When I can, I like to single out one or two stories in a journal for particular praise, but all four fiction entries in this issue of Phoebe merit attention. “Forgery,” by Steve Yates, is a tale of corporate revenge set in the offices of a company that sells pornographic toys, yet it manages to be sweetly romantic. “Harvest,” by Danielle Evans, sets a group of women of color, Ivy League college girls all, against a friend who is able to sell her eggs to infertile couples for loads of cash simply because she’s white. William Jablonsky’s “In Dreams” features a fireman who is able to perform amazing acts of courage because he has seen his own death in his dreams and “knows” he won’t die as long as he doesn’t drive his truck through a certain fateful intersection, while “The Good Life,” by Jonathan Lyons, centers on a character who is so blitzed out on drink and drugs that he and his buddies can’t quite manage to care when they kill four strangers in a tragic highway accident.
Most of the poets, whose work is largely image-driven, are given two pages each, which seemed generous until I reached the feature section on contemporary Chinese poets, where a similar allotment became extremely disappointing. Five different poets are introduced by a two-page essay, which made the information presented about each vague to the point of uselessness. The poems that followed—two or three per poet—were intriguing, but not enough to give the reader a handle on the poets’ preoccupations or modes of prosody. Careful attention to a single poet could have provided a more satisfying encounter than this sketchy survey.
Phoebe calls itself “a journal of literature and art,” and two visual artists are included here—Jim Fuess, whose black and white abstract works are reproduced quite well, and Mary Connelly, whose gorgeous cover image sets a noir-ish mood that depends in large part upon her use of color. A viewer can only guess how much richness is sacrificed by the reduction of her other two paintings that appear inside in black and white. As with the contemporary Chinese poets, this is a case where less—the single cover painting in all its glory—might have been more.