Literary Magazine Reviews

Posted March 7, 2009

Agni - Alimentum - Basalt - Bateau - Cave Wall - Freshwater - High Desert Journal - Indiana Review - The Literary Bird Journal - POOL - Reed - Santa Monica Review - Southern Humanities Review

 

AGNI coverAGNI

Number 68

2008

Biannual

Review by Kenneth Nichols

Editor Sven Birkerts begins this issue of AGNI with “The Inadvertent Eye,” an interesting essay about Robert Frank, an essential American photographer. Those who carefully consider decades-old photographs will see much more than a simple collection of long-dead people in a long-gone landscape. To prove that Frank is a “master of moody vacancy more than of the crowded frame,” Birkerts does a strikingly close reading of a powerful photograph.

Charles Haverty’s excellent story “Excommunicados” transports the reader back to 1967. Lionel, a kid at a Catholic school, undergoes some coming-of-age upon meeting a classmate’s mother. The story avoids cliché, instead employing honesty to confront the changes that have taken place since the mid-sixties, both within the Church and outside of it.

The reader is transported again by Anis Shivani. “Manzanar” is an epistolary story consisting of journal entries by a Japanese man in a West Coast internment camp during World War II. The piece is notable for what Shivani provides, but is even more powerful when one considers what Shivani does not provide.

Two poems from David Bottoms tackle the same theme: the sad, inevitable aging of a father. Bottoms employs inventive language and observations to impart meaning to otherwise commonplace sights, including dismantled hearing aids and the ring on a night stand made by an empty water glass.

The issue’s art feature, “I’ll Tell What I Saw,” is a selection of digital broadsides done by Michael Mazur. Mazur illuminates passages from Robert Pinsky’s 2008 translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Mazur’s work is at its haunting best when he takes on some of the bleakness of Dante’s hell. Included along with the issue is a DVD featuring Good to Pull, a short film by director Robert Gardner that follows Mazur as he completes one of his etching and aquatint pieces.
[www.bu.edu/agni/]

 

Alimentum coverAlimentum

Issue 7

Winter 2009

Biannual

Review by Sima Rabinowitz

Poems, stories, and non-fiction in Alimentum tend to fall into one of two categories: work in which food (or food-related “stuff”) is the main character and work in which food metaphors and images are used to flavor other topics. Both approaches are used successfully in this issue of the journal.

In the first category, particularly noteworthy are: Eric LeMay’s essay “Stink” about cheese and literature (really!) in which cheese is featured; Jen Kartnik’s poem “A Brief Social History of the Pineapple” (“the jewel of the thistle we call artichoke and pull apart, / like our enemies, with white, straightened teeth.”); and Kim Chinquee’s short personal essay “Pickle Jar,” a family story of canning and consuming (foods and feelings).

In the second category, food imagery in the service of other subjects, I liked especially a poem by Joel James Davis, “Of all things keeping me up at night, the broken clasp on my boy’s supper bucket is the worst,” a delightfully original piece which lives up to the title’s promise of a distinct, believable, but unusual voice. It’s my favorite piece in the issue. This is my first encounter with work by this poet, but I hope to savor many more of his poems. Standouts for me in this category also include Aurora Brackett’s story “Ambrosia,” an imagined encounter with Luciano Pavarotti’s mother who is taking lunch to her dead son; and Caroline Cummings essay “Night and Day. How the Private Eye Eats – and Drinks” (which is about precisely what the title says it’s about).

This issue also features an interview with Alan Richman, Dean of Food Journalism at The French Culinary Institute in New York City where he teaches the Craft of Food Writing, and the essay he selected as the winner of Alimentum/French Culinary Institute Craft of Food Writing contest, “The Mystery Machine” by Kristen Aiken, which fits into the food-related “stuff” category (an ice cream maker of dubious origin).
[www.alimentumjournal.com/]

 

Basalt coverBasalt

Volume 3 Number 1

2008

Annual

Review by Rachel S. King

This issue of Basalt, an Eastern Oregon University issued poetry and short prose journal, contains the work of seventeen writers and one visual artist: Timothy C. Ely, whose book The Observatory demands close scrutiny and makes the viewer look at the heavens differently. Many of the poems should also be studied, especially the ones mentioned herein.

Katrina Robert’s poem, “Composition,” begins, “Someone is crying in the far room. / How long will it go on?” and then continues down the page like a musical composition. In “Murder, Unincorporated,” Marge Piercy’s narrator explains why she is “of the opinion that almost / anyone would kill for something.” Christopher Howell’s poem, “Out to Pasture,” beautifully uses the elongated metaphor of a middle-aged person compared to a “half destroyed tower in a field / of weeds.” Shaindel Beers’s poem, “Shelly’s Daughter Watches Skateboarders,” makes the reader smile and cry, as the narrator warns a seven-year-old girl away from boys, explaining what harm they can do.

Chris Dombrowski retells the tale of John the Baptist’s beheading in his “Self-Portrait as the Head as Dandelion Head Discovered in the Crop of a Partridge.” Donald Wolff’s “Red-Tailed Hawks” is a melancholy poem in which the narrator muses on people’s commonalities with hawks. Most of these poems are straightforward and can be understood on the surface in one slow reading, yet to appreciate their form and depth, they must be read many times.

Basalt has some thematic issues, so a writer would do well to check the website for the most current information. And a reader would do well to check out the magazine, especially if s/he likes philosophical poetry and/or poetry with strong imagery.
[www.eou.edu/artsci/basalt/]

 

Bateau coverBateau

Volume 1 Issue 2

Winter 2008

Biannual

Review by Micah Zevin

When you first hold the poetry journal Bateau in your hands, it reminds you of a well-crafted chapbook with some abstract art of a flat bottomed boat (the journal’s namesake), or if you are not in the know, like some strange design project from a school of design student with a wash of blue coming out in the form of the boat’s canopy. The poems here tell a human narrative that is instantly recognizable no matter the form or the foreign or alien way in which a topic is often tackled.

Rae Gouirand’s “Caveat” speaks to life’s philosophical questions: “nothing: more than sovereign / nothing: no more a ladder by the house // but the wave: to rise on it / debris: to rise on it words: like exes // making faces in the spelling / that so leaves us: vibrating our shapes.” It is as if this piece were a patchwork quilt of disparate haikus leaving us to ponder its tiny splices of wisdom.

In Lisa Issacson’s “Claro, No Es. Claro,” unlike the poets’ first two poems in this issue, the poet takes her narrative style and turns it on its head stylistically: “This black page you suck at / like your own infant shirt / Is, what / this cornfield would look like / if I were not to believe / in Jesus in habit. / Poetry buddies think / hard smacked by pigeons / in history / find something one needs / to shrink god to peer / overtime. / Grasses brush bare form / Slender and solitary / darkness pitches its tent-like dress / all our excess asleep / hike it up, wet hem dragging. / Claro.” Here the idea of clarity is brought into question or possibly relished in all of its ambiguous splendor. The translated approximation of the title, 'Clear, It is not. Clear.' is celebrated, indicating that often what we do not understand is beautiful in all of its ugliness.

The poem “In the Hands of the King” by Stephen Frech tells the narrative of a king that has fallen into madness only to come out of this state to offer up wisdom to his followers: “When the king returns from his delirium, his handlers apologize for / having witnessed his confusion. He forgives them. When he said the / world was flat, what he meant was wandering out could lead to trou- / ble.” What this poem may be referring to, with its intriguing aphorisms, is how men in positions of power absurdly shape the world they inhabit by controlling everyone and everything around them whether these decisions are rational, or more often than not, irrational.

In “Dreaming of Catching Bass,” by Louisa Howerow, the narrator is a young boy saying and noticing inappropriate things that adolescent boys often notice or ponder: “I’ve never seen my mother wear that blouse. I keep thinking boobs and mother, / I know that’s wrong. // Boobs. That’s what the kids on the street whisper every time they see / Denise. But my mom isn’t Denise and I want her to move away from Mr. / McIntyre. He doesn’t close his mouth when he eats, his mouth with those / yellow teeth.” This is a realistic representation of the meandering mind of teenage boys and the beginnings of what is often referred to as their “Oedipal complex” as it relates to the mother or mother figure in their lives.

You won’t want to leave because it will feel safe here. So before exiting this creative ship, also check out fascinating and further thought-provoking poems By Daniel Hales, K.C. Trommer and Jehanne Dubrow, as well as many others, until you sink into a placid reverie.
[bateaupress.org/]

 

Cave Wall coverCave Wall

Number 4

Summer/Fall 2008

Biannual

Review by Micah Zevin

Cave Wall is a poetry journal inundated with the idea that all of us are traveling between borders as well as the metamorphosis such trips often engender. It is the transformative that exists in the perils and joys of every day existence that line the often narrative structures of each poem. The dark woodcuts by Dennis Winston add to this evocative rendering of the every day, whether it is in his piece “Winter Haze” or the melancholy and subdued image of the boy in “Innocence.”

In “El Camino Real” by Carrie Fountain, the heat of the day is a character hovering over the protagonists who are simply attempting to survive its burning gaze while managing to find time to have a philosophical conversation: “In loose reference to a conversation / we’ve been having on and off all summer, / she turns to me and says, ‘OK what if / we’re already dead, and this is heaven?’ The question hangs in front of us, open / And empty, as long as it can. / We walk through it.” This poem seems to refer to the many life questions we face and cannot answer, so often or at least for stretches along the dusty trail, we ignore them until inevitably they rise again like that curve or fork in the road.

In “The Groom,” also by Carrie Fountain, a son recounts how as an infant, he finds his mother’s first wedding ring to a man no one in the family has ever seen a picture of or met at the occasion of his own first marriage, while in “Dead Man Walking” by Sebastian Mathews, a despondent and possibly suicidal father figure is portrayed by his son as a beast : “I could tell you how unhappy I am in my body, / and then now how happy you make me, how / this morning in the center of his room our boy / stopped, looked around in mock fear, finger to lips: ‘Shiiish…there’s a bear over there.’” The first poem dealt with more with matters of life – past life, future life and present life – while the second is about a man who is done with this earth, this life, and ready for an ending.

Poems often attempt to impart messages through the guise of the animal or an inanimate object. With Sandra Beasley’s “To the Lions,” the narrator pleads with the lions, or is it the lions to man or woman, to show us why they are considered king or queen of the jungle. While in “The Sand Speaks,” the sand is an omnipresent god-like being that is seemingly everywhere at all times: “Lovers, shake me / from the cuffs of your pants. Draw / a line, make it my mouth: I’ll name / your country. I’m a Yes man at heart.” The poet here takes an inanimate object and not only adds sensuality to its list of charms and attributes, but humor and humanity as well.

The foundations of this poetry cave’s wall are pretty strong, although, I can’t say that every poem is created equal. Even so, look out for poems by Elizabeth Volpe, Rebecca McClanahan and Rebecca Warren that are also on par with the poems cited here. At times, reading the poems in this accessible assortment is like seeing that first flower crack through the walls separating two lovers until not only is life peeking through to the other side in the form of the flower, but the sunlight as well, which brought the flower to existence in the first place.
[www.cavewallpress.com/]

 

Freshwater coverFreshwater

2008

Annual

Review by Maggie Glover

I had never before read an issue of Freshwater, a journal produced yearly by the Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, CT. In her “Editor’s Note,” Edwina Trentham is full of thanks, particularly to student editors who seem to be responsible for much of the journal’s production (as opposed to some lit mags who only allow students to be involved in the very early stages of selection, or just production grunt work). This note also revealed the dedication of the Freshwater team; many men and women clearly spent a great deal of time on this issue and I find this exceedingly refreshing. What’s better than a group of editors that care deeply about the selection and production process?

Freshwater opens with the winners of the sixteenth annual Asnuntuck Student Poetry Contest and includes individual paragraphs highlighting the strengths of each winning poem. The winning poems are mixed in throughout the journal, which suggests that the editors are interested in creating an arc for the journal as a whole. To me, this was a good choice, as it allowed all of the poems to speak to each other. Winning poems as well as the non-contest poems deal with a range of subject matter (from the first day of school to date rape to the Old Testament to eating paint) but the style of most of the poems could be categorized as accessible narrative. Standouts include Katherine Broad’s “Talking to God,” Ellen Dore Watson’s “What Remains” and Lynn Hoffman’s “Cannibal Sestina,” an entertaining imagining of a real-life personal ad set to form.

I hope that the students (and teachers) involved in this issue of Freshwater are proud of their hard work. Their spirit and perseverance is reflected in the final product. Overall, Freshwater is a wonderful example of a successful, student-run literary journal.
[www.acc.commnet.edu/freshwater.htm]

 

High Desert Journal coverHigh Desert Journal

Issue 8

Fall 2008

Biannual

Review by Rachel S. King

In a note from the editor, Elizabeth Quinn says that her “inspiration for High Desert Journal was to create a platform for artists and authors living in and inspired by a place that is often times overlooked for its cultural resources.” This journal accomplishes her intent: it shows that art takes place and that artists live outside major metropolises.

High Desert Journal gives more space to visual art and essays than many literary journals. Megan Murphy and Alan Brandt’s photography, Patricia Freeman-Martin’s paintings, and Tom Foolery’s “Miniature Environments” all receive at least a couple of pages. And the essays, as well as (yet better than) all the other genres, give the journal a sense of place.

In “Calving Season,” Michelle Theriault writes about Oregon’s Jordan Valley, a place on the edge of Nevada and Idaho; a region with probably the smallest population density in the continental United States. Through interviewing and observing the Pascoe family, in the area for seven generations, Theriault writes about the people and the place of both the past and present.

In “San Joaquin Fever,” Aaron Gilbreath tries to convince the reader that California’s Central Valley is just as spectacular as Yosemite and the Redwoods, in a different way. And Diane Josephy Peavey uses her own experience as a sheep and cattle ranch owner in Idaho to sympathize with and tell the story of Palestinian ranches to which Israelis have denied the owners access.

The most poetic essay is Charles Bowden’s “Mama’s Gone to Dreamland on the Train,” which uses anecdotal history to tell of the settlers and Native Americans, past and present, who have lived and live on North Dakota’s plains: “They would arrive in boxcars and that first winter, live in sod huts, seven, eight, nine, 10 to a small one room dwelling . . . When death came in the winter, the body went into the barn until spring, when the roads let the neighbors gather for the burying – a body wrapped in a quilt, resting on an old door, the whole thing balanced on buckets lest the mice get to the dead.” The essay jumps from one family to another; its form reminds me of a patchwork quilt: each story part of the plains, the place the people call home.

A couple pieces of fiction and poetry round out the High Desert Journal, a journal for all readers, but especially those who live in America’s high desert and who might doubt that their area inspires creativity.
[www.highdesertjournal.com/]

 

The Indiana Review coverThe Indiana Review

Volume 30 Number 2

Winter 2008

Biannual

Review by Sima Rabinowitz

This issue of the Indiana Review is about one thing: really good reading. An enormous number of very fine poems, seven strong stories, and a handful of well-written and often entertaining book reviews. Poems with special appeal for their careful, poetic (in the best sense of heightened, yet never arch or stiff) or particularly memorable language, and original and never purely self-serving imagery, like poetry contest winner Pilar Gómez-Ibañez (“Losing Bedrock Farm”) who has huge success with Richard Hugo’s inspiring advice “Think Small”; Joanna Klink (“Greenest”) who retrieves many overused and over burdened poetry favorites (rain, stars) from the dead metaphor heap; and Wayne Miller, whose poem in the form of a poetic letter to Auden is striking in its economy and restraint, which results in overwhelming in emotional power:

The City was the wall I lay on,
And the the City
was the voice I spoke into.

Jenny George’s poem “Encyclopedia of the Dead” could easily have been no more than a clever, but inconsequential exercise, is, indeed, quite lovely, evocative, and, ultimately meaningful. As she explains the work: “The language of this poem is taken from a single page of the Encyclopedia Britannica: Vol 2, 1977. The order of words and phrases has been changed. No other words were added.” I liked, too, poems by Emma Bolden (“The Witch’s Daughter Speaks of Her Mother”), Amanda Rachelle Warren (“Backlick Creek”), and a translation of German poet Jürgen Becker’s poem “Oderbruch” by Okla Elliott.

Stories by Dave Madden (“Pamela”) and Kim Addonizio (“Night Owls”) make exceptionally good use of their narrator’s casual, easy-going and youthful voices. “Obit” by Ted Sanders is an inventive tale in every aspect of its presentation, from its columns on the page to the interaction of human animals and non-human animals, a lyrical tale of death told from several perspectives. And there’s more good prose: reviews in this issue are definitely worth taking in, as much on their own merits as to learn about other good reads – strong writing and strong opinions.
[www.indianareview.org]

 

The Literary Bird Journal coverThe Literary Bird Journal

Volume 1 Number 1

Fall 2008

Biannual

Review by Maggie Glover

Putting together a literary journal filled with quality work is a challenging task. Putting together one issue of a journal with a theme is even more difficult. Launching a journal that hopes to focus on entirely on one subject must seem impossible! When I first heard about The LBJ: Avian Life, Literary Arts Journal, I was intrigued by the moxy behind it and simply had to check it out. Could this journal really be all about birds?

Editor Nick Neely’s introduction (aptly titled “First Song”) explains that the journal is, in fact, named The LBJ for the tiny brown bird on its cover:

This is an lbj, a “little brown job” if there ever was one, and a poster bird for these pages. A bird overlooked by many, but once learned, rarely forgotten. Tune-in, and they’re everywhere – deep in the wilderness or your suburban backyard. And yet, in various corners of the continent, with a different look…[t]hat’s the kind of writing you’ll find here: variation by region, by genre, by aesthetic, but somehow, a unified song.

Nothing makes me happier than when a new journal exceeds my expectations, and The LBJ definitely does that. Though I’m not a bird lover, I am a lover of great writing, and this journal was filled with the latter! The juxtaposition of bird journaling, like David Gessner’s “In Retreat: a Heron Journal,” with poems that take full advantage of the metaphorical possibilities of birds, such as Elizabeth Bradfield’s “On the Habits of Swallows,” and bird book reviews, like Susan Hanson’s review of Sydney Landon Plum’s Solitary Goose, works beautifully. This issue also contains the winners of “The LBJ’s Inaugural Sparrow Prizes”: Derek Sheffield’s haunting poem “Aubade” and Maureen Scott Harris’s “Regarding the Ovenbird.”

In this remarkably accomplished first issue, the editors of The LBJ have set an important precedent: this journal is no one-trick pony. While it’s no surprise it’s the perfect read for bird-lovers, I also recommend this unique journal to anyone who enjoys high-quality poetry and prose.
[www.literarybirdjournal.org/]

 

POOL coverPool

A Journal of Poetry

Volume 7

2008

Annual

Review by Micah Zevin

In this very last print issue of the journal POOL, which will become an online journal only at www.poolpoetry.com, the cover greets with two 1950’s children wearing star shaped sunglasses about to come out of a swimming pool, doused with the varying reflective colors produced by rippled water as a result of the sun. This image is joyous and playful and humorous and although not entirely reflective of every poem comprising this journal, it does represent a large portion of them. Whether the poems here are playing with the toy of language or the sounds it often emits, there is a kind of fun here at work, with an underlying seriousness of purpose or meaning jolting us back into reality.

In Dorothy Barresi’s “Winter Nap,” fairy tales and the other various narratives of winter are poked fun of or turned on their heads: “And if so, may I be a birch clearing / For an hour? A gingerbread girl, / or am I to be a sheep // in wolf’s clothing again, / stumbling in ridiculous, oversized furs as the wind narrates me?” The joy of the absurd and the stories of youth that take you back to that supposedly innocent time are highlighted here. In a poem of seemingly more serious import, “Intrinsic” by Sarah Gridley, the author uses the image of the bird to guide us to the answers to questions we have about life’s elusiveness and the natural world that affects it: “When I shake with purpose, I have no idea. Spring could be / a set of days. / Or a strand of being the wind knows how to play. / This could be immature forever.” Here, the author tries to explain the unexplainable mysteries that we encounter roaming this earth each day.

Benjamin Grossberg’s “The Space Traveler on a Cold Planet,” envies astronauts who are on or have traveled to warm planets, while A. Loudermilk’s “High Lily,” a comedic pastiche homage to the actress Lily Tomlin, takes poetic and hilarious stabs at scenes from movies she’s done. In Molly McQuade’s “Small Finds,” we are regaled with tiny discoveries of life as if the author, a character in her own poem, were digging up small shards of gold and holding it under the light with fascination: “I’ll bid for modesty, thanks, / like a grey beetle boogeying in the crosswalk / of a molten carpet, // hoping to upstage medallion impaled after medallion / on the cramped saffron distress // of 17th century Persia / Harbored, I’ll hatch wings / like a Korean wildcat // fleeing to a grove with a clowning black crow / who’s talking my ear off / Marry me, oh you fine auctioneer.” The language in this poem takes chances and is adventurous in the meanings it attempts to impart to the reader, especially the message of imagination being the most important tool in writing unique poetry.

These poems, as well as the many others which are housed in the clear, blue, reflective fluid of this journal, will no longer keep us cool in print as we hold it in our guilty little hands as we laugh out loud and continue to read the numerous poems of hilarity and gravity that lived in its pages. Now we will have to enjoy what so many small journals are being forced to do as the cost of printing starts to weigh on them and are forced by mere necessity of survival to go online only so that they will have to pay for little, if any, upkeep. Perhaps more poets and poems can grace their digital pages in the process. Anyhow, do not fret; enjoy this last issue with further poems by Sarah Michas-Martin, Charles Harper Webb and Elizabeth Whittlesey that will either make you laugh until you cry or cry until you are laughing.
[www.poolpoetry.com/]

 

Reed coverReed

61

2008

Annual

Review by Rachel S. King

Reed is an annual journal from San Jose State University. This issue contains a few pieces of fiction, a lot of poetry, some art, a couple short essays, and interviews with Dr. Kenneth Coale, George Saunders, Dorothy Allison, and Gary Shapiro.

In Vincent Bergado’s “Sensational Recall: What Ails the Memoir,” he argues that memoir readers now expect to be shocked through memoir, as though the memoirist might as well have appeared in People Magazine or the Jerry Springer Show. While Bergado doesn’t completely discount the need for such memoirs, he applauds Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of a Thunderbolt Kid as a pleasant counter example to this sensationalist fashion.

Of fiction, I loved Margaret Paterson’s narrator, Ishmael’s mother Haggar, in her “Outcast of Abram.” The biblical stories come alive anew from Haggar’s point of view. The excellent dialogue in Renato Escudero’s “Barrio Exorcism” places the reader solidly within an urban Chicano neighborhood, and Vanessa Farnsworth’s flash fiction, all-dialogue piece, “Free Radicals,” says a lot in a few words.

The poems in this issue favor a straightforward prosody, demonstrated best in Carl Auerbach’s prize-winning “The Problem of Evil” and his shorter “On Charity,” a descriptive poem which seems a case example of his more philosophical poem about evil. I also enjoyed Shannon Bowman-Sarkisian’s “You Can’t Write a Poem about September 11,” which ends, “Someone threw red roses out / the window and onto the platform / Every time / a plane flew overhead / the people ducked,” and Persis Karim’s “Conversation”: “In the story of brothers / and fathers, lost passports / and the ones they’ve never had / there is another story: / the way they name themselves, / languages that lie hidden / in the throats of their past.”

This issue of Reed could have done with one more read through by an editor, as I found typos or repeated paragraphs in a few places – specifically in “Poetry Incorporated” and a couple of the interviews. But despite these, D.E. Kern’s pride and enthusiasm in the editor’s note is well-founded: Reed’s selections are entertaining, informing, and challenging – adjectives which describe good art.
[www.reedmag.org/]

 

Santa Monica Review coverSanta Monica Review

Volume 20 Number 2

Fall 2008

Biannual

Review by Dan Moreau

This all fiction issue of SMR is jam-packed with quality prose. From traditional storytelling to more experimental fiction, this issue covers the gamut. I was also pleased to see among the contributors a first time publication for a writer.

In “Near the Aquarium,” Timothy Dyke manages to write about high school students without sentimentality and without coming across as out-of-touch. Molly Giles’ gem of story “Fenced In” is an exercise in controlled and well-crafted fiction that any writer of fiction should aspire to. Finally, in John Zaklikowski’s “Expletive Deleted,” we meet a narrator whose retired blue collar father has decided to become a poet and a much celebrated one at that. Printed on recycled paper without a flashy cover, SMR still manages to dazzle.
[www.smc.edu/sm_review/]

 

Southern Humanities Review coverSouthern Humanities Review

Volume 43 Number 4

Fall 2008

Quarterly

Review by Sima Rabinowitz

Could there be a better moment for a re-examination of the very notion of “America?” With a translation from the French of noted French art historian, essayist, and poet Yves Bonnefoy’s story, “America” (translated by Hoyt Rogers), essays on white poverty in the south (Wayne Flight), and on modernism and democratic pluralism, with a focus on John Dewey (Allen Dunn), and fiction that considers American family life (Brigitte McCray), I am tempted to say that the editors of this issue of Southern Humanities Review (SHR) predicted, months ago, our need to explore what is at the essence of American identity during the current time of turmoil and transition.

On the other hand, the issue’s borders are wider and more generous. My favorite feature, in fact, is a beautiful series of translations of the haiku of eighteenth century Japanese poet Yosa Buson, translated with exacting notes by Amy England. The original Japanese, England’s translations and her notes are presented in a format that is both attractive and easy to follow. Translations by Daniela Hurezanau and Stephen Kessler of two poems by Lorand Gaspar take us, ostensibly, to France and China, though in a more immediate sense they lead us to a place of tender, lyrical pleasure. Bill Wolak’s excellent review of A History if Things Lost of Broken, stories by Philip Ciofarri, conclude the issue by bringing us back to the Bronx, a place of confused, or at the very least complicated, American identities, if there ever was one.

One of the great pleasures of SHR is the presentation together of academic essays alongside fiction, poetry, and reviews of books from university and independent presses, with a decided predilection for analysis over personal reflection, but with clear-eyed attention, as well, to a literature that considers the difficulties of daily life.

This issue’s cover features a work by a favorite artist of mine, Thomas Hart Benton, whose painting is described in the “Editor’s Comment” as a “brash depiction of the American scene” that rejects modernism and presents a “nostalgic populism.” The scene features musicians (violin, banjo, guitar) and farmers in depression-era garb on the grounds of what appears to be a small farm (family farm, as we now call them, perhaps). Are these hungry musicians singing for their supper? While it won’t help you feed your family, in these troubled and troubling times, this issue of SHR will surely feed your soul.
[media.cla.auburn.edu/english/shr]

 

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