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The Bitter Oleander – Spring 2005

Poetry dominates the spring edition of Bitter Oleander, a handsome, glossy journal produced by Bitter Oleander Press. This issue features work by twenty-six poets, with six excellent translations among them. Standouts include David Johnson’s stark and affecting three-part poem “Morning” and Christine Boyka Kluge’s “Swallowing Darkness”: “This is the time of night / when blackest dreams unfold / like bats from secret eaves.” Poetry dominates the spring edition of Bitter Oleander, a handsome, glossy journal produced by Bitter Oleander Press. This issue features work by twenty-six poets, with six excellent translations among them. Standouts include David Johnson’s stark and affecting three-part poem “Morning” and Christine Boyka Kluge’s “Swallowing Darkness”: “This is the time of night / when blackest dreams unfold / like bats from secret eaves.” The issue also contains a superb interview with Ye Chun and fourteen of her poems, including “Plague Zone”: “At dusk, black feathers and rolling eyes / grown out of ruined branches. The air smells / like drying fish. In front of the hairy legs / of a flower-man, yulan magnolias start to shriek.” Despite the emphasis on poetry, the short fiction supplies some of the issue’s strongest moments. I loved Joan Flock’s lush and lyrical “Inside The Chrysalis” and James Michael Robbins’s darkly comic “Zookeepers”: “Weirder still is how all the stories were species-specific: People weren’t just turned into cows; they were turned into Holsteins. Others weren’t just turned into dogs or birds; it was Dalmatians and emperor penguins.” In fact, I found each of the four stories compelling and stylistically unique enough to stand out in a sea of poetry. I’ve never been disappointed by an issue of Bitter Oleander, and this one is no exception. Highly recommended, particularly for readers with a special interest in foreign poets. [www.bitteroleander.com] – Laura van den Berg

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