The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Posted July 30, 2005

AGNI Magazine

Volume 61


Perhaps the best editors are prescient, equipped with a literary sixth sense that allows them to provide readers with apt reflections at the right moment. So it was that I found myself clipping an article on the necessity of craft in memoir (as opposed to mere emotional regurgitation) by the current editor of AGNI, Sven Birkerts, out of a recent issue of Poets & Writers even as I was reading it, so exactly did it articulate thoughts I’d been having. A similar sensation attended my reading of an essay by AGNI’s founding editor, Askold Melnyczuk, in the current issue of the magazine. Seventy pages earlier, I’d been reading Ben Miller’s “Romancing the Dankerts” and reflecting on what it was about his prose that made it dense and stunningly lyric, lush in a way that made me want to taste it (and all this in piece ostensibly about trash and trashy neighbors who object to the trash!). And then there was Melnyczuk, ruminating on the same question: “I’m curious about why certain sentences read quickly, why others force us to slow down...” and quoting Susan Sontag: “Every style is a means of insisting on something.” I must insist that editors of this ilk are the reason AGNI consistently dazzles. Volume 61 is no different; I starred so many pieces as worth mentioning that I can’t mention them all. Birkerts may begin this issue by lamenting that with Sontag’s death, he lost his “ideal reader,” the person he felt he was editing for, even if she’d never seen a copy of the magazine, but I have a feeling that even without her guiding presence, AGNI will continue to deliver what readers are looking for–even if they don’t know it yet. [AGNI, 236 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215. Email: Single issue $10.] – Kathe Lison


The Antioch Review

“Yin/Yang: Duets and Opposites”

Volume 63 Number 2

Spring 2005

In its 63rd year, The Antioch Review is still a benchmark. Robert S.Fogarty's editorial quote from Claude Levi-Straus identifies its theme as, "the search for unsuspected harmonies." In the lead essay—of seven solid essays—Daniel Bell's "Ethics and Evil: Frameworks for Twenty-First-Century Culture" asks: "How do we contain wars of faith, and the spread of potent ideologies while giving people an anchorage for their lives?" while Alan Cheuse's ''Reflections on Dialogue: How d'yuh get t'Eighteent' Avenoo and Sixty-Sevent' Street?" addresses the question of the narrator in "And God said let there be light, and there was light [. . .]" while tracing the origins of speech and story. Iraj Isaac Rahmim's autobiographical "Sacrifices" defines poverty: “[. . .] being poor as a student is not being poor at all; it is simply getting an education." Work from eleven fine poets (among them: Neil Azevedo, Michael Demos, and Marilyn Nelson) is included and in "Poetry Today," John Taylor concludes his review of Giuseppe Ungaretti's Selected Poems and Giorgio Caproni's The Earth's Wall: Selected Poems 1932-1986 with poetry of his own: "[. . . ] intimations of citadels looming there above us, even as we pass below the ramparts [. . .]." "Sayings of Confucius" by Christopher Torockio will turn up in BASS if my vote counts. "The Hardest Thing" by Rebecca Kavaler and Jennifer Moses's "You've Told Me Before," deal effectively with difficult aging parents. "Last Night's Excitement," by Zdravka Evtimova, visits a society where no one dies. In all respects a stellar issue. [The Antioch Review, Antioch University, 150 E. South Chicago St., Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387. E-mail: Single issue $8.] – Anna Sidak


boundary 2

Volume 32 Number 1

Spring 2005

boundary 2 is a serious journal—with cover art by Theodore A. Harris titled "On the Throne of Fire after Somebody Blew Up America (for Amiri Baraka)." Among its ten essays, Miguel Tamen's "My Taste," employs the writings of Kant and Hume to explore the mystery of "good taste;"—and Bruno Latour's "What is Given in Experience?" is a perceptive review of Isabelle Stengers's study of Alfred North Whitehead: Penser avec Whitehead: Une libre et sauvage creation de concepts. Donald E. Pease's fascinating "Hawthorne in the Custom-House: the Metapolitics, Postpolitics, and Politics of The Scarlet Letter," describes Hawthorne's reaction to the embroidered bit of cloth found in the customs-house prior to the loss of his position: "[. . .] his desire for an authorized social position paradoxically embodied itself in this peculiar artifact [. . .]" In an immediately comprehensible article about teaching methods in India—"Use and Abuse of Human Rights," by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak—ironically, this statement: "I am often reprimanded for writing incomprehensively." I'll return to this journal based on the following statement: "The editors of boundary 2 announce that they no longer intend to publish in the standard professional areas, but only materials that identify and analyze the tyrannies of thought and action spreading around the world and that suggest alternatives to these emerging configurations of power. To this end, we wish to inform our readers that, until further notice, the journal will not accept unsolicited manuscripts." (Is there an inherent contradiction in that stance?) [Duke University Press, Journals Fulfillment, 905 W. Main St, Suite 18B, Durham, NC 27701. E-mail: Single issue $14.] – Anna Sidak



"An Anatomy of Roads: The Quest Issue”


Spring 2005

This beautifully bound, map-wrapped volume is a treasure of outstanding short stories and poetry with new work by familiar names as well as lesser known. The quest theme applies to almost anything, as editor Bradford Morrow acknowledges, having summoned the timeless Robert Coover ("Dragons have no sense of time [. . .]," from "Sir John Paper Returns to Honah-Lee,"), William Gas, ("The Piano Lesson," and a great deal more), and John Barth's forgiven archness in "I've been Told: A Story's Story," as well as Paul West's "Slow Mergers of Local Stars" (it is not enough to simply kill a lion), and Joyce Carol Oates's "The Gravedigger's Daughter" – a mother and child on the lam. Carole Maso's brilliant "Young H Saved from Infamy": "[. . .] young H is among those who have gained admission to the academy [. . .] See how the very world seems changed [. . .]," falls into the realm of would-that-it-were. Alai's "Two Stories" derive from Tibetian folktale, with a dash of magic realism: "The moonlight burrowed out of the cluster of clouds and kept pace with his steps." More magic realism in Jonathan Carroll's "After having eaten the piece of the building, Allan Harris was transformed," from "Home on the Rain." From "Voyagers" by the extraordinary Frederic Tuten: "On reflection, that night when my trawler was diving down to Davy Jones's Locker, I came to see--in that moment when death seemed just ahead--to appreciate her point." And from the poignant "Kornia" by Elizabeth Hand: "Oh sure it takes a terrorist attack to hear from you." A wonderful collection. [Conjunctions, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504. E-mail: Single issue $15.] – Anna Sidak


Ecotone cover, Spring 2005 IssueEcotone

Reimagining Place

Volume 1 Number 1

Winter/Spring 2005

Ready to stand at indistinct edges or walk vertiginous margins, the aptly named Ecotone is a brave new offering out of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. As editor David Gessner explains, it’s the edges, “between genres, between science and literature, between land and sea, between the civilized and wild, between earnest and comic, between the personal and biological, between urban and rural, between animal and spiritual” that Ecotone feels are “not only more alive, but more interesting and worthy of our exploration.” Worthy of exploration as well is this first issue, a nicely produced perfect-bound volume weighing in at over 150 pages, with a center section of art devoted to gorgeous collages by Pamela Wallace Toll. The remaining pages are chock full of biggies such as Reg Saner, Philip Levine, Bill Roorbach, Gerald Stern, Wendell Berry, and Peter Matthiessen, to name only a few. My only complaint about volume one is that at times it seems quality has taken a second seat to star-power; for instance, the piece here by Reg Saner–author of many very, very fine essays–was a disappointment. That said, the journal still has much to offer, including an interview with Mark Doty as well as several excellent poems; Doty is, I think, physically incapable of producing so-so work. Also noteworthy is a lovely lyric essay by Brad Land, as well as a tribute to the work of “nature-writer” John Hay, to use an appellation that Peter Matthiessen, in his response to Hay’s work, quite rightly calls “insipid and obsolete.” No such complaint can be made about Ecotone, whose travels to the “lands in-between” will no doubt continue to result in a journal well-worth reading. [Ecotone, Department of Creative Writing, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 South College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403-3297. Email: Single issue $9.95.] – Kathe Lison



Contemporary Poetry and Poetics

Number 72

Spring 2005

Field: (fēld) n. any wide, unbroken expanse; in this case, one of terrific poetry. But longtime readers of the venerable journal, in publication since the 60's, won’t find that news revelatory. As usual, there’s much here to be praised, with new work by notables such as Pattiann Rogers, Marianne Boruch, Dennis Schmitz and Sandra McPherson. Most appealing to this reader, however, were two lovely poems by Kevin Prufer “Gothic: Leaves” and “The Pastor;” the former made me long for the autumn leaf piles of my Midwestern childhood. I read associate editor David Young’s review of the Donald Justice’s Collected Poems, posthumously published by Knopf (Justice died just days before its appearance), with great interest, intrigued by his observations on how the art of translation can feed a poet’s work (it didn’t hurt that Young himself is one of my favorite translators). But the highlight of this issue was four poems by Franz Wright. He may have come in for some roasting in the “Letters to the Editor” section of the May issue of Poetry–or, rather, roasted himself, depending on one’s point of view–but he’s still a damn fine poet. And this is a damned fine issue of Field. [Field, 50 North Professor Street, Oberlin, OH 44074. Email: Single issue $7.] – Kathe Lison



Issue 50


Gargoyle is the collection eclectic was invented for. Its contents include—in addition to the cartoon frontispiece by Patricia Storms offering aid and comfort to writers everywhere, and several photographic portraits—the non-fiction "Berkley Morning," an excerpt from Phillip Henry Christopher's Trippin' with Charlie and "Dreaming Richard Brautigan" by Greg Keeler. At least a third of this issue's 465 pages is given over to poetry ranging from work by Kate Braverman, J.P. Dancing Bear, Rachel Galvin, James Grinwis, Patrick Lawler ("It's as if after Pearl Harbor we declared war / on Spain" from "Duct Tape Monologue") to Rusty Russell's "Before and After Bloomington": "The road between Champaign and Bloomington, IL / is an uncrossable distance. / I drove through the same sunset for a week without stopping, / and where Chicago should have been it was Saturday." Fiction includes Kathy Acker's "The Seattle Book," presented as published—"most privately published / in fact not even well typed"—and Jim Barnes's "The Visiting Writer" encountering Czech naivety. In Rick Moody's "The Pirate Station," the station enters old age in a state of decline "[. . .] imagines it can hear the music of the spheres and begins to totter down a long narrow corridor [. . .]" Lance Olsen's "Every sentence is a kiss and every paragraph an embrace." from "on the despisers of the body," excerpted from his novel Nietzsche's Kisses, seems to tell us how it is to drown, and/or be hospitalized; fascinating in either case. [Gargoyle, P.O. Box 6216 Arlington, VA 22206-0216. E-mail: Single issue $18.95.] – Anna Sidak


Hayden’s Ferry Review

Issue 35

Fall/Winter 2004-05

From among the sage brush and juniper (not to mention the sprawling megalopolis that is the greater Phoenix area) Hayden’s Ferry Review continues to prove that dedication to an editorial vision pays off. Its editors may change yearly, but its commitment to “the artistic and cultural conversations between the work of established and emerging artists” does not. Issue 35 continues that tradition with work from both new and old voices. In the “new” category is a fine first publication by short-story writer Anne Clifford about a middle-aged woman whose sexual longing for her 20-something nephew seems symptomatic of her inability to relate to her too-often married sister. Not to be missed either is “Int. Hotel Room-Day” a stunningly good piece of fiction in which Chris Gavaler manages to use a porn film to poignantly reveal silences in a marriage (honestly, you have to read this!). The other great thing about this issue, besides all of the super poetry and artwork I haven’t room to mention specifically, is the special section on metafiction. The editors have collected nine meta-works here, all of them worth reading (though I particularly enjoyed Michael Hettic’s “Sky Full of White Birds”). The section ends with the pièce de résistance: an interview with William H. Gass. “Prose that does not sing is not alive” Gass admonishes; it’s a reminder Hayden’s Ferry Review does not need. [Hayden's Ferry Review, Box 871502, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1502. E-mail: Single issue $6.] – Kathe Lison


Hiram Poetry Review

Issue 66

Spring 2005

It always makes me happy to see a long-running literary magazine still going strong. Hiram Poetry Review is in its 39th year, and for a magazine devoted entirely to poetry that should signal something. Most of the poems in this issue are written in a confessional style with a strong first-person presence. Shane McCrae’s “Immunity” deals with the timeless subject of lost love (“I’ve built up an immunity / to knife wounds as well / as that photograph of Mussolini’s corpse you so admire”). E. R. Carlin offers up a strong poem titled “Depleted” with a narrator who looks at procreation as a kind of warfare. Remarkably the woman he is having sex with has zero presence in the poem, which heightens the metaphor. It is humorous, affecting and sexual, three words that could describe a good deal of the poems here. [The Hiram Poetry Review, P.O. Box 162, Hiram, Ohio 44234. E-mail: Single issue $9.] – Lincoln Michel


Mad Hatters' Review

Issue 2

Summer 2005

Alice would love Mad Hatters' Review—as I do—there's something, including the astral threats of summer, to delight everyone. Among its text-art-music combos are Marty D. Ison's text, narration, and art for "Wake up, Damian Hirst!": “but none of it can exorcise god-want from the pleading soul.”; and Brett Powers's "Pathology" with Wayne Yang's art, Steven Kane's music: “[ . . . ] all it would take to change everything for the better is three little Phillips head screws cast upon the still water.” The impressive poetry collection contains work by John Barbato, Lynn Lipshin, Corey Mesler, Caroline Zonailo, and others. Beautifully formatted, this innovative quarterly journal features—in addition to usual categories, plus original art and music—a play by Timothy Matos; Spent half the morning here with: five mini-movies by Mona-Lia Ventress, three by Donna Kahn;  cartoons and parodies: "Campbells's Soup Can (Botulism)" by Tony 'Baloney' Juliano; "The Wave: Moving Sculpture" video and text by Reuben Margolin: “The Wave has many origins, but somehow I always associate its soul with a wheat field in Andulsia,” music by Paul A. Toth; columns; and the zaniness of cartoony hat-doffing icons scattered about an elegant layout. And Alice would recognize that Paul Slapion's eerie cover artworks, the fragmented and/or hallucinatory nature of individual contributions confirm the title's awareness of cultural poison and the need for respite of laughter and art. I echo the following sentiment: “[. . .] we're going to enjoy the ride while it lasts and we sincerely hope that you'll join us in spirit, if not in deed,” from Editor's Rave by Editor/Publisher, Carol Novack. [Mad Hatters' Review. E-mail: Online only:] –Anna Sidak




Issue 6


From the web site: "Matter is a unique biannual publication of literature, poetry, photography, visual art and just about anything that is made of matter." It is also a beautifully constructed and environmentally oriented publication whose editor, Todd Simmons, recommends we read it outside in sunshine—he means well, but it's 110 degrees here today. Good advice, however, for the Colorado/Wyoming area it serves. This issue's call for "[. . .] work dealing with empty space, missing parts, ecological infatuations, future primitive, and the fabric of landscape," was met head-on. From Evan Oakley's "An Atlas of the World": "Now, the creation myth of astrophysicists supplants those of shamans, [. . .]" to Joseph Hawley's "a fortunate accident . . . 11 days (with medical attention)"—the journal's day 9 trampled underfoot—Matter displays a taste for the astute, the offbeat, the different—Michael Crake's "Concourse B": "ticketed passengers only // pair of glasses reads the newspaper / white shirt and black pants / she does not smile // may I have your attention please"—and these are only items that caught my eye, there are many more: short stories by Sue Ring DeRossett, Jeffe Kennedy, Blair Oliver, Peter Soliunas, and essays by Ted Daughters (ketchup), Todd Simmons (hot-air ballooning), Jane Carpenter (sky-diving), Dan DeWeese's "Obliterated Landscape," and RoseMarie London's "Red, Blue, and the WWE." Plus "An Elemental Life," an interview with David Gessner; Nathan Thrailkill's strangely Egyptian artwork: "Temple of Pious Hygiene," as well as 17 pages of attractive monochrome ads featuring local merchants. [Matter, Wolverine Farm Publishing, PO Box 814, Fort Collins, CO 80522. E-mail: Single issue $10.] – Anna Sidak


Post Road

Number 10


Turning the page in Post Road always brings a new surprise. Will the next piece be a non-fiction essay on the local dogcatcher, a book recommendation made by one of your favorite authors, a poem or a long series of video stills? Post Road issue 10 is a real hodgepodge of writing with plenty that had me excited. The aforementioned Matt Roberts piece, “The Dogcatcher Hates Politics,” was a fun and clever piece containing this gem: “’Excitement,’ the dogcatcher says, ‘is a dumpster full of raccoons.’” Other highlights for me included John Colburn’s two excellent poems and D. Gatling Price’s collage-like and beautiful story “Still Wreck.” Most of the pieces in this issue are short, only a few clock-in over seven pages, and the pieces contain a level of excitement from start to finish. Post Road’s book recommendations are interesting, allowing the reader to see the variety of books authors have fallen in love with. I’ve seen book recommendations in literarily magazines before, but normally only one or two an issue; Post Road 10 contains thirteen. For my part, I’m happy to give Post Road my recommendation. [Post Road Magazine, 203 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211. E-mail: Single issue $10.99.] – Lincoln Michel


Seneca Review

"New Lyric Essayists"

Volume 35 Number 1

Spring 2005

In I Wanted to Write a Poem, William Carlos Williams explained why he reduced a five line stanza so that it would match a four line stanza: “See how much better it conforms to the page, how much better it looks?” Unsurprisingly, this same attention to form–form for form’s sake, as an aesthetic consideration, perhaps even more than a literary one–characterizes much of the work of the fifteen writers Seneca Review features in their Spring 2005 edition “New Lyric Essayists.” Both Seneca and lyric essay editor John D’Agata seem to have a fondness for the term “new.” When Seneca began publishing what it has dubbed “lyric” essays in 1997, they declared them “new terrain,” though the newness of that terrain is debatable. The essay has always been, by definition, an “experimental” form. Consider, for example, the fragmented nature of much of Montaigne’s digression and aphorism-ridden work or the mode of essay writing know as zuihisu in Japanese, practiced by writers such as Kenko as early as the 13th century. However, Seneca is to be heartily applauded for continuing to remind readers that essays need not be the boring five-paragraph theme too many generations of composition students were once forced to digest. Of note here is the lead piece “The Pain Scale” by Eula Bliss, as well “Raptors, Grammar and the Electric Clock Bird” by Colette LaBouff Atkinson, two works in which content, form and an essayistic inquisitiveness about how fact intersects emotion, come together in a mix that’s as heady and satisfying as a Dirty Martini. While not all of the essays here are quite as intoxicating–a few struck me as not worth the time to piece together, the ever-present risk of fetishizing form–Seneca Review never ceases to be provocative, and those who like essays as jig-saw puzzles will no doubt have a ball playing with some of these pieces. [Seneca Review, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York, 14456. Email: Single issue $7.] – Kathe Lison



Spring 2005

Spire is a slender volume of poetry, fiction, and stated purpose (from the web site): "Spire is dedicated to publishing traditionally marginalized voices of minority, low-income and young writers and artists who will create the future of arts and literature. Spire publishes new writers alongside more established writers in order to lend credibility and establish interest in the work of the new writers. Spire is a nonprofit organization which publishes a biannual journal of exceptional quality." I especially enjoyed George Rabasa's "Hyperspud" and from Sharon Lynn Osmond's "Summer Afternoon": "One day you wake into the blue- / green botany of two o'clock." "At the River" by Edythe Haendel Schwartz: "[. . .] trout swishing like / the teardrop gown / her mother wears / to bed / brown satin / flecked with wine," and "When you say / I wear a dress of flames / I think of the madrones / their orange skin peeling / in the White August sun," from "Summersweet" by Jeannine Hall Gailey, as well as the black and white photography and the daisy-strewn cover. [Spire, Spire Press, Inc., 532 LaGuardia Pl, Ste 298, New York, NY 10012. E-mail: Single issue $8.] – Anna Sidak



“Crooked Little Feelings”

Number 2


Swink is like an excited child running up to show you what she found, but instead of grubs and rocks, she has a hand-full of great writing. There is a sense of enthusiasm and fun that permeates this issue from head Editor Leelila Strogov’s introduction to the quirky title pages. Some of the best trinkets this time around include Bob Hicok’s touching “Matchglow,” Kristen Andersen’s poem “Some Snapshots,” Susan Minot’s tale of traveling through Mississippi in a downpour with a passenger whose foot is bloated to the size of a football and John Warner’s hilarious “Corrections and Clarifications” (“We declared that Sheriff Jack Seager is an ineffectual public servant whose slipshod leadership is plunging our town into a death spiral of crime and corruption. We regret this because we actually think, as sheriffs go, he’s doing a pretty good job… What we meant to say is: word has it that Sheriff Seager has a really small dick.”). However, my favorite piece was Steven Bartheleme and Pam Houston’s “In the Rain” from Swink’s “Damaged Darling” section. Here one author sends a story they enjoy but have been stuck on to another author to finish. This was my favorite part of Swink #1 and I’m happy to see it survived to issue #2. I can’t say that every piece here works, but there is plenty to make it worth you while. In Newpages’ review of Swink #1 a reviewer declared Swink to be one of the best literary magazine debuts in years. I’m pleased to report that Swink is still fulfilling that promise. [Swink, 244 Fifth Ave. #2722, New York, NY 10001. E-mail: Single issue $10.]  – Lincoln Michel

Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

June 2005
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December 2004
November 2004

Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed