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Oleander Review – Fall 2007

Oleander Review’s debut issue has a lot going for it: a couple translations of Kostas Karytoakis’ dark poems, some solid poetry and prose, and interviews with Elizabeth Kostova and Robert Pinksy. Karyoatakis’ poems are selections from Battered Guitars: Poems and Prose of Kostas Karyotakis. His haunting poem, “Optimism” begins its concluding stanza: “Let’s assume that we have not reached / the frontiers of silence by a hundred roads, / and let’s sing.” Joshua Olsen’s poem, “I thought I saw my mother in Detroit” reveals his mother’s sad past and then concludes “She seemed lost and I wanted to help her find her way / but didn’t, fearing it really was her.” And Emma Morris’ “Water/Music” demonstrates, once again, that water is an amazing property, and she does so in a much more artistic and compelling way than a high school chemistry book.

Oleander Review’s debut issue has a lot going for it: a couple translations of Kostas Karytoakis’ dark poems, some solid poetry and prose, and interviews with Elizabeth Kostova and Robert Pinksy. Karyoatakis’ poems are selections from Battered Guitars: Poems and Prose of Kostas Karyotakis. His haunting poem, “Optimism” begins its concluding stanza: “Let’s assume that we have not reached / the frontiers of silence by a hundred roads, / and let’s sing.” Joshua Olsen’s poem, “I thought I saw my mother in Detroit” reveals his mother’s sad past and then concludes “She seemed lost and I wanted to help her find her way / but didn’t, fearing it really was her.” And Emma Morris’ “Water/Music” demonstrates, once again, that water is an amazing property, and she does so in a much more artistic and compelling way than a high school chemistry book.

My favorite selections were the interviews with authors. Among Pinsky’s many words of wisdom, he said the following: “anti-intellectualism is part of the challenge for artists in a democracy.” Although he admits that pop art has its place, he contends people have an inherent need for the deeper richness art can provide. Elisabeth Kostova discusses how her novel, The Historian, compares and contrasts with other historical fiction books. The interviewers, Eliot Long and Sarah Sala, ask astute questions which result in good discussion.

However, as usual for a first issue, a few points could be improved. The journal seems too long – or maybe the large font size just contributes to this effect – with too small a font in the table of contents, and typos affect the professionalism. Besides these minor aesthetic contentions, however, the journal is great for a first issue: I applaud the undergraduates at the University of Michigan who got it off the ground, and I look forward to many Oleander Reviews in the future.
[www.umich.edu/~olndrrvw]

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