Literary Magazine Reviews

Posted March 19, 2008

Alimentum - Arkansas Review - Atlanta Review - Conjunctions - Cream City Review - Ecotone - Fifth Wednesday Journal - Grain Magazine - Indiana Review - The New England Review - Phoebe - Prairie Schooner - Redivider - Short Story - The Southern Review - TriQuarterly


Alimentum coverAlimentum

Issue 5

Winter 2008


Reviewed by Camilla S. Medders

Alimentum publishes “the literature of food.” When I first opened this magazine, I thought I knew what that meant. Poems about sandwiches, maybe, sentimental stories about grandma’s cherry pie. I thought that, at best, this magazine would succeed in making me hungry. Boy was I wrong. Almost from the first page, reading this magazine was an educational experience. I learned all kinds of interesting things about food, but more importantly, I learned something about the power of good writing.

Literature about food has the somewhat clichéd task of making the ordinary extraordinary, and in order to do this well, the writing itself must be extraordinary. Alimentum certainly lives up to this task, infusing the subject of food with all levels of meaning. In Tzivia Gover’s recipe poem, “Lunch,” a mother only half-ironically compares her picky child to a Zen master, explaining that “her mouth is a portal of refusal; her belly a tidy receptacle of light and emptiness.” Stephen Gibson’s “Ghazal at the Hotel Ai Mori d’Oriente” contrasts a grisly scene from the Iraq war with a vacation breakfast: “I was looking at the mini-croissants and the provolone half-moon cheese slices / And cut strawberries and thinking it looked like art, when the soldier killed him.”

Of the short stories, my favorite is “Milk,” by Lisa Allen, which uses a post-funeral meal to illustrate the dynamics of a wounded family. I also enjoyed Toshiya Kamei’s translation of “Carrots,” by Ryuischiro Utsumi, a sweet story about an old woman who is rescued from loneliness by a root vegetable.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the essays the most. “Hoosh” by Jason Anthony is a long, entrancing discussion of food, or lack of it, in the Antarctic. In “Pain Americain,” Bonnie Lee Black describes her job teaching African women to cook nutrient-rich bread.

The pieces I’ve mentioned here are only a taste of the feast inside the pages of Alimentum. When I put down this magazine, I didn’t feel hungry at all. I was completely satisfied.


Arkansas Review coverArkansas Review

Volume 38 Number 3

December 2007


Reviewed by Camilla S. Medders

The Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies is a large, thin, easy-to-read magazine. According to the Guidelines for Contributors, this publication prints academic articles in addition to poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, but the December 2007 edition focuses on literary contributions. This issue features a long, fascinating interview with author Scott Ely, covering his time in Vietnam, his writing and research methods, and his screen writing experiences. This interview is followed by “The Poisoned Arrow,” a short story by Ely, which is full of vivid South Carolina flavor.

The rest of the magazine continues to explore life in the South. Venus Thrash’s “Homage,” a poem about sex and race, declares that “Dark men in self-denial deny me, / then slip away home to anxious arms, / blow oodles of hair from their eyes as they fly off to sleep.” “James Earl Ray” by C.L. Bledsoe continues the theme of race relations, explaining that when he was a kid “We joked in the halls – / It’s James Earl Ray Day, no school Monday! / And smiled when the black kids / stared.” Gregory Powell’s poem, “Osceola,” lightens the mood a little; this poem is difficult to read without hearing a bluesy tune in your head.

My favorite work is a novel excerpt called “Panther Burn” by Anne Dyer Stuart, which explores class conflict in a small southern town. The main character, a girl named Dexter, is both embarrassed and thrilled when her rich father buys her a private gym for her gymnastics practice, while the other girls are stuck at the sub-par YMCA. Also notable is an essay by J. Kates about his experience in Mississippi during the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, when white activists traveled to the south to help organize black voters.

Overall, the Arkansas Review is refreshing in its direct, unabashed portraits of Delta life and Delta thoughts.


Altlanta Review coverAtlanta Review

Volume 13 Number 2

Fall/Winter 2007


Reviewed by Jeanne M. Lesinski

When I think of this volume as a whole, poignancy and humor are powerfully juxtaposed. Grouped together under the conflict theme are Korkut Onaran’s “War,” Fred Voss’ “Machinist Wanted,” Jamaal May’s “Triage,” and Vuong Quoc Vu’s “Flower Bomb.” This last poem won the review’s 2007 International Poetry Competition with lines like these:

My brother, come home from war,
sits now for hours in the garden.
I see now, he says, everything
as flowers, the tendency of all things
to bloom—even the way the body bleeds,
the fire from guns, the sun unfurling
after the longest night. Everything blooms.

I hope that when Vu publishes this poem as part of a collection, he opts to leave off the introductory quotation by William Carlos Williams because Vu’s imagery is abundantly clear without this preface.

Conversely, there are somewhat humorous poems, such as “Ancient Forms” by Harold Quinn, “The Seven Very Liberal Arts,” a crown of sonnets by Marilyn L. Taylor, and “Which Means” by Stephen Dunn. Last week, quite serendipitously, I found myself as a “guest teacher” in front of high school English classes teaching a Dunn poem from a textbook. So I pulled out my copy of Atlanta Review (I carry literary reviews wherever I go, never knowing when they might come in handy). I pointed out that not all poets – Mr. Dunn, for example, see his new work – are extinct species fossilized in textbooks or those dusty tomes Maura Stanton mentions in her wonderfully evocative “Endangered Species.” Nine times out of ten, Stanton comes through for me, and she does here, closing the book perfectly with

I tilt my head back.
Books tower over my head, waiting, and inside
Each one words are coiled like dangerous snakes
Ready to inject me with all that’s left
Of some dead writer’s knowledge or nonsense
That will keep me awake all night, reading and reading.

Fortunately for all, the Atlanta Review is available by subscription, in libraries, and online in full text through the Ebsco Humanities and ProQuest databases.


Conjunctions coverConjunctions

Number 49

Fall 2007


Reviewed by Josh Maday

An issue of Conjunctions would be a double or triple issue for almost any other literary magazine. Even the word "magazine" doesn’t seem quite accurate. An issue of Conjunctions is a book. That said, this one actually is a double issue. The first half is titled “A Writers’ Aviary: Reflections on Birds” and the latter half is a “Special Portfolio: John Ashbery Tribute.”

Honestly, writing about birds neither excites nor interests me in the least. This is probably due to my unsophisticated palate, but I generally catch myself nodding off during a poetic meditation on the habits or appearance of a thrush or a warbler. As much as I enjoy and admire Conjunctions, I immediately felt a nap coming on when I saw “A Writers’ Aviary” in that calligraphic script on the cover. And then, enticed by the names who had authored the work inside (yes, it works; despite our aversion to marketing manipulation, it always works), I pulled the cover back and began reading.

What I found was the usual (again, misleading terms here) brilliant, controlled, masterful mix of prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Peter Orner gets the issue off the ground with “Birding with Lanioturdus,” a short, sharp story where the narrator and his wise, cynical teacher, out bird watching, learn about the power of naming. The narrator describes and tries to remember the name of a bird he alone saw. “Come on – what do you call it?” To which Obadiah, or Lanioturdus, as the narrator secretly calls him, replies, “Listen – is there anything more useful as a means of control than names? . . . Don’t you see the danger in your calling it? In your giving names?”

One of my favorite stories was “Ave Maria” by Micaela Morrissette, a surreal and deeply moving story about a strange “bird” which villagers have seen in a tree near the church and found out that “the apparition in the tree was not an angel after all, but a freak escaped from the carnival. Half bird, half human.” The bird is captured and examined by a local doctor, who, in his report, calls the creature homo ferus, finding both human and bestial qualities, and particularly “avian qualities.” The creature is taken to the convent where it is cared for and educated to behave like a human girl, but to the end is referred to as “the bird."

Also of particular note was Melanie Rae Thon’s story entitled “A Song Unbroken,” and a new story by William H. Gass entitled “Garden,” about a man who lives with his mother and spends his time in the attic, unbothered and detached from the world while he cuts and files newspaper articles into his collection of atrocious human behavior he calls the “inhumanity museum.”

The John Ashbery Tribute collects brilliant essays/reviews of the corpus of Ashbery’s work by the likes of Peter Straub, Charles Bernstein, Brian Evenson, Ron Silliman, Brenda Hillman, Rae Armantrout, Ben Lerner, Geoffrey O’Brien, Susan Wheeler, and more. Also included are several of Ashbery’s early poems and a facsimile of the scarce holograph version of “Three Madrigals.” The material in the tribute is endlessly fascinating. Beyond delightfully surprised, I was blown away once again by another stellar issue of Conjunctions.


Cream City Review coverCream City Review

Volume 31 Number 2

Fall 2007


Reviewed by Stefani Nellen

Siblinghood – an intriguing theme. In this issue of Cream City Review, I liked how the theme of siblinghood was always present, but not necessarily the focus. Often, the sibling relation adds a dimension to the main story (such as in the wonderful “Flashlights” by Zach Bean, which is a love story first and a brothers story second) or is observed from afar by an “outsider” (e.g. “Skin,” by Theresa Milbrodt, where a mother observes her daughters, one struggling with the same skin condition as her mom, the other healthy). In Yannick Murphy's delightful “Unreal Blue,” the issue of siblinghood is almost coincidental: this is a family story. But other stories put the focus right on the narrator's feeling for a brother or sister. Perhaps not surprisingly, these stories are often raw and painful, e.g. Kelly Spitzer's “Inside Out Of You,” which is both accusation and praise of the narrator's unstable sister, or Benjamin Percy's sinister, almost gothic “The Whisper.”

My favorite, however, is the funniest story in the issue: Eric Vrooman's short but sweet “Scrabble.” A true-sounding snapshot of two very different brothers, it's rich with moments of recognition and laugh-out-loud lines, but the ending remains sober, almost sad. A great story.

The nonfiction and poetry are intriguing, too. I especially liked two short poems: Claudia Burbank's “Eleven Rules,” which uses the always-handy list format to convey subtle but devastating memories, and Danielle Cadena Deulen's “For My Sister in the River,” a prose poem that takes a great and unexpected leap from past to present.

As regards the layout, I couldn’t help but notice several typos or punctuation issues (especially missing spaces after periods). While these glitches didn’t stop me from reading, they weren't necessary either – a pity, considering the high quality of the content. But these are nitpicks, really.

This issue proved to be inspiring.


Ecotone coverEcotone

Volume 3 Number 1

Fall 2007


Reviewed by Stefani Nellen

I was curious to see how Ecotone would implement its motto “Reimagining Place.” To be honest, I was worried I'd get to read dutiful reports along the lines of “what we did on our holidays,” or “the weird customs in country X.” But no, Ecotone turned out to offer surprising and entertaining reimaginings of place – of all kinds of places: The world of corporate sharks (“Broadax Inc” by Bill Roorbach); a Swiss cottage where the narrator and her best friend, a marijuana plant named “Shrubbie,” explore the intricacies of human-plant if not human-squirrel communication, with bittersweet consequences (“My Shrub of Emotion” by Trinie Dalton); a world like ours which is invaded by sudden periods of complete silence (“The Year of Silence” by Kevin Brockmeier); and so many more. All stories go beyond the somewhat bland type of travel/nature writing I was expecting (skeptic that I am).

I was surprised to see that the creative nonfiction selections were as lively and exciting as the stories, definitely closer to memoirs than essays. I loved to read about so many different places I've never seen myself. If I had to pick favorites, I'd go for “Man v. Gar” by Mark Spitzer (a hilarious trip in pursuit of an elusive fish with probably the best ending I've read in a while), and “Dragging Wyatt Earp” by Robert Rebein, an unlikely but striking combination between very personal memories of growing up in Dodge City, Kansas and a biographical sketch of Wyatt Earp, of course.

Ecotone also publishes poetry. I admit I probably don't know enough about poetry to do it justice, but I found the poems here accessible and graceful. My favorite was the quiet “After All These Years You Know They Were Wrong about the Sadness of Men Who Love Men.”

Ecotone is a beautiful magazine with a brilliantly implemented vision. It passes the airport test.


Fifth Wednesday Journal coverFifth Wednesday Journal

Issue 1

Fall 2007


Reviewed by Mary Baken

In the first issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal, publisher and editor Vern Miller provides a brief explanation for the origin and purpose of creating this new literary magazine. Established as an extension of a group of “literary pilgrims,” known as the Fifth Wednesday Writers, Fifth Wednesday Journal’s primary purpose is to reflect “a wide spectrum of styles,” and will therefore institute a rotating series of guest editors who will have “maximum latitude” in their editorial choices. The journal hopes to encourage both well established and new writers by reading submissions “blind.”

I was thoroughly encouraged by Miller’s introduction and was therefore absolutely determined to love Fifth Wednesday Journal, but the truth is, it took me awhile to find a submission I particularly liked. The journal is huge, a total of 185 pages, including one interview, approximately 29 poems, 13 short stories, 2 nonfiction compositions, and 1 very brief photo essay.

Although all of the submissions were solid and well rendered, they lacked that particular edge I tend to prefer. The fiction submissions, in particular, struck me as mildly sentimental, slightly naïve, absent of sharp edges and cutting depth. But then, midway through, I landed on Daniel Borzutzky’s “Aegean Sestina,” and finally hit solid ground. Although I am admittedly an incurable poetic idiot, I have an amateur’s affection for a smooth sestina, one that subtly reminds me of its repetitions but refuses to overwhelm me with repetitive monotony. Likewise, Patricia Spears Jones’s poem “Beuys and the Blonde,” was definitely worth multiple reads.

Further on, I was swept away by the two nonfiction submissions which included Chiquita Mullins Lee’s piece titled “Neck Bone,” and Molly McNett’s “The Lifeguard.” And finally, in the final third of the Journal, I loved Michael Spring’s short story “Night Boat.”

In short, Fifth Wednesday Journal fulfills its primary purpose and provides a wide range of literary styles. It is an admirable publication which is sure to suit literary tastes of all types. I look forward to future issues of Fifth Wednesday Journal which, I hope, will continue to reflect its stated mission.


Grain coverGrain Magazine

Volume 35 Number 2

Autumn 2007


Reviewed by Stefani Nellen

Trés chic. I liked Grain Magazine the moment I saw this issue's elegant black/white/blood-red cover. Luckily, the content didn’t force me to revise my opinion. This issue is split in two parts: a regular part with fiction and poetry, and a section celebrating the winners of the “Short Grain” micro-fiction and nonfiction contest.

I really liked the poetry here – unusual for me, since I naturally gravitate towards fiction. But Leon Rooke's “Narrow Escape,” the first poem in this issue, drew me in with its elegant premise and the increasing tension that isn't resolved until the very last line. There are several prose poems in here, which can be read as poems as well as mini-stories and give the issue an airy, impressionist feel.

The fiction avoids well-worn topics and kept me interested throughout. The content and style of the stories are so different from each other that I was surprised to find them in the same magazine. I particularly enjoyed Sally Cooper's “Rubber People,” a dark father/daughter story in which father and daughter never meet but seem more deeply connected than they understand themselves. Roger Nash's “The Camera and the Cobra” is a beautifully written story about a doctor experiencing a sand storm in Egypt. The description of the storm is stunning. I normally don't care too much for contemplative tales set in exotic locales to compensate for the absence of plot, but this one won me over. I wish it had been longer. Richard Cumyn's “The Young in Their Country” is a weirdly funny teacher's tale that's impossible to summarize. Read it!

The “Short Grain” section is absolutely gorgeous. The top three – or, in one case, top four – winners in each category (postcard story, prose poem, dramatic monologue, and the “long grain of truth,” i.e. nonfiction) are lovingly presented along with detailed judges' decisions. I particularly liked that there was room for funny stories among the winners (e.g. Terry Favro's “Famous People” or Art Collins' “Hypothermia”), which again were very different from each other. My favorite was Janice Salkeld's disturbing “New Millennium Child.” Great issue, great mag.


Indiana Review coverIndiana Review

Volume 29 Number 2

Winter 2007


Review by Camilla S. Medders

The cover of the Winter 2007 edition of the Indiana Review, painted by Sally Harless, features a moose and a boy in a moose suit staring at each other. This artwork captures two of the themes that are shrewdly explored in this issue: childhood and identity.

Of the stories, my favorites present children navigating a difficult world. “Clippings,” by Vincent Precht, is about a daughter struggling to deal with her father’s absence, while her mother tries to ignore it. This is one of those challenging stories in which the real problem is alluded to only indirectly, but Precht pulls it off masterfully. Rae Paris’s story, “The Girl Who Ate Her Own Skin,” captures the horrors of being a preteen girl forced to attend day camp. Packed with vivid imagery and memorable characters, this twenty-pager is impossible to put down. I also enjoyed Ryan Van Meter’s essay, “Lake Effect,” about a sensitive boy on the verge of discovering he is gay. Unfortunately, this discovery takes place while he is trapped on a houseboat with his sporty dad, his dad’s sporty friends, and the friends’ ruddily heterosexual progeny. This essay has such an artful narrative arc that I was amazed to discover it wasn’t fiction.

I was stunned by Tania Runyan’s poem, “The Goldfish Pond.” In fifteen short lines, Runyan tackles complex subjects through startling imagery: the allure of death, the nature of beauty, the gulf between childhood and adulthood and the illusion of identity, to name a few. Sy Hoahwah’s poem, “NDN Way,” is also a compact, complicated look at identity, written in short bursts of prose. The first stanza explains how the narrator met his wife: “Corey and I met at the Indian hospital; my girlfriend at the time had a miscarriage. Corey had a miscarriage. She was beautiful. She was Kiowa. She liked Comanche guys. She liked The Fall.” From there, the poem becomes haunting, then chilling, and ends with laugh-out-loud humor, an incredible accomplishment.

From its whimsical cover to its intelligent book reviews, this issue of the Indiana Review is a wonderful read.


New England Review coverThe New England Review

Volume 28 Number 4



Reviewed by Rachel King

Although the New England Review contains mainly poetry and prose, I thought the highlight of this issue were the nonfiction pieces.

Of poetry, Valerie Wohlfeld’s “Hawk” and Jordan Davis’ “No One’s Going to Tell You What to Do” were my favorites. “Hawk” will resonate with anyone familiar with falconry. Wohlfeld decries the hawk’s imprisonment, saying the bird’s reined in by “the alien arm / that favors forced loyalty over sporadic love. / Wild the need to leave the cage of love!” The poem's speaker goes on a tirade, venting about his lover’s personality. The individual lines have all been heard before, but Davis units them to form a funny, cohesive whole.

Literary criticism usually isn’t my favorite, but James Longenbach’s essay, “Line and Syntax,” is complicated yet accessible. His detailed discussion of syllabic lines, metrical lines, and free-verse lines made me look at every subsequent poem I’ve read a little more carefully. He illustrates his argument that “Line has a meaningful identity only when we begin to hear its relationship to other elements in the poem.” His examples include mainly through Shakespeare’s King Lear, but he also discusses poems by Williams, Herrick, Ginsberg, and Herbert.

“Romanticism and the Zone of Friendship” by Ronald A. Sharp talks about what the title hints at: Romanticism and friendship which go hand-in-hand as much (or more so) than do Romanticism and love. Sharp cites many Romantic poems whose main focus or inspiration was friendship. I like how Sharp not only emphasizes how friendship inspired art and scholarship during Romanticism, but he also thinks we overlook friendship as a catalyst to great art and scholarship in our own day and age: “Precisely because there is deep trust, it seems to me, we can allow ourselves to relax with a friend and . . . that relaxation opens us up to our own most powerful thought processes.”

And finally, my favorite selection: Aldous Huxley’s letters. The letters of any famous writer – Emily Dickinson comes to mind – tell the reader much about the author’s likes, dislikes, interests, and writing style. I enjoyed reading Huxley’s correspondence to friends and opinion on Madame Bovary and other books, but sometimes I think personal letters were supposed to be private, especially as Huxley writes, “Meanwhile please keep this information as private as possible. It’s appalling how quickly one’s private affairs can get into the tabloids.”

The New England Review isn’t a tabloid, however, and I encourage readers to have a look at Huxley’s great letters as well as the rest of the issue.



Volume 37 Number 1

Spring 2008


Reviewed by Josh Maday

This issue of Phoebe is a thin volume, weighing in at 110 pages, but it more than compensates with a huge variety of genre, style, and subject matter. Charles Bernstein’s poem, “The 100 Most Frequent Words in My Way: Speeches and Poems,” is fairly self-explanatory: simply a column of the most frequently used words in alphabetical order. Many of the words chain together and webs of meaning form and expand so that upon reaching the end, one has a distilled sense of Bernstein’s book. Also included is work by Joe Hall, Miriam Stewart, Brandon Lewis, and more.

More tactile text is found in the section entitled “Visual Poetry” as selected by Jessica Smith. This is where eye poetry lives. Helen White’s poems are embedded in, or affixed to, rugged chunks of glass. Angela Sczcepaniak serves up a recipe for “Stuffed Coeur,” describing how to prepare a heart dinner for two, including a helpful diagram with hints for how to most affectionately present one’s heart for consumption by the “dinner companion.”

The fiction is also strong. Nathan Robison’s “Pieces” follows a man wandering alone in the desert with a ruined, empty pistol, and he may or may not have witnessed something sinister in the night. Shelley Berg’s story “A Little Wisp of Soul” is a humorous tale told by a calloused, foul-mouthed, all-business soul who gets reassigned mistakenly to incarnate a 'copse' instead of a 'corpse' and the fruitless attempt to get the typo corrected.

My favorite piece was Blake Butler’s story “Seabed,” a moving story set in a palpably surreal world where the buzzards overhead have driven everyone in town over a cliff and into a pit – everyone except Gil the narrator, whose head is so huge and thick that the birds could not penetrate into his mind. Gil wanders through the now-ghost town and meets a little girl whom the birds could not control either. They walk together, eventually arriving at the coast and find that the sea has evaporated. Gil and the little girl walk along the sea bed and find a house, “a ranch-style dull orange three bed two and a half bath sitting right there in the stomach of the vanished ocean. It was not apparent from the condition of the house that it had ever been underwater.” Inside they find a brand new fully-furnished home: TV, stocked pantry, fresh linens, everything. They fall asleep after their journey and the fresh rain brings the story to its hypnotic end. Also check out fiction by Aaron Burch, Kim Chinquee, Carl Peterson, Jason Skipper, and more.

I enjoyed the visual art by Dan Hillier as well, especially the piece entitled “Angel.” Phoebe has put together a strong issue that is bound to have something for everyone, which is impressive in itself, but even more so considering they pulled this off in such limited space. I’m looking forward to the next issue.


Prairie SchoonerPrairie Schooner

Volume 81 Number 4

Winter 2007


Reviewed by Rachel King

This issue of Prairie Schooner contains poetry, short stories, reviews, and great cover art by Chris Ware which made me want to read his graphic novels.

I like how almost all Prairie Schooner’s poets contribute at least two poems. One of the three poems by Jesse Lee Kercheval explains how night comes to all, but our choice is how we face it. Her “Night” begins: “The Night hums like a preoccupied / mother making something / white & bitter cold for / dinner” and ends “Should we cry / out, warn her? Or / should we pull a chair / up to the table & / take our chances too?” And just when I think I’m sick of poems about poetry, Julia Wendell’s “Poem” takes a new spin by likening the creation of poetry to the care of a moody horse: “nothing happens / unless I shake you up, / send you out into the world / where you may or may not / gallop off, deserting & outliving me.”

My mom used to tell me self-conscious people think they’re being thought or talked about when they’re really the last thing on the other peoples’ minds. Eskrich is the self-conscious man in Nancy Zafris’ story “After Lunch,” but, despite his hyperconsciousness, he realizes that no one – not even his wife or his doctor – truly cares about his well being. Aside from “After Lunch,” I found the plots of some of the other short stories stale.

The reviews are worth reading, however, and Willis G. Regier’s comments on Samuel Johnson’s The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets renewed my interest in that much-talked-about but (I imagine) little-read book. Regier lists a few compelling reasons why the book should be read and lauds this new edition’s editor, Roger Lonsdale.

I will need to read more issues of Prairie Schooner before I decide if I like their prose, but their poetry and reviews won me over.


Redivider coverRedivider

Volume 5 Issue 1

Fall 2007


Reviewed by Josh Maday

This issue of Redivider is a finely-woven fabric of flash fiction, short stories, poetry, nonfiction, visual art, book reviews, and one solid interview.

Sandy Longhorn’s poem “‘Touch Me’ Misread as ‘Torch Me’” explores love’s wild energy, its power to both heat and to consume: “Who hasn’t wanted to be consumed / by heat, / to breathe in and scorch / the lining of the lungs with the breath of the beloved?” Adam Peterson’s prose poem entitled “My Untimely Death: Number 11” lands the narrator in one of numerous possible heavens with a severe case of the hives. This one happens to be the heaven whose inhabitants are blind and only speak Spanish. He is handed around like a Braille book, and when he asks what he is about, the old woman who’d been reading him says, “Like every great story . . . Love and death. There will be no sequels.”

Joel James Davis’s flash fiction entitled “Jars” begins simply: “She kept them in jars.” The piece moves quickly into dark, surreal territory, following the “corpulent woman of sixty” as she meets the man who will make a perfect addition to her collection in the cellar, where she keeps all of the things she loves in jars. David James Poissant’s flash fiction, “Knock-Out,” winner of Redivider’s AWP “Quickie” contest, takes readers ringside to witness “Dan and Allison Bloom’s marriage end in a five-round fight in a ring on their front lawn.” Michael Czyzniejewski’s “The Hypochondriac’s Husband Has Munchausen’s” tells the story of a husband dealing with his wife’s severe hypochondria, where she suffers from “strep throat, lumbago, thrush, West Nile, a dual strike of tennis elbow, and since last Wednesday, a mild case of HIV.” Since his wife’s sugar pills are not working, the husband attempts to give her a dose of her own medicine, saying he’d contracted Munchausen’s, which she obviously isn’t familiar with and does not care to investigate (or she would have discovered that it’s a compulsion to exaggerate things). Instead, she begins arranging doctor’s appointments early in the morning before even dragging herself out of bed.

In nonfiction, Adriann Ranta’s “Poor Yorick” reports in morbidly fascinating detail her stint as a “corpse handler” at an airport and the myriad ways people find to cope with being in such close proximity – oftentimes mere inches – to the fact of their own mortality.  “The Ends of Terror” by James Allen Hall recounts through an almost Foucaultian lens a young man’s uncertain and terrifying movement through the borderland between acknowledgement and praxis of his homosexuality, regardless of society’s reaction.

Kathleen Rooney’s interview with Michael Martone is the fullest and most informative exchange with Martone I’ve read yet. This issue is also seeded with 15 pieces of full-page black and white art, as well as a healthy handful of book reviews. Redivider has crafted a simultaneously diverse and cohesive issue that carries threads of many themes brilliantly from cover to cover. Well worth a look, if not a subscription.


Short Story coverShort Story

Number 3

Fall 2007


Reviewed by Mary Baken

Short Story is a sleek and slim publication containing three short stories, one interview, and one photo essay in its total of 81 pages. The front cover is plain black with the publication name and contents subtly centered in sophisticated lime green type. It is the perfect size to hold in the palm of your hand, the perfect weight and density to carry in your purse, backpack, or back pocket. From the outset I was impressed by Short Story’s exterior style and was relieved to discover that its interior was equally satisfying.

Former Poet Laureate of Virginia, George Garret’s short story, “Portrait for the Ages,” is a beautiful portrayal of a young poet’s struggles to achieve notoriety while on fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. Timothy Samson’s “The Meeting” is an eerie Kafkaesque examination of the corporate world. And Ernest Finney’s “La Paraguaya” is a slightly noirish look at two diverse cultures clashing together.

Despite the fact that all three stories were extraordinarily well crafted and well rendered, the highlight of this issue of  Short Story was editor Caroline’s Lord’s interview with C. Michael Curtis and the photographic montage of Kathleen Robbins. Due to Lord’s insightful and well researched questions, Curtis and Lord enjoy a lively dialogue on writing, publishing, and the literary history of The Atlantic magazine. Likewise, Robbins’s elegant pairing of photographs and letters found in the estate of her grandmother was a pure pleasure to read and re-read, to examine and examine once again.


Southern Review coverThe Southern Review

Volume 44 Number 1

Winter 2008


Reviewed by Rachel King

Before my obsession with literary magazines began, Brett Lott – The Southern Review’s editor – spoke to my writing group. At the end of his talk, he put a plug in for the literary journal. If I would have known then what I do now, I would have ordered The Southern Review immediately. But I did not. Now I know it’s one of the country’s oldest reviews, consistently publishing some of the best writing. The current issue is no exception.

Joel Peckham Jr.’s poem “Movers and Shakers” is from the perspective of a man hired to help a family move: “He has learned to take / their anger the way a fisherman takes weather, a fact / of life, impersonal to him.” He finishes with a question, poignant in its universality: “To move is to risk, and for what, / to where? So many things piled and poorly / placed. Always on the verge of tipping, shattering / in the dark, the whole living world trembling around.” Angela Sorby’s speaker has an epiphany while touring a large mansion: “The rich // are exactly like you and me, only their house is empty and the ring / where the cat’s cream sat has been sanded away” (“Nostalgia for the Present”). And Joseph Millar uses an anecdote about a “Stove” to recount his dead father. Overall, the issue favors fluid free verse with good rhythms and internal rhymes.

Bonnie Jo Campbell’s short story “The Inventor, 1972” tells of a hunter who accidentally hits his deceased friend’s niece with a car. While he runs for help, he remembers incidents which preceded and followed his friend’s death and made him the man he is today. And though Skip Horack’s story, “Little Man,” seems about a young man killing off a bear, the real poignancy comes in the young man’s interactions with his father who suffers from Parkinson’s.

Last but not least, I love the historical perspective Robert Clark Young emphasizes in his “The Death of the Death of the Novel.” I’ve read about the death of the novel in essays from Barth to Birkerts, but Young has a compelling argument: although people have been predicting the novel’s death for hundreds of years, somehow it keeps on flourishing. And it will continue to flourish, for reasons you will have to read yourself.

In the middle of the issue are Katherine Fraser’s captivating oil portraits; at the end are well-written notices and reviews. The issue made me renew my vow I would not miss any new work in The Southern Review.

[Editor's note: Jeanne Leiby is the new editor of The Southern Review.]


TriQuarterly coverTriQuarterly

Issue 129

Winter 2008


Reviewed by Stefani Nellen

Gorgeousness. This magazine looks beautiful with its elegant matte cover and the generously laid-out pages. I found the reading experience luxurious, too. Usually I read literary magazines during the day and my private books in the evening, for pleasure. When I picked up TriQuarterly in the evening, I knew I had found a treat.

The short stories (more than ten in this issue) take their time to describe the world in which they take place. This was one of the things I noticed: the wide range of locations, like a literary world trip. The stories jump from Las Vegas (“A Letter from Las Vegas” by Richard Burgin) to Asia (“The Hanging Lanterns of do” by Paul Yoon), from a bus in New York City (“Girl…There Was A Time” by Enid Harlow), to “Lisbon” (by John Tait), and more. Many stories have a streak of subtle but potent humor, and therefore sound truer than the gloomy, “gritty” stories you find in too many literary magazines. My favorites were Michael Finn's “In What She Has Done and in What She Has Failed To Do,” where three old ladies deal with the advent of a miracle, and Siobhan Adcock's “This Is What We're Doing,” about the budding friendship between two cohabitating single moms. This story has some of the best one-liners and dialogue I've read in a long time, and it feels as real as a documentary movie. Awesome.

There is also an essay by Linda Gregerson, and a lot of good poetry. Two favorites here: Todd Boss's trio of short poems, especially “The Deeper the Dictionary,” where the lovers' bed is compared to exactly that, and it does make sense. I also liked Kevin Stein's “On Being a Nielsen Family,” which dissects our TV watching habits, and our attempt to doctor them in order to appear more sophisticated than we are: “Though it's Oprah, we circle BBC News. / Though Jerry Springer, we mark Charlie Rose. / No no Number Not South Park, not Cops / Not World's Funniest Animal Tricks.[…] We are watched watching, / Watching ourselves watched. We are never / enough, and the lies is as we wish to be.”


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