The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Posted September 1, 2005


New European Writing

Number 4



This is an attractive journal with the death images one would expect of the title on the slick cover. Nevertheless, Absinthe 4's prose and poetry present fresh and unfamiliar prose rhythms from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, and Turkey. Having said that, I was startled to find: "By then I was totally wasted [. . .]" (italics mine), in Sergey Gandlevsky's "The Map," an excerpt from his Trepanning the Skull (1996) which unwinds from a yoyo of drink and railway thievery across the Russian steppe with something of the eye and mood of Kerouac's On the Road. A rhythm all its own is displayed in "The Winter Campaign," by Saulius T. Kondrotas: "The battle of Atlantic City was furious, cruel [. . .]. We closed on the enemy as a squall playing Richard Strauss' Death and Transfiguration, but had to switch to a more potent weapon, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring [. . .]." In Jaromir Nohavica's "The Wastrel," Roman Kostovski translates rhyme: "In my bleak and brittle slumber / I ran out into the streets / In the garbage and the gutters / Audacious rats would feast / And the warm and cozy covers / Veiled motions over dreams [. . .]." Roger Denham's "The Mamzer," imaginatively combines a, perhaps, Jewish purification rite with the kidnapping of a Dublin call-girl. Everything here is a delight to read, excellent translations, and—despite instances of American slang—nothing can be mistaken for contemporary English or American writing. [Absinthe: New European Writing, Absinthe Arts 21, PO Box 11445, Detroit, MI 48211-1445 USA. E-mail: Single issue $7.] – Anna Sidak


Backwards City Review

Volume 1 Number 2

Spring 2005

There seems to be a resurgence of interest for comics in the literary world from acclaimed McSweeney’s comic issue and Chris Ware’s award winning Jimmy Corrigan to the recent works by Michael Chabon. Backwards City Review adds their voice with five comics here, including a delightful except from Kenneth Koch’s forthcoming book of comics. There is also a beautifully drawn and haunting anti-war comic by Nate Powell (a very underrated comic artist). Backwards City Review in general takes a humorous approach to their magazine (as evidenced by titles such as “Hockey Haiku” and “Constructive Criticism of Bathroom Wall Scribbling”). To be frank, a few such pieces fell flat with me, feeling like humor without enough artistry. That may work for a knock-knock joke, but maybe not a sonnet. However, there were plenty of pieces that used humor in an artistic way, such as “An Antilogy of Anti-logic” by Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton, which alternates one-liners about Popeye and Olive Oyl: “Olive in the Kremlin, Olive in Any Town USA, Olive at a bullfight: Olive / Oyl, the bathing beauty. / Popeye out of D.C., Popeye out of No Man’s Land, Popeye running from a / cow hug.” Of course, not every piece here engages with humor and the magazine has an eclectic mix throughout. At only its second issue, Backwards City Review seems impressively close to a realization of its editors’ vision. Expect more good things to come from this magazine. [Backwards City Review, P.O. Box 41317, Greensboro, NC 27404-1317. E-mail: Single issue $7.] – Lincoln Michel



The Journal for Celebrating the Celtic Spirit

Volume 2 Issue 1

Midsummer 2005


Too beautiful by half, Bardsong, The Journal for Celebrating the Celtic Spirit, is an unabashed 8.5 x 11-inch publication devoted—in both senses—to the Celtic theme which is expressed by Assistant Editor Kathleen Cunningham Guler as: "[. . .] hiraeth. Untranslatable into English, my own understanding of it has come to mean several ideals: a melancholy longing for an unfulfilled dream of the way things should have been; a need to return to the ancientness of our culture and people; and that beneath the surface of what we consciously see in the present world lies another place, one that is sacred and holds the secrets that are the heart of our heritage." An intricate Celtic mask adorns the cover—and for each story or poem, there is a Celtic-knot, not necessarily confined to the emblem. For example, from "Beyond the Winze" by Roger Hannah: "Thi boy jis ran tae a spot, cockedt a hind one, and startedt tae squeeze, whinin' aw thi time." Reading is momentarily impeded, although the sense of the words is easy to come by. There is a good mix of short stories and poetry and four interesting reviews of books dealing with the Celtic theme. [Bardsong PO Box 775396, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477. E-mail: Single issue $6.50.] - Anna Sidak


The Canary

Issue 4



There are many magazines that claim to be eclectic, but The Canary is one of the few I’ve read that is truly deserving of the title. A five page free-form poem might be followed by a rhymed couplet, which might be followed by a narrative driven prose-poem. If it is going on in modern poetry, you can probably find it represented here. This all-poetry magazine has no art, non-fiction or even an editor’s introduction. Instead there are 125 pages of pure poetry. With so much great work inside, it is hard to know what to comment on, yet I really enjoyed Fanny Howe’s “Tonight or Never”: “The more radiant an essence, / the less they like it, those cops and doctors. / Their doctrine is not to let / a patient become a ghost at any cost.” Suzanne Buffam has a nice prose-poem titled “Anaktoria” about a committee deciding what “of this black planet’s myriad sights most honors the bold, high peaks of the human heart” and G. C. Waldrep has two evocative poems. The Canary is a great magazine for poetry, from start to finish. [The Canary 1176 Mill St. #4, Eugene, OR 97401. Single issue $10.] – Lincoln Michel



A Literary Journal at American University

Volume 20 Issue 1

Winter 2005


This slim slick-paged journal contains, along with stories and poems, the interesting "On Writing, Stubbornness, and Food: An Interview with Leslie Pietrzyk." In this interview with Leslie, one of the founding editors of Folio, by the current fiction editor, Amina Hafiz, the following appears: "In the John Hopkins graduate class, I had everyone read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and what is amazing to me is that any question that comes up in class—plot, introducing characters, point of view, flashbacks—can be answered or looked at to see how Fitzgerald did it in The Great Gatsby," an observation worth noting. "Becoming Coretta Davis" by I. Bennett Capers is an engaging story of a young black attorney's struggle to remake her values – perhaps, given the serious subject matter, with a few too many enjoyable puns. Jacob M. Appel's "Fata Morgana" affirms the difficulty of giving up cigarettes [but I say it can be done] and describes the fascinating mirage of the arctic, the fata morgana. I enjoyed many of the fifteen poems, especially this from "Besieged" by Ellen Wehle: "Young, I had intended / behold their burning corpses so many sword-bright things." And, from "Persephone: The E! True Hollywood Story" by Melanie Dusseau: "I want you at that fertility rite by midnight! / And wear the deerskin mini from Artemis." [Folio, Department of Literature, American University, Washington, D.C. 20016. E-mail: Single issue $6.] – Anna Sidak


The Kenyon Review

Volume 27 Number 3

Summer 2005

In his editor's note, David Lynn bemoans the Atlantic Monthly's decision to discontinue publishing fiction and reaffirms his journal's commitment to literary short fiction. The issue's seven stories certainly demonstrate his dedication to producing "something of lasting power and beauty," as well as to the magazine's expansive vision of what literary fiction can encompass. Aline Soules contributes excerpts from "Woman Acts," which read as much like a series of connected prose poems as they do fiction; Margaret Kaufman contributes a story from her novel in stories; Arnošt Lustig and Susan Hahn offer first-person narratives with voices so realistic I had to double check to be sure these pieces were indeed, fiction, and not memoirs; Marc Robert's "Erzählungenlied" reads like the translation of a fairy tale, both for its diction and old-fashioned syntax and for its magical qualities. This same eclectic editorial approach allows the category of "nonfiction" to include Henry Hart's critical essay on Simic and excerpts from a dense, dreamy memoir by Jean-Claude van Itallie. The dozen poets represented include Malmoud Darwish, the well-established Palestinian poet whose poems are turning up with increasing frequency in American journals these days, a long Whitmanesque-like poem by James Kimbrell, and Marc Rudman's rambling "I Think About Australia Endlessly." Rudman asks: "…how can I return to a place where I've never been?" The answer: read The Kenyon Review. [The Kenyon Review, 104 College Drive, Gambier, OH 43022. E-mail: Single issue $10.] – Sima Rabinowitz


Night Train

Issue 5


Excellent fiction. Those two words sum up everything that Night Train is about. There is no poetry and only two pieces of non-fiction here, an Amy Bloom interview and a segment on the city of Petaluma, California. Otherwise we have eighteen solid short stories that work with a range of styles and topics. This issue begins with the winner of Night Train’s Richard Yates Short Story Award, Dylan Landris’s “Fire.” This story of a young girl who is drawn towards the bullies that torment her ends fantastically in a way that is both surprising and leaves you with the feeling that “everything happened exactly as it was going to happen.” Other stand-outs for me were John Warner’s idiosyncratic “How The Universe is Going to End” and Paul Toth’s “Better Homes and Gardens,” about a man who is freed from jail yet struggles with his freedom. Toth writes with punchy sentences and develops a strong and engaging voice for this story: “Everything slumped, these shacks, the cars on blocks in driveways, the Tower of Pisa chimneys. Even the cross on the church was out of joint. They’d have a hell of time getting Jesus on that thing. They’d need Roman chiropractors to crack him into place.” I could go on if there was more space, but suffice to say that Night Train is well worth your time. [Night Train, 212 Bellingham Ave #2, Revere, MA 02151. E-mail: Single issue: $9.95ppd. ] – Lincoln Michel


Ontario Review

Number 62

Spring/Summer 2005

Smack dab in the center of the issue is a portfolio of Marion Ettlinger's extraordinary portraits of writers, sixteen powerful photographs that, like the work featured in this issue, suggest an intriguing variety of ways of interacting with the world—head on, sideways, with resignation, with appreciation. The issue is evenly divided between fiction and poetry (9 fiction writers, 9 poets) and concludes with the volume's single piece of nonfiction writing, a beautifully composed family memoir by Amanda Bass Cagle, "On the Banks of the Bogue Chitto." The 2004 Cooper Prize winning story, "Gone" by Glen Pourciau and stories by finalists Patricia Stiles and Karen Lorene are especially strong. While quite different from each other, they have in common an appealing emotional intensity. Wonderful poems by Reginald Gibbons, too, like Ettlinger's photos and the prize-winning stories, inspire a range of emotions. Here are the final lines from his work "On Sad Suburban Afternoons":

        In front yards, back yards, alleys and dead ends
                 may all these signs convince the distant gods—
        or Fate, or The Fates, an absent "G-D," a Christ
                somewhere or other, not right here, an Allah
        with gnashing prophets, or a great magician,
                or the chance events that can destroy a life—
        that there's no need to bring down any more
                than the customary miseries and brief
        illusions of good luck on such old, young,
                 different, same, frail creatures of a day.

[Ontario Review, 9 Honey Brook Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540. Single issue $8.] – Sima Rabinowitz



Poetry in Review

Volume 28 Numbers 1&2


If you haven't used all your vacation time yet this year, you might want to consider taking a few days off just to read this issue of Parnassus—it's that good. Don't plan to travel with it, at 470 pages it's nearly too big to fit in a carry-on bag. But, if care about intelligent writing and about poetry, however you do it, make room in your life for this issue. There is some truly magnificent writing here with something to satisfy every serious reader: essay-reviews (Danielle Ofri on recent anthologies of writing by doctors, Karl Kirchwey on modern verse drama); essays and poems on travel and place (Wendy Steiner on learning she has breast cancer while on a trip to Russia, William Logan on Florida as myth and metaphor, Marsha Pomerantz's beautiful poem on Kenya); critical essays (Eva Badowska on Wislawa Symborska and Joel Brouwer on C. D. Wright). Whatever you do, don't skip Eric Murphy Selinger's essay "Rukeyser Without Commitment," one of the smartest and sassiest essays I've read on Rukeyser. If you've always liked her work, you'll like it better now. If you never been a Rukeyser fan, this essay will change your mind. And if you've never read Selinger before (I hadn't) you'll be seeking out his work again. [Parnassus, 205 W. 89th Street, #8F, New York, NY 10024. E-mail: Single issue $15.] - Sima Rabinowitz


Prairie Schooner

Volume 79 Number 2

Summer 2005


One of the standards, Prairie Schooner has published worthy prose and poetry for seventy-seven years, and this issue's four stories, five reviews, and work by thirty-eight poets may be so described. The highlight for me is Ron Hansen's "Wilde in Omaha," in which the narrator, a local reporter, spends a few hours in Wilde's witty, but taxing, company and experiences the truth (at least, for his lectures) of the Punch pronouncement: "The poet is Wilde. But his poetry's tame." There are poems and stories here of which Wilde would approve; not half bad—Rita Mae Reese's "My Summer in Vulcan," on catching the eye of an older sister's boyfriend; Lon Otto's "What Is Son?" – the question to ask if learning to dance on a rooftop in Havana; and a story of bitter betrayal, "Wooden Fish" by Matt Freidson. Lee Martin's entertaining "People Always Going To," left me wondering. And then the shock of recognition in "Wow" by William Trowbridge: "'Wow,' we said, / cocking our heads and hooking / our thumbs in the pockets of our Levi's / like the transparent image of that coolest / of traffic fatalities, James Dean. 'Man.'" [Prairie Schooner, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 201 Andrews Hall, PO Box 880334, Lincoln, NE 68501-9988. E-mail: Single issue $9.] – Anna Sidak


Puerto del Sol

"40th Anniversary Issue"

Volume 40 Number 1

Spring 2005


A generous and attractive volume, this 40th anniversary issue of Puerto del Sol contains a 60-page excerpt "El Malpais (The Badlands)," from In the Shadows of the Sun by Alexander Parsons, a compelling novel set in the New Mexico countryside of the mid-1940's when ranchers were allowed to return to confiscated—and possibly contaminated—land: "It was hard to believe how quickly it had been ruined: they had made it to last, painstakingly fitting each stone so that the cement mortar was superfluous to the binding force of gravity. But the impact from the atomic detonation, two miles east, had undone this." Admirable work by 32 poets and eight short story writers, including the AWP Journals Project poem "Conservation" by Amy McCann—"prairie gone to vetch, a few acres wedged between soccer field, shooting range, juvenile prison.” Richard Benjamin's story, "Ever Since the Boys Club Started," gives us a Holden-Caulfield take on a basketball game: "A solitary child is yelling Marco, then Polo, perfectly content. A bunch of little kids are standing at the side, fingers meshed with metal fence, taking it all in." "Charleston for Breakfast” by Kevin Clouther is a delightful love story. Leslie Mackay's excellent and troubling essay, "Visiting Adele: A Vision of Another American War," provides an unfamiliar glimpse of modern-day Bolivia, a Bolivia in which guilt-by-association stands in for judge and jury. When women are guilty—by reason of association with husbands, brothers, fathers, sons—their children accompany them into prisons of little food and less comfort, a system fostered by U.S. demand for cocaine and the concurrent war on drugs. [Puerto del Sol, MSC 3E, New Mexico State University, PO Box 300001, Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001. Single issue $8.] – Anna Sidak


Santa Monica Review

Volume 17 Number 1

Spring 2005


This issue of Santa Monica Review is an extraordinary collection of memorable short stories and novel excerpts. Editor Andrew Tonkovich has selected outstanding first-person narrations with the theme of morality, as well as religion, appearing in most and uniting them in surprising ways. From the amusing dangers of “Daily Evangelism," by James D. Houston to Paul Eggers's moving "A Thinly Veiled Autobiography Regarding My Reasons for Giving Up Chess," moral concerns rank high. In Roberto Ontiveros's "The Fight for Space," the narrator—meshing his mundane job and intellectual super-hero obsessions with Batman's fictional universe—comes down hard on the comic-book icon: "Batman's trophy room pisses me off the most; it's like our hero does not want to find peace." More questions are raised than answered in "from Paul," by Michelle Latiolais' skillfully sad and timely story of unexpected suicide. Fittingly, in a journal originating from so near the scene of the crime, "Santa and the Black Dahlia," excerpted from Sharon Doubiago's My Father's Love, Portrait of the Poet as a Girl and Ariane Simard's "Brother" are tinsel-town stories to end such stories, and as dark as those of Nathaniel West. Christopher Hood's endearing "How I Met My Third Wife in Siberia," a Walter Mitty-type attempt at mending a broken heart, is thoroughly delightful as is Trinie Dalton's "Extreme Sweets." Founded in 1988 by Jim Krusoe, Santa Monica Review has published work by, to name a few of the better-known: Guy Davenport, Charles Baxter, Ann Beattie, Joyce Carol Oates, Peter Handke, Barry Hannah, Alice Adams, T. C. Boyle, Harlan Ellison, and David Foster Wallace. An exceptional journal, not as widely available as one would wish. [Santa Monica Review, Santa Monica College, 1900 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405-1628. Single issue $7.] – Anna Sidak


The Seattle Review

Volume 27 Number 1



The Seattle Review's lovely cover photograph belies the region's mountainous nature by offering not a hint of near—or distant—mountains while providing the merest glimpse of Lake Washington; and from a locale often thought stubbornly regional, this issue's surprising highlight is Kathleen Wiegner's interview of M. Scott Momaday: "Some of my students sometimes say to me, 'Wouldn't it be wonderful if you wrote in Kiowa?' My answer is, well, in the first place, you can't. There's no written language. And in the second place, no one would read you if you could." In Gary Fincke's "Rip His Head Off," the importance of comic-book heroes looms large for a 13-year-old along with his panic as an orphaned 90-pound weakling confronted with fear of polio and neighborhood bullies. The domestic dramas of Brian Schwartz's "Wine Country"—looking for something to believe in—and Errol Selkirk's "Last One Up"—the end of days as a cure for empty-nest syndrome—are balanced by poetry by Jim Daniels, Seth Abramson, Barry Ballard, Kathy Epling, and Karen Glenn among others. I especially like "Mutations" by Mary Speaker: "I told L. it's strange to know someone / so well; someone else said / art is what you don't know you know, / like how because X can become Y / there are now eight hundred and fifty seven / magnetic bones in my body, so itchy / with kinetic sparks I pace indoors, / regard the radishes, chop them in two / and cover their vermillion hides / with salt, but this is not anxiety." [The Seattle Review, Padelford Hall, Box 354330, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-4330. E-mail: Single issue $7.] – Anna Sidak



Volume 4 Number 1

Winter 2005

The current issue of turnrow devotes its first half to six stories from modern Chinese authors, whose work runs through a range of styles. Perhaps the best of the bunch was “Changfa’s Ordeal” by Can Xue, whose contributor note accurately describes as Kafkaesque (although this particular story reminded me a bit more of Kobe Abe). Another evocative story was Lin Bai’s “Lament,” which was perhaps more in line with Marquez. turnrow makes a point of including art in each issue and this time around we get eight beautiful oil paintings by Glenn Kennedy, who makes surprising use of bright colors in drab scenes, and eight intriguing photos by Raymond Meeks. This issue also includes a quick but interesting interview with the always excellent George Saunders and a long and relevant interview with Bruce Schneier on fear and security in modern America. A solid issue all around. [turnrow, English Department, The University of Louisiana at Monroe, Monroe, LA 71209. E-mail: Single issue $7.] – Lincoln Michel

Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

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Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed