Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Posted December 28, 2005

Barrow Street

Summer 2005

Biannual

Don’t be deceived by the unassuming cover. Or should I say: be deceived, be very deceived, on account of the delicious merit of surprise. Such is the case with every issue of Barrow Street, and I have to say, I like it that way. Inside the summer issue are 72 poems, 6 poems-in-progress, and 3 reviews. Not bad for 127 pages, even better for $8 an issue. Barrow Street is perfect bound, the heft of a paperback novel, copious, a literary variety show. It seems more discerning than other journals, but by no means to a fault. While Barrow Street is known for publishing established writers bearing lists of publications, most of its contributors are past or present professors, making the journal no more or less academic for it. A cursory curiosity, though worth noting. Carl Phillips’s poem “Beautiful Dreamer” could very well be a teaser for his next book, Riding Westward, due out next spring. If not, it’s a nice dream, and a solid poem, more conversational and frank than the contemplative, phrase-fraught style to which most of his readers have grown accustomed. The journal’s finale comprises a trio of reviews of three new poetry collections, one of which, Richard Loranger’s take on Christopher Arigo’s Lit Interim, urged me to search this book out via any means possible. Whether it’s a poetic essay on tone, or a quest for meaning among language and the body, there’s a good chance Barrow Street’s got it. If not, the quest is worth the risk. [Barrow Street, Inc., P.O. Box 1831, New York, NY 10156. E-mail: info@barrowstreet.org. Single issue $8. www.barrowstreet.org] —Erin M. Bertram

 

Beloit Fiction Journal

Volume 18

Spring 2005

Annual

In Keith R. Denny’s short, remarkable dream-sequence of a story, “Ulrika,” the reader is swiftly trammeled up in the twisty mind of a would-be fiction writer for whom “the possibility of narrative is machine-gunned down in the street like a mad dog.” Lucky for us, the narrator’s self-effacing assertion does not hold true for “Ulrika” nor any of the other stories in the wonderfully narrative-packed Beloit Fiction Journal. The issue starts off strong with David Crouse’s “The Observable Universe” in which an estranged brother and sister who share a tragic childhood reunite amidst the surreal hubbub of a science-fiction convention. The brother, who’s been mugged just a few hours previous, comes complete with abraded forehead, black eyes, and bruises up and down his arms, and refuses to go the hospital – a concise and effective means by which Crouse acquaints us with the character’s overall, long-denied damage. “He had been a tourist in his father’s pain for a long time; he lacked the imagination to really live there.” The very next story, “Everything Will Ache the Same,” by David Harris Ebenbach, uncannily expands upon some of Crouse’s themes, beginning: “My first fight since 8th grade happens on the same night I get mugged on the corner of 48th and Osage.” And it seems that muggings, both actual and psychological, remain a subtle, probably unintentional motif throughout this issue. An extremely fine story by Joseph Bathani, “Thy Womb Jesus,” is a powerfully nuanced depiction of a small family in the grip of the mother’s manic-depressive tendencies. The final story here, the virtuosic “Love” by Aaron J. Altose, is a bit of pure imaginative whimsy in which the narrator recounts his helpless enamourment of a woman who does not have a mouth and ingests food through a hole in her stomach. This issue’s 285 pages of pure sweep-me-away fiction will firmly instate Beloit Fiction Journal in your roster of favored literary magazines. [Beloit Fiction Journal, Box 11, Beloit College, 700 College Street, Beloit, WI 53511. E-mail: bfj@www.beloit.edu. Single issue $15. www.beloit.edu/~english/bfjournal.htm] —Mark Cunningham

 

Buffalo Carp

Volume 2

2004

Annual

Many of the works in Buffalo Carp, “a hybrid, an amalgam” of two species native to the Quad City Mississippi River area, also celebrate the natural world. Dennis Saleh’s terse yet lyrical poem, “The Delta Songs of the Harper,” evokes Ra, the Sun God from Egyptian mythology. The worshipper once praising the day now laments the onset of night, of death, of the divine: “For thy God is secret / is how his strength / is known.” Cullen Bailey Burns also honors light in his prose poem, “American Music”: “the sunlight is not lonesome, for it falls on everything and we turn our faces to it.” The short story, sort of prose poem, “Until the Crow Turns White Again” by Lynn Veach Sadler, is on one level a story about a young woman’s first love and on another level a love affair with art and a crow she names Corbaccio. Themes of art and nature wouldn’t be complete without pain and death. Terry Savoie’s brilliant poem “Hide-&-Seek” deals with a teacher’s difficulty in convincing his immortal teen students of the imminence of death. In the creative non-fiction piece, “Church Dust,” Robert J. Konrardy recalls that moment in Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, when he “grabbed a huge clump of his black, shiny hair and jerked the body from the mound” and jerked himself back into the church of his altar boy youth, where the dust enveloped him like the dead enemy’s hair. Dust rains down from the main character’s crop duster in Michael Standaert’s birds-eye “Duster,” a short story that structurally swaps the present and the past, enticing the reader to uncover the source of Duke’s unabated guilt for his unresponsive wife. There are other poems and stories by writers native to the river borders between Illinois and Iowa that add to Buffalo Carp’s balance of poignancy, humor and irony. [Buffalo Carp, Quad City Arts, 1715 Second Avenue, Rock Island, IL 61201. E-mail: buffalocarp@quadcityarts.com. Single issue $10. www.quadcityarts.com/literature.html] —Rob Duffer

 

Controlled Burn

Volume 11

Winter 2005

I am occasionally awed and inspired to be reminded of the number of excellent literary journals produced by this country’s community colleges. Controlled Burn comes to us out of Kirtland Community College of Roscommon Michigan, but in design, content, and skillful editorial vision, this publication is easily on a par with our nation’s more celebrated, ivy-league journals. At 108 pages the winter issue is thin, yes, but in no manner anemic. Five short stories, two black-and-white photographs, and the rest is poetry. In fiction, I found that Sarah B. Wareck’s “At the Drake” was more than enough to merit (and, really, make a jaw-dropping bargain of) the journal’s $6 price tag. A single quote wouldn’t adequately convey the manner in which Wareck’s story reawakens one to the sympathetic possibilities of fiction, practically renovating your sense of participation in the human adventure. Adrienne Lewis’s “Prefect Past Pretense” is another crow-bar to the brain. In its unclassifiable stylism and extremely vulnerable narrative voice, the story moves and surprises, as if single-handedly testifying to the power of less conventional fictional constructs. “And even as I write these words, I want him to see them: to turn a page in some magazine, recognize my name or the title I shared with him as I waited for the piece to come and fulfill its meaning.” Controlled Burn also offers poetry fans plenty of cause for delight. “Walking to the Airport” from Jean C. Howard’s Las Vegas Series, beds a deeply religious sensibility within its irresistible imagery—a potent combo. “They are walking / to the airport / in 107 degrees / where desert reclaims / the footprint / and casinos care not / to go / And sun sits like / a boil upon the hip / of the hill side. / Or like a magnificent / garnet of teeth / of the wind.” Controlled Burn inspires celebration on every level. [Controlled Burn, Kirtland Community College, Roscommon, MI 48635. E-mail: crockerd@kirtland.edu. Single issue $6. www2.kirtland.edu/cburn/] —Mark Cunningham

 

CRATE

Volume 1 Number 1

Spring 2005

Southern California is a nexus of geography and culture, a place where perspectives about the world get reflected through the iridescent sheen of difference. In its inaugural issue, CRATE, a journal produced by the University of California, Riverside, has declared itself a place for these points of view to coexist. The editor’s note says this: “Within these pages, you’ll find many borders—genre-jumping, intimate moments—regarded, accessed, transgressed and juxtaposed: sacred alongside profane, contemplative mingling with bawdy; structure with demolition. In CRATE, you will discover dialogue, not agreement.” It’s a complex self-assessment, one I’m not sure this journal entirely lives up to—yet. Certainly, there is an assortment of work here—poems, interviews, critical analysis, letters to the editor, short stories, artwork—and many of them do rub against the soft borders of genre, becoming hybrids of form; however, it feels as though, at times, quality was sacrificed in favor of variety. (Kudos to Neil Aitken for the lovely cover design, which clearly captures the editors’ intent—the various crate labels are a visual counterpoint to the content.) Still, I did find the effort made here worth consideration, especially E.J. Jones’s story “Brown Sugar & Flour,” Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem “I Forget the Date,” and Craig Svokin’s essay “If only L.A. had a Soul.” These pieces create emotional depth unique to the characters and places they write about, a definite strength in a journal devoted to the muddling of borders. For the next issue, my suggestion is to label the table of contents to clearly reflect genres (as the website does), and to continue to select work with a discerning eye toward well-crafted writing that doesn’t simply “def[y] conventional labels,” but that also does what some thoughtful pieces here do: explore experience rich with possibility. [CRATE, 1607 HMNSS, UC Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521. E-mail: crate.journal@gmail.com. Single issue: $8. www.crate.ucr.edu] —Jen Henderson

 

Fairy Tale Review

The Blue Issue

2005

Annual

Charming and adventurous, this new annual journal displays impressive wit and eclecticism. Right away you know Fairy Tale Review will be a different sort of literary magazine from its multiple visual references to Andrew Lang’s Fairy Book Collection, (a series of books listed by color, the Red Fairy Book, the Olive Fairy Book, etc.) While the attractive matte cover with intricate cover art by Kiki Smith (depicting a scene from Little Red Riding Hood) may indicate that this belongs on a well-read child’s bookshelf, the content inside, while whimsical and full of fairy-tale lore, is meant for adults. Starting with Kim Addonizio’s salty, melancholy take on the seven dwarves in the short story “Ever After,” to Aimee Bender’s lyrical short prose piece “Appleless,” to a deconstruction of a fairy tale couple described as the text of ER staff medical history notes, everything is perfect reading for an active mind on cold winter nights. It was hard to choose just one piece to quote from, but here are a few lines from the end of Julie Choffel’s poem, “Rapunzelus Goldilockskii”: “…She saw utopia once. It was so / expensive. So vain. It made her chop off her hair and plant it. / That’s where the men grew, in the lengthy / yellowy verdure. Small from far away and big up close.” The content reaches beyond fairy tales as well—Donna Tartt discusses the influences of Peter Pan and Treasure Island, and Marina Warner weaves a dark retelling of the Persephone myth. Kudos to the editor, Kate Bernheimer, for not only collecting wonderful content but for paying attention to production details—from the clear, attractive type to beautiful reproductions of Kiki Smith’s art work, everything is stunning. [Fairy Tale Review, English Department, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487. E-mail: editor@fairytalereview.com. Single issue $10. www.fairytalereview.com/] —Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

The Fiddlehead

Number 224

Summer 2005

Quarterly

The Fiddlehead may very well be the single best in-door for those with a mind to explore the finest of Canadian creative writing. This “Summer Fiction” issue is a wellspring particularly for anybody seeking the multifarious pleasures that original and adventurous short stories can provide. Published out of Fredericton, New Brunswick, The Fiddlehead, as the brief editor’s note asserts, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, “which makes The Paris Review at fifty seem a veritable pup.” This rollicking all-fiction edition gives good reason for the journal’s impressive longevity, and inspires hopes for its continuance. It all starts with the pistol-shot of Bill Gaston’s “Freedom,” a picaresque about a big-dreaming cultural innocent called Wa. Wa, who has recently arrived from Paris at the side of his crime-addicted mother, speaks barely two licks of English but wanders the streets of Des Moines, Iowa, wildly eager to distinguish himself with the cultural wares of the U.S.A, which to him means guns, bean bags, hot tubs, burgers, and of course TVs. “The thing with America is, when you eat a lot of burgers, you begin to need a lot of burgers.” “Seeing Red,” by Joanne Merriam, is an equally engrossing story that in four short pages manages to present and bring into collision the lives of four distinctive characters. I find the artful prose of these lines by Merriam to be a good representation of the top-notch writing so pervasive in The Fiddlehead: “[…]his body suddenly lighter than it should be, his head heavier, as though he’d stared up at the sky for too long, and could no longer tell where his body began, or whether his feet were touching the ground, or whether there was any longer any ground to touch, as if the sky just went on and on with nothing under it, so that he will always be falling as he is now, and almost he expects to see stars blossom in her pupils, and then he blinks and comes back to himself feeling stupid and small.” [The Fiddlehead, Campus House, 11 Garland Court, UNB, PO Box 4400, Fredericton NB, Canada E3B 5A3. E-mail: fiddlehd@unb.ca. Single issue $16. www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/Fiddlehead] —Mark Cunningham

 

Four-Hundred Words

“Autobiographies”

Issue 1

2005

Biannual

Four-Hundred Words is a CD sized lit journal filled with 66 different 400-word autobiographies on the theme of…life. Though the editor, Katherine Sharpe, claims the first issue grew out of “that weird time right after college, the time of looking around and wondering how the world works and how people find, and understand, their place in it,” the array of contributors ranges in age from a 72-year-old physicist to a 15-year-old Taiwanese woman who expresses herself in exclamations, “She’s so URGH!!” The portable train companion/coffee table/bathroom book has lists, poems, abstract associations, psychiatrist-sounding admissions, impressionable scenes, monumental firsts, chronologies, memories of birth—I could go on. The myriad forms range from the lyric and artsy to the plainspoken and truthful, “I’m forgetting important things about adolescence.” How the different contributors tell their autobiographies are as varied as their themes—unrequited loves and loves that endured, geekdom to feminism, cybermarriages to race, superstitions to social justice. Most of the essays acknowledge the transitory nature of life, “I’m happy, but I’m still looking for a point to all of this.” By reading through the varied identities of individual lives, bylined with only a first name, there becomes an awareness of the collective image that shapes a culture, giving this journal a distinct vitality “existing at the seams of sociology and literature.” The voyeuristic yet introspective Four-Hundred Words encourages the reader to consider their life, their community, to “[…] embrace it all, the sadness and the miracles, my strange and wondrous life.” On the success of this issue they will be printing twice-a-year and are currently accepting essays for their next theme, “Compulsions.” [Four-Hundred Words, 428 N. Cayuga St., #1s, Ithaca, NY 14850. E-mail: Katherine@400words.com. Single issue $6. www.400words.com] —Rob Duffer

 

The Healing Muse

Volume 5 Number 1

Fall 2005

Annual

“Everyone wants medicine to give us precise answers,” says Associate Professor of Anesthesia at Stanford University School of Medicine Audrey Shafer, “but it often cannot. You have to be comfortable with that, to accept that there is more than one perspective on a case.” Audrey Shafer, MD, also Director of the Arts, Humanities, and Medicine Program at the Sanford Center for Biomedical Ethics is a creative writer and author. An interview with Shafer appears in the Fall 2005 issue of The Healing Muse, the annual literary journal supported by The Center for Bioethics and Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University, which publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and visuals. This rich, diverse journal includes the voice of the therapist who, in “Slip, Sliding Away,” asks “Why does one person live whose blood gases approximate those of someone buried for days, while another dies who looked like he was on the road to recovery?” There is the voice of the family member trying to express “what it means, really, to cross / the shifting borders of health, / passport stamped ‘Adjacent Country.’” There are voices of mothers waiting “a long time in the waiting room” with their sick children, voices of children who can’t breath because “The air is full of dust, before the rains come,” of nurses who can save them with vaccines or a nebulizers, each one represented in “Boy, Ball, and Black Water,” written by Susan Ward, who has worked in a clinic in Managua, Nicaragua. At the end of the poem is the black and white photograph, by Ward, of a boy stooping down beside a body of water, holding onto a ball. [The Healing Muse, Center for Bioethics and Humanities, Suny Upstate Medical University, 725 Irving Avenue, Suite 406, Syracuse, NY 13210. E-mail: hlgmuse@upstate.edu. Single issue $10. www.thehealingmuse.org] —donna everhart

 

Heat City Literary Review

Volume 2

Spring 2005

Biannual

With its second issue, Heat City Literary Review, which enjoyed an online debut last year, steps gracefully into the world of print publications. The lovingly designed production weighs in at a deceptively slim 90 pages, while positively bristling with substance and punch. Somehow, eight full short stories, six quick fictions, a memoir, a review, and a healthy sampling of poetry manage to share the meager square-footage without ever wanting for elbow-room—a testament to editorial brilliance. In the short stories, I consistently found that rarest of reading pleasures: my readerly appetite was at once gratified and sharpened at the close of each piece; what better effect can fiction produce? “Songs I Can’t Get Out of My Head” by Diane E. Dees, a first-person account of a gay man in the first generation of AIDS victims, is outright wicked in the emotion it evokes, sentence-by-sentence dismantling the reader’s numbness to a pandemic that has become ‘old news’. Corey Mesler’s “Adman,” through a satiric-yet-empathetic sleight of hand, is also moving. And Jeff Gibbs’ quick fiction, “Commercial, Take One” is a veritable image-driven hypnosis. “The sky is gray like lead fumes and the shape of a hawk huddles against it, hopping along the railing of a stairwell. Its wings are half outspread and soggy and sharp…” Heat City Literary Review practically explodes with admirable contemporary writing. “This journal kicks ass!” is the way I put it to my wife, as I plunged through the pages. Readers and writers take heed: this lively new journal will not only propel you powerfully into the deeper universe of creative writing, it will make you want to shout from the mountaintop. [Heat City Literary Review, 62 Windsor Rd, rear, Waban, MA 02468. E-mail: info@heatcityreview.com. Single issue $8.95. www.heatcityreview.com] —Mark Cunningham

 

Iconoclast

Number 90

2005

Bimonthly

Writing that challenges in a friendly manner the assumptions made on a daily basis is what I have found in Iconoclast. Mrs. Bennett, the main character in “Mrs. Lewist, the Busman,” tiptoes “around the other side of the bed” her daughter, now dead, is stretched out in, and thinks “why am I tiptoeing?” She knocks on the door of her boys’ room, stopping to ask herself, “Why am I knocking? Why don’t I just walk in?” The main goal of this literary journal seems to be to question the status quo, the surface of ideas usually taken for granted, the gray area between idea and action, for instance, as exemplified in Marta Palos’s “Notes on a Gentle Criminal”: “You mean,” says the main character Angela, that “having rotten ideas is ok as long as you can hide them? You think that makes you innocent? Not by a long shot. Nobody’s innocent. You think you’re innocent?” Environment, religion, politics, relationships, nothing is exempt, they are all present in a black and white, single spaced, easy to read format, through prose and poetry not in the least considered one-sided. What I have found in Iconoclast, besides book reviews, fiction, and non-fiction, is an emphasis on exploration. In “An Iconoclast’s View of Religion,” Harold R. Larimer describes the thinking process which led to his current beliefs. People listen too much, his informative essay seems to say. “It wasn’t until World War II and the Holocaust that I finally decided to do my own reading and thinking.” Several book and magazine reviews are listed, one a literary criticism/biography of H.G. Wells, who championed the idea of a popular education. [Iconoclast, 1675 Amazon Road, Mohegan Lake, NY 10547. Single issue $5.] —donna everhart

 

Karamu

Volume 24 Number 2

Spring 2005

Annual

If the word Karamu means a meeting place for the local community, the journal Karamu, published by the English Department at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois, must be the universal amphitheater, the point where writers and readers engage. And if Karamu refers to the place outside our homes, Karamu must refer to the place where the written word ventures inside, a point of connection where prose and poetry communicate with each other, like a warm circle wrapped around a fire. It’s a place where ideas and worries are communicated through an expression that could only arise out of close observation. In Alex M. Frankel’s poem, “The Talking World,” “there is a kind of Christmas in the lady’s benign inspecting of the eggplant / as she chats with Judd who oversees the oil rigs.” And then there’s the prose piece, “What Love Requires,” by J. Scott Smith, with the widow Henry explaining to his neighbor why he is in love so soon after his loss: “What does it matter?” he says. “It’s peace I need, and Nora is–peaceful.” The style, always intelligent, contains the jewel of transcendence, as in this stanza from “Calling the Elk”: “This was of higher senses, this ability / to open the mind / to where thoughts could fly silent / on the lip of the wind.” Place, outside or inside, is what this journal celebrates. In the index next to each name is listed the state or country each author is from: California, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Italy, Pennsylvania just to name a few. [Karamu, English Department, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL 61920. E-mail: cfoxa@eiu.edu. Single issue $8. www.eiu.edu/~karamu/] —donna everhart

 

Like Water Burning

Issue 1

2005

“published as often as possible”

Like Water Burning encourages and attracts writers who listen to their own voices instead of listening to those who attempt to limit creative expression. With pages of fiction and non-fiction, the journal reaches out to readers who want writing unafraid to walk in new directions. Take, for instance, “The Sinking Ship Man,” one of the shorter stories, featuring a narrator who can’t say “the T-word,” the name of the ship, the “sinking ship that keeps on sinking” and never stops because the fans of the unmentionable historical ship won’t allow it. The narrator is taking care of the last living survivor who, in her opinion, is sinking slowly along with the ship, although he’s having difficulty. From flash fiction to essays, the writing is humorous, bold, fun, unapologetic; the journal’s upbeat style is unique. One story is even told in second person, a view point writers are usually encouraged to shy away from—but Sarah Bartlett’s “Domesticity” is a true success. What you’ll find in this journal is one hundred and seventy-four pages of true reading material. Like Water Burning Press is not only about good writing, “It is about promoting the creative process and ensuring the unsure that the boundaries, guidelines, and regulations, which may be weighing down the term ‘creative’ for some, do not actually exist...” And the perfect bound journal’s last few pages provide a place to collect author autographs. [Like Water Burning Press, 109 Mira Mar Avenue #301, Long Beach, CA 90803. Single issue $10. www.likewaterburning.com] —donna everhart

 

The Literary Review

Volume 48 Number 4

Summer 2005

Quarterly

This issue of TRL kicks off with three short pieces by Lydia Davis, one of the few current authors truly pushing the boundaries of what fiction can be. Whether that means pushing boundaries like throwing trash on the floor and calling it an installation, or pushing boundaries like Ulysses, depends on your point of view. Personally, I love it, and her “Three Letters of Complaint” here are no exception. To give you an idea, here is how the third begins: “Dear Frozen Pea Manufacturer, / We are writing to you because we feel that the peas illustrated on your package of frozen peas are a most unattractive color.” Other highlights in this thick issue (284 pages) are three intriguing prose-poems by Joyce McSweeney, as well as a series of humorous and absurdist prose-poems by Russell Edison. Edison’s pieces each end in a way that feel simultaneously like a punch line and a parable. Also featured here is Mark Hillringhouse’s “The New York School Poets: A Photo Essay,” which provides us with pictures of poets, like Koch and Merwin, as well comments by the author. A solid issue through and through. [The Literary Review, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940. E-mail: tlr@fdu.edu. Single issue $7. www.theliteraryreview.org] —Lincoln Michel

 

The Long Story

Number 23

2005

Annual

The Long Story is difficult to tuck under the pillow to read later. Beginning with the black and white cover drawing (the whole journal is black and white) of Dante shielding his eyes, as if from strong light, and Beatrice raising her arm, pointing toward heaven, an even stronger notion exists in the pages to come that something unusual waits to be discovered in them. The lines single spaced, the stories (the longest one is The Last Entry of Józef Kamienski) 8,000-20,000 words in length, there is ample space for the reader to enter a world composed of characters with strengths and weaknesses, so realistic they demand an empathetic response. The little girl with cystic fibrosis, Miranda, who keeps her father, Nathan, in the present instead of the place in time he tends to reside, in “gloomy pasts and futures,” or the Polish philosopher Józef Kamienski, who “just turned forty,” and who weighs the spiritual and religious meanings of such men as Aquinas, Hume, and George Berckeley along with his own experience of loss he suffers and a social and cultural one he and the nation confront. And there’s Cole, who tries to show Martin, in “Security,” that the issue, stealing, is not “black and white.” Perhaps the protagonist keeps his faith, or undergoes a change in faith, as in “Black Dust,” or maybe swings back and forth, wanting so so much to believe in someone, as Chloe does in “Get Ready.” [The Long Story, 18 Eaton Street, Lawrence, MA 01843. E-mail: rpburnham@mac.com. Single issue $7. www.hompage.mac.com/rpburnham/longstory.html] —donna everhart

 

Northwest Review

Volume 43 Number 3

September 2005

Triannual

“The world is an / aggressive place,” begins Dana Roeser’s poem “Summer Meditation for Paul: Ajuga, Look Back”—an apt theme for this issue of Northwest Review, a journal published by the University of Oregon. The writing here is lovely and disastrous, often exploring the darker side of human nature, like pedophilia and the complexities of storytelling in Rebecca Cook’s piece “Inside Herman Inside Irene”: “But she is afraid to even know, to even research this problem, to punch pedophilia into a Google search and look for information [...] because there would probably be pictures of things she doesn’t want to see [...] hidden in boxes hidden inside Herman’s mind which is really only hidden away inside her own mind [...].” Other work illuminates the delicate shifting of delight and pain in life, as in Judith Skillman’s heartbreaking poem about disappointment in “The Family Goat.” Still others, like Kevin Oderman’s contemplative essay “Judith and Harold,” suggest that “[t]he real darkness breeds in refusing to admit our own nature.” My one criticism is related to the subtitle of this issue, “Essays and More Essays.” To be more accurate, it should read, “Poems, a Few Essays, and Other Stuff”—the “other stuff” being a quasi-fictional interview by Sara Prichard which has this footnote: “This interview was manipulated extensively for the sake of content and narrative [...] words have been put into and taken out of his mouth [...].” However, she makes a point of saying her work is “creative nonfiction.” (Um, if it’s nonfiction, you don’t get to make it up.) Otherwise, the overall content is compelling, a deft mix of observation and reflection, both about how we live and how we make sense of living. [Northwest Review, 369 PLC New Line, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403. E-mail: jwitte@oregon.uoregon.edu. Single issue $8.] —Jen Henderson

 

Rainbow Curve

Issue 6

Spring 2005

Biannual

Produced in Las Vegas, Rainbow Curve boasts a bit of the edgy glare and gasp-inducing quality of its city of origin. The five short stories in the spring issue seem to share a common penchant for unforgiving narrators engaged in disturbing behavior of some kind or other, whether it’s the distorted saintliness of an 911 dispatcher euthanizing his own mother in Andrew S. Bodine’s masterfully written “Sirens of Mercy,” the disgust of authority by a drug-dealing teenager in Larry Crist’s jagged “Restitution,” or the day-to-day cold-bloodedness of a hit-man gluing shut his victim’s jaw in Philip Gardner’s “Somebody Wants Somebody Dead.” “Then I put the barrel of the gun under his nose and press lightly, while with the other hand I press down on his chin. He catches on quick. I apply the adhesive, top and bottom, then push the barrel up under his chin with just enough pressure to make sure the glue holds.” Best that this journal’s title not to be taken at its colorful, friendly face value; it seems to signify a more sinister, hallucinogenic arc. The power of the material in Rainbow Curve lies in its almost entirely fearless and frightful nature, something like contemporary literature’s equivalent of Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.” A few lines from Robert L. Penick’s poem “Something New” might be taken as an overall thematic statement for this dark issue: “It’s very difficult / Loving someone / Who’s not tragic / Or destructive / Or fatally flawed / The hours don’t have / That emptiness / You can crawl inside (of)…” In its flawlessly written narratives and poetry, Rainbow Curve packs a brass-knuckled punch. [Rainbow Curve, P.O. Box 93206, Las Vegas, NV 89193-3206. E-mail: rainbowcurve@sbcglobal.net. Single issue $8. www.rainbowcurve.com] —Mark Cunningham

 

Spinning Jenny

Number 8

2004

Annual

This issue of Spinning Jenny is thick with poems that regularly make syntax irregular. Take, for example, Christopher Salerno’s poem “Lame Duck Pope,” in which he writes: “O rector of forms rigid by heart. / O this, and now edicts drain you.” More surrealist pamphlet than syntactical oddity, Spinning Jenny is perfect bound and dedicated entirely to poetry, the latter one of its distinguishing features. A lack of contributor’s notes also gives Black Dress Press’ journal a black sheep feel, among a flock of literary journals. Fields and caterpillars recur, but not as often as teeth. Teeth manifest themselves as a leitmotif, perhaps as memento mori. Nature references aside, what I found most alluring in these 86 pages is the quirky transitions between poems. Lauren Ireland’s hypnotic poem “41 Paintings” stands out as a litany of stark images juxtaposed neatly: “The cypress broke but the swans still come. / The French sew in the dark. / A horse like a pig rears in the sky. / The man is happy, generous. He is shot twice.” The next poem is about restaurants and chewing. Spinning Jenny 8 features multiple poems by the same poet, a trend among journals, though not so much a trend as to have grown tired. Like every approach, this one comes with risks. The upside: getting a better grasp on certain poets’ work. The downside: enjoying one poem by X poet but not another. I applaud Spinning Jenny for its whimsy and risk, for once again giving a variety of voices an arena in which to make loud their voices. [Spinning Jenny, c/o Black Dress Press, P.O. Box 1373, New York, NY 10276. E-mail: info@spinning-jenny.com. Single issue $8. www.blackdresspress.com] Erin M. Bertram

 

The Wallace Stevens Journal

Volume 29 Number 1

Spring 2005

Biannual

I can now say that I am better acquainted with the poems of Wallace Stevens. In this Special Conference Issue, Part 2, several essays investigate, through a select number of the “mature” poet’s poems, where Stevens lived, not only physically but also spiritually. The 8-10 page essays, single spaced, are listed under these headings: The Place of Home in Stevens’ Poetry; Continental Stevens; Stevensian Conflations: Physical, Colonial, Analytical; Middle Stevens; Sublime and Common Places; Stevens and Philosophy; and Late Stevens. Through poems such as “The Rock,” “Metaphor as Degeneration,” “The Man on the Dump,” “In the Clear Season of Grapes,” “A Discovery of Thought,” “The Man with the Blue Guitar,” and others, scholars and students of the late poet gleam their evidence while, simultaneously, they come to know better the man as he lived, thought, and experienced life. Home, as Stevens saw it, takes on a new meaning, especially in Jacqueline Vaught Brogan’s “‘Inessential Houses’ in Stevens and Bishop.” Brogan relates a comment on the division between house and home by author Toni Morrison to Bishop’s and Steven’s similar divisions as expressed through their poetic images and syntax, which can then be interpreted on a political level. At the end of every essay is the list of notes and/or works cited, near the end of the journal a detailed bibliography. In addition to thoroughly researched essays, an elegy to the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Donald Justice, whose poetic style has been linked to Stevens, two reviews, one of which is a book of Stevens’s poetry for “young people,” and a “Call for Papers” are included inside a slick, attractive, perfect bound journal, slightly over 200 pages. [The Wallace Stevens Journal, Clarkson University, Box 5750 Potsdam, NY 13699. E-mail: serio@clarkson.edu for back issue rate. www.wallacestevens.com] —donna everhart

 

Watchword

Issue 8

2005

Biannual

“We are living in a time where there is a sly, insidious war being waged on the imagination […] But what is lost when the storyteller is forcibly removed from the story?” A preface from the editor spells out Watchword 8’s credo. Narrative is not dead, the issue claims, it runs three miles every morning before working a day job. A credo whispered from behind a tree, so you, reader, have to figure it out on your own, perhaps the most effective method of engagement. Watchword knows this. A curious approach to layout, poems bookend longer prose features, like some double-stuffed literary wonder. While prose occupies a substantial portion of the issue, most of the poems on either end make up for page length in quality and craft. Amy Dickinson’s ‘The Only Definitive Collection of Fragments in the Southwestern United States’ is one example: “You’ve accumulated only three photographs / of birthday parties, which require their own set of storage instructions. / Contemporary color photographs must be kept quite cool, / 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or less. You read the backside captions / for clues. You care for the celebrants—.” Issue 8’s 96 pages showcase prose, poetry, and the occasional genre-bender, from writers across the map, U.S. to Israel to the Czech Republic. Comic cut-outs from the year 1915 adorn a handful of pages, giving the perfect bound journal a sometimes hand-fashioned look. Watchword 8 is a journal incognito as a journal, a meta-journal of sorts, complimenting the issue’s tenet like orange in Rothko’s famous blue and yellow piece. [Watchword Press, P.O. Box 5755, Berkeley, CA 94705. E-mail: liz@watchwordpress.org. Single issue $10. www.watchwordpress.org] —Erin M. Bertram


Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
 

Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed