The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Posted May 13, 2005

The Antigonish Review

Number 139

Autumn 2004

The question of national literature is never without debate, and in Canada there’s always plenty of discussion going on about what it means to be truly Canadian. While the debate doesn’t end with The Antigonish Review, it’s a very good place to begin it. I find much of the literature here to be decidedly traditional: it belongs to the outdoors, to fishing and heron spotting and crafting driftwood into spirit masks. Like Anita Lahey’s “Cape Breton Relative,” these works paint a colorful but sometimes sobering portrait of a rural landscape distinctly belonging to Canada (or at least Nova Scotia and, on occasion, Vancouver Island). But this is “Canada’s Eclectic Review,” and there are also many fine turns and surprises. In “Impaired,” Devin Krukoff hits an emotional chord by viewing the world through the eyes of suffering: “The moon is split clear through the center, / a severed tongue on the plate of my window, / while across the world the sun climbs over Africa, / a continent shaped like a spear.” Kevin McPherson’s story “On Stilts” finds a man on the edge of his sanity after his wife’s death in a car crash, using long, run-on fragments to convey grief and vengeance: “My legs threaten to betray me they want to go AWOL head for the fence but I force them back in line.” And Thomas Trofimuk’s “unfolding” is a passionate and strange tale of a poetic one-night stand whose nervous rush still makes it hard for me to let go. As it turns out, there’s a worthwhile reading venture to be had here. [The Antigonish Review, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonsh NS, Canada B2G 2W5. E-mail: TAR@stfx.ca. Single issue $6. www.antigonishreview.com] — Christopher Mote

 

Bellingham Review

Volume 28

Number 1 Issue 55

Spring 2005

An incredibly strong awards issue with work that is funny, moving, surprising, and memorable, and, though I mean this in the most positive way imaginable…strange. If you're tired of coming-of-age poems or skeptical about poems that work to be humorous, Christopher Bursk's "E Pluribus Unum" (chosen by Lucia Perillo for the 49th Parallel Poetry Award) will forever alter your view of poems about adolescence and the use of humor in poetry. Creative Nonfiction Judge Paul Lisicky says Bonnie J. Rough's winning essay, "Slaughter: A Meditation Wherein the Narrator Explores Death and the Afterlife as Her Spiritual Beliefs Evolve," "shines with its fusion of gravity and wackiness." And indeed it does, thanks to Rough's carefully balanced tone and the intersection of the real and the imagined. It's hard to remember, happily, that this is a work of nonfiction, which makes it all the stranger, and all the more appealing. Bernadette Smyth's award-winning story "Kissing" is not so much strange as disturbing. Judget Rosina Lippi praises the way the story employs both compassion and detachment. That detachment is created by a masterful control of emotion and economy of language that treats a difficult and dangerous subject (sexual abuse) with a kind of haunting lyricism. [Bellingham Review, MS-9053, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225. E-mail: bhreview@cc.wwu.edu. Single issue $7. www.wwu.edu/~bhreview] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

The Cincinnati Review

Volume 1 Number 1

Spring 2004

This handsome new journal, from its burnished full-color matte art-adorned cover (beautiful work by painter Gaither Pope) to the last page, left a surprisingly pleasant impression. The roster of contributors includes a diverse but impressive set of writers, including David Lehman, Beth Ann Fennelly, and Pulitzer-winner Robert Olen Butler, just to name a few. I especially enjoyed Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s poem “At Medusa’s Hair Salon.” Here’s an excerpt: “…I say to Henri, Cut it, // cut it all. It’s clear no one in the salon knows / how Medusa even became a Gorgon;…who would want her hair cut to stun / men into giant concrete tongues, lapping / for air.” I also very much enjoyed the poem that answers that largest of questions, “Why So Many Poets Come From Ohio,” by Margo Stever, especially the line about “why shopping malls built to last / for centuries.” In the review section, the editors took the unusual tack of having three reviewers review the same book, Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee, stating: “The Cincinnati Review will, in every issue, publish multiple reviews of the same book in the hope of presenting a rich and disparate commentary on the work.” These three reviews, and the reviews by Averil Curdy of the six finalists for the 2003 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, throw no softballs – expect demanding critical rigor. For instance, here is a part of Curdy’s assessment of Dean Young’s Skid: “Moments of genuine emotion or pathos are undercut by irony, a little like the class clown who can’t say ‘I love you’ to the prom queen without masking his vulnerability with jokes and magic tricks.” I am looking forward to great things from this ambitious new entry to the literary magazine marketplace. [The Cincinnati Review, P.O. Box 210069, Cincinnati, Ohio 45221-0069. E-mail: editors@cincinnatireview.com. Single issue $7. www.cincinnatireview.com/.] – Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Cranky

Volume1 Issue 4

January 2005

When a magazine reaches its fourth issue, it’s safe to say that the editors have learned how to bridge their own literary vision with a corresponding body of work. Time will tell how long Cranky stays in the business, but it has more than cleared the hurdle of becoming “Just Another Poetry Mag.” In addition to the traditional verse, Cranky offers prose poems, flash fiction, book reviews, poetry/art collaborations, and everything in between. Jay Thompson’s profile of Richard Kenney made me want to study his acclaimed collections even at the risk of getting lost in their complexities. Kenney’s poetry, Thompson writes, “marries a formalist’s precision to [...] a fascination with the ‘rattle and bang’ of Celtic and Middle English poetry, and his own erudition,” and while Kenney’s recent poems appear more satirical than fascinating, at least his backlog of publications is enough to whet the appetite. Where do you go from there? Molly Tenenbaum achieves a moment of truth in “How Long Does it Take For You to Write a Poem?” (“Long as the day is short, / as in so, as in too.”); Randy Prunty’s rapid-fire “delusiveness in consideration of my hands and knees” makes cohesion out of randomness and humor; Kary Wayson’s sing-song “Can Be Jackets, Can Be Bees” is a challenge not to read out loud; etc. etc. Take your pick. Fine coffeehouse reading in and out from a magazine with too much caffeine. [Cranky, 322 10th Avenue E. #C-5, Seattle, WA 98102. E-mail: cranky@failedpromise.org. Single issue $7. www.failedpromise.org] — Christopher Mote

 

Fine Madness

Issue 29

2005

I realize that, as far as profits go, lit mags are like lemonade stands among the blue chips of the publishing industry, but I’m no better than the next guy: I don’t think twice about a 60-page booklet with a seven-dollar price tag. Fine Madness, however, may have changed my mind. These sixty pages of poetry are by no means a breeze to navigate. They are packed with long, often complex poems that deserve separate readings. There are translations from Swedish, Lithuanian and Russian poets, the last of whom was said to have passed his writings on by word of mouth for fear of Stalin. There’s a moment in Alice Derry’s “Beech” that also captures tyranny, employing a simple word game to bring out the chill in the forests of Buchenwald, “not the high ee and steady chug of ch, / but how the hollow of pure ooo, / reaching into the throat for the breathy German ch, / is wind in the highest branches.” On a lighter “note,” Estill Pollock’s “Preludes for Prepared Piano” are a pastiche of literary history with a strong aleatoric dose inspired by the John Cage contraption. And the title of Tina Kelley’s musing, “On the Collection of 70 Pairs of Shoes Filled with Butter Found by Hunters in Jaemtland, Sweden, on October 5, 2003,” actually belies its overall whimsicality. Fine Madness is proof positive that inventive poetry can still elicit a response from anyone. A worthy investment, after all. [Fine Madness, P.O. Box 31138, Seattle, WA 98103-1138. E-mail: finemadness@comcast.net. Single issue $7. www.finemadness.org] — Christopher Mote

 

Florida Review

Volume 29 Number 2

Fall 2004

Billy Collins’ gracing the opening of this issue with three wonderful poems is almost an added bonus, because The Florida Review is already filled with outstanding writers whose names may not be recognizable but whose work is surely a sign of things to come. “Unfound” by Matthew Sullivan is one of the best short stories I’ve yet encountered in the little magazines: a work of mystery, romance, culture shock, and family secrets that transcends all genres. What does one strange photograph mean to Ricket, an American with one friend dying in California and another with a hidden past in New Zealand? Once Sullivan grabs you with the image, it’s hard to stop reading. The six additional short stories in this issue include “Camouflage Fall” by Adam Schuitema and “The Hunter” by Jubal Tiner, both hunting narratives that use different perspectives to achieve pathos. I enjoyed the poetry of Jolene Heathcote for its fascination with history, with the genesis and exodus, it seems, of civilization. “[W]hen I rest, my body / dreams itself an embankment / of gunfire and shrapnel / and electromagnetic radiation,” she writes in “Euphrates River Valley,” appealing to both the historical and the contemporary modes of warfare, perfectly relevant without being political. Also included: three poems by Dionisio D. Martinez, whose bold stanzas run off the page. And for creative nonfiction lovers, Timothy Bascom’s memoir “And I’ll Fly Away” is a must. If you like your lit without the academic criticism and polemic, be sure to add The Florida Review to your reading list. [The Florida Review, Dept. of English, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32816. E-mail: flreview@mail.ucf.edu. Single issue $8. www.floridareview.cah.ucf.edu] — Christopher Mote

 

New England Review

Volume 26 Number 1

2005

The New England Review is a larger-than-usual 7”X10” magazine, and with good reason: you’re likely holding in your hands one of the half-dozen best quarterlies out there. I don’t know where to begin with my impressions. I could take the international perspective: an interview with filmmaker Lars von Trier, a study of Orwell’s personal library, a zany around-the-world short story on the intellect by Gregory Blake Smith. Perhaps I could add a historical dimension: a translation of Heloïse, she of the great Medieval tragic romance; an essay from the archives of the always witty G.K. Chesterton; an avant-garde tale by the surrealist René Crevel. I can point to the fiction: the ever-entertaining Steve Almond is in here, as is Ronlyn Domingue with a story, “Broken Silence,” that tugs the strings of suspense with such agility among a childless man, his possibly pregnant wife and his terminally ill nephew, that I couldn’t stop asking “What if?” when I read it. Failing all these, I can accentuate the contemporary issues the New England Review addresses: new artists, new novels, the revolution of online education. Academic or not, you’re guaranteed to find something in NER perfect for kicking back and relaxing with. Grand as it is, it’s the space filled by the reader’s interest that rewards the most. [New England Review, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753. E-mail: nereview@middlebury.edu. Single issue $8. www.middlebury.edu/~nereview] — Christopher Mote

 

North Dakota Quarterly

Volume 71 Number 4

Fall 2004

It might behoove the honorable editors of North Dakota Quarterly to realize that this magazine too closely resembles a college catalog from the outside. (It probably doesn’t help that one can open up and find a registrar-esque listing of grad school dissertations!) Don’t be fooled: NDQ is a university publication, and its Dakota origins are evident in its academic reviews, but there’s enough literature of all kinds to appreciate in it. The creative essays are plentiful, one after another on a variety of subjects: personal memories of the Verrazano Bridge, Berkeley during the age of the Beats, an American teaching creative writing to French students. Peter Selgin, who may be my newest favorite fiction writer of the moment, has a brief piece in here, “The Man in the White Car,” a hallucinatory story told by a seemingly unreliable narrator with a surprising moral twist at the end. Among the poetry, Leslie Adrienne Miller’s work radiates with palpable experiences of womanhood, cultural observation and language. In “Speaking of the Devil,” she writes about English: “[T]oo many people live in its center, / and the environs are losing population fast. / Few are interested in leaving the inner cities of language, // so each tongue shrinks, deletes its consummate / geographics, copse and dell, ravine and fen, / boonies, coolies, bailiwicks, and sloughs.” Words are all we’ve got, as Beckett told us, and what a surprise to discover how deep language can be. NDQ may not dazzle, but it gets the job done. [North Dakota Quarterly, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND 58202-7209. E-mail: ndq@und.nodak.edu. Single issue $8. www.und.nodak.edu/org/ndq] — Christopher Mote

 

So to Speak

Volume 14 Number 1

Winter/Spring 2005

This glossy black-and-white journal of poetry, prose and art work showcased some fantastic photography of human female subjects in Old Havana, Cuba, by Karen Keating (especially moving: a portrait called “Fidel’s Granddaughter,” a wide-eyed toddler with her hand on her hip, and “Teenager on Cuba Street,” a pensive girl in a tight, revealing outfit) as well as literary work of equal merit. Particularly interesting was a non-fiction piece on the tragic life of Modigiliani’s final mistress by Jacqueline Kolosov, “Seule: The Story of Jeanne Hebuterne, Modigliani’s Last Mistress.” I am particularly drawn to stories of artist’s muses, I admit, but the writing in this piece was so elegant and empathetic that anyone would be drawn to it. A few lines from Kolosov’s account: “Modigliani returned to Jeanne. For a time, he belonged to her alone. Seule. They walked through the village streets. They ate tangerines. Jeanne sewed clothes for herself and for her child. She felt safe in his arms-à l’abri-sheltered.” Also beguiling was a fiction piece by Catherine Dryden, “Talking Backwards,” about a sick boy and his mother and their cryptic conversations about his father, among other subjects. The expected “feminist” subjects appear here: relationships between daughters and mothers, women’s aging, lesbianism…but many of the pieces transcend the expected, especially the visual work in this issue, which I kept returning to, transfixed by their beauty and ability to capture personality on the page. Definitely a solid read and a journal to search for unexpected bits of grace. [So to Speak, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, MS 2D6, Fairfax, VA 22030-4444. E-mail: sts@gmu.edu. Single issue $7. www.gmu.edu/org/sts/mission.htm] – Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Southwest Review

Volume 89 Number 4

2004

Southwest Review is already one of the most established journals in the U.S., but this issue receives a commemorative boost with the recent passing of the great Arthur Miller: “The Turpentine Still,” one of his last works, is included here. Through the eyes of Levin, a 1950’s ex-radical, the novella ventures into the pine mountains of Haiti around one American’s quixotic dreams of industrializing the country. Thirty years later, in search of meaning and companionship, Levin returns to find out what became of the whole affair. Miller breaks no grounds here—indeed, he’s gotten extensive mileage out of socioeconomic themes in his career—but the polished story is a fitting farewell, a memento from the pen of an aged humanist who’s seen a promising but tumultuous century come and go. Elsewhere in SWR, expatriate Michael Blumenthal uncovers the unfriendly side of Europe, and Georgina Kleege reenacts the left and mind of Darwin as he devises a certain theory, both excellent essays. Limited poetry, but uniformly good: Jay Rogoff crafts a villanelle in “Midair” (“a dance that ends in midair doesn’t end / not even when the curtain must descend”) and Julianne Buchsbaum crafts barren images (“flies / from carnage in the tar-patched road”, “the river wrapped like a scarf / around the city’s neck”) into “Variations on a theme beginning with darkness.” In all, a strong selection at a good price. [Southwest Review, Southern Methodist University, P.O. Box 750374, Dallas, TX 75275-0374. E-mail: swr@mail.smu.edu. Single issue $6. www.southwestreview.org] — Christopher Mote

 

StoryQuarterly

Issue 40

2004

StoryQuarterly magazine is neither a quarterly nor really a magazine. Rather, it is an annually published tome of fiction. Issue 40 clocks in at 563 pages, almost triple the average lit mag length and about the same price. You might assume that with so much fiction it couldn’t fail to have enough good work to justify the price, and you would be correct. There are several good short-shorts here such as Nathan Alling Long’s somber “Between” about a son who only knows his father through the prison bars when he visits once a month. Steve Almond has an interesting one titled “At Age 91, Anna Smolz of the Gmersh Unit Speaks.” This issue also includes a great group of color photos all taken in the Midwest as well as a long interview between Tom Stoppard and Charlie Rose. However, my favorite piece in StoryQuarterly 40 was Rebecca Curtis’ idiosyncratic, pseudo-fairy tale, “The Wolf at the Door.” Here is a snippet to catch your interest:

“It’s locked!” I said. “It counts as locked!”
“All right,” the wolf said. “It counts as locked.”

I could see him standing outside the door with his arms crossed. He became a wolf, then a lion, then gave up and became a man. “But open the door for a second,” he said. “We just want to ask you something.” [StoryQuarterly, 431 Sheridan Rd., Kenilworth, IL 60043. E-mail: storyquarterly@yahoo.com. Single issue $12. www.storyquarterly.com] – Lincoln Michel

 

Terra Incognita

Number 5

2004/2005

I wish there were more "international journals" and am pleased to see that this one has survived another year to bring us a fresh new issue. An eclectic and generous editorial vision brings together spectacular photographs of Palenque on the Atlantic coast of Colombia by Oscar Frasser with a respectful view of the "precarious and disadvantageous conditions" of the region, a previously unpublished interview with Paul Bowles (who died in 1999) conducted by Ramon Singh, a journalist, fiction writer, and teacher of American literature who currently lives in Greece, elegant, powerful drawings of the human form by award-winning artist Jeffrey Barrera of Madrid, as well as poems, prose poems, stories, a scholarly essay, a political manifesto, and other offerings in the "galería del arte." I was particular taken with a beautiful poem by George Kalamaras, "Drinking Tea at a Silk Shop During Monsoon with Sons of an Independence Fighter." Kalamaras unleashes the power of lyrical language in the service of a good and important story. As always, one of the issue's finest assets is competent, often exquisite translations (Spanish/English, English/Spanish). If I were to happen upon this work without knowing it had been translated, I would not guess I was not reading the "originals." [Terra Incognita, P.O. Box 150585, Brooklyn, NY 11215 and Terra Incognita, APDO, 14401, 18080 Madrid, Spain. E-mail: terraincognitamagazine@yahoo.com. Single Issue: $7. www.terraincognita.50megs.com/index.html] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Third Coast

Issue 20

Spring 2005

Interviewers Amanda Rachelle Warren and Roy Seeger ask terrific questions of Mary Ruefle whose terrific answers include this characterization of a writer's work: "…an artist…is on a very personal journey in an extremely un-personal world." Fortunately, the sixteen poets, seven fiction writers, and three creative nonfiction contributors represented here know how to link the personal and "un-personal" to bring us work that is both fresh (as in honest and authentic) and refreshingly free of gimmicks and empty rhetorical devices. And, as always, Third Coast deserves special mention for publishing brief, but useful reviews of new books ignored or overlooked by most other magazines. Standouts this issue are personal essays by Margot Singer and Stephen Gutierrez, both attempts to understand fathers in their real and imagined "greatness." In "La Muerte Hace Tortillas," Gutierrez turns ordinary speech and a conversational, personal tone into a well crafted, fast moving narrative with smart rhythms and perfect timing. Singer's "Secret Agent Man" is a clever examination of her father's secret past—was her father a spy? "You can poke your finger through a spy. He will scatter, like ash." The personal and un-personal come together in the quintessential riddle of our parents: they're never who we think they are or who they said they were. [Third Coast, Department of English, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008. E-mail: peter.j.geye@wmich.edu. Single issue: $8. www.wmich.edu/thirdcoast] —Sima Rabinowitz

 

Virginia Quarterly Review

Volume 81 Number 2

Spring 2005

"I dreamed in a dream I saw a city invincible to the attacks of the whole / of the rest of the earth,"—could any "dead poet" be more, for lack of a better word, relevant? It's not hard to understand why VQR has devoted a whole (glorious and gorgeous) issue to honor Walt Whitman on the 150th anniversary of the publication of Leaves of Grass. The issue includes essays of various styles, lengths, and intents from twenty-five American poets and writers and five beautifully reproduced sets of photos of Whitman with commentary by Ed Folsom, adapted from the gallery section of the Walt Whitman Archive. The essays are marvelous reading, illuminating Whitman's work as they explore everything from the current state of activism in the poetry world (Sam Hamill), to a personal experience of immigration (Meena Alexander) as an experience of poetry, to one writer's consideration of her Southern roots (Natasha Trethewey). From in-depth analysis of Whitman's work and his mark on American life and letters (by Mark Doty, Richard Tayson, Kenneth M. Price and others), to brief, personal, lyrical impressions of Whitman's meaning for their own work and lives (Rafael Campo, Jane Hirshfield, Charles Wright), the issue is a fitting tribute to Whitman. Gregory Orr's poem, "Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved" opens the volume in apt, Whitmanesque style: "Oh, the world, the world, / What eye is wide enough?" [Virginia Quarterly Review, One West Range, P.O. Box 400223, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4223. vqreview@virginia.edu. Single issue $11. www.vqronline.org ] – Sima Rabinowitz

 

Water~Stone Review

Volume 7

Fall 2004

A hefty annual publication, Water~Stone Review has been significantly improved—the font is now large enough to read comfortably, no small consideration with four dozen poems, five stories, eight essays, four interviews, and several book reviews. This year's offerings include work from such firmly established writers as Elizabeth Alexander, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Ray Gonzalez, Eavan Boland, John Edgar Wideman, and Judith Kitchen, along with a large number of lesser known and emerging talents. It could take a diligent reader the full year until next fall's issue to get through this one! There's a lot here to take in, including an unusual interview (and excerpts from her journal) with Arctic traveler and explorer Ann Bancroft and an interview with the ever-entertaining, award-winning writer Kate diCamillo, best known for her young adult novels, though she does not write exclusively for children. One of this issue's highlights is Eavan Boland's brief essay on Edna St. Vincent Millay. Aware that Millay's work is "contested," generally considered not to have made a serious contribution to American poetry, Boland finds the work worth "revisiting" and approaches Millay's poems as "a place of meanings." The spaces Millay opened, she argues, "should not lie unused," as much of what is contained in Water~Stone should not go unread. [Water~Stone Review, Graduate Liberal Studies, Hamline University, MS-A1730, 1536 Hewitt Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55104. E-mail: water-stone@gw.hamline.edu. Single Issue: $14. www.waterstonereview.com/] – Sima Rabinowitz


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Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed