The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Posted August 22, 2005

96 INC

2005

The latest issue of 96 INC. is dedicated to the memory of founding editor Vera Cochran Gold and contains her intriguing “Vegetable Monologues: Broccoli, Okra, Fennel, The Pepper Farm, Eggplants.” The suite of short-shorts are experimental in form, affecting mediations on isolation and alienation. Gold’s work is representative of the eclectic spirit of 96 INC—teenagers in workshops conducted by 96 Inc. assist in the production of the magazine and the journal frequently features the work of adolescents alongside established writers. The inclusive nature of the magazine does not prevent excellence. The format is sleek and tidy, the quality of the content high. Sandra Novack’s imaginative short story, “Please, If you love me, You should know what to do,” is a standout, as is Heather Hartley’s stunning poem “The Guardian of Art”: “He knows how shadows strike long halls, / dusk on a stretch of canvas, / the look of sculpture after night falls: / heavy as silence after music stops.” While the majority of the journal is comprised of fiction and poetry, the issue also includes several translations, a book review, and black and white art that’s interspersed throughout the pages. 96 INC is not only a fine literary magazine, but an integral part of an organization that makes important contributions to our literary communities. A solid and inspiring read. [96 INC, P. O. Box 15559, Boston, MA 02215. E-mail: mail@96inc.com. Single issue $5. www.96inc.com] – Laura van den Berg

 

Arkansas Review

A Journal of Delta Studies

Volume 36 Number 1

April 2005

If you dislike the homogeneity of Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, here’s the magazine for you. The equivalent to a locally owned coffee-shop, Arkansas Review is a fiercely regional tri-quarterly; based on that alone, it’s a laudable effort. The poems of Jeffrey Renard Allen are as bluesy as you’ll ever see (“Bol weevil in the cotton / worm in the corn / Devil in the white man / War going on”), and the centerpiece essay focuses on the racial implications of lodging alternatives in Clarksdale, Mississippi: “Race and Blues Tourism” is a perfect example of how focused investigation, even (especially?) in an area so removed from ‘cultural centers,’ can enlighten and entertain. The magazine cover features a cozy woman in a rocking chair, and the accompanying interview reveals her to be Mary Gay Shipley, a culturally-conscientious independent bookstore owner in Arkansas. Pia Ehrhardt’s short-story “Safe” features a calm murderer leading his date toward her unknowing demise . . . until they’re interrupted by a tent-raft sailor who is sailing up and down the Mississippi to raise money. “Ice is what I miss most,” the savior/sailor laments, and so sums up the magazine: surprising, revelatory, and challenging, as it removes its readers from the hum-drum everyday life to a place singular, unique, and thriving. [Arkansas Review, Department of English and Philosophy, P.O. Box 1890, Arkansas State University, State University, AR 72467. E-mail: delta@astate.edu. Single issue $7.50. www.clt.astate.edu/arkreview] – Sean Bernard

 

At Length

Issue 2 Volume 1

2005

This is a beautiful journal. It uses the same elegant design with each issue, alternating only the cover’s color and the content – and included are usually a novella, a long poem, and black-and-white artwork. Because the number of works is so small, the pressure on the editors to publish good pieces is much higher – little room for error here. In this issue, they get it more than right with Tom Sleigh’s poem “Bula Matari / Smasher of Rocks,” a breathtaking blend of The Iliad, Joseph Conrad, Africa exploration, the first atomic bombs, and the tragedy of a small family presented in quasi-theatrical form. Sound ambitious? It is, and more impressive, Sleigh pulls it off: “Conrad would call this moment / immersing yourself ‘in the destructive element.’ // My father’s slow death from radiation exposure / from his years of observing nuclear testing / in the Utah desert wasn’t quite what Conrad had in mind.” The issue’s artwork included is less admirable – it’s oddly Aeon Flux-ish – and Melissa Yancy’s novella “Stray,” while an inventive exploration of a lonely woman finding an abandoned child, keeping it, and raising it, never quite commits to being either realism or something beyond. But this is a minor criticism, and the novella, artwork, and poem are all daring and competent pieces – and at the very least, the same can be said for the journal. [At Length, PO Box 594, New York, NY 10185. E-mail: info@atlengthmag.com. Single issue $5. www.atlengthmag.com]Sean Bernard

 

Atlanta Review

“The Gift of Experience”

10th Anniversary Anthology

Volume 11 Number 2

Spring/Summer 2005

Editor Dan Veach is enthusiastic and proud: "Welcome to the most joyful and enjoyable celebration of poetry you've ever seen!" The celebration is nothing short of enormous — 330 pages of poetry divided into a series of "stages of human life" (Birth, Childhood & Youth, Love, etc., Home & Work, Aging & Death, Animals & Nature, Humor, Cities, Poetry, Music and Art, and War) interspersed with a series of "expeditions" (Ireland, Asia, Latin America, Spain, The Caribbean, Africa, Greece, Australia, Great Britain, and America), along with serene black and white drawings from a half dozen artists. Poems in the geographically themed sections are by poets from elsewhere who write about these places, as well as by poets from these regions, most writing in English, though there are also several fine translations. Naturally, given the size of the volume, there is a range of styles and modes, though narrative poems predominate. There are some stars here, Seamus Heaney, Rachel Hadas, Maxine Kumin, Stephen Dunn, Charles Wright, Billy Collins, Derek Walcott, Paul Muldoon, but for the most part the anthology features lesser known poets. Highlights include Matthea Harvey's "Illuminated Manuscript," Jeanne Wagner's "What Birds Dream," "The Conspiracy of Silence," by Amrita Pritam of India, and a lovely translation of "Evening Edition," by Jorge Andrade Carrera of Ecuador, translated by Steven Ford Brown. [The Atlanta Review, P.O. Box 8248, Atlanta, GA 31106. E-mail: dan@atlantareview.com. Single issue $10. www.atlantareview.com] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Ballyhoo Stories

Issue 1 Volume 1

Spring 2005

The debut of Ballyhoo Stories, a biannual print magazine aiming “to reach the broadest audience possible,” is solid. It loses points for presentation – a less than elegant black-and-white cover, oddly shifting black-on-white with white-on-black text pages, and distracting borders and page number fonts – but the content is stronger. The eight stories loosely collected under this issue’s theme of “Portraits and Snapshots” are character-driven works that are at best quietly ambitious and at worst tend toward the sentimental, an understandable side-effect of fiction grown from personal photographs (and from a journal concerned with establishing a large readership). Several works stand out, including Michael Hartford’s “Call Me Pearl” and Amy Brill’s “The Pursuit of Joe Kahn.” “Kahn” seems a bit gimmicky on the surface, as a scruffy journalist is mistaken as the lover of an heiress, but Brill collapses the experience around the journalist’s life in an unexpectedly poignant way. It’s possible that the most engaging aspect of Ballyhoo Stories is a feature on the magazine’s website: the “Fifty States Project,” fifty stories devoted to each state of the Union with the goal of illustrating “the similarities and differences” within our country (only three states down – forty-seven to go!). Ambitious and worth keeping an eye on. [Ballyhoo Stories, 18 Willoughby Avenue, #3, Brooklyn, NY 11205. Email: editors@ballyhoostories.com. Single issue $8. www.ballyhoostories.com] – Sean Bernard

 

Barrelhouse

Issue 1

Winter 2005

It’s fair to say that Barrelhouse is the most promising recent journal so proudly founded in drunkenness; in the introduction to their debut issue, the editors quickly establish its origin, writing, “Fine, we’ll admit it, we were drunk,” thus establishing a youngish masculinity that reverberates throughout. The prose and essays here are of the hip, Maxim-esque variety: Stacey Richter’s story “Reality X Reality” features a reality TV character providing audio commentary for an unseen DVD: “You have to be really good-looking and you have to be tan, and of course sexy, but not a skanky stripper-type.” (Take that, Real World!) Similarly, Steve Almond’s essay “Burn Hollywood” mocks popular cinema as he ponders, “Don’t you get tired of feeling so empty, Hollywood?” while congratulating himself for not selling out. Some quite strong pieces diverge from the overall aggressive tone, as the poetry is generally subtle and reflective, notably Brad Tice’s “Bees,” and Paul Graham’s short story “Partners” deals with the sexual struggles of a young husband whose wife, before their marriage, was raped. There’s a lively interview with Emmylou Harris, too, and the interesting feature of an “illustrated” story – a comic realization of a story from the journal’s website. Overall, the concern here is with being cool, and if that’s your thing, this is the journal for you. [Barrelhouse. E-mail: webmaster@barrelhousemag.com. Single issue $9. www.barrelhousemag.com] – Sean Bernard

 

The Bitter Oleander

Volume 11 Number 1

Spring 2005

Poetry dominates the spring edition of Bitter Oleander, a handsome, glossy journal produced by Bitter Oleander Press. This issue features work by twenty-six poets, with six excellent translations among them. Standouts include David Johnson’s stark and affecting three-part poem “Morning” and Christine Boyka Kluge’s “Swallowing Darkness”: “This is the time of night / when blackest dreams unfold / like bats from secret eaves.” The issue also contains a superb interview with Ye Chun and fourteen of her poems, including “Plague Zone”: “At dusk, black feathers and rolling eyes / grown out of ruined branches. The air smells / like drying fish. In front of the hairy legs / of a flower-man, yulan magnolias start to shriek.” Despite the emphasis on poetry, the short fiction supplies some of the issue’s strongest moments. I loved Joan Flock’s lush and lyrical “Inside The Chrysalis” and James Michael Robbins’s darkly comic “Zookeepers”: “Weirder still is how all the stories were species-specific: People weren’t just turned into cows; they were turned into Holsteins. Others weren’t just turned into dogs or birds; it was Dalmatians and emperor penguins.” In fact, I found each of the four stories compelling and stylistically unique enough to stand out in a sea of poetry. I’ve never been disappointed by an issue of Bitter Oleander, and this one is no exception. Highly recommended, particularly for readers with a special interest in foreign poets. [Bitter Oleander, Bitter Oleander Press, 4983 Tall Oaks Drive, Fayetteville, NY 13066-9776. E-mail: info@bitteroleander.com. Single issue $8. www.bitteroleander.com] – Laura van den Berg

 

Bridge

Issue 14

Spring 2005

Published in Chicago, Bridge is a slick culture-oriented magazine that cranks the volume to eleven. The content is comprehensive – interviews with filmmakers and artists get as much space here as fiction and poetry – but sadly seems a bit loose: too many typos really do frustrate a reader’s experience, and some of the pieces seem to swing and miss. The interview with Robert Altman is a bit flat, as the interviewer oddly insists on bringing up Lars Von Trier, unprompted (Altman gives his peer the thumbs down), and the real goal of the interview seems more to promote Altman’s new project than to actually interview the famed director. One of Bridge’s conscious editorial goals is clearly provocation: Cris Mazza’s story “Timeline” is a condemnatory collection of news tidbits and Reagan soundbites from the 1980s (“President Reagan . . . reminisced wistfully about Joseph McCarthy”), Keith Driver’s poems are vaguely Howl-ish, and Joe Wenderoth’s poem “The Holy Spirit of Life” features a Jesus who more or less gets gang-banged by the disciples: though “he moaned and he talked dirty . . . he never lost control.” Throughout the magazine, the works seem focused on grabbing attention and generating outrage, and with pieces like Wenderoth’s, the editors are on the right track. [Bridge, 119 North Peoria, #3D, Chicago, IL 60607. E-mail: info@bridgemagazine.org. Single issue $15. www.bridgemagazine.org] – Sean Bernard

 

Cimarron Review

Issue 151

Spring 2005

The Cimarron Review, a slender, sleek journal published by Oklahoma State University, has a penchant for subtle, contemplative work, an editorial ideal reflected by a quality smattering of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Much of the poetry involves nature, but approaches the subject from a variety of angles, ranging from butterflies to walled gardens to chameleons to a blizzard-battered magnolia to a dead dog. “Summer Solstice, 1803,” by Scott Brennan, is a definite standout. The poem probes William Clark’s—of Lewis and Clark—observations of the natural world, “As the sun rose, / the pine needles began to drip / a silent, local rain—clear pearls / racing down the oiled canvas walls.” Also notable are Neela Vaswni’s innovative essay, “Taxa,” and Sean Thomas Dougherty’s mini-essays, “Kowalski: A Historiography” and “The Dogs of Budapest”: “The dogs of Budapest. The forlorn, the destitute, the heartbroken have them: a legless man sleeping on a stack of filthy blankets with a black lab in the subway station beneath the Inner City Cathedral.” Vaswni and Dougherty’s essays are taut, vivid, and among the most arresting creative nonfiction I’ve read in a literary magazine in recent memory. Sit down with this issue of the Cimarron Review for the nuanced poetry and imaginative nonfiction—which truly expanded my concept of what is possible in the genre. [The Cimarron Review, 205 Morrill Hall, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078-4069. E-mail: cimarronreview@yahoo.com. Single issue $7. http://cimarronreview.com] – Laura van den Berg

 

Diner

Volume 5 Number 1

Spring/Summer 2005

Diner's editors endeavor to "support diverse voices that speak across boundaries of time and place." Toward that end, this issue's offers "features" of two poets who couldn't be more different from each other: "Blue Plate Special #1" is Sandra Kohler, and "Blue Plate Special #2" is Michael Casey. The menu also includes 40 other dishes…I mean…poets. (I like the diner concept because poetry is, of course, sustenance.) Kohler's poems are preceded by a brief essay from editor Eve Rifkah. Casey's poems are framed by an interview with editor Michael Milligan. Kohlerh's poems are personal narratives, yearning and intimate, her tone is earnest, nature imagery predominates. Casey's are small character studies, pointed and political. His language is blunt, his tone slanted, a sort of mock innocence. These poems focus on "office" themes. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and this meal has many unique and distinct courses—the poems that accompany the Blue Plate Specials are as different from each other as Kohler's and Casey's. Highlights for me are poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Jacquelyn Pope. Pope's work cleanses the palate, reminding us that that spare, self-contained flavors are as important and as interesting as dense and explosive ones. [Diner, P.O. Box 60676, Greendale Station, Worcester, MA 01606-2378. E-mail: seavoice@mac.com. Single issue $9.95. www.spokenword.to./Diner] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Grain

Volume 32 Number 4

Spring 2005

“If” is the theme here, and Kent Bruyneel’s poem “Struggles and gives. Breaks.” kicks things off well: “Then the strange and / proud echo of her turning around. Interrupted. By the voice / wondering aloud when she is coming back and if.” The collected pieces are nicely unified – no loose theme is this – and ambivalence of course weighs heavily, especially in Ken Howe’s amusing mock-epic poem “Jerry’s Barbershop, an Investigation,” in which the persona freaks out over a bad haircut: “I beheld / the same geek who’d take the chair some minutes earlier, OK but / with shorter hair.” While some pieces succumb to simple romanticizing (one poem, for example, pines for the lost dead), credit goes to the editors for publishing a masterful short story. Matthew Rader’s “The Lonesome Death of Joseph Fey” is a beautiful array of vignettes that takes its readers through two brothers’ reactions to the ambiguous death of their other brother. The piece is structurally perfect, thematically ambitious (“Faith, let it be said, is a sixth sense, and like our eyes and ears, easily tricked”), and the language is beautiful; rare to find so unique a piece of fiction, rarer still to find one so well-crafted, simple, and profound. Go read this story! [Grain, Box 67, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, S7K 3K1. E-mail: grainmag@sasktel.net. Single issue $9.95 CAN. www.grainmagazine.ca] – Sean Bernard

 

isotope

Issue 3 Number 1

Spring/Summer 2005

isotope, a journal of literary nature and science writing, published by Utah State University, boasts an impressive selection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, in addition to a striking, full color portfolio of artwork by Richard Gate. This issue includes the winners of the first annual Editors’ Prizes: “Consumption,” a remarkable essay by Sunshine O’Donnell, and a suite of poems by Thomas Joswick that examine the life and art of John James Audubon. My favorite of Joswick’s poems is “Audubon Anticipates Dawn and Blood”: “Before sunrise, from scratching grounds, / where males assemble to strut and boom, / you may hear their rumpled notes, / followed, at times, by rapid / and petulant cackling, / like laughter.” Also noteworthy is Janette Fecteau’s poetic short-short, “Hounds of Light,” which illuminates the work of Nobel prize winning scientist Albert Abraham Michelson, “The earth's slip along the luminiferous ether, stellar aberrations explained by light in waves. Waves, not packets. These are his preoccupations.” The work in Isotope celebrates and probes the natural world—from the pockets of nature that thrive in Manhattan to the Grand Canyon to the Florida Keys. However, the journal isn’t satisfied to simply explore these environments, but the points at which nature, science, art, culture, and human involvement intersect. Even if you don’t have a special interest in nature and science writing, Isotope still makes for an excellent read. [isotope, Department of English, Utah State University, 3200 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322-3200. E-mail: ccokinos@cc.usu.edu. Single issue $5. http://websites.usu.edu/isotope] – Laura van den Berg

 

Lake Effect

Volume 9

Spring 2005

Lake Effect, an annual journal published by Pennsylvania State Erie, features an eclectic selection of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. This issue includes the winners of the Sonnenberg Poetry Award, the Rebman Fiction Award, and the Farrell Nonfiction award, plus brief paragraphs stating the judge’s reasons for selecting the winning manuscripts. Both winners in the prose categories are short pieces, two to three pages, and lush and surreal in tone. R.M. Evans’s “Seahorse,” the nonfiction winner, is a particularly innovative look at the author’s recurring dreams and filled with unique imagery, “I feel my alveoli distend like spinose balloon fish.” In addition to unknown names, Lake Effect has poems by notables like Denise Duhamel, David Kirby, and Georgia Review editor T.R. Hummer. I particularly enjoyed Duhamel’s homage to New Jersey, “Two-Thirds of the World’s Eggplant is Grown in New Jersey,” and Gerry LaFemina’s hypnotic “Poem Composed in the Alphabet of Bats”: “Sometimes we can hear the high school band marching / in the distance, a poltergeist of melody filtering through the dry wall / so indistinct we’re not sure if we’ve actually head it / until they’re done.” The contents of Lake Effect are diverse, although there’s a marked inclination towards the quirky and surreal. Definitely worth checking out. [Lake Effect: A Journal of the Literary Arts, Pennsylvania State Erie, 5091 Station Road, Erie, PA 16563-1501. E-mail: gol1@psu.edu. Single issue $6. www.pserie.psu.edu/academic/hss/degrees/english/lakeeffect.htm] – Laura van den Berg

 

The Malahat Review

Number 150

March 2005

The Malahat Review is characterized by a generous editorial vision. This issue is especially eclectic with poems by nine poets and nine fiction writers whose work ranges from experimental to solidly traditional. Most original are Andrew J. Wilson's political satire, ""Good Morning, Mr. President" ("From the National Palace of [Country Name Withheld]") and Sarah Feldman's "Seven Types of Ambiguity" ("After the photographs of Jenny Amber") which reads like a cross between prose poetry and sudden fiction. Wilson's clever portrait of a president who thinks more about the sugar on his breakfast cereal than the state of the world would be extremely funny if it weren't so true to life, which makes it terrifying. The fiction is particularly appealing this issue, most notably stories by Patricia Robertson and Bill Gaston. Robertson's "The Goldfish Dancer" is a beautiful, small story about a dancer in the clubs of Harlem during WWI. Robertson's prose is graceful and understated and she manages to create a character of intense interest in a mere few pages. Gaston's "The Night Window" is the effective study of a teenager's relationship with his ex-hippie-turned-librarian-mother and her latest boyfriend. Gaston captures the adolescent's voice and emotions in authentic and satisfying prose. [The Malahat Review, University of Victoria, Box 1700, STN CSC, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. E-mail: malahat@uvic.ca. Single issue $11.95. www.malahatreview.ca] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Michigan Quarterly Review

Volume 44 Number 3

Summer 2005

What makes this issue exceptionally interesting is the range of sensibilities found here. In a hundred pages we move from James Morrison's consideration of the death of cinephilia ("a particular way of loving movies") to stunning poems by one of the Arab world's leading poets, Mahmoud Darwish, beautifully translated by Fady Joudah, to Susan Orlean's Hopwood lecture at the University of Michigan last spring, "Roads Taken (And Not)," a discussion of her life as a writer, narrated with her characteristic wit and sense of humor, to Alice Mattison's touching story of family dynamics set against the politics of the '80's, "Election Day," to a three-part treatise on the "decline" and "decay" of the social sciences, consisting of an essay by leading sociological thinker Irving Louis Horowitz, followed by commentaries on Howe's essay from prominent sociologist's George Steinmetz and Yu Xie. A lovely poem by the prolific poet Eugenio Montejo of Venezuela, deftly translated by Kirk Nesset, reflects a weary poet's anguish over the limitations of language… “Some day I'll write with stones, / measuring each of my phrases / by weight, volume, motion. / I've had it with words” …but this issue is a testament to the pleasures and the power of language. [Michigan Quarterly Review, University of Michigan, 3574 Rackham Bldg., 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor MI 48109. E-mail: mqr@umich.edu. Single issue $7. www.umich.edu/~mqr] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Mid-American Review

“The Unpublished Writers Issue”

Volume 25 Number 2

2005

If you are like me, you often find the unknowns packing more punch than the big names in literary magazines. So you will probably be excited to see the Mid-American Review devoting an issue to unpublished authors. The work contained is certainly as exciting as any other issue of MAR; take this bit from Dan Rosenburg, “You almost look posed there, but the allure / is knowing you have no idea, knowing / in your mind a million growing things are eating / one another.” Another highlight was Jason Skipper’s succinct poem “Cigarette” describing his feelings at being smoke-free for a year. However, I must admit my favorite piece was not by an unpublished writer, but by Charles Yu, this year’s Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award winner. His story, “Class Three Superhero,” about a wannabe superhero that waits by the mailbox for a letter saying if his application was accepted to the superhero league is hilarious and interesting as well as, through excellent luck, resonating perfectly with the issue’s theme. This issue is part two of Mid-American Review’s 25th anniversary. So happy birthday, MAR, we look forward to the next twenty five years. [Mid-American Review, Department of English, Box W, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403. E-mail: debrab@bgnet.bgsu.edu. Single issue $5. www.bgsu.edu/studentlife/organizations/midamericanreview/index2.html] – Lincoln Michel

 

Poet Lore

Volume 100 Number 1/2

Spring/Summer 2005

"This is what we seek: Clarity, fluidity, unselfconsciousness, poems that guide us without fanfare into what is genuinely human—an insight, experience, or mood which, though we'd not perceived it before, we recognize it instantly." Some of the more accomplished poets whose work satisfies the editor's vision include Linda Pastan, Diane Lockwood, Jim Daniels, and Jane Shore. Shore introduces seven poems by Nadell Fishman that "recast the roles of mother, wife, and daughter, retelling her personal story through fairy tales and popular culture…" For the most part, the poets represented here observe the world with sincerity, with earnestness, with longing or wistful dreaming and often with much hope. One exception is Jed Allen's "Zero Yard," whose poem of mock apology cleverly turns into a true apology as the tone subtly shifts: "I'm late and shamed I reek / of song and death—sorry I flat // refuse to mend my way…" becomes "—sorry / you had to hear this, now, // in the yard, in the silence / of the night." One of the most moving poems in this issue is Maria Fire's, "Mother of Autistic Daughter," whose conclusion is a metaphor, it seems to me, for poetry itself: "They just wrong saying / my baby have no words. / Listen. The God Almighty be / loving her hallelujah speak." [Poet Lore, The Writer's Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815. E-mail: postmaster@writer.org. Single issue $9. www.writer.org] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

The Portland Review

Volume 52 Number 1

2005

Although it's not meant to be a special theme edition, it almost reads like one: "the men's fiction issue"—approximately 75 percent of the magazine consists of short stories by male authors. These are conventional, but highly satisfying pieces for the most part, the sort of well plotted tales that take one, ever so briefly and deeply, inside another's life. While these stories are quite different from each other in tone, in style and in the subject matter they treat, they have in common their uncommon psychological insight. Each one of these stories is narrated with close and astute attention to what moves and motivates people. While there's not a single dud among the group, for me the standouts are "In the Picking Room" by Randy Nelson and "Numbers for Everything" by Gary Fincke. "In the Picking Room" is narrated by a former "binner" in a denim factory in the days before these tasks were automated. Nelson's prose is exquisite, his sense of pace and timing are absolutely perfect, and the story is both poignant and realistic. Fincke's story is narrated by a woman married to an obsessive compulsive who cannot stop counting and his prose is spare and clean, creating a powerful balance to the compulsion it describes. While the emphasis this issue appears to be on prose, I must mention two marvelous poems by Quan Barry. [The Portland Review, Portland State University, P.O. Box 347, Portland, OR 97207. E-mail: kpf@pdx.edu. Single issue $9. www.portlandreview.org] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Quarterly West

Issue 59

Winter 2005

Quarterly West consistently turns out sparkling pieces of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, and this issue is no different. Steve Fellner’s notable essay, “Are You There Judy? It’s Me, Steve,” is a bittersweet reflection on the impact of Judy Blume on the author’s adolescence. The fiction ranges from experimental to realism, and teenage thieves, dying in Israel, and raising exotic animals are among the wide-ranging subject matter. In Misty Urban’s seamless second-person story “A Lesson in Manners,” the narrator’s sister succumbs to cancer, and the narrator reflects, “When your cousin drove his car . . . into a tree and disappeared in a spectacular set of pyrotechnics you at least could circle the site, examine the empty space, contemplate the sudden violence, the absence with its sharp edges. Your sister is being stolen in pieces, kidney first.” The poetry is equally strong, each piece vividly imagined, including James Haug’s “Much Later”: “Smiley / nodded tragically toward / where the wind was going, / taking everything with it, / a pre-worn shirt snapping / around his scarecrow shoulders.” For bonus pleasure, included is a full color center-spread of Terry Rentzepis’s strange and memorable paintings, oddly suited to the introspective, off-kilter consciousnesses of the journal’s literary works. Top-notch work, as always. [Quarterly West, University of Utah, 255 S. Central Campus Dr., Dept. of English/LNCO 3500, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9109. Single issue: $8.50. www.utah.edu/quarterlywest/ ] – Sean Bernard

 

Salmagundi

Numbers 146-147

Spring/Summer 2005

Salmagundi continues to offer up work that is challenging, not because it is unusual or inventive, but because it is thoughtful in the truest sense of the word. Thinking, is in fact, the subject of one of this issue's many splendid essays: "The (Possible) Reasons for the Sadness of Thought," by the ever thought-provoking George Steiner. Steiner considers German philosopher Schelling's writings about the relationship between cognition and "heaviness of heart." The essay is dense, but highly readable, and nothing could seem more apt for the current times. Mary Gordon contributes a long and engaging essay about—what else—Mary Gordon (well, this one is about her mother, "Still Life – Bonnard and My Mother's Death"). Terry Caesar's short essay, "English in Japan," is a fascinating look at the uses and misuses of English in Japan where she lives. The two interviews presented this issue couldn't be more different, Robert Hosmer with Muriel Spark and Beata Polanowska-Sygulska with the late Isaiah Berlin. Both are excellent. At moments I pondered the relationship between Spark's remarks and the Steiner essay. "Art is an illusion which contains the truth," she says. There is exciting poetry here, too, including a beautiful tribute to poet Daniel Simko by Carolyn Forché. [Salmagundi, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. E-mail: salmagun@skidmore.edu. Single issue $8. www.skidmore.edu/salmagundi/141/index.htm] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Shenandoah

Appalachian Poetry

Volume 55 Number 1

Spring/Summer 2005

This issue features a "Portfolio of Appalachian Poets," which includes poems by 34 regional writers. The Appalachian's most celebrated poet, Charles Wright, is front and center, followed by established and lesser known names who explore subjects explicitly linked to the region (landscapes, family life, flora and fauna, the "local characters," mining, regional landmarks), and others from anywhere and everywhere (love, the loss of love; love, the loss of love). There is a pleasing mix of modes, styles, and tones and all of the work is strong. I was particularly taken with work by Lynn Powell, Michael Chitwood, and Cathryn Hankla. Fred Chappell contributes a poem of his own, as well as a critical essay about poet Kathryn Stripling Byer, whose exquisitely crafted "Bean Sidhe," appears in the portfolio. Five essays, four stories, the work of six other poets, and a set of book reviews (the magazine is known for its commitment to reviewing) round out the volume. In her essay, "The Loupe," Donna Steiner writes, "There is value in the art of observing, I think, which goes beyond the aesthetic, although aesthetic pleasure, I think is essential to daily life." I agree on every count. This issue of Shenandoah adds a great deal of aesthetic pleasure to any serious reader's daily life. [Shenandoah, Washington and Lee, Mattingly House, 2 Lee Avenue, Lexington, VA 24450-0303. E-mail: rodsmith@wlu.edu. Single issue $10. http://shenandoahliterary.org] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

the strange fruit

Volume 1 Issue 1

June 2005

Another new lit mag? Yes! And a welcome one, given the regularly received notices of magazines no longer publishing or closing submissions because of the backload of materials received. Kudos to Jessica Star Rockers for starting up her own publication to, as she puts it, “never again work for someone other than myself.” As I read through this first endeavor, the recurring thought in my head was, “Thank you!” – because how else could I have read some if not all of these writers? Isn’t that what lit mag publishing is all about? Having just read Sima Rabinowitz’s poetry column in DragonFire, “The Noisiest Poetry in the World,” I have been searching for just the kind of noisy work she writes about, and I think I found several such pieces here: Anne Spollen’s works, including “Bride” with nearly sacrilegious images of language – “the pews bloomed breasts of flowers, all white / and pink, nippled with leaves”; Randall Horoton’s two-part “Afro-Daze,” images of childhood: “Daddy is in the mirror / Stretching the buds of his hair / With a bone handle steel rake” and “I want to tell Mama / Not to be so fine / She is the centerpiece of dreams.” There are quiet pieces here too, the mix a reflection of good editorial selection that appreciates variety. Of the nonfiction and fiction, not a single dud on my list: Lisa Burstein’s excerpt from “Novocaine Princess” left me wanting to read more of the main character’s life that put her in court-ordered community service; John Sherman’s “The Stiff” – a slice of life with a bit of knife twisting between friends/colleagues turned competitors; Joe Westerfield giving breath to that creepy and titillating world of surrealistic fiction with such bizarre, unforgettable characters we don’t know to be thankful or frightened of the way in which we know such authors must go through the day seeing their world. This time, thankful, for this and all the strange fruit has to offer. I’m looking forward to seeing this publication ripen on the literary vine. [the strange fruit, 300 Lenora Street, #250, Seattle, WA 98121. submissions@thestrangefruit.com. Single issue $6. www.thestrangefruit.com] – Denise Hill


Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
 

Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed