The NewPages
Literary Magazine Reviews

Edited by Denise Hill

Posted May 17, 2006

A Public Space

Number 1

Spring 2006

Quarterly

The debut issue of A Public Space is probably one of the most highly anticipated magazines in recent history. Brigid Hughes, the former editor of the Paris Review, tops the masthead and the contributors include literary heavyweights like Rick Moody, Kelly Link, Charles D’Ambrosio, recent Pulitzer winner Marilynne Robinson, and John Haskell—not to mention a rare interview with Haruki Murakami, a Japanese author who enjoys a cult-like following. And A Public Space does not disappoint. In addition to fabulous production quality and compelling selections of prose and poetry, the magazine offers several unique features: If You See Something, Say Something, a forum comprised of four short essays, the topics ranging from James Frey to Tutsi women, and a special focus on Japanese writers. The poetry is wonderfully eclectic, while John Haskell’s inventive and essayistic “Galileo” is a standout in fiction: “Brecht started writing The Life of Galileo during the rise of Fascism, but it refers, at least partly, to any ideology that tells people what they can and cannot be. Brecht had seen enough injustice to know there was something to protest against, but the question was how. He was a writer, and as far as he could see his writing—what he saw as telling the truth—was protest enough.” A Public Space can be seen as a kind of protest, against bland and unimaginative publications that are content to look at contemporary literature through a single narrow lens. This magazine is admirably working with a large and multifaceted landscape, and all the pieces come together to create a dazzling whole. [A Public Space, 323 Dean Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11217. Single issue $12. www.apublicspace.org] — Laura van den Berg

 

The Cincinnati Review

Volume 2 Number 2

Winter 2005

Biannual

The Cincinnati Review is quite possibly one of the most gorgeous journals I’ve ever opened—with lovely cover art by Lynda Lowe, who has a color portfolio inside the magazine. Even though The Cincinnati Review has only been in print since 2003, it has all the trappings of a long-established publication: exemplary production quality, prominent contributors like Antonya Nelson and Billy Collins, and a selection of consistently engaging and evocative work. The fiction demonstrates a predilection for confident, direct narratives and quirky sensibilities. Antonya Nelson’s “Heart-Shaped Rock” meets her usual standards, and definite standouts include Tao Lin’s “Three-Day Cruise” and Kevin Wilson’s “Grand Stand-In,” with its sharp and funny opening: “The key to this job is to always remember that you aren’t replacing anyone’s grandmother. You aren’t trying to be a better grandmother than the first one. For all intents and purposes, you are the grandmother and always have been. And if you can persuade yourself of this, can provide this level of grandmotherliness with each family, every time, then you can make a good career.” This edition also includes a great selection of book reviews, including three pieces on Saul Bellow. Definitely pick up this issue of The Cincinnati Review—it solidifies the magazine’s reputation as one of the strongest new publications available. [The Cincinnati Review, University of Cincinnati, Department of English and Comparative Literature, McMicken Hall, Room 369, P.O. Box 210069, Cincinnati, OH, 45221. Single issue $9. www.cincinnatireview.com] — Laura van den Berg

 

Fence

Volume 9 Number 1

Winter/Spring 2006

Biannual

After creating controversy with the (some say) pornographic cover of their summer issue, Fence is back with a fine selection of fiction, poetry, and art. Everything about the magazine radiates “coolness,” from the idiosyncratic (and slightly creepy) art of John Lurie, to the experimental poetry, and quirky fiction. Commendably, Fence provides a forum for experimentation and the results are often engaging. There’s particularly wonderful poetry from Corey Mead, Sarah Rosenthal, and Erika Howsare, while Diane Greco’s “Alberto, A Case History,” which won the Summer Literary Seminar contest, is a standout in fiction: “I opened the door to find a boy slumped on the step. A grimy elbow poked through a hole in his sleeve, and a swag of dull yellow hair cascaded to his nose, which was tipped with a café-au-lait stain shaped like Australia. His mother, or someone, had pinned a note to his lapel: Alberto has been taken by the devil.” There is, however, a bit of unevenness in this issue; some of the work seems to go awry with its inventiveness, as the line between innovation and gimmickry is sometimes thin and examinations of contemporary existential quandaries often lose appeal quickly. Still, any issue of Fence is interesting enough to make it worth reading and this one is no exception. The magazine continues its commitment to original, edgy work—not to mention brilliant production design and presentation. And the recommended reading lists in the contributor’s notes, with enough new titles to fill a small library, provides a nice bonus at the end of an electrifying ride. [Fence, 303 E. 8th St., # B1, New York, NY, 10009. Single issue $10. www.fencemag.com] —Laura van den Berg

