screams / while the poison rushes through his blood, / and hold him in my lap at four in the / morning, and the moonlight shivers off / the linoleum.” I am looking forward to more of Burnside Review after this promising debut. [Burnside Review, P.O. Box 1782, Portland OR 97207. E-mail: Single issue $6.] – JHG


The Chattahoochee Review

Volume 24 Number 2/3

Winter-Spring 2004

I could not immediately figure out just what it is about The Chattahoochee Review that seemed so different from most literary magazines, but eventually, it struck me. The stories here take their time. They unwind; instead of just dropping the reader into the middle of a conversation, they give credit for a decent attention span. Trenton Lee Stewart's "The Employee" is a dark tale of a grocery store clerk who feels responsible for the accidental death of his obnoxious customer, and finds himself courting the dead man's impoverished wife, with an end twist that proves ends twists may still be done, and well. "Acrobats," by Anna Schachner, gently portrays the narrator's parents as drifting apart at the time of her conception: her father, a Marine who wants to be back at sea, and her mother, who is unhappy, and fearful that her child will also be someone she will not be able to understand. TCR's poetry is refreshingly straightforward; I particularly loved Red Shuttleworth's "Hank Williams (1952/1953)": "Morphined, chloraled, boozed: the snow / out on the highway is the color of watered down whiskey [...] As two bottles clink on the floor below his jaw, / Hank can't find a way to turn around." [The Chattahoochee Review, 2101 Womack Road, Dunwoody, GA 30338-4497. E-mail: Single Issue: $6.] – JQG


The Chiron Review

Issue 76

Autumn 2004

The ghost of Charles Bukowski lurks on the newsprint pages on this issue of The Chiron Review; his influence is clearly evident on the poems published here, and he is also mentioned in interviews and advertisements. Although the effect can sometimes be such that the reader might feel stuck at a card table with garrulous and possibly drunk older men, that can also be fortuitous in that a piece with a lot of character and very little polish can grab your interest – something that you might not have picked up otherwise – like Randy W. Pait’s poems “Why We Must Be Vigilant in Early Morning” and “Hemingway, a Dream, and a Hatbox.” And while the focus here may be on accessible and earnest writing (two words that some critics throw around as insults these days) along with a lot of mentions of bodily functions (call me squeamish, but one mention of feces or rectum in a poem is too many), there is a lot of humor and plainspoken charm as well. There are two featured interviews in this issue of Chiron Review, one with Henry Denander and the other with Ed Galing. The journal has well-known names (like Charles Harper Webb) next to newcomers, and also includes international writers from places like New Zealand. [Chiron Review, 522 E. South Ave., St. John, KS 67576. E-mail: Single issue $5.] – JHG


Crab Creek Review

Spring/Summer 2004

The Crab Creek Review is a slim, rather unassuming volume of poetry and fiction – until you read it. The stories here pull no punches. My heart was knifed by Gaston Madrigal's "Dogs 'Til We Die," an unblinking look at the cruel world of a man and his beloved fight dog, both of whom are perhaps encompassed by the line, "I cannot stand to look at what I remember: this sweet puppy who loved everyone before he knew the meaning of life was to fight or die[...]" Thomas Juvik's "The Way Home" recalls a man returning home from war, wondering if his wife has remained true to him, and trying not to be consumed by his own hellish war experiences, culminating in a night spent "behind a thin, ragged curtain on a bare, piss-stained mattress perspiring over a sleepy-eyed Cambodian girl stoned on opium." His homecoming is sweet but his happiness, tenuous. Many of CCR's poems present ordinary moments which are extraordinarily moving: in Stephen McDonald's "Sparrow," a little bird flies up into "thirty stories of steel girders" and it seems, to the poet, as if that ponderous network of steel beams really is "a single sparrow / tiny, fragile, and full of joy." And might I add: the contributor's notes in this magazine are an entertaining extra, as they contain the writers' statements on what inspired their work. [Crab Creek Review Association, P.O. Box 840, Vashon Island, WA 98070. Single issue: $6.] – JQG


CUE: A Journal of Prose Poetry

Volume I Issue I

Winter 2004

The editors of CUE know the value of nice paper. This new journal is printed on thick tan paper and bound with nice cardstock of the same color. We all know the cliché, but for my part, if editors put in the effort to make their magazine look nice, I think they are more likely to put the same effort into making their content worthwhile. CUE is one of several recent magazines to focus solely on the prose poem, and this first issue shows a lot of promise. The two poets that really shine in this issue are James Tate and 19th century French poet Aloysius Bertrand. Both have three poems each and all are excellent. My favorite Tate piece here, “Lost Geese,” reads as stream-of-consciousness: “Good. I hate fish funerals. I read an article in the paper about the disaffected youth of Tokyo who take a certain new drug that makes them feel like they are successful business executives,” and ends in a beautifully idiosyncratic way. Aloysius Bertrand was the founder of French prose poetry, and his poems read as brief descriptions of medieval life, yet always contain a dark undercurrent. This issue also features work by David Young and an interview with David Lehman. [CUE: A Journal of Prose Poetry. PO Box 200, 2509 North Campbell Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719. E-mail: Single issue $6.] – LM


The Georgia Review

Volume 58 Number 3

Fall 2004

The Georgia Review is for those readers who love language--and a challenge. This issue opens, inexplicably, with dictionary definitions of the words fragment and fragmentation; contains the sort of essay in which everything the writer has ever done is considered fascinating; and includes a story in which a woman picks up a (real?) penis from the middle of the road and soon throws it away, giving rise to such thoughts as: "Is it not good that some wise part of us keeps a pair of wings folded in reserve, to flee as impetus for survival and to rejoin the more than human with ferocity of tenderness?" (Laurie Kutchins, "The Pathetic Fallacy"). Lest I be accused of being flip, let me say now that M.S. Allen's "Wish You Were Here" wiped the smirk right off my face with its brilliant and grim portrayal of a Peacekeeper who is numbed by the horrors of all he has seen in war-torn countries. People pester him with questions about whether his experiences have enhanced or detracted from his faith in God; none realize how pointless he finds it all. Other highlights include Jane Hirshfield's "Five Pebbles," short Zen-like poems, and Irene McKinney's "Homage to Baroness Elsa Von Freytag Loringhoven" about the eccentric, and misunderstood, figure. [The Georgia Review, Gilbert Hall, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-9009. E-mail: Single Issue: $9.] – JQG


Good Foot

Issue 5


Good Foot is good stuff, presenting the work of over 70 poets in its 135 pages. The poems are long and short, blank verse, experimental, prose, you name it. If there's something you don't care for on one page, chances are you'll find a better one on the next. I wish I'd had Rachel Hadas's "Simile, Analogy, Mimesis" in my college lit crit class ten years ago: "...mimesis replicates / permanence in a world that is our home / and yet is falling and flowing and falling away." Sandra Lim's "In Radiant Serenity" is playfully metapoetical: "You verb (like a smirk). / I verb you; you verb and verb. / (Parenthetical remark)." My favorite line in the whole journal comes from Sara Jane Stoner's "Observations": "A recent tornado chose McDonald's over KFC." Fred Yannantuono contemplates the thought processes of people who send him spam in "Lines Written While Adding Three Inches to My Penis." (Indeed, "Are the people sending me these messages / the same ones telling me I ought to get breast implants?") In Adam Clay's dark, wonderful "Beneath the Bridge," a man who "thought some ballad singer had sung it all" meets a gravedigger who says "The radio of eternity [...] begins when we are born / And ends when we look to the sky and think we can sing along." [Good Foot, Box 681, Murray Hill Station, New York, NY 10156. E-mail: Single issue: $8.] – JQG


Look-Look Magazine

Number 2


Kids today don't know how good they've got it! In my day, if you wanted to get your art and writing out there, you were limited to the school literary magazine or to making your own 'zine on the photocopier at your temp job. Today's teens-to-twenties have Look-Look, a full-sized glossy magazine chock full of art, poetry, photography, rants, and raves. The articles are very short and range from crappy-job stories ("The White Ranger" by Alex Burkat) to photo essays on young Japanese women making wishes at Meiji Shrine (U+A Furakawa, "Coming of Age in Tokyo.") Richard Gimbel II's "How to Be a Freedom Fighter" provides invaluable advice for the young activist ("If you are fighting to see marijuana legalized don't show up at an anti-globalization protest dressed like Tommy Chong."). The diversity of Look-Look is unbeatable; amongst the photos of the pierced and tattooed there are Lacy Billingsley's (Miss Rodeo Texas 2003) scrapbook pages, and Anthony Blasko's pictures of his family and street in every-townish Columbus, Ohio. There's a range of young lives greater than you'll ever see on MTV, and presenting them is the goal of Look-Look. Or, as the editors put it, "we get to make the f-ing coolest magazine we could ever imagine." [Look-Look Magazine, 6685 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028. E-mail: Single issue: $5.95.] – JQG


Main Street Rag

Volume 9 Number 3

Fall 2004

I confess I've a soft spot for journals with no contributors' page: no bragging, no hype, no MFA programs. In Main Street Rag, it's just about the poetry. It opens with an interview of Mike Beyer, a guy who likes to rollerblade, walk the city at night, and write great poems, such as "Seeing Things Differently," which contains the lines: "Well who cares you don't have enough money to / move, you're not bright enough for a better / job--who said you were / a genius anyway? // Who said you couldn't be--?" I enjoyed the tough-luck of Arthur Gottlieb's "Bankrupt," the bitterness of Maria Fire's "Tin Torso," in which her body is merely the mold of her mother's art project, and the wry neighbor-hatred in David T. Manning's "At the Neighborhood Homeowners' Meeting." There are two pieces of fiction here, including Carl F. Thompson, Jr.'s "Para-Pet," in which a writer's parrot displays a talent for taking in the classics, mixing and rewording them in a way that makes its owner very rich and respected indeed. This issue contains political articles which I almost chose to skip in my post-election depression. I'm glad I did read Editor M. Scott Douglass's "Choices" – it was a fine example of fair, non-hysterical commentary, the likes of which I've seen little in recent memory, and gave me a spot of hope in its conclusion. Thanks, Scott! [Main Street Rag, 4416 Shea Lane, Charlotte, NC 28227. E-mail: Single issue: $7.] – JQG



Volume 3


Substantial poetry journal MARGIE offers, in this issue (their third), a plethora of poetry by both big names (the likes of Billy Collins, James Tate, and Gerald Stern) and undiscovered talent. I admit that I read this issue of MARGIE the same way I usually read the Best American Poetry series books – I found that I really enjoy a third of the poems, that I usually dislike a third, and that a third of the poems are okay but nothing spectacular. Unlike a lot of journals out today, who seem to specialize in mystifying exercises in theory, I would say that when the work in MARGIE is less that great, it’s because the poems are too slight and simplistic. Tending to the lyric and narrative, you can’t accuse the editors of showcasing work that’s out of the reach of the average reader, and part of me really cheers this populist approach. And, as I said before, there is plenty to like in the 400-plus pages. In this issue, Diane Wakowski’s “Cognac in France,” Jennifer Tseng’s “Liars,” Peggy Hong’s long, prose-type meditation on names, God, and the Grand Canyon in “Three Truths and a Lie,” and the light-hearted “Baptists Don’t Dance” by Clinton B. Campbell were among the standout poems for me. This is the kind of magazine you could lend to your friend who’s always been intimidated by poetry; most are easy to follow, a lot of the poems feature humor, and every so often the poems hit a powerful emotional note. [MARGIE, PO Box 250, Chesterfield, MO 63006-0250. E-mail: Single issue $11.95.] – JHG


The Massachusetts Review

Volume 45 Number 3


This special issue is dedicated to, as the cover states, Food Matters. And not just food, but the central way food relates to different cultures, ideas of home, and personality. Among the foods reminisced about in poetry, prose, and even play form: kichidi, pomegranates, tongue, gimchi chigae, daal, apple pie, and chicharrones. And, along with literary delicacies, recipes are provided! How can you beat that? Guest editor Anita Mannur begins the issue with an emotive note about her own childhood longings for tuna fish sandwiches. Johnson Cheu’s “Pomegranate” and Purvi Shah’s “As You Try to Clean a Near-Empty Indian Can of Patra Leaves” were two of my favorite poems (although if you are anything of a “foodie” – like me—this whole issue will seem designed for you). The first couplet of Shah’s poem starts: “Your hands would be bandages / were we ever to marry.” Sejal Shah’s “Kinship, Cousins, and Kichidi,” an account of a woman’s changing relationship to food and to the expectations of her family and culture, also struck a familiar chord with me. Savor each piece from this journal at your leisure, as there is plenty to enjoy. [The Massachusetts Review, South College,University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003. E-mail: Single issue $8.] – JHG


NFG – Writing with Attitude

Issue 5 Volume 2


Formatted like a slick cosmopolitan magazine, this quirky, subversive offering out of Canada includes comics, poems, art work, fiction, and essays, all of which were weird, humorous, or some combination of the two. They also feature sci-fi and horror genre work. One of their stated goals is to include writers from all over, and it seems they succeeded, as I count five countries represented on two pages at one point. As a lover of literary comics, I have to say my favorite comic from this issue was that depicting a tyrannosaurus rex’s search for God, which was attributed to a web site and a Canadian author named Ryan North. Of the poems, I particularly liked the prose poem “She Tried to Teach Me Poetry” by Karina Sumner-Smith, which begins:

Two in the afternoon, looking at her free verse hair, the way she dresses in foreign poetic form. She says: let us feel safe in this problematic time, clinging to the ink-stained tangle and argues formal religion, industry versus agriculture. Let’s call it literature.

The editors also printed the winners of their “69ers” contest – little flash fiction or prose poem bits of writing with only 69 words. An interesting entry into a sometimes too-homogenous field of literary work. [Single issue $5.95.] – JHG


The Portland Review

Volume 51 Number 3


This journal, originating from Portland State University, includes poetry, fiction, photography and art from a variety of voices, not just those of the Northwest. Standout pieces for me included Dustin Nightingale’s poem, “Shoot Out the Lights,” and James McCachren’s story, “Driving,” which begins with the irresistible lines: “We had two reasons for going there: 1) because it was called “the supermarket of the stars,” and 2) because we had no chapstick. I saw we had no chapstick, though I think my wife may have hidden it. She’d been wanting to go to that store for a long time; I could see her taking extreme measures.” Also riveting was John A Tisdale’s “Twenty-Eight Flavors of Stupid,” an unsentimental fiction piece about the wife of a recent suicide victim. The photographer featured throughout these pages, Niki Polyocan, has a knack at capturing warmth and humanity in urban landscapes – I particularly like her shot of a seated couple in white kissing while surrounded by pigeons that seem to be perched like accessories on the two lovers. [The Portland Review Literary Journal, Portland State University, P.O. Box 347, Portland, OR 97207-0347. E-mail: Single issue $9.] – JHG


Tar Wolf Review

Issue 2

Fall 2004

This new saddle-stitched journal of poetry and art out of Tennessee gives a forum for newer voices, with a lyric bent. I liked the ekphrastic poem “Shark Infested Waters” by Gayle Elen Harvey (about a show by Damien Hirst), as well as P.J. Taylor’s “The Mice and The Lemon Tree.” An excerpt of Taylor’s poem:

There are mice eating our lemons,
zesting the skins. Naked fruit is strewn
all over our patio and drive…
…I wonder how they live
on citrus. He baits the traps with cheese,
still they eat more lemons…

The slightly sepia-toned photography in this issue was interesting to me as well; my favorite pieces were Roger Pfingston’s “Chicago” and “Ice,” which both featured “cold” structures and created an almost mystical mood with them. I’ll continue to watch this new literary journal with interest. [Tar Wolf Review, P.O. Box 2038, Clarkrange, TN 38553. E-mail: Single issue: $6.] – JHG


Posted Dec 1, 2004
[reviews in alphabetical order by title]


Volume 20 Number 1

Fall 2004

Ever wondered what would happen if a mermaid were inverted with scales on the upper half? Well, Peter Stine has, and if you want to lap up his sparkling, delicious poem on the question, dive into the Fall 2004 issue of Boulevard. Accompanying the magazine’s thoughtful selection of fiction, poetry, essays and art mostly by famed contributors (including Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Hoffman and Edmund White) is a unique feature, the symposium. Here, various writers (and, occasionally, Boulevard Editor Richard Burgin) weigh in on a question of cultural significance: What is most heartening and/or disheartening about contemporary publishing? Do you regard film as high an art as literature? And, in this issue, which writer or artist do you think is the most underrated and/or overrated and why? James Nolan offers a crisp disdain for the publishing industry’s Next New Thing (overrated) counteracted by the blessings of regional literary activity (underrated). He ends with this marvelous finger in your ribcage: “And as for the mass audience out there paging through the New York Times Book Review in search of the overrated Next New Thing, I suspect these readers are much like Tantalus. Wherever they may live, they are starving to death just around the corner from an authentic feast.” [Boulevard, published by St. Louis University. Correspondence: Richard Burgin, PMB 325, 6614 Clayton Rd., Richmond Heights, MO 63117. Single issue $8.] –LKB



Volume 32 Number 2

Autumn 2004

Grain has an inventive way of honoring its annual Short Grain contest winners without shortchanging the other contributors – a double issue with two front covers and no perfunctory rear. In the “regular” issue, Christine Lindsay’s “Last Words” is a potent dialog with a character from a poem by Jane Kenyon. Also in that issue, Emily Cavanaugh makes a fine fiction debut with “Pieces of His Girl,” in which two young lives face competing destinies. Among the Short Grain mix of oft-ignored forms (including postcard stories, prose poems, dramatic monologues), Patrick Tobin’s “141/2 Things to do in Stockholm in the Dead of Winter: A Travel Guide” is a charming riot of journal entries, slang, footnotes, onomatopoetic misfires and hilarious meanderings. Quieter, but more deadly, is “Wing” by Barbara Simler, a childhood moment in which strawberry jam with its “red streaks, bits of fleshy pulp and seed” becomes so much more. Grain – it’s sunny side down and scrumptious. [Grain, Box 67, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, S7K 3K1. E-mail: Single issue $9.95 CAN.] – LKB


McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern

Issue 14

Fall 2004

After a string of elaborately presented thematic issues, McSweeney’s returns with a back-to-basics issue. No 20-minute stories or bonus DVDs, just a sleek collection of great cutting-edge fiction (and one investigation into giant Chinese rodents.) Many of the stories here are told from the perspective of inventive and unusual characters: A Roman solider guarding the empire’s northern front (“Hadrian’s Wall”); a terminally ill girl who writes stories about zoo animals suffering from their own diseases (“A Child’s Book of Sickness and Death”); three historic personalities that were beheaded (“Three Pieces of Severance”); and Spain’s most famous female Matadora (“The Death of Mustango Slalvaje”). The latter story, by Jessica Anthony, is the recipient of The Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award and if you simply do not have the money to buy this issue, I’d strongly urge you to go to the bookstore and read this story straight from the rack. Although, there is honestly not a single page worth skipping here, which seems to be a common phenomenon with McSweeney’s. Come to think of it, why don’t you have a subscription already? [McSweeney's, 826 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110. E-mail: Single issue $15.] – LM


New Letters:
A Magazine of Writing and Art

Volume 70 Numbers 3 & 4


The cover of this New Letters issue features a mural detail in which a face in a mirror mimics its own act of reflection, soliciting your gaze and shooting it right back to you. Inside the issue, broader sections of Luis Quintanilla’s frank, witty frescoes with a Don Quixote theme (fear no macho kitsch here) are enhanced by commentary from both the exiled Spanish artist and his son. This kind of full-meal attention is present throughout New Letters which features at least half of its poetry in groups of two or three by each author, so that poems compliment one another. The fiction here has a range of flavors – from traditional storytelling with keen characterization and cherished themes to more of the acquired-taste varieties that experiment with rhythm, tempo and punctuation. Other generous offerings in this issue include story/poem + interview sets with Mary Gordon and Tim Seibles. In one of those wonderfully spontaneous “conversations” between two writers in the same issue, Gordon joins Quintanilla’s lament for artists who are “enslaved” by established facts or representative details; she, in reference to writing a biography of Joan of Arc; he, in reference to painting characters from Cervantes’ novel. [New Letters, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 5101 Rockhill Road. Kansas City, MO 64110. E-mail: Single issue $9.] – LKB


Two Lines


This captivating journal presents essays, poems and stories in their original language side by side with their English translations and notes from the translators. This saving celebration of cultural and artistic exchange spans numerous countries and centuries. Each work could surely stand alone, but these lines from “Trees” by French-Tunisian poet Hédi Kaddour – “The militia which had such faith / In tall oaks / That it festooned them with hanged men.” – are enhanced by translator Marilyn Hacker’s observation that the word for militia in French unmistakably connotes the collaborationist Vichy militia during the Nazi occupation of France. Likewise, “The Infraction – Fragment 298,” a raging condemnation of the rape of Cassandra (amid the Sack of Troy), penned by the 7th Century BCE poet, Alcaeus, is easily beguiling on its own, with the title reminding us of both what survives and what is lost. Still, translator Peter Campion’s intriguing commentary about the poem’s structure and moral force is a clarifying addition. Conquest is not the only kind of Power (the issue’s theme) honored in these 200 pages. “Where does such tenderness come from?” (by Marina Tsvetaeva, translated from Russian by Kristin Becker) and “A Little Bit of Moroccan Soil” (by Fouad Laroui, translated from French by Maureen Lucier) will activate your exhalatory vocalizations (and perhaps your tear ducts). [Two Lines, Center for Art in Translation, 35 Stillman St. Suite 201 San Francisco, CA 94107. E-mail: Single issue $14.95.] –LKB



MC - Mark Cunningham                LM - Lincoln Michel
- Jeannine Hall Gailey           AS - Ann Stapleton
JQG - Jennifer Gomoll                (see
Contributors page)

Edited by Denise Hill

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

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