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Sententia - 2012

Sententia opens with a kind-of abridged editor’s note on the inside of the front cover. The title name is “Latin for sentence, but also means thought, meaning, and purpose.” The magazine couldn’t be more appropriately named, and, in fact, I would’ve described the works in the journal with these three adjectives prior to reading this note. The editors of Sententia had a goal in mind, and they achieved it.

Without prior experience reading the Sententia journal, I can’t compare this “All Women Writers” issue with the overall publication of the journal. However, if the previous issues are any bit as thoughtful as this one, then Sententia is a publication worth backordering and collecting in the future.

A smooth matte finish encases a clean and striking cover design, and, as the issue is on the thicker side of literary magazines, it almost feels like holding a small book. In fact, Sententia does almost transcend the genre of literary magazine as each piece meshes with the last into a cerebral and meaningful reading experience.

The opening piece, “The F Word” by Meg Tuite, cleanses the palette of the readers and prepares them for the slow and savory pace that elicits the (very necessary) thoughtful reading of the rest of the issue. The story is successful because it’s real. It’s set in the trudging details of a mundane and thoughtless routine, with characters that “moved as if in a dream,” and described so intimately that the reader can immediately relate to it. Slowly, the story becomes punctuated by livening jolts as the characters unconsciously rebel against habit. They begin to revolve around a mutual support of each other, as the past forces its relevancy and uproots the sleepy denial they both have been living in. The story culminates in a shocking climax that neither character can ignore, and one that haunts the reader and provides the perfect physical culmination of the secrets we all hide and the habits that help us do it.

A common thread throughout Sententia is immediacy. “With the Silence of a Deer” by Heather Fowler operates on a specific element of a surreal reality, yet is still bare and starkly relatable to the reader. It opens with a scene that the reader later discovers is, in fact, the reality in which the characters live rather than a strange dream or metaphor. “Artelle found herself outside his cabin in a green wire chair, wearing the head of a deer.” As the narrative unfolds, it becomes the bare bones of a relationship, laid out as it disintegrates. All the while, the narrator has the head of a stag. “With the Silence of a Deer” is worth reading not only because it is contemplative of one’s relationship with relationships, but also because it is clever writing. Ironically, the narrator even comments on the use of a deer head as metaphor. It is one of conquest, a plaque for her lover to put up on his wall. The deer head is a metaphor that is inserted, literally, into the story for the characters to interact with and even recognize. Brilliant.

The poetry is laid out per author, most with their own short collections. Khadijah Queen has three short poems that differ in subject but unite with each other and with the rest of the magazine in style and theme. Queen’s style is starkly blunt. It consists of naked thoughts, which by their very nature are made to instantly connect with the reader. “Solicitation” is about just that: nakedness. In a short and clever play on words, Queen manages to reveal not only herself but also a sad narrative that is real and familiar. This is all accomplished within a solid word-play convention, which is impressive because such styles can sometimes be alienating for human element of a poem. The convention really gets going in the second line: “A poem on nakedness refused / to reveal itself, remained close-legged, rough-clothed.” As the poem continues, Queen manages to showcase not only her practical skill as a writer but also an intangible quality of connection that is vital to the reading experience.

Each author in Sententia is as worthy as the last, and the magazine is one that deserves to be read cover-to-cover. As is turns out, Sententia is also a small press with two books in circulation in addition to the four issues of the journal. This kind of work is refreshing. In a reality that circulates around the mundane and necessary, it is has become easy (and almost inevitable) for readers to lose connection with their humanity. Work like this brings you back to yourself.

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Review Posted on June 14, 2012

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