 

International Poetry Review

Volume 31 Number 1

Spring 2005

Biannual

Not to be confused with Poetry International out of San Diego State, The International Poetry Review is published by the Department of Romance Languages at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This perfect-bound journal includes 100 pages of poems and a few reviews. Roughly half of the journal features poems in translation, showing the poem in the original language and the English translation; the other half features poems written in English with international subject matter. Some of the translated poems seem, indeed, to lose something in the move from their original language to English, where they often seem choppy, amateurish. Not all, however; Luis Alberto Ambroggio’s poem, translated by Yvette Neisser, “The Altar of Mirrors,” is quite lovely: “The pirates knew / how to guard their captives; / among mirrors and mirrors / they kept them…” Among the poems written in English, Susan Rich’s long sectioned poem, “Iska’s Story” is moving and lyrical, and Jay Groswold’s “Clandestine Music” is a surreal adventure. [International Poetry Review, Department of Romance Languages, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170. Single issue $5. www.uncg.edu/llc/intl_poetry_review/ipr.html/IPR.htm] —Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Land-Grant College Review

Issue Number 3

2005

Biannual

Land-Grant College Review, a beautifully produced magazine from New York City, offers a spectrum of strangeness. The realities of the ten stories in this issue are all somewhat skewed and couldn’t be classified as straightforward realism, but there’s considerable variation within this framework, which is one of the qualities that makes the magazine so consistently interesting—the different shades of weirdness. A journal full of stories like Kenneth Bernard’s heavily annotated “On The Pill,” or Diane William’s abstract short-short, “Please Let Me Out Again of the Small Plugged Hole,” might read as impenetrable or pretentious, but the boldly experimental works are nicely balanced by stories with a more subtle oddness, like Mary Swan’s “Outlier,” the tale of a struggling single mother unusually impacted by the death of a man she barely knows: “They seem to have been driving for a long time but there are store signs that say Sycamore Cleaners, Subs on Sycamore, and she wonders if they’ve looped back somehow. Outside Sycamore Variety there’s a phone booth with someone inside, just a glimpse as they speed by. For some reason she finds herself thinking about Sam’s book report, the questions he had so much trouble with. At what point do you realize that you’re reading a different type of story? At what point does everything change?” It doesn’t take a reader of Land-Grant College Review long to figure out they’re reading a “different type of story,” and the fiction feels wonderfully innovative and fresh. The art by Marilyn Holsing, which graces the cover and the title page of each story, is also worth mentioning—darkly peculiar and graceful images that perfectly complement the work in this issue. [Land-Grant College Review, P.O. Box 1164, New York, NY, 10159-1164. Single issue $12. www.land-grantcollegereview.com] —Laura van den Berg

 

The Missouri Review

Volume 28 Number 3

Winter 2005

Triannual

I know that The Missouri Review changed its look and feel some time ago, so this may be old news to some of you—but The Missouri Review is bigger, more graphic, and strangely personality centered—large bios appear next to the work, complete with author photos, each on its own page—and beginning pages of stories start with shouting, inch-high fonts. The overall effect a little distracting, making me feel I was reading some kind of souped-up “mega” literary magazine. This issue features an interview with A.M. Homes, a pictorial review of Leon Bakst’s costumes for the Russian ballet, and poems by R.T. Smith. My favorite poems were those of Lynn Aarti Changhok, whose formal poems about her childhood in India and her subsequent life in New York ache with nostalgia. in “Artemesia” she writes: “In the dream, I walked up narrow streets / Where butchers string up carcasses, but each / Dead body was a year I’d been away, / Their angry, hollowed stares accusing me: / You have no claim. You are no daughter here.” The journal still retains the charming literary cartoons and a small section of reviews at the back. The trendy formatting of the magazine aside, the content is as old-fashioned and solid as always—nothing to challenge the old guard, certainly not adventurous, but enjoyable poetry and prose. [The Missouri Review, 1507 Hillcrest Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia MO 65211. Single issue $7.95. www.missourireview.com] —Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Pleiades

Volume 26 Number 1

Spring 2006

Biannual

This issue of Pleiades, with its cover depicting George Washington with his scalp on fire, contains a generous review section (nearly half the issue’s pages are devoted to reviews) and a few features, including multiple poems by Kevin Honold and Jap Hopler, with introductions by Cate Marvin and Louise Gluck, respectively. Kevin Honold had a long sectioned poem about the Iraq war, quite topical and all that, but my favorite of his was the brilliant “The Groves of Baal,” meant to echo the Biblical language of the book of Lamentations with an odd, colloquial voice chiming in the background:

Remember the weird stories in Scripture?
     Yeah. The sea monsters, even.
     Even they nursed their young.
And the evil daughters,
become cruel as ostriches in the wilderness?
     Yeah. I was on ostrich.

The reviews section covers everyone from Ted Kooser to Dana Levin to Kent Johnson’s latest chapbook, from Yale Younger poet Richard Siken to Brigit Pegeen Kelly, each review examining the book with enough detail and energy to actually help the reader decide whether or not they might enjoy each book. I always enjoy this journal, and continue to recommend it for its intelligent work with a leaning towards the surreal. [Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing, Department of English, Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, MO 64093. Single issue $5. www.cmsu.edu/englphil/pleiades/ ] —Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Rhino

2006

Annual

This year’s bright pink issue of Rhino features, as usual, mostly poetry, with a satisfying section of poetry chapbook and book reviews in the back called “Rhino Reads.” This issue also features a section of poetry in translation. The poetry in Rhino typically flirts with experimentation, drawing in the reader by a thread of emotional energy, lyric power and sometimes, offbeat humor. There is a strangeness to the content, an unfamiliar subject or approach or a dream-like haze of recounting. Here’s a sample bit from Priscilla Atkins’ prose poem, “I was Telling You About Love”: “…She craved boundaries, ledger lines, a fur coat. She got so she counted clouds and would only eat alone, sitting on the stairs facing south. And, at that, strictly pieces of dry toast cut in squares, while her family stood outside the back door growing gills in the rain.” Kristy Bowen and Rebecca Loudon have standout pieces, not to be missed. Multiple poems in this issue reference science, questions of the cosmos, and mathematics, including Janet Norman Knox’s “Gravity Dog,” Diane Furney’s “Lithium, Chromium,” and Maureen Alsop’s “Finding the Best Mathematician.” This magazine continues to be a source of pleasurable reading, crowded as it is with its offbeat, lyrical voices. [Rhino, PO Box 591, Evanston, Illinois 60204. Single issue $10. www.rhinopoetry.org] —Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

the strange fruit

Volume 1 Issue 2

December 2005

Biannual

This new upstart journal from my hometown of Seattle has already garnered national attention and deservedly so. Newcomers crowd the pages next to the occasional more well-known names like Lyn Lifshin and Joshua Marie Wilkinson, and the mix of poetry and prose, with interspersed black-and-white art work, is intense and surprising. Consider these lines from Elise Gregory’s poem, “Hummingbirds”: “Open-mouthed I caught / a ruby-throated bird. // She mistook my face / for flowers, knocking / my tonsils out of place…” In a photograph by William Flitter, a man in a plaid shirt wheels a giant wooden cross through a hipster neighborhood; in another, an unattached prosthetic leg wears ankle socks and heels. A moving story about a child and his mother, “Behind the Candy Factory,” is disturbing and sharp. Check out this slim, perfect-bound little journal while you can still say you heard of it first. [the strange fruit, 300 Lenora Street, #250, Seattle, WA 98121. Single issue $6. www.thestrangefruit.com/] —Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Witness

Volume 14

2005

Biannual

This issue of Witness focuses on “childhood in America,” a theme richly explored in an impressive selection of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and photography. Much of the work concentrates on transformative moments in childhood—first experiences with death, desire, and discovering the limitations of adult figures—and sketching American landscapes: Maxine Kumin’s Philadelphia corset shop, Lawrence Raab’s nature camp, and the agonizingly familiar territory of high school. Rocky adolescence is a popular angle in this issue, and Cortney Davis’s short story, “Products of Conception,” provides a captivating exploration of the secret lives of teenagers: “Miranda’s mother was never married, so Miranda was an out-of-wedlock baby. I used to tease her a lot about it—at least I had a father, I’d say—but I stopped teasing her last year when I found out I was pregnant.” The stories of Richard Hoffman and Bob Hicok are also highlights, as is Dionisio D. Martinez’s poem “Cradle Song”: “Because your name is a wafer of questions swallowed whole / and your words begin to thaw one slow spring afternoon. / Because small silences gather now like necessary smoke / and you hide very carefully your sealed box of memories / and your words begin to thaw one slow spring afternoon.” An artistic kaleidoscope that captures the gritty and wondrous nature of youth in America. [Witness, Oakland Community College, Orchard Ridge Campus, 27055 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills, MI, 48334. Single issue $12. www.oaklandcc.edu/witness] – Laura van den Berg

 

ZYZZYVA

Volume 21 Number 3

Winter 2005

Triannual

The seventy-fifth issue of the all-West-Coast-all-the-time-journal ZYZZYVA begins with multi-page editor’s note discussing the careers of writers ZYZZYVA published for the first time, a very interesting follow-up attempt that illustrates more concern for new writers than most lit mag editors display. The art work, as always, was fascinating – especially impressive were the botanical etchings by Sarah Horowitz and the photoetchings of interior spaces by Lisa Rigge. Lots more pages of prose than poetry, as is usual for ZYZZYVA; my favorite piece was Theresa Sotto’s “Excerpts,” which juxtaposed political prose from 1904 with lyric poetry fragments describing the same time period: “:now that the fairs are over / we’re nostalgic over postcards… / trench coats tossed over loin cloths / bowler hats teetering / on the back: we’re splendid / sights we wish you were / here.” Besides the bits of cover letters usually displayed on the back cover, there is also a section called “Pitches to the Editor,” which includes various bits from cover letters to ZYZZYVA, categorized by Merit, Geography, Timing, and Content. [ZYZZYVA, P.O. Box 590069, San Francisco, CA, 94159-0069. Single issue $11. www.zyzzyva.org/index.htm.] – Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

Posted May 1, 2006

Ascent

Volume 29 Number 3

Spring 2005

Triannual

If you have ever wondered why so many high school students graduate with an indifference to literature; if you have ever considered the impact of war literature on young people whose heroes are largely provided by electronic media; if you have pondered the best words for the dying and what it means to be profoundly changed by a relative stranger, then, by all means, find a quiet corner and put yourself in the good company of this issue’s authorial minds. There is plenty of fiction and poetry here, but it is the non-fiction that shines with powerful, elegant prose. Thomas Washington’s thoughtful, cheeky essay chronicles his salmon-upstream attempt, as a high school librarian, to promote a campus-wide reading period (p.s. the resistance wasn’t from the students). College teacher Gail Hosking Gilberg, whose father died in Vietnam, has high hopes—and an existential weep—for students challenged by Tim O’Brien’s magical-grit war fiction. Jim Dameron contemplates both the words and the silence of death, while Richard Goodman’s volunteer service as a companion for an elderly woman foments an inner revolution of sorts. All are gutsy and weighty with, to take a phrase from Dameron, “a nod toward tenderness.” [Ascent, Department of English, Concordia College, 901 8th St. S., Moorhead, MN 56562. Single issue $5. www.cord.edu/dept/english/ascent/index.php] – Lisa K. Buchanan

 

Backwards City Review

Volume 2 Number 1

Winter 2006

Biannual

Part comic book, part ironic guidebook for today’s troubled yet repeatedly humorous world, the winter edition of Backwards City Review reveals the more playful side of the more reflective, more meditative literary journal; and yes, this is possible. While its contents won’t dazzle your minister—unless, of course, he’s not put off by a hearty double helping of sarcasm—this issue offers roughly 100 pages of quirky, if, at times, campy, quality writing, complete with a giant, purple, city-crushing, donut-eating robot on its cover. All the world an oddity. Let’s just say you know what you’re in for when you see the cover and your interest continues its meandering inside. Andrew Kozma’s en face poetic duet “Of The Civil Principality” and “Of Cruelty and Mercy_1_, and Whether It Is Better to Be Loved Than Feared, or The Contrary,” both inspired by Machiavelli’s classic manifesto The Prince, and J.G. Brister’s prose-poem-meets-extreme-fiction piece, “If You’re Reading This, I’m Dead,” are seeming misfits. They’re less jesting in nature, and stand out against an otherwise blithe and facetious collection of work, suggesting toward, and likewise foiling, Backward City Review’s implied personality as a journal. Which is not to say Backwards City Review doesn’t offer readers a good read. What it does offer is a different kind of read, one reminiscent of, say, Breakfast of Champions, or the more obscure, and less violent, moments in Pulp Fiction. Perhaps, however, the foils are not meant to steal the show. Martin Arnold’s poem, “Unhappy Is The Land That needs Heroes,” and C.L. Bledsoe’s poem ,“Types of Fish I Don’t Like,” provide a more accurate view of the issue’s mentality and approach, what some might call the lighter side of literature. But, really, Backwards City Review merely knows how to laugh, a skill, for literary journals, worth at least trying, if not trying to master. [Backwards City Review, P.O. Box 41317, Greensboro, NC 27404-1317. Single issue $7. www.backwardscity.net.]
Erin M. Bertram

 

Ballyhoo Stories

Volume 1 Number 2

Fall 2005

The second issue of Ballyhoo (meaning extravagant publicity—from the American, of course) brings together writers at all levels of their careers on the theme of “Songs and Cacophony.” The 8.5 x 11 black and white journal frames each story with a prominent black or white border. On the third anniversary of his mother’s death, Andrew Bomback’s narrator prank calls his ex to misquote the Beatles’ “I Will.” It once made the ex cum; now she hangs up. Bomback and his narrator avoid the maudlin clichés of unabated grief with sincerity and song. In Kyla Wetherell’s debut print story, “The Organ,” a grandfather needs a few more moments with his organ while his granddaughter waits impatiently. “The music unpacks every box. The exchange of octaves restores every item she had carefully, but for the most part thoughtlessly, sorted and stowed for the auctioneer…” Soundtracks of lives play out in Seattle, where a man encounters a street choir in “The One Note Choir” by Paul Michel. The choir sings the same note every day until one singer remains; Josh is unable to convince anyone of the choirs’ genuine intentions—for the sake of that note. Other tracks on this Ballyhoo album include: a performance by “The Greatest Hero Ever” (from Captain Kangaroo) in a high school auditorium is ruined by a glimpse of underpants; a road trip to a young couple’s musical idol, now decrepit and housebound, leaves them all drunk in Bill Cheng’s “Buffalo”; a lounge pianist wearies of the ex-pat life, one of chosen loneliness, in “Belly Dancing”; songs are as distinctive as the regionism in Emily Moore’s interesting travelogue of post EU, pre-ratified Europe. With its global audience and range of voices, Ballyhoo adds a distinct voice. [Ballyhoo Stories, 18 Willoughby Avenue #3, Brooklyn, New York 11205. Single issue $8. www.ballyhoostories.com] — RT Duffer

 

The Canary

Issue 5

2006

I’ll admit it, at first I was intimidated. It was the periwinkle of the front and back covers that mollified my disease. Thing is, my hands aren’t familiar with the heft of a 125 page journal, especially one comprised entirely of poetry, especially one comprised mainly of long poems. On first flip-through they felled me, hard. A substantial journal dedicated entirely to poetry is a sad rarity these days. The Canary is a necessary and matchless one. First Brenda Shaugnessy’s “One Love Story, Eight Takes.” Then Andrew Mister’s “Liner Notes.” Then Alice Notley’s “Logic.” Then Carrie St. George Comer’s “Winnemucca.” Then Raymond McDaniel’s “X  Y  Z.” 1) “Because nothing is truly forgotten and loved.” 2) “People on the street will / tell you things if you stop and listen. I don’t have any money.” 3) ‘‘Please tell me something / with which I’m familiar. / isn’t there another part of now.” 4) “They say it’s a hard exhale, a power sigh, / an extreme haaa, but nothing close to laughing, / the rare opposite of a cough and impossible to capture, / appearing as dust on the lens.” And 5) “My tongue’s getting all funny but speak me those words you said. / ooo  vay  dublavay  eeeks  egreeks  zed.” (The) Canary (n): 1. a small, yellow songbird of the finch family long bred as a cage bird; 2. a sweet white wine; 3. a light yellow; 4. an exceptional journal of various and, at times, progressive quality, often consisting of lengthier poems and generally pleasing its reader with its solid footing and candor. Get your hands on this bird. It's not going anywhere, and going so much further. [The Canary, 512 Clear Lake Road, Kemah, TX 77565. Single issue $10. www.thecanary.org] — Erin M. Bertram

 

Cimarron Review

Issue 154

Winter 2006

Quarterly

You could sit down and read this issue 100-page issue of the Cimarron Review in a single afternoon, but I wouldn't advise it. The contents of this handsome, deceptively thin journal demand a few long, thought-collecting breaks. The poems and stories here are all packed to bursting with emotion—big, messy, often ugly emotion. Some examples of what I mean by messy: the mother in Susan C. Greenfield's short story, "Binoculars," is not only jealous of her teenage daughter's beauty and budding sexuality, not only protective of that same daughter in the face of a creepy voyeuristic neighbor, she also (and here the mess begins) spies on her daughter herself; in Theodore Worozbyt's poem, "Beautiful Things," the mess is more delicate, but just as complex, composed, as it is, of lettuce seeds, nasturtium petals, old poems, potatoes, a stranger named Gretchen, a beloved wife, cocoa flavored cereal, and the poet's own "hold on dimming things." Much of the work in this issue has a casual, almost conversational tone, and some of it approaches laugh-out-loud funny, in particular Scott Miles' story, "When You're the Mailman," and Charles Haverty's story, "Continuo," both of which are laced with humorous toss-offs that add necessary charm to morally confused first-person narrators. But what most struck me about this issue was the sense of an unwavering editorial presence. Not only are all of the pieces here emotionally powerful, they are powerful in notably unsubtle (raw, rough around the edges) ways. Clearly the editors at Cimarron Review are attracted to depth of feeling over stylistic polish. And although this preference lends itself to the occasional awkward turn of phrase or slightly blocky plot construction, these shortcomings don't matter much in the end, as every word in these pages is sincerely felt, sincerely delivered. [Cimarron Review, 205 Morrill Hall, Oklahoma State University, Stilwater, OK 74078-4069. Single issue $7. http://cimarronreview.com] — Kim Drain

 

Circumference

Poetry in Translation

Issue 4

Autumn/Winter 2005/2006

Biannual

What gets translated? is more of a koan than a question. After all, where does meaning hide if not in words themselves? And what happens to meaning when words are transformed into another language? Something remains—but what, exactly? These are the kinds of questions that this small but important journal sets out to explore. How one reads Circumference depends largely on one's language base. I read English, of course, and (rather badly but with much enthusiasm) French, so the French-English spreads of this journal (which is formatted like a dual-language book) were most interesting to me. I stumped my way much more awkwardly through the other Romance languages, and those poems in Chinese, Hebrew, Greek, and Russian were, to my uncomprehending eyes, more or less decorative blocks of text. Yet it's in reading through—or at least looking at—the many languages gathered between these covers that you taste the real rewards of this journal, because in doing so, you begin to track your own mind as it works to fix meaning even in those languages you can't possibly begin to read, and you can almost feel the different densities of language as they filter through your consciousness. As far as the translations themselves go, some are inspired, others flat. Personal favorites include Ilya Bernstein's gusty translations of three poems by Osip Mandelstam—but there is much to choose from. The journal departs from its standard format of poem-translation in two sections. One of these is the lighthearted "Homophonic Feature" in which more than a dozen writers (including Rick Moody and Billy Collins) attempt to "translate" a Flemish poem by Herman de Coninck by grappling with the implications of its sound-character alone. The other section is a translation of random notes, private jottings, and mostly inconsequential musings by Celan, which, though rather fetishistic in its academic attention to errata, does contain a few illuminating thought-bits, such as "the poem has . . . an anti-metaphorical character . . . What separates you from it, you cannot bridge; you have to decide to leap." [Circumference, P.O. Box 27, New York, NY 10159-0027. Single issue $10. www.circumferencemag.com] — Kim Drain

 

The Greensboro Review

Number 78

Fall 2005

Quarterly

Aching for a good, solid story? This issue has four outstanding ones. The voices are resonant, triumphantly free of cell phone repartee and brand-name shorthand. Treat yourself to a giggling weep at the fragile humanity in a story by Michael Poore: ”You can tell Marie’s brother has problems, like his mind is inside out. He can’t remember his name the way most people can, so you have to call him by whatever he last did worth mentioning....Came Upstairs can remember stories word-for-word.....” Fictions by Lyn Stevens, Kevin Wilson and Sean Ennis (on a father’s holiday gifts: “It was a strange, vomiting kind of charity.”) have first-person narrators who will follow you home. The style is realist; the irony, refined and gentle. Stevens’ deceptively direct narration questions nothing less than the nature of mammalian love and survival. Poore, Wilson and Ennis are particularly adept at drawing eccentric characters that steer clear from wacky and cute. The issue features work by 16 poets as well. More than half of the authors and works are in or of The South, but the most overt address is Natasha Trethewey’s poem, “Southern History”: “Before the war they were happy, he said, / quoting our textbook. (This was senior-year / history class.) The slaves were clothed, fed, / and better-off under a master’s care.” [The Greensboro Review, English Dept., 134 McIver Building, UNCG, PO Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170. Single issue $5. www.greensbororeview.com] – Lisa K. Buchanan

 

Mizna

Prose Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America

Volume 7 Issue 1

2005

Biannual

Mizna, “the country’s first Arab American lit journal,” includes poems, cartoons, fiction, non-fiction, a play and art work. You don’t have to be Arab American to submit or to read. Several of the entries link the revered cuisine of Arab culture to its current global eminence; this tension, of a proud culture in the midst of change, permeates the journal. “I just wanted to save my face / But ended up making an ass of myself / With my checkered cloth and mistaken identity,” Rosina Hassoun writes at the end of “Accidental Hijacking.” Two brothers travel with their father to his homeland in Syria in “American Muezzin” by Jason Makansi. His vaulted image is doubted by his eldest son, while the youngest observes this disparity between tradition and the American in he and his brother, who are “trying to understand the greatest human conundrum of them all, our father.” Remember Ohio? Yussef El Guindi’s drunken narrator awaits the results of the last election with his wife and another couple. Funny and perfectly timed, this allegory captures the mood of a country through one man’s sodden but sharp perception that things are not what they seem, “I experience a momentary jolt at the realization of something I had never considered, and look away…” In Bushra Rehman’s “Pioneer Spirit,” narrator Razia portrays the pre-witch trial Puritans at a living history museum. Her inaccurate but fun tour to a staid old white couple and a group of Harley bikers, who remind her of her Muslim uncles in Queens, represent the kind of image-consciousness, both misunderstood and misrepresented, that permeates Mizna. It works best, as in the pieces mentioned above, when the characters are dealing with relationships instead of issues. [Mizna, 2205 California Street NE, Suite 109A, Minneapolis, MN 55418. Single issue $10. www.mizna.org] — RT Duffer

 

New England Review

Volume 27 Number 1

Winter 2006

Quarterly

Reminiscent of The Paris Review or, to a lesser extent, Western Humanities Review or The New Yorker, New England Review asserts itself as a dense academic journal that takes itself as seriously as academia tends to take itself. And that’s pretty serious. The journal’s subscription tear-out reads, assuredly, “Look to NER for the challenges your taste requires.” After a billboard like that, false advertising is pretty much out of the question. On first glance, New England Review is an elitist journal with refined and discerning tastes, anything but bus ride fodder or dentist office reading material. Refined and discerning aren’t necessarily negative attributes, only when that’s all a subject has to offer, and for New England Review, that’s not all. The journal’s also got poems by Bob Hicok: “The bottom of this book / is on fire, is where the lies have fallen, where someone / tells someone they were never loved, where a body is rhapsodized / as the front of renewal, and eight pages later, deplored as snare.”; poems by Averill Curdy and Peter Pereira; a relic from a progressive British legal activist during the Napoleonic era; an essay on “The Vice of Reading” by Edith Wharton; and a new translation of Héloïse’s second letter to Abelard. This is an issue, a journal, of diverse timbre and range, not sure to please or appeal to all, ultimately an acquired taste, just the kind of literature it prefers itself. Definitely a unique creature among its peers, New England Review makes well- known its place in a room full of literary journals. [New England Review, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753. Single issue $8. http://go.middlebury.edu/nereview] — Erin M. Bertram

 

One Story

Issues 67-70

December 20, 2005-February 20, 2006

18 issues per year

One Story publishes 18 journals a year of one story each. Impeccably edited, professionally dressed, the slender, 5”x7”, pocketable books are a brilliant addition to the lit scene. “The Arrival” (Issue 67) by Robin Romm is not another cancer story. Amy is discovered on shore by Nina, who welcomes any break in dealing with her cantankerous, terminally ill mother. While Dad’s upstairs napping, Mom dotes on Amy, exposing emotions dormant in Nina. “Is this just jealousy? That I can’t make my mother stand for lunch? That she hasn’t called me dear in ages?” No one knows where Amy came from and no one cares—Romm lays out the competing emotions of grief and appreciation too expertly to worry about such triviality. Another sea born arrival is introduced in Austin Bunn’s mesmerizing “The Ledge” (Issue 68). I loved this story—there’s no better way to say it. Vivid, magical, poignant, part Moby Dick, part Treasure Island, this Columbus-era piece is wholly original. Finding themselves pulled to imminent death, the crew confronts much more than mortality at the last corner of the world. “There are many ledges that split this world.” The other installment for January (One Story publishes bi-monthly on the odd months), “The Six Poisons” (Issue 69), by Dana Shapiro, takes place at a yoga retreat in India, where estranged half-sisters encounter each other and a past corrupted by jealousy. That and the other poisons must be purified from the body before one can reach enlightenment, which is distant for both sisters. Matt Clark’s posthumously published “Baton Rouge: A Doctor Story” (Issue 70) takes on the one-picture-one-thousand-words equation. Wives of doctors are organizing the doctors before a photo shoot and we get clever, biting bios of each doctor and their relationships. One Story’s format gives writers and readers the kind of exposure, dedication to craft and quality that gets lost in busier journals [One Story, PO Box 1326, New York, NY 10156 1 yr (18 issues) $21. www.one-story.com] — RT Duffer

 

Prairie Schooner

Volume 80 Number 1

Spring 2006

Quarterly

This delicious issue of Prairie Schooner has a laudable, rare sighting of Letters to the Editor in which epistlers discuss whether a reviewer’s line—“the pared-down diction of a Native American Voice”—constitutes modern literary criticism or ethnic / aesthetic homogenization. Hurrah, I say, for the debate over a sentence. The fiction here, mostly realist, includes “Story” with the subtle metaliterary charm readers can expect from both its title and its author, R.T. Smith. In other stories, protagonists are haunted and/or redeemed by art: respectively, an ancestral poet and Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper. Several pieces have an international flavor. Call it multi-culti trend or mindful expansion, the fiction holds up. Meredith Hall’s memorable essay, “Outport Shadows,” contemplates aging: “Every time I walk unnoted among people, every time I glance in the mirror, every time I look down and see the ropey veins of my hands I have to tangle, in a quiet stunned moment, with this underlying truth: I am far along the path.” And whoop-whoop-whoop to Russell Thorburn’s poem, “Watching the Three Stooges After Fifty, in the Hospital,” which opens affably: “Let the pie in the face become your Bible / the finger-poke your lightning bolt.” [Prairie Schooner, 201 Andrews Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588-0334. Single issue $9. http://prairieschooner.unl.edu/] – Lisa K. Buchanan


Reviewers - Contributors Notes

NewPages Literary Magazine Stand Archives

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Cumulative Index of Lit Mags Reviewed