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  • Issue Number Volume 4 Issue 2
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of the Asian American Literary Review is packed with ambition. While many literary journals experiment with the elements and the appearance of language, this issue of AALR crosses the physical conventions of the idea of the literary journal. The contents, like the challenges to the physical form, provoke questions and emphasize ambiguities rather than entertain, which is perhaps fitting when the issue centers on “mixed race,” a sometimes questionable and often ambiguous term laden with history, exultation, and pain.
  • Issue Number Volume 43 Number 2
  • Published Date August 2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
The Arkansas Review features a blend of fiction, poetry, photography, and scholarly articles about the seven-state Mississippi River Delta. At fifty pages, the brief journal is an interesting study of this part of America, but at times feels claustrophobic in its geographic constraints. What sets this magazine apart from others is the chorus of Delta voices and its convincing local color.
  • Issue Number Volume 67 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Poetry editor Judith Hall introduces the all poetry issue with a beautiful editorial: “Those not spent by life are privileged. A poet, reading in the evening, writing after dawn, enjoys such privileges.” A reader with this issue in her hands is privileged, too, I am happy to say.
This issue of the newsprint bimonthly American Poetry Review features an essay on Hayden Carruth (“In Measured Resistance: On Hayden Carruth’s “Contra Mortem”), along with a special supplement of Carruth’s poems, and seven outstanding poems by Adrienne Rich, which in itself is enough to satisfy most poetry addicts. But it also includes multiple poems by other well-known poets such as David Wagoner and Donald Revell. APR is justifiably famous for its essays, and usually also features a large spread of international poetry in translation – in this issue, six poems from Viktor Sosnora translated by Dinara Georgeoliani and Mark Halperin. Even the ads make for fascinating reading – one touting the newest poetry releases from Wesleyan, another for a new MFA program seeking students, and Contests! Contests! Contests! – those holy grails for upstart poets such as myself.
  • Issue Number Volume 15 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2004
Jim Meirose and Andi Diehn both are writers of at least one (presumably more, hopefully more) great story. G.C. Waldrep: thank you, again and for more—he is, dear reader, one of the poets whose work we may all, gladly, turn to, hopeful that people are still making language do strange tricks we can’t imagine. Also: Nancy Eimers—bravo, and I look forward to hunting down your two books. American Literary Review is another of those great reminders that literary journals can act as: there’s literally no limit to the number of these things, and the phrase “All boats rise together” has no stronger ledge on which to stand and preside over than the ledge above we scribblers the world over without contracts or even degrees. As ever, having heard of only one poet within, I come away, post-read, with a handful of new practitioners to mentally asterisk.
  • Issue Number Number 9
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
An engaging and provocative issue of this ever-impressive annual. This year’s portfolio of international writing features contemporary Polish poetry selected by guest editor Mark Tardi, complex and inventive work worthy of serious reading and sustained attention. Another portfolio guest edited Laura Moriarty presents the work of “A Tonalist” poets; and guest editors E. Tracy Grinnell, Paul Foster Johnson, Julian T. Brolaski and contributing editors Jen Hofer and Nathalie Stephens selected the work of three dozen other poets and a number of unconventional review essays.
  • Issue Number Volume 31 Number 3
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
At the risk of sounding a bit dramatic, I have to say I was enthralled by the beauty contained within Ascent, the seasonal literary journal out of Concordia College. Filled with highly-memorable essays, poems and short stories, this issue found a place inside my tote bag for over a week as I found myself rereading it several times.
  • Subtitle A Journal of Delta Studies
  • Issue Number Volume 35 Number 2
  • Published Date August 2004
Been longing to, as the song says, drive south? Just pick up a copy of the Arkansas Review and step into one of Daniel Coston’s you-are-there paintings of quintessential southern settings somehow rendered exotic by his fresh view of their familiarity. The white churches, the flat green lands of the Mississippi Delta, an “old store south of Pine Bluff, Arkansas on highway 65” will seem so real you’ll want to have your picture taken there. Then head out to the inexplicably named Club Disco 9000, actually “a juke joint, a prefab steel barn on Otha Turner’s place, out in the country” with white, middled-aged British blues fan Garry Craig Powell. In “Talkin’ Blues at the Living Blues Symposium,” he’ll give you his entertaining/worried take on the current health of (and his not so promising prognosis for) the blues and the fact that white people’s love for the blues (or their co-opting of it, depending on how you look at it) helps keep it alive, yet also tends to alter its essence. Who you play for can change your song, as R. T. Smith will warn you in his tour de force for one (fictional) voice “Dear Six Belles,” a wonderfully cranky and obsessive paean to real Cajun music: “Authentic whang-doodle, chers, the true thing.” Hear it? “You gotta cherish the blue swell in the emotional motion, give your self whole heart to the Loosiana razzy dazz.” If you start now, you can be back by suppertime. [Arkansas Review, Department of English and Philosophy, P.O. Box 1890, Arkansas State Unversity, State University, AR 72467. E-mail: . Single issue $7.50. http://www.clt.astate.edu/arkreview] – AS
  • Issue Number Volume 66 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The winter 2008 edition of the Antioch Review is titled “Breaking the Rules,” though, as Robert S. Fogarty explains in his editorial, this is “no grand theme but a series of fragments and broken rules.” The authors in this issue explore rule-breaking in many different ways, some through form, others through subject or theme.
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  • Published Date October/November 2013
  • Publication Cycle Updated Regularly online
With a url such as “readthebestwriting.com,” Ascent offers up some high expectations. While I’m not certain how to qualify any writing as “the best,” there is no argument that Ascent really does publish quality writing.
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The inaugural issue of The Asian American Literary Review – whose mission is to form “a space for writers who consider the designation ‘Asian American’ a fruitful starting point for artistic vision and community” features an interview with Karen Tei Yamashita; three book reviews; poetry; and prose that often concerns individuals confronted by personal shortcomings.
  • Issue Number Volume 27 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Guest editor Amy Hempel selected the work of 21 writers for the issue’s special “Innovative Fiction” focus. She looked for work that was “new,” but also new to the author (poets writing fiction; fiction writers experimenting with memoir forms). And she sought work “that was visceral and visual, that joins nerve and insight, that is darkly funny, that does not back away from compassion…and that amplifies the possibilities of what a story can be.”
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  • Issue Number Issue 70/71
  • Publication Cycle Biannual

Published by C.A.L. Press, Berkeley, CA, Anarchy purports to "Disarm authority! Arm your Desires! with provocative, creative, and critical anti-authoritarian discourse and art."

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  • Issue Number Number 95
  • Published Date May/June 2011
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly

This issue of Adbusters, subtitled POST—with an Arabic word insertion—WEST, is at first glance an irreverent avant-garde (the publishers probably think using avant-garde is passé) mish-mash of advertisements, graphics, photographs, art, essays, book excerpts, observations, and poetry about economics, capitalism, politics, jihad, revolution, militarism, overpopulation, aquaculture, genetic modification, anarchy, and you name it.

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  • Issue Number Number 10
  • Published Date Winter 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
In the inaugural print edition of Able Muse, Marilyn N. Taylor's essay on the recent rise of semi-formal poetry, mentions “the poetry wars” between “the shaggy free-verse stalwarts vs. the tweedy New Formalists.” It’s nice to see that the new New Formalist critics published in Able Muse definitely do not write in a tweedy style, as evidenced by Taylor’s piece and Julie Stoner’s review of new books by Maxime Kumin and Carrie Jewell, which begins “After the Revival…reminds me of an after-school snack. I enjoyed the combination of salt and crunch and grease and hellfire and cheese, even if I had to overcome the occasional wave of nausea. (I’m still referring to the book.)”
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  • Issue Number Volume 71 Number 3
  • Published Date Summer 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The Antioch Review, as its website explains, has been publishing high-quality poetry and prose by the likes of Joyce Carol Oates (whose haunting 1966 “The Dying Child” appears in the “From Our Archives” section of this issue), Gordon Lish, Edith Pearlman, T. Coraghessan Boyle—the list is long and impressive—for more than seventy years. Over its venerable lifespan, it has seen changes in ideology, format, and focus, all a testament to its adaptability and continued emphasis on intelligence, currency, and “the best words in the best order.” Every year, TAR publishes an all-fiction issue (with a few poems), a celebration of the genre with more than twice as many entries as most issues contain. This year’s volume is a winner.
  • Issue Number Number 5
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This edition of Avery is lovely for its cleverness. While each piece is unique unto itself, together they make for a satisfying romp through today’s literati. Chelsey Johnson’s story, “Devices,” for example, offers a surreal picture of attempted perfection in “Once There Were an Artist and an Inventor”: “They are right up next to the sidewalk, and the inventor is always drawing the curtains shut and the artist is always opening them. The artist needs light. The inventor needs privacy. In other words, they are deeply in love. But both of them are a little bit more in love with the artist.” Lovely writing. Of the artist, Johnson writes that when she takes self-portraits, the effect is, “a look of assured surprise, a look somewhere between caught-off-guard and ready-for-my-close-up.” And, “If everything becomes like love, the artist starts to wonder, what is love?” Analogies emerge everywhere, but she realizes she has no idea what the things is itself is: “It is the negative space of a drawing, its form determined only by what interrupts it.”
  • Issue Number Volume 18 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
In Atlanta Review, it’s all poetry, all the time. No visual art or prose (save for the editors’ introductions and contributor notes) finds its way into this journal. With all this space, the editors will consider up to five poems by a single author for a given issue, and they take pride in publishing the works of both new and established authors. The editors evidently prefer brief works and excerpts: in such a small space, 59 poets (in addition to Kabir, Tukaram, Akho and Nandeo, who turn up in translation) and 92 poems appear. On its website, the journal is described as “a haven for our common humanity, the things that unite us across the boundaries of nation, race, and religion.” Each Spring/Summer issue therefore devotes space to literature from a single nation.
  • Issue Number Numbers 50 & 51
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
If I had to choose a metaphor for the 2012 issue of Artful Dodge, I’d liken it to one of those brown paper grab-bags they sell at the dollar store. You know the ones—unmarked and mysterious, they could contain something awesome just as easily as they could contain something you could just as well live without. This issue is a huge literary grab-bag, containing a wide assortment of essays, fiction, poetry, and art spanning a varied range of themes and subject matter. Some of the work is surprising, gripping, and moving, while others, not quite as much.
  • Issue Number Volume 41 Number 4
  • Published Date July/August 2012
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly
The latest American Poetry Review has an immensely quotable essay by C.K. Williams “On Being Old.” In it, he says he doesn’t “blab” about poets whose work he doesn’t like. He once, to his current chagrin, dismissed the work of the great Elizabeth Bishop. He writes, “I think we all tend to believe we can see through the vagaries of our moment to some absolute standard of judgment—this must be a characteristic of human consciousness itself—but the conviction is absurd.”
  • Issue Number Volume 16 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
“After a disarmingly calm opening, this issue plunges right into the temptations of sex and chocolate, which even Death seems to find irresistible,” says editor and publisher Dan Veach in his “Welcome.” The calm is Catherine Tahmin’s “Small Talk” (“It’s raining and that’s all / we want to know.”); the sex is Michale Myerhofer’s “First Crush” (“Across our little circle jived this ribboned thing / with her anatomical differences / of which we Catholic boys knew nothing.”); Janet Jennings and Mary Soon Lee contribute the chocolate with “The Chocolate Factory” (“You can smell the roast from two miles away”) and “Master of Chocolate” (“After fifty-six years selling chocolate, / he knows what his customers want”). It’s Soon Lee’s poem that brings us death, too, though somehow it seems unfair that it’s the person who sells the chocolate, not the one indulging (“The old woman who leaves her dachshund outside / wants foil-wrapped liqueurs for her sister / and a single hazelnut cream for her dog.”) who must die. (To be fair, death eats her chocolate slowly and allows the salesman “to write a last note to his wife.”).
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  • Issue Number Number 70
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
From artist Joomi Chung’s colorful gouache on clayboard “Scapes” and her intricate ink drawings, to the many insightful personal tributes to the late painter Michael Mazur, Agni’s strength is, as always, distinctive and authentic voices and visions.
  • Issue Number Volume 36 Number 5
  • Published Date September/October 2007
  • Publication Cycle monthly
The issue contains both poems that address current events and poems with timeless themes. The best poems, as often happens, combine both the relevant and the timeless aspects. Bob Hicok, a professor at Virginia Tech, writes such poems, their main focus his silent student who became a killer: “[…]the code for language= / sight. Even now, I go back and listen / to what he was saying by not saying, I look / at my memory of the unsounding / […]but there’s nothing, no knob of sound” (“Mute”). After describing the particular murderer, he asks the general question that all witnesses ask: “why did this happen,” – a common enough question in the aftermath of any tragedy, but poignant nonetheless because no one has yet given a satisfactory answer. Susan Stewart’s response to another massacre – this one in the Amish community – is to use the victims’ names as a refrain throughout her poem.
  • Subtitle New European Writing
  • Published Date 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This is an attractive journal with the death images one would expect of the title on the slick cover. Nevertheless, Absinthe 4's prose and poetry present fresh and unfamiliar prose rhythms from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, and Turkey.
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  • Issue Number Volume 30 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Spring & Summer 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Alaska Quarterly Review (AQR) is “a journal devoted to contemporary literary art.” This double issue is indeed artful, and reading through the selections is like wandering through a museum one has loved since childhood, from school trips through failed first dates and on into the future of adult wanderings, each stage of life a visitation filled with misgivings, missteps, and misunderstanding.
Yes, after sixty issues, AGNI is still going strong, but more importantly it’s still finding new ways to reinvent itself. The theme here is “reading at the limit,” inspired by Katherine Jackson’s rendering of written text into “liminal” (i.e. at the surface) visual art. If you want to test the limits at the reading level, there’s no going wrong with Robert Olen Butler’s “four pieces of Severance,” a group of concept sketches best defined as “beheading monologues” that you’ll have to read for yourself to truly appreciate. Among the poetry, I enjoyed the account of innocence lost in Richard Hoffman’s “Gold Star Road”: “Ignorant // as goldfish in a plastic bag, / as mayflies mistaking the road for the river, / we assured one another, // keeping up our spirits / as we had long been taught.” The fiction has something for everyone, but the nonfiction has the most room to challenge our notions of limits and categorization. Joshua Harmon, in “The Annotated Mix-Tape,” weaves an eclectic music review of the Scud Mountain Boys’ “Massachusetts” with his own memories of his native Bay State. I was quite amused by his treatment of my native Pennsylvania as foreign to his New England sensibilities. (Full disclosure: Harmon taught at Bucknell University while I was a student there.) Needless to say, AGNI is strangely exotic to my own eyes; it knows how to skew the current times while demanding to be re-read through the backdrop of future ages. And even when rereading, as Jackson says, “aren’t we always reading everything for the first time?”
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  • Issue Number Issue 4
  • Published Date 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
According to neuroscientists at the University of Florida, lobsters may be the key to bomb detection. In other words, reality is fast approaching the fantastic, so for the modern surrealist to distinguish herself, she must court the right sound in the right place with the right pitch and endless imagination. The right place just might be apt, a publication of Aforementioned Productions.
With this issue, ABZ becomes a biennial journal rather than an annual. It’s a shame it will come out less often, because the poems here arise out of deep feeling, place, and lived experience. They are about things that matter. No wonder the volume is dedicated to the memory of Lucille Clifton “who always knew how to make poetry even when it hurt.”
  • Issue Number Volume 11 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2005
Editor Dan Veach is enthusiastic and proud: "Welcome to the most joyful and enjoyable celebration of poetry you've ever seen!" The celebration is nothing short of enormous — 330 pages of poetry divided into a series of "stages of human life" (Birth, Childhood & Youth, Love, etc., Home & Work, Aging & Death, Animals & Nature, Humor, Cities, Poetry, Music and Art, and War) interspersed with a series of "expeditions" (Ireland, Asia, Latin America, Spain, The Caribbean, Africa, Greece, Australia, Great Britain, and America), along with serene black and white drawings from a half dozen artists.
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 2
  • Published Date 2005
This is a beautiful journal. It uses the same elegant design with each issue, alternating only the cover’s color and the content – and included are usually a novella, a long poem, and black-and-white artwork. Because the number of works is so small, the pressure on the editors to publish good pieces is much higher – little room for error here.
  • Subtitle A Journal of Delta Studies
  • Issue Number Volume 36 Number 1
  • Published Date April 2005
If you dislike the homogeneity of Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, here’s the magazine for you. The equivalent to a locally owned coffee-shop, Arkansas Review is a fiercely regional tri-quarterly; based on that alone, it’s a laudable effort. The poems of Jeffrey Renard Allen are as bluesy as you’ll ever see (“Bol weevil in the cotton / worm in the corn / Devil in the white man / War going on”), and the centerpiece essay focuses on the racial implications of lodging alternatives in Clarksdale, Mississippi: “Race and Blues Tourism” is a perfect example of how focused investigation, even (especially?) in an area so removed from ‘cultural centers,’ can enlighten and entertain.
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  • Issue Number Volume 63
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Apalachee Review is an attractively designed magazine hailing from Tallahassee, Florida. The editors are Michael Trammell and Jenn Bronson. The quality of work is high across all five genres presented—fiction, poetry, essay, book review, and visual art—with fiction getting a nod as the particular strength of this issue.
  • Issue Number Issue 10
  • Published Date June 2012
  • Publication Cycle online
Anti- is, as the editors explain, “contrarian, a devil’s advocate that primarily stands against the confinement of poetry in too-small boxes. Anti- wants to provide a single arena for a wide range of styles and ideas, so these different kinds of poets and poems can either fight it out or learn to coexist.” What I found most interesting with this issue of Anti- is the vast breadth of styles that it packs; each poet seemed to bring something different. With some of the poems, I was just captured by the titles alone: "Dictator, By Which I Mean the Mother Brandishing a Pistol with a Piñata over Her Head" and "When they squeeze us the wind splinters where we used to be, which is also where we are now."
  • Issue Number Volume 41 Number 2
  • Published Date August 2010
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Formerly the Kansas Quarterly, this issue of the Arkansas Review features two essays, a memoir, a poem, one short story, and numerous reviews. I like the narrow double column format (found most commonly these days in newspapers and The New Yorker), which makes the analytical essays (“Ain’t No Burnin’ Hell: Southern Religion and the Devil’s Music” by Adam Gussow and “Farmers and Fastballs: The Culture of Baseball in Depression Era Northeast Arkansas” by Paul Edwards) highly readable. These essays are intelligent and informative, but not stuffy or opaque.
  • Issue Number Volume 13 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
When I think of this volume as a whole, poignancy and humor are powerfully juxtaposed. Grouped together under the conflict theme are Korkut Onaran’s “War,” Fred Voss’ “Machinist Wanted,” Jamaal May’s “Triage,” and Vuong Quoc Vu’s “Flower Bomb.” This last poem won the review’s 2007 International Poetry Competition with lines like these:
  • Issue Number Volume 38 Number 3
  • Published Date December 2007
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
The Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies is a large, thin, easy-to-read magazine. According to the Guidelines for Contributors, this publication prints academic articles in addition to poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, but the December 2007 edition focuses on literary contributions. This issue features a long, fascinating interview with author Scott Ely, covering his time in Vietnam, his writing and research methods, and his screen writing experiences. This interview is followed by “The Poisoned Arrow,” a short story by Ely, which is full of vivid South Carolina flavor.
  • Issue Number Issue 5
  • Published Date Winter 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Alimentum publishes “the literature of food.” When I first opened this magazine, I thought I knew what that meant. Poems about sandwiches, maybe, sentimental stories about grandma’s cherry pie. I thought that, at best, this magazine would succeed in making me hungry. Boy was I wrong. Almost from the first page, reading this magazine was an educational experience. I learned all kinds of interesting things about food, but more importantly, I learned something about the power of good writing.
  • Published Date Winter 2005/Spring 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Entering its tenth year of publication, this journal of the University of South Carolina at Beaufort offers readers fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry by established and emerging writers. Kathleen Rooney’s essay “Coy Mistress,” about her work as an artist’s and photographer’s nude model appealed to me, perhaps all the more so because I read it while sitting clothed in a paper gown on a physician’s examination table, and over the years, I’ve wondered how a person guards her/his composure while under such close scrutiny. Rebecca McLanachan’s essay, “Interstellar,” delves into the relationship between two sisters. Artfully structured around the recurrent image of double stars, it movingly portrays their changing relationship over time. In the short story “Uncle Will,” Ron Cooper convincingly depicts an irascible older man and his clever solution to the perennial problem of transportation. Poems by some two dozen authors take up half of the journal. They include works by Nelson James Dunford, Michael Johnson, Sharon Doyle, David Lunde, and Jane Sanderson. Standouts are Michael Bassett’s “Aphorisms of One Who Calls Himself Legion Because He is Many”: “The wounds we cannot live / without define us the way the night / sky outlines the stars.” Similarly, in her prose poem (or flash memoir) “Detour,” Sanderson powerfully depicts the feelings a person experiences upon visiting a once concentration camp, now memorial. Frederick Zydek’s “Dreams That Get It Right,” part of a collection-in-progress about dreams, also prompted me to think, with these lines:
  • Issue Number Volume 76 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The American Scholar celebrated 75 years with the publication of its winter issue. To mark this outstanding achievement, Robert Wilson, the journal’s editor of two years, asked two contributing editors to read every issue from the past 75 years (300 in all) and comment on the journey. The results are fascinating—both in terms of the writers who have written in The Scholar (e.g. John Updike, Oliver Sacks, Barbara Tuchman, Rita Dove, and Hannah Arendt), and in terms of how the journal’s contents trace larger social, political, and ideological movements. Wilson writes in his editor’s note that he noticed how “arguments became more specific, more rooted in particular cases or in personal experiences, more dependent on narrative”
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  • Issue Number Volume 7
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Vietnam War, love affairs, a few ERs, a catastrophic case of acne and its scars: trauma and its aftermath are the subject of this issue of Arcadia, guest-edited by Benjamin Reed. Perhaps because of the nature of trauma, the dramatic and the weird take up a greater-than-usual proportion of the issue, but quieter and more quotidian disruptions are given their places, too. Despite the fragmenting and wounding effects of trauma, the work in this issue is accessible and gripping, at times sad but never depressing.
  • Issue Number Volume 23 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
In The Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (January, 2006), researchers argue that “emotion enhances remembrance of neutral events past.”1 Investigators speculated that the reason for this might have to do with more pointed attention during the coding process or enhancement after the event, but what they showed more centrally was that emotion enhances long-term memory, “determining what will later be remembered or forgotten.”2 Virginia Woolf wrote in her journal that there was a certain advantage to memory stripped of its emotional coloring, which doesn’t contradict the recent claim of the Academy, but adds to the complexity of the relationship between memory and emotion which would have considerable impact on literature and its sibling sciences—the law and psychology.
  • Issue Number Issue 23
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
American Letters & Commentary defines itself as “innovative,” “challenging,” “daring,” and “diverse.” In this issue, John Phillip Santos reviews the poetry of John Matthias, saying that his “work imbeds us in his mind’s ceaseless flow of intimate memories, archival citations, insurrectionary readings, free associations and liberated play that seeks to unsettle the unexamined phenomenology of the reader’s attention to the world.” These phrases characterize ALC 23 as a whole.
  • Issue Number Issue 17
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Like the magazine, the alligator juniper tree is native to Arizona (the journal is a yearly publication of Prescott College), but, as its unusual name implies, the magazine “invites both the regional and the exotic.” What sets this journal apart from other lit mags is that the only avenue for submission—open to all levels, emerging, early-career, and established—is through their national contests. These include a general one for fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and photography, and a separate Suzanne Tito contest for fiction, CNF, and poetry. The prizewinners and finalists selected for this issue are supremely worth reading.
  • Issue Number Volume 15 Issue 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2010-2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This fifteenth anniversary issue of The Aurorean, published in Farmington, Maine, celebrates the fall/winter seasons in New England. This issue features poets Jim Brosnan and Martha Christina, and includes a special section of Haiku and “related poetry.”
  • Issue Number Volume 8 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
A snarling wolf graces the front cover of this issue. This jolting art, titled “The Queen/Bitch,” by Jennifer Murray provides an intriguing introduction to the central themes of the issue: loneliness and isolation.
  • Issue Number Issue 7
  • Published Date July 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Assaracus, a journal dedicated to providing a stage for gay poets and poetry, is a part of Sibling Rivalry Press, which also prints Lady Business: A Celebration of Lesbian Poetry. Rather than including a slew of writers in each issue, Assaracus introduces about a dozen writers, each with a short biography, and then dives into a several page spread of their work. This really allows the reader to get to know each individual writer in depth, rather than just giving us a quick taste.
  • Issue Number Number 4
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual

“Poetry on tap,” is this journal’s tagline. But who needs booze when there are poets like Jane Mead? I was thrilled to find her here as I have loved her work since her first (watery, in fact) book, and she did not disappoint in “Dust and Rumble”:

  • Issue Number Volume 18 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Spring issue of American Literary Review provides readers with a rewarding balance of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. It opens with the lyrical poetry of Karen Carissimo whose poem, “Basho’s Death Poem," culminates with a haunting image of Basho’s final gift to this earth, “his dreams scattered / like seeds over moors of dry grass, / blooming into flags of iris far beyond / the first Spring of his passing.” Another highlight is the poetry of Katie Ford, poetry editor of The New Orleans Review. Included here are excerpts from her recently published chapbook that traces the fallout from Hurricane Katrina: the “guarded city” – “the dead tonnage / of seal lifted and abandoned by the astonished / laws of water,” a “stormed body,” and the dream “the earth was dry / undrowned it could speak again.”
  • Issue Number Number 12
  • Published Date Summer 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Published in Hong Kong, Asia Literary Review may be difficult to find in US bookstores. I’d never seen it until NewPages’s amazing (heroic, really) team sent it to me. I am sad to think of what I may have missed in the past, delighted to have discovered this sensational magazine, and hopeful that other readers may be able to subscribe to and/or find it in US markets. The cover alone is worth many times the modest price of $11.99 (prices on the back cover are listed for Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, UK, India, Canada, and the US, which gives an idea of the journal’s markets).
  • Issue Number Volume 15 Issue 54
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
American Short Fiction differs from a lot of other literary journals in that, as its name implies, it only publishes short fiction. The Editor’s Note for this issue says that the stories explore “the voice of the collective—in particular, the women’s collective,” and while that description is not one-hundred percent applicable to all five stories in this issue, it pertains to more of them than not. The Editor’s Note also claims that these stories contain an above average share of violence and that “all this first-person plural and womanliness (womynliness?) and crime and violence may not sound like a blast to read. And yet it is.” That description, too, is a pleasingly accurate one. Many of the stories explore the edges of darkness but then allow light to resurface through reflection and humor.
This issue of the Minnesota-based Ascent is focused on the contemplative, the intellectual, and the spiritual - most of the pieces are focused in some way on individuals contemplating their world and their place in it. In one story, the balance of the universe rests on the subversive tendencies of a man at a newspaper who inserts people’s names into the text of classified ads; a poem compares the speaker’s actions as a new father with the actions of Caligula. Entertaining and somewhat erudite, I enjoyed Jean-Mark Sens poem “Doubling,” which begins: “Your mouth articulates / outside words: / and bit by bit you’ve grown / a guardian angel.” and the poem “Watching” by Jesse Lee Kercheval, about watching movies -  “…Now when the movie comes I’m already restless, thinking one step ahead. / I’m questioning everything even before the academy leader counts down. // Now when I’m watching a movie, it may happen that another movie / fills my head & keeps me from watching the movie I am watching.” I enjoy reading the new voices and new ideas found here. [Ascent, Concordia College, 901 8th Street S, Moorhead, Minnesota 56562. E-mail: . Single issue $5. http://www.cord.edu/dept/english/ascent/] – JHG
  • Subtitle Journal of Contemporary Culture
  • Issue Number Issue 11
  • Published Date Spring 2004
I'm hooked. I was a sporadic reader of Arts & Letters, but no longer. I've just finished this issue and I can't wait for the next one. I read from cover to cover, not tempted to skip or skim or even come back to something later — every piece, from the A&L Prize for Drama winner, "Left" by Sourbah Chatterjee, to reviews of work by Judson Mitcham, Annie Finch, and Vivian Shipley drew me in and satisfied me. With so few opportunities to read new play scripts, I was thrilled to read Chatterjee's clever one-act play about a family of siblings, abandoned by their father as children and their adult solution to father-less-ness. I'd call Chatterjee's piece a highlight of the issue, if it weren't for the fact that it is followed by fiction, nonfiction, and poems that could all easily qualify as highlights. There is a delightful interview with Janisse Ray, author of The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Wild Card Quilting: Taking a Chance on Home; pleasing, read-me-more-than-once fiction by Janice Eidus, Barbara Haines Howett, Gloria DeVidas Kirchheimer, among others; and read-again-and-again poems from Jesse Lee Kercheval, Roy Jacobstein and others, including newcomer, Israeli poet Rosebud Ben-oni. – SR
This Canadian journal out of Nova Scotia features an eclectic mix of writing, a few translations, and the sprightly but thought-provoking poetry of Jan Zwicky. The mix of interviews, reviews, short fiction, and poetry is very balanced, and, as always when I read Canadian journals, I am surprised and impressed with the quality and diversity of the work of writers from Canada whom aren’t as well-represented in journals here in the States. One of the most interesting pieces in this issue was an interview with Heather Menzies, an expert on technology’s many impacts on social structures, particularly in the workplace. Much of the poetry featured here was well-crafted free verse, with many exemplary pieces, only one of which I have the space to quote here. A few lines from Myka Tucker-Abramson’s “Lot and Eurydice, Based on Akhmatova’s ‘Lot’s Wife’”: “If you turned around, I would lick the salt off your skin / before tumbling back like Eurydice into slush driven days. / You taste like fire and turn slowly away, while I speak / loudly as anguish…” Poems by Li Qingzhao, translated with skill by Allen C. West and Gundi Chan, are also exceptional. – JHG

In "The lure of the gallery wall," one of the excellent conversations in the Canadian Arc Poetry's "Poet As Art Thief" issue, the poet John Barton says writing ekphrastic poetry is "a way to expand our world, especially as so much of 20th-century poetry seems overwhelmingly concerned with the self."

  • Issue Number Volume 28
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
One can hardly believe that the astounding works within Allegheny Review’s 28th volume is all from undergraduates. The wording might be a bit self-consciously ornate; which can be put to youthful enthusiasm. However, there is an explosion of images and modifiers, working toward emotional complexity – the effort succeeds; entrancing, engaging and enchanting the reader.
  • Issue Number Number 21
  • Published Date Spring 2010
This slim issue moves its poetry seamlessly from religion to nature to philosophy. Albatross is a small, chapbook-like magazine, stapled together in the center, featuring only poetry. On the inside of the front cover is a quote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
  • Issue Number Volume 65 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
If you’re interested in testing Antioch Review’s stellar reputation, just pick up the current issue. Everything that has made AR a benchmark standard for literary journals is in evidence here, as always: intelligent essays, eclectic themes, engaging stories, and unsparing poetry—all of it thriving in an ever-evolving habitat of exploration. It’s almost impossible to choose standout pieces in a collection as accomplished as this. Jeffrey Meyers opens the issue (and this writer’s eyes) with “The Literary Politics of the Nobel Prize,” a revelatory inside look at the Oscar-like machinations pulling the strings of literary prestige.
  • Issue Number Volume 43 Number 169
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Although The Antigonish Review is partially supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture & Heritage, the publication does not overreach into a philosophical or political interpretation of the American experiment. Some might imagine that public funding could encourage specific response at the expense of story, but these stories, essays, and poems are not exclusively about Canada and Canadians. The issue is rich with diverse elements—such as references to Tunisia, teenage nihilism, mortuary science, and Egypt. The writing is disciplined, and because of this convention, I can carry the magazine everywhere; it is a talisman against lost time. And that’s the best symptom of clean prose—the ability it affords the reader to weave in and out of the narrative without feeling lost.
  • Issue Number Volume 26
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The Allegheny Review is a national undergraduate literary magazine published since 1983 at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. But, if you didn’t know these poems, stories, photos, and drawings were the product of undergraduate students, you might reasonably assume they were created by more experienced artists. And there is something refreshing about focusing solely on the work itself, forgetting about the name at the top of the page. It’s unlikely you’ll have seen this writer or artist’s name before, and it can be a pleasure to read without expectations. I was surprised by and especially liked a sophisticated poem by Robert Campbell, “An Appalachian Book of the Dead,” one of the issue’s award winners; a story by Heather Papp, “Consequences of Reproductive Success”; and a photo by Sean Stewart. I might have mistaken any of these for work by more mature artists, clear-eyed, original, and memorable.
I always enjoy reading Atlanta Review’s poetry; the work is typically approachable, emotionally invested, and refreshingly direct. Many of the poems in this issue even seem to follow the whole “emotion recalled in tranquility” rule of poetry – the speakers are trapped in between occasions, reflecting on the past or future – at concerts, diagnoses, at movies, in the kitchen. This issue featured poems from the Atlanta Review’s 2004 International Poetry Competition, as well as an interview with the always-lively, acclaimed poet-teacher-extraordinaire Marvin Bell. There were a couple of wonderful food-oriented poems in this issue, including “Basmati” by Amy Dengler, and a great poem by Marian Wilson called “Frump Femme Fatale” about a librarian action figure gone wild. One of the other poems I particularly liked in this issue was Alicia Ostriker’s “What You Cannot Remember, What You Cannot Know,” which appears to be written to a daughter or granddaughter. I have to admit I immediately forwarded the poem to both my mother and grandmother. But don’t mistake this for any kind of easy, sentimental verse. Here’s a quote from the poem:
This was a special 10th Anniversary issue called The Best of The Asheville Poetry Review, a retrospective of the work the journal has published since 1994, including in its 250 pages a surprisingly diverse set of writers - from Robert Bly, Joy Harjo, to translations of Baudelaire, Celan and Lorca, to Eaven Boland, Virgil Suarez, Gary Snyder Sherman Alexie and R.T. Smith. It’s hard to pick out from such a large, myriad cast a “typical” poem, but there were many meditations on natural themes, and many of the poems felt restrained, although again, there were prose poems and experimental work among the traditional narratives and even some formal verse. Along with the poems, there were critical essays, book reviews, and interviews, including a long interview with William Matthews. Scott C. Holstad defended Carl Sandburg’s poetry and his focus on the American working class in the essay “Sandburg’s Chicago Poems: The Inscription of American Ideology.” When’s the last time I read anything that defended Carl Sandburg? I applaud Holstad for his courage in recognizing what was good in the work of this long-maligned American poet. I loved Joy Harjo’s “The Flood” and Cathy Gibbon’s “Dumb Blonde,” as well as the clever “Terzanelle of the Insomniac Dreamer” by Tom C. Hunley. Kudos also for the beautiful cover art work, and the high production values of this glossy journal, as well as the resistance to the usual tyranny of “big names” in anniversary issues. Neither did the editor succumb to the regionalism one might expect from a journal called “Asheville Poetry Review” – the editor chose just as many poems from new or little-known authors as he did from recognized writers, which shows courage, and opened the doors of his journal to writers not only of other states, but other countries as well.  – JHG
  • Subtitle New European Writing
  • Published Date 2004
"While I was reading your poems, my tailbone went numb many times. I'm afraid, my dear friend, that you're a poet and nothing can be done about it. I'm expressing my immense sympathy." That's a quote from Zbigniew Herbert in a letter to poet Janusz Szuber which he reads, at her request, to interviewer/translator Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough. Tailbone numbing writing is a perfect description of the superb work collected in Absinthe. A dozen poets and fiction writers from 11 countries appear here in expert translations (with the exception of poems by the British poet Fiona Sampson whose work, obviously, appears in the original English). What distinguishes this journal overall is that there is nothing occasional here, not a single piece that seems remotely casual in intent or outcome. What numbs the tailbone is not merely the exquisite control demonstrated by each of these authors, but the overwhelming sense of responsibility this control suggests—every word, no, every syllable, counts in poetry and prose alike. While there is much variety in the subject matter treated and the style of the pieces collected here, what they have in common is a particular seriousness or authority that seems, to put it bluntly, unmistakably not-American. These are accomplished and successful artists, widely published and recognized in their own languages and countries. They deserve a wide and grateful audience in English, as well.
This summer the Olympics go home to Greece, and so does Atlanta Review in a “special commemorative issue for the Athens Summer Games, 2004” with a remarkable Greece Feature Section edited by formalist poet and Greek translator Alicia Stallings (Archaic Smile).
The American Scholar deserves applause for providing a loving home for the personal essay, a wonderfully egalitarian and pliant form that adjusts itself to any voice or subject matter, however refined or rough-hewn, fact-enamored or fanciful.
  • Issue Number Volume 37 Number 1
  • Published Date April 2006
  • Publication Cycle annual
Barbeque, bottletrees, National Steal Guitars - if you're looking for clichés, this isn't the mag for you. Focusing on the seven-state Mississippi River Delta, Arkansas Review draws the humanities and social sciences in its interdisciplinary net to evoke the Delta experience. And although each issue contains fiction and poetry - 3 stories and 7 poems here—AR includes “studies” in its title for a reason. First, there’s the scholarly articles - about Arkansas State College’s early alliance with the Army and a transcribed lecture on Delta race relations—then the book reviews—17 pages of them, outnumbering any other single piece. 
  • Issue Number Number 12
  • Published Date Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Although it’s slightly twee, David J. Rothman’s Able Muse conversation with poet David Mason exemplifies the sort of experimentation that makes the magazine well worth reading. Rothman plays with the interview format by occasionally posing questions in poetry, wondering why “prose is what we have to use when we / Decide to have a conversation on / Why we write verse?”
  • Issue Number Volume 73 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2004
This is, in my mind anyway, the most classically high-brow literary-and-arts magazine on the market, though that opinion may only be because when I was in college I was not invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa society, the group that publishes this quarterly. And while I’m certainly a fan of ignoring those who snub you, it’s impossible to keep an antagonist front against this consistently brainy, ever clever, and intensely smart magazine. Two admissions: I’m bound to love anything Sven Birkerts writes, and his essay on Flaubert is, as ever, graceful and superb. I’m also, as of late and right along with most of the rest of the conscientious country, horrifically fascinated by all stories pertaining to farming in the US, particularly stories that detail the literally near-unbelievable industrialization and specialization processes that have taken place since, roughly, Nixon. So Richard Manning’s “Against the Grain,” the lead essay here, is disgustingly enthralling. But there’s plenty beyond that, as well. Richard Lucas’ visual essay “Roma Ineffabile” is ghastly and addictive and, like any good art, asks more questions of the viewer/reader, and acts as a vein in a copper valley. Kay Ryan’s “Nothing Getting Past” is, like all of her poetry, prickly, dense and wise, and Diane McWhorter’s “Talk” is great, great fun. The only bad part? Not enough new, unknown writers in this particular issue. Next time - always next time. - WC
  • Issue Number Issue 15
  • Published Date 2003
It’s incredibly, incredibly hard to pin down which aspect of this magazine works and sings best. The candy-striped cover with its ‘bubbles’ of text; the feature on “Senses of Humor” (featuring, at her and his best, pieces by Eleanor Wilner and David Rees, among plenty of phenomenal others), John Greenman’s “The Cowboy Poet,” Adam Dant’s mesmerizing art, G.C. Waldrep’s or Linh Dinh’s poetry (and about Waldrep: I mentioned his work from the fall Gettysburg Review without knowing that: (1) He’s in Iowa now, not N.C., and (2) He’s the 2003 winner of the Colorado Prize for Poetry - remember that guy named Dean Young? Same award.). It’s a spellbinding read, this latest American Letters and Commentary, which is right in keeping with what this magazine does every time.
  • Issue Number Volume 21 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Fall & Winter 2003
This issue commences with a wonderful essay by Jane Hirshfield on the nature of language, “Language Wakes Up in the Morning: A Meander Toward Writing,” which playfully begins by describing a personified language as it goes about its day. Guest poetry editor for this issue, Michael Ryan, chose a variety of poems about loss, from a litany of everyday lost things in a little girl’s life (“My Daughter’s Sadness, a Casual Analysis”), to a mournful meditation on the brief lifespan of a hummingbird (“Anna’s Hummingbird”), to the effects of the death of a loved one (“After Your Death,” “Poem for After Peter Dies”). The art work in this issue, Richard J. Murphy’s series of black and white photographs titled “Cancer Journal,” also chronicles loss in the photo essay that movingly portrays a woman’s struggle and eventual death from breast cancer. The work throughout the issue is full of arresting images and heartbreaking moments, especially “Autobiographical Raw Material Unsuitable for the Mining of Fiction,” the piece by Charles Yu about a young man’s relationship to his mother. 
  • Issue Number Number 2
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Occasionally Publishes
Armchair/Shotgun is certainly one of the most intriguingly named new literary journals around. The name is a reference to a Bob Dylan lyric, but the journal is more straightforward and less twisted in its mission than the average Dylan song. Their mission statement, which claims that they read all submissions completely anonymously, lays it out succinctly: “At Armchair/Shotgun we do not care about your bio . . . Good writing knows only story.” And story would seem to be a focus for this journal: tight, compact, highly inventive stories. Even the layout of the prose on the page, with its slightly wide margins, adds to the compact excellence of this edition; the wide margins seem to squeeze the prose to the middle of the page, up front and center, where it belongs.
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
A promising premier beginning with fascinating cover art – a “threadwork portfolio” by Lisa Solomon whose threadwork images appear throughout the journal – Marvin Bell’s moving “dedication poem” (“The Book of the Dead Man (Arroyo)”) featuring Bell’s signature anaphoric lines; a terrific interview with novelist Eric Miles Williamson, a graduate of the California State University system where Arroyo is published; five strong stories; and contributions from ten poets, including more work by Bell.
  • Issue Number Volume 6
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Number six of the Ampersand Review is one packed with loads (and I mean loads; this thing is practically a monster) of juicy fiction and chomp-able poetry. It even has a couple of nonfiction selections that are beyond readable. I have recently been getting into nonfiction perhaps even more than fiction, and the reads in this issue certainly shuffle me along the same path.
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  • Issue Number Issue 13
  • Published Date December 2013
  • Publication Cycle Monthly online
Alimentum, a food journal, transitioned a little more than a year ago from a print biannual publication to an online monthly. Because it is now more frequent, it is unfortunately a bit smaller. There is one piece for each of the sections each month: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, featurettes, book reviews, recipe poems, eat and greet, art gallery, jukebox, food blog favs, and news.
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  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date Spring 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual online
Apogee, only now in its second issue, looks for “the writing and writers that sit at a distance from the mainstream,” and from what I’ve read, the editors hold up their end of the bargain.
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  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 1
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
Although, with most magazines, I’m drawn in mostly to the prose (as a personal reading preference), Agave’s first issue held such strong poetry that I couldn’t help moving from one to the next, eager to see what the next poem had to offer.
  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
I should start by saying that I’ve been holding a grudge against apt for some time now. It turns out that if you don’t read their guidelines very carefully and submit something out of their reading period, they send you a very snarky e-mail. I’m not a fan of snarky e-mails; in fact, they kind of hurt my feelings. So I had vowed to hate apt forever.
  • Issue Number Volume 29 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Given my interests, while there is much to be said for the literary content of this publication, the focus on this review will be on the photography in this thirtieth anniversary issue: a special section consisting of 141 stunning glossy pages of photographs and brief essays commemorating “Liberty and Justice (For All): A Global Photo Mosaic.” From guest editor Benjamin J. Spatz’s introduction to the project:
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Issue 49
  • Published Date December 11, 2012
  • Publication Cycle Weekly online
Every Tuesday, Atticus Review publishes a few pieces of literature. The December 11th issue features the work of William Reese Hamilton, Marko Fong, and M. C. Allan. This issue, as the editors say, is about rejection.
  • Issue Number Volume 32 Number 4
  • Published Date Fall 2004
What really drives my exploratory urges through the realm of literary magazines is the chance of finding one journal or another which seems in every way a representation of a real America. Appalachian Heritage is just that kind of publication. The journal’s handsome, down-to-earth appearance alone is a refreshing contrast to the often overly cerebral or academic format of so many American literary magazines. And the work featured here has a wonderfully unassuming quality about it: short stories, memoirs, poetry and photographs all unified by a down-home style that authenticates the journal’s eponymous claim to represent a bona fide heritage. In three short stories—by Lee Maynard, Patty Crow, and Sharyn McCrumb—the reader finds a lively, earnest narrative style that holds so faithfully to the clean, basic arcs of classic storytelling that it hearkens back to the rural oral tradition upon which so much of America’s contemporary literature is based, in whatever deviating forms. This issue’s featured author Sharon McCrumb (paraphrased by editor George Brosi) speaks to the very heritage alluded to in the journal’s title: “…[There is] a split between the ‘folk’ and the ‘fine,’ but there is no reason that our ‘folk’ traditions should have any less literary merit than those of Homer, the first epic poet…” This comment met with my emphatic underlining, so aptly did it express the reason for my own appreciation of Appalachian Heritage. Not often while reading literary journals do you get the feeling that you’ve happened upon a publication completely free of the corrosions of pretense, completely at ease with itself, and completely authentic. Appalachian Heritage is the real thing. Read it and find yourself relieved at the incontrovertible evidence it offers that, though big-money publishing may run the roost, the center of the literary universe is not characterized by The New Yorker
  • Issue Number Volume 29 Number 3
  • Published Date Spring 2005
  • Publication Cycle Annual
If you have ever wondered why so many high school students graduate with an indifference to literature; if you have ever considered the impact of war literature on young people whose heroes are largely provided by electronic media; if you have pondered the best words for the dying and what it means to be profoundly changed by a relative stranger, then, by all means, find a quiet corner and put yourself in the good company of this issue’s authorial minds. 
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  • Issue Number Number 76
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
You know you should have bought a subscription to a magazine when you learn, one issue too late, that the editors were going to host a retrospective on Robert Lowell (AGNI 75). Or when, casually perusing the issue at hand, you discover apparitions of Ray Bradbury (see David Huddle’s piece), Cynthia Ozick (see Tamas Dobozy channel Harper’s The Bloodline of the Alkanas), and Allegra Goodman (see Wendy Rawlings’s ending channeling La Vita Nuova). The perceptible echo from these influences emerges from talented writers in their own right. And that’s just the fiction.
  • Issue Number Volume 27 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
From the unknown writer expecting a rejection letter, rather than a publication, to authors well-known to the New York Times—all meet together in Amoskeag. This collection of voices focuses on what Editor Michael J. Brien expresses as, “recollections and reconstructions of hazy, distant memories, and memories so fresh they scream to be captured before they begin to […] lose breath.”
As child I remember singing, “This land is your land, this land is my land. From California to the New York Island [...] This land was made for you and me.” Like Woody Guthrie’s famous song, the Amerarcana brilliantly encompasses a broad spectrum of voices that represents the collective identity of American poets from coast to coast. The Amerarcana is a rich steaming stew of folklore, language, and cultural identity. Piping hot and savory too! Each poem is a tantalizing slice of western spirit.
  • Issue Number Volume 47
  • Published Date 2010
ABRAXAS describes itself as an “irregular, independent poetry magazine” from Wisconsin and introduces readers to contemporary writers of lyrical poetry.
  • Issue Number Volume 30 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Given editor W. Scott Olsen’s own work in nonfiction, one might assume that Ascent would demonstrate a bias for personal essays, place-based work, and travel writing. But what really stands out are the poetry and the fiction, especially the three short stories. The opening story, “Puck,” by Edith Pearlman, about a statue that seems to draw forth the desires of those who view it is both puckish and hopeful. Snappy dialogue and quirky characters keep the reader interested.
  • Issue Number Volume 10 Issue 36
  • Published Date Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The theme of this issue of American Short Fiction is prison, according to Editor Stacey Swann, whether by prison bars or self-imposed limitations. The former is the concern of the pictorial essay, "Captain, Don't You Know Me, Don't You Know My Name?" Nathan Salsburg, curator of this historical collection, notes in the preface, these stunning photographs, interviews, and work-gang songs are from the work of the late folklorist Alan Lomax during his visit to Mississippi State Penitentiary in the late 1950's. This prison, also known as Parchman Farm, is the setting for his 1993 memoir The Land Where the Blues Began, wherein he quotes a 1957 New York Post article describing Parchman Farm as "simply a cotton plantation using convicts as labor."
  • Issue Number Volume 24 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Spring & Summer 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Alaska Quarterly Review is approaching its 25th anniversary, which alone attests to its position among the top literary magazines in the nation. Simply opening to the first piece in this issue, Samuel Ligon’s story “Drift and Swerve,” readers will learn (or relearn) that AQR surviving and thriving for a quarter-century is certainly no surprise. Ligon’s story takes the reader on a ride-along where a drunk driver may not be so dangerous when a force of nature, like a normal – if slightly dysfunctional family of four (again, pretty much normal), happens to share the same stretch of highway. Mike Harvkey’s “One Owner, Part II: Won’t Last” is a haunting story of a man-on-the-run who stumbles untouched in the wake of a mysterious plague, finally settling with a family in Mexico. Eventually, he learns that he has not escaped, he cannot; he must face the past that hounds him and account for what he has done. Harvkey renders the protagonist’s consciousness with fresh language, brilliantly weaving the story’s haunting, hallucinatory atmosphere.
  • Subtitle New European Writing
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
In a recent New Yorker article, Milan Kundera charted the genealogy of some of the most important writers of the last five centuries by tracing a map of "influences" that criss-crossed continents, hemispheres, and oceans. In doing so, he made a case for the importance of translation, which allows literature to jump outside of the "provincial" context of the country (and language) in which it was written, and resituate itself in the vastly more important "supranational territory of art." Absinthe – a journal that dedicates itself to publishing translations of "new European writing" – is a small but wonderful island in that territory. Some of the pieces (from writers working in Greek, Italian, Spanish, Polish, and a slate of other European languages) are occasionally tinged with a tone of political irony that struck me as clichéd. Although these writers are clearly "correct," I found their seemingly rote anger disturbing. 
  • Subtitle Journal of Contemporary Culture
  • Issue Number Issue 12
  • Published Date Fall 2004
This issue of Arts & Letters, an attractive glossy, 7x10 twice-yearly journal with a spacious, easy-to-read layout, is dedicated to Susan Atefat-Peckham, who is eulogized touchingly in an essay by Poetry Editor Alice Friman. The issue also contains an excerpt, called “Grandmother Poem,” of Donald Hall’s upcoming memoir about his wife, Jane Kenyon. Very high quality fiction and poetry throughout the issue, including “Esther the Golden,” by Yona Zeldis McDonough, which tells the story of beautiful and devout Esther, who rebels against her close-knit community of faith in order to embrace a wider view of the world, and Margot C. Kadesch’s “Mate Selection,” about a biologist who is torn between her married boss and studies of sex-driven chickens and her business-oriented boyfriend. Also fascinating were poems by Minnie Bruce Pratt, especially “Shopping for a Present: The Repository of Human Flesh and Blood” and poems by Tenaya Darlington