The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Posted January 22, 2006


Volume 18

Fall/Winter 2005-6


In bookstores, the quirky and curious Carousel is filed under Literary or Visual Art. This international journal offers poems, cartoons, drawings, cartoon-like drawings, a few ads, mixed media, boobs, prose poems, a naked woman embracing a polar bear, charcoal watercolors, macabre big-faced drawings on graph paper, a list of phobias and more. The editors feel that Carousel's philosophies are "more directly in line with the expansive perspectives inherent in today’s global magazine culture." Oh. It is also a hard to categorize art-book featuring Canadian artists. The sole prose story, Renee Hartleib's "Cat and Mouse," introduces us to Brenda who asserts her independence by buying a house and moving away from her sheltering parents at the tender age of thirty. One day she returns home from work to find a drunken bum roosted on her porch, forcing her to confront him or call Daddy, "'It’s like a real job,' he says. '9 to 5, you know?'" Libby Hague's black and white charcoal water colors of animals are endearing; the pieces of man, as a boogeyman and clown, are outright creepy. The prose poem, "Still Life: Two Tourists at a Sidewalk Café" by Louisa Howerow exposes the artist's mind by questioning one frozen image. It could be about the woman who owns the café, or her sick husband or her son waiting on the lost tourist couple, "The story possibilities break off; everyone moves into action." Other pieces in Carousel have a similar feel: Mark Laliberte's "Drowning Cartoon" is an arm outstretched in ripples of water; Keith Jones's busy urban drawings suggest man's relationship with machines and his exploitation of his environment; Barbara Pelman's poem, "We Play Bridge," is a snapshot of a daughter observing her mother and the inevitable aging as they play cards. Carousel indeed. [Carousel, c/o UC 274, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1 Canada. E-mail: Single issue$9.] —R.T. Duffer



Issue 45



There is something sinister about children (a fact every Hollywood horror movie knows), with their made-up languages, their hidden play spots and their games of Hangman. The work in Conjunctions 45 makes good use of this, offering up a thick portion of eeriness in their “Secret Lives of Children” issue. Shelley Jackson starts the issue off with a dark and absurd vision of a hangman game, whose title is a line sketch of a scaffold. There are plenty of recognizable names here (Howard Norman, John Ashbery, Robert Creeley) and plenty of unknowns. Robert Creeley’s six-page poem “Caves” was my favorite piece, taking caves’ hiding spots as a motif: “So much of my childhood seems / to have been spent in rooms- / at least in memory, the shades / pulled down to make it darker.” Malinda Markham also offers up three excellent poems, “To Hunt in This Landscape” especially. The most delightful surprise, however, is a John Ashbery translation of a selection of Stéphane Mallarmé’s musings on English nursery rhymes. Mallarmé taught these thoughts alongside the nursery rhymes in his English classes, though his responses read much more like prose-poems than explanations of themes: “Everyone obeyed him, and when he said: ‘Quack! Quack!’ and nothing more, the ship began to move. Do you see it now, that beautiful ship? – Yes, Mother, in the land of fairy tales.” [Conjunctions, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504. E-mail: Single issue $15.]
Lincoln Michel



Volume 54 Number 3

2005 Series


Self-described as having a “shrewd eye for talent,” the editors at Epoch, Cornell University’s literary journal, have again published an exceptional issue. Largely filled with short stories, this issue includes characters that are ordinary and empathetic, complex and endearing—believable, if difficult to understand. There’s something immensely satisfying when I finish a story and feel as though the world created in just a few short pages is utterly real, an element of life I may not have experienced but find authentic in voice and tone. Each story here is crafted with the utmost care, and the endings are resolved without force or artifice. If I had to choose a standout story, I’d pick “The Surprising Weight of the Body’s Organs” by Douglas Trevor, whose understanding of suffering and the extraordinary lengths we will go to mitigate our pain is acute and startling. The protagonist, a wife and mother who has lost her only child to disease, now procures donor organs but hides from her flatulent husband in airport bars as she travels from surgery to surgery. When confronted with the weight of her husband’s desire to reconcile, she recognizes the futility: “There were these tremors of rage inside of here that consumed her. It was out of her control. There were organs she needed to move around the country and rage she felt at the awful puniness of her ever-precious cargo. That was it. There was no room inside her for anything else.” While fiction is the highlight of this issue, the three poems included here are meritorious equals to the quality writing throughout. Reading page after page of satisfying prose, I felt envious of the writers and this venue. If I were to write a short story, I’d feel fortunate to see it printed in these pages. [Epoch, 251 Goldwin Smith Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. 14853. Single issue $5.] —Jen Henderson


Lorraine and James

Volume 1 Issue 1



The auspicious debut issue of Lorraine and James compliments its diverse fiction with personal essays, some poetry, one interview and a contributor’s page that offers a brief explanation of the story’s inspiration and/or development. Mindful of reader and writer, this curiosity for story demonstrates Editor-in-Chief Jasai Madden’s intention to be a “conduit through which a writer from anywhere will be able to connect to readers everywhere.” There are folktales of love and satires on Hollywood, religious parables and an ode to a dullard, poems as honest and incisive as the personal essays that reveal more about people than the single subject. In “Sweet Potatoes and Coconut” by Pamela MacIsaac, a father must confront the upstairs neighbor’s idiot child who dropped a rock on his head. His daughter returns to her mother and the father must accept the life of a divorcee. Many of the pieces in Lorraine and James share the tireless theme of broken bonds. Debbie Ann Ice, in “Sculpting,” inverts that theme with her poignantly convincing first-person telling of a wife and mother who deals with her terminal non-Hotchkins lymphoma by preparing her husband and two sons for her death without telling them of the disease. There is a playfulness about Lorraine and James as well, represented best by Rick Castaneda’s quirky string of short-shorts, “Four Easy Pieces of Fiction.” The unrelated tales include a thief who sells rich peoples’ keepsakes to lonely people, a conjurer, a woman who chronically changes her personalized license plate, and a love story about a couple inspired by commercials, jingles, movies and songs, “The only trouble was the muzak, which our brains began to associate with sex.” The evocative poem “The Want Ads” reads like performance poetry, Britni Jackson’s voice leaping from the page to your ear. From the slums of a Nigerian motor park to the steps of a synagogue, “characters, neighborhoods and instances too often out of range” are represented in Lorraine and James. [Lorraine and James, 3727 W. Magnolia Blvd #406, Burbank, CA 91505. E-mail: Single
issue $12.] —R.T. Duffer


Me Three

Issue 2

Fall 2005

Me Three delivers prose in all its bountiful forms: fiction, personal essays, criticism, and even “unclassifiables.” An outgrowth of Me Three online, the print journal presents diverse writing by emerging authors and critics. It’s Me Three’s love of the unexpected in writing that drives the editorial aesthetic. Where else would you find a swipe at W. P. Kinsella’s baseball writing, a subversive cartoon manifesto, and a story told from the perspective of a baby bird? One of the highlights of the issue is “Of Of,” Ken Chen’s erudite and witty dissection of the word “of,” winner of the magazine’s 2005 Literary Criticism Contest. Tracing the use of “of” in poetry from Milton to Jorie Graham, Chen argues that “of” is the most overlooked word in literature and has risen above “like” or “as” as the metaphoric preposition of choice. Editor Sarah Stodola’s “The Sale of Overpriced Clothes” is a story of working in retail that rings true to the letter. Also of particular interest is the peculiar “Missed Connections You May Have Missed” attributed to John Drinkwater, which includes sharp-tongued observations like “I see you on the train every day. Sometimes when you see me you turn away and look out the window so you can think about what it would be like to be with me” or “You were reading the New York Post, but you don’t seem to have grown up in a white trash environment” or “You were in Wham! with George Michael. Not even you mom knows your name.” Me Three delivers the weird gems of fiction and criticism that you might have always been looking for but didn’t know where to find. [E-mail: Single issue $9.]
Dan Brady



Volume 49 Number 1

Fall/Winter 2005


Of the 49 contributors in this issue of Nimrod, 36 are finalists and semifinalists of its 27th annual award issue, which is based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Four are for the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction; 32 for the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. Numbers may not be the best introduction for their venerated prize issue, yet it suggests the bloom of the varied, evocative and penetrating contents: this is a journal to be slowly ingested and savored. Anything this rich with poetry would have plenty of elegies and homages to nature, but finalist Katherine Case’s “Autumn” conjures the redolence of death and fall on the page: “The air is rainwet / and skunky, as if we’re breathing in / the world of trees, inhaling their darkest insides, / where smoky, obsidian hearts sleep in slow / rhythm and ancient filaments curl / through woody darkness…” Place and time are transcended and shed, especially in “La Historia” by winner Patricia Caspers. Themes of love and parents, of sex and gods, abound throughout the journal, with too many memorable pieces to name, works that replay and remain long beyond the power of the eyes. All five fiction pieces are enduring first-person tellings, the top prize winners told from the opposite gender of the author: Thomas Gough’s winning story, “Idleness, Justice, Kingship and Love” introduces Louise, who has moved into her friend Simon’s vacated church two days before the ‘04 presidential election. “In fact, the end was past (she says, referring to her recent split with her husband), but we’re creatures of habit, and the habit of late winter is hope.” Jen Larsen’s narrator, in “What It Is You Know,” attends his estranged wife’s funeral under a pall of pity and disconnected memories that won’t answer why she left him. That unsettled feeling morphs into outright creepiness in “The Prince of Darkness,” where Janette Turner Hospital expertly understates the event that destroyed a family, letting the reader infer everything from the fallout. [Nimrod, The University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK 74104-3189. E-mail: Single issue $10.]
Rob Duffer


No: a journal of the arts

Issue 4



No is more than a literary magazine; it is a journal of the arts. That lofty subtitle is not just a marketing ploy. No really does bring the literary magazine to the level of art form. It is so well put together it succeeds as a discreet collection of poems and as a unified whole. Beautifully bound, this creative cornucopia is overflowing with the smartest, edgiest, and most provocative poetry. This issue heavily features Marjorie Welsh’s poetry and painting, including the book-length “From Dedicated To,” which acts as a kind of book-within-a-journal in this case. The journal also features new poems from the likes of Mary Jo Bang, Charles Bernstein, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Peter Gizzi, Barbara Guest, Ann Lauterbach, Cole Swenson, and the late Robert Creeley—quite a selection from various of the more associative-based, language driven schools of the past half-century. Also worth mentioning are Keith Waldrop’s translations of Charles Baudelaire. He writes in “Beauty”: “Poets, before my high postures that seem to lift from the proudest / monuments, will spend their days in austere study // since, to fascinate such tractable lovers, I’ve pure mirrors that make / everything more beautiful…” No performs the same function as Beauty in Baudelaire’s poem: to exponentially magnify and reflect the beauty that is the fascination and subject of the poets it presents. [No: a journal of the arts, 39 West 29th Street, 11A, New York, NY 10001. E-mail: Single issue $12.]
Dan Brady



Number 1


Annual has taken its “literary humor for the deliriously captivated” into the print world. No.1, with an Eggersly subtitle, “A Whopping Collection of Fanatical Literary Brilliance,” retains the clever wit and sly characterizations of its daddy on-line journal, including estimated reading times. It could best be categorized by a random sampling of the titles: It is What Fiction, I Gave an Apple to my Teacher, Suicide Note, Modern Communication Techniques in Des Moines, New Doritos Flavors with a Limited Future and, of course, You Are Strange. Humor abounds in editor Todd Zuniga’s 250+page journal of stories, drawings, poems and axiomatic page dividers, like the one reminding you to call your mother. In “Fortune,” by David Barringer, a husband and wife discover a ‘misfortune’ in their Chinese cookie, supplant it with their own comic list, then get food poisoning and the awareness that “the planets of our children have eclipsed our love life.” “Insomnia for a Better Tomorrow” by Tao Lin begins with the petty disagreements of a doomed couple, which is funny, until Brian devolves into a hapless, feckless bundle of atoms held together by the muck of depression. There are memoirs that read like science-fiction, angry adolescent recollections that move at a horror movie pace, like “The Four Angries” by David Fromm. “The Night Salesman” by Nick Antosca is received by a drunken misfit who would attack the 2 a.m. salesman if he weren’t so drunk. One of Darby Hudson’s enjoyable drawings, “Tunnel,” explains: “confused man attempts to fuck a tunnel before being hit by an oncoming train.” Zuniga’s interview with novelist Amanda Filipacci demonstrates a dedication and passion for storytelling that pulses throughout the pages of Opium, where humble pathos underlies manic ethos, and non-sequitors get tangled in string theory. [E-mail: Single issue $10.] —Rob Duffer


The Paris Review

Volume 47 Number 174

Summer 2005


In its 1953 inaugural issue, William Styron, best known for his novel Sophie’s Choice, wrote, “I think The Paris Review should welcome these people into its pages: the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe-grinders. So long as they're good.” And they are good. This issue finds Liao Yiwu a seeming star, as both interviewer and subject, covering an alarming 35 pages, or about 18% of the issue’s 192 pages. Yiwu’s pieces range from encounters with a professional mourner, an independent public toilet manager, and a human trafficker, with China serving as each interviews’ backdrop. Yiwu’s contender is Damon Galgut’s short story “The Follower,” at 44 pages (24%)—“Look for what. For maps with more detail.” Whether The Paris Review is playing favorites or just showcasing the talent they’re exposed to—both rightly, I might add—is unclear. What is clear, however, is the quality of writing between covers, the alarming variety, and its authors’ attentiveness to those aspects of ourselves which make us most human. Philip Gourevitch, author of 1999’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, took over the role as editor of The Paris Review, after one of the founders and premier editor George Plimpton’s death in 2003, and Brigid Hughes’s brief one-year editorial stint in 2004. Other notable features are an interview with Salmun Rushdie, a photo essay describing 1994 cease-fire Belfast, a fistful of poems by Dan Chiasson, and a curio wherein some of Elizabeth Bishop’s early and unpublished poems are placed en face of her original notebook entries. It isn’t too often that I pick up a relatively mainstream journal and am instantly and repeatedly attracted to it. This is one of those times. [The Paris Review, 62 White Street, New York, NY 10013. E-mail: Single issue $12.] Erin M. Bertram


POOL: a journal of poetry

Volume 4



“For genius, at least where poetry is concerned, consists precisely in being faithful to freedom,” Dean Young quotes from surrealist poet Yves Bonnefoy in the latest issue of POOL. Although this quote comes from Amy Newlove Schroeder’s interview with Young in the back pages of POOL, it might as well be the magazine’s credo. From the Natasha Sajé’s prose poem “B” to Jeff Chang’s “Things to Forget”—“Under the skin is another layer. / We call this baby skin. // Under a baby’s skin, / snowflakes.” – POOL is an experience of the freedom and diversity of poetry. Published annually out of Los Angeles, editors Patty Seyburn and Judith Taylor provide a cross-section of contemporary American poetry. With poems that are surprising and at the center of the zeitgeist, POOL reads like a snapshot of the best of poetry’s goings-on. Cate Marvin’s ode to the power of Nyquil is both funny and unsettling and Cathleen Calbert’s “Fox Wife” is sexy and haunting: “Fox trickery? / You mean grapes / and what appears / to be a pool of water? / The way the wind calls / your wife’s name? / What of your gods? / You think they don’t / litter the sky / with riddles?” Albert Goldbarth writes in his “Stepper,” “Every day… / the dust of Asia Minor caking in one’s hair. / All night, for 1700 miles of nights… the cold slopes / of the Hindu Kush against one’s cheek, / until the flesh takes on the feel of rock. Some / never returned as themselves. This / is evidently what needs to be done / if you’re going to conquer the world.” While POOL may not be climbing Hindu Kush, they seem to be on the right path for conquering the world—the poetry world, at least. [POOL, P.O. Box 49738, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Single issue $10. ]
Dan Brady



Number 25



“I can sometimes almost read the inscriptions on brick walls, in doorways, between/ the wing blades of pigeons.” So writes Yvonne C. Murphy, in her poem “Avenue of the Strongest.” Slipstream No. 25, a journal, as always, consisting solely of poetry, is rife with equal allusions to both the body and to the written word, both in crude and refined forms. At first this seems a strange set of motifs to underline a journal. But a second look finds body and text not altogether removed, and, in fact, a relatively popular contemporary discussion. See Jeanette Winterson’s novel Written on the Body, see post-modernism/post-structuralism, see Ani Difranco’s song “Both Hands.” While I wasn’t entirely impressed by this issue, I can’t say I was entirely unimpressed either. But so is the case when multiple authors’ work colludes to form the sort of miniature anthology that is a journal. Stephen A. Polermo’s poem “Conjoined” treats a dominant, fetal twin who consumed his twin brother in utero, as a hero, for foreseeing his brother’s malady and malformations before birth and doing something about it to avoid his brother’s suffering. This is, of course, an uncomfortable thought, but one that, at the same time, offers a sort of harrowing benediction. Ran Webber’s contemporary, disturbing, and reflective sketches adorn a few of Slipstream’s pages, offering readers a reprieve from the weighty subject matter of the issue’s poems, if not thematically, then in terms of senses most used when experiencing said artwork. Slipstream No. 25 takes risks, and while sometimes these risks are a little much, I applaud the journal for succeeding on more than one occasion. [Slipstream, P.O. Box 2071, Dept. W-1, Niagara Falls, NY 14301. Single issue $7.] Erin M. Bertram


Western Humanities Review

Volume 59 Number 2

Fall 2005


When a journal has the term “Review” in the title, chances are what you’ll find inside tends more toward the academic than the artistic, because they usually hail from a university setting. While I can’t speak of Western Humanities Review on the whole, since Fall 2005 is my introductory issue to WHR, this edition braids academic and artistic sensibilities nicely—especially in certain pieces, not so especially in others. This is less than surprising for a journal, since, while they may center around a general theme, journals, by loose definition, are collections of various people’s work, garnering a relatively eclectic mix, which they should. Western Humanities Review fits this definition like a glove. There is a strong focus in this issue on inter-genre literature. Essays about a novel-pairing, one by Gertrude Stein with another by Christine Brooke-Rose; poems inspired by and for Arnold Shoenberg, Fritz Lang, Anna Akhmatova, and Hart Crane; a short story written in the air of, though not exactly about, film noir. Each of these works points tastefully toward their inspiration, without leaning too much on that work of art, or that artist, for balance. And in the midst, a poem by Nick Norwood entitled “Fellatio: An Ode,” reminiscent of Charles Jensen’s poem “Upon Discovering The Actual Meaning Of Penisbreath,” and not because both poems refer to the same geographical region, but because they take risky material and present it in such a way that allows the poem to be taken seriously as itself. This issue of Western Humanities Review offers readers just that—serious literature that doesn’t take itself too seriously, or does so just enough to remain accessible. [Western Humanities Review, University of Utah English Department, 255 S. Central Campus Drive, Room 3500, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-10494. E-mail: Single issue $12.] Erin M. Bertram

Reviewers - Contributors Notes

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Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed