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The Cincinnati Review - Spring 2004

This handsome new journal, from its burnished full-color matte art-adorned cover (beautiful work by painter Gaither Pope) to the last page, left a surprisingly pleasant impression. The roster of contributors includes a diverse but impressive set of writers, including David Lehman, Beth Ann Fennelly, and Pulitzer-winner Robert Olen Butler, just to name a few. I especially enjoyed Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s poem “At Medusa’s Hair Salon.” Here’s an excerpt: “…I say to Henri, Cut it, // cut it all. It’s clear no one in the salon knows / how Medusa even became a Gorgon;…who would want her hair cut to stun / men into giant concrete tongues, lapping / for air.” I also very much enjoyed the poem that answers that largest of questions, “Why So Many Poets Come From Ohio,” by Margo Stever, especially the line about “why shopping malls built to last / for centuries.” In the review section, the editors took the unusual tack of having three reviewers review the same book, Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee, stating: “The Cincinnati Review will, in every issue, publish multiple reviews of the same book in the hope of presenting a rich and disparate commentary on the work.” These three reviews, and the reviews by Averil Curdy of the six finalists for the 2003 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, throw no softballs – expect demanding critical rigor. For instance, here is a part of Curdy’s assessment of Dean Young’s Skid: “Moments of genuine emotion or pathos are undercut by irony, a little like the class clown who can’t say ‘I love you’ to the prom queen without masking his vulnerability with jokes and magic tricks.” I am looking forward to great things from this ambitious new entry to the literary magazine marketplace. 

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Review Posted on April 30, 2005

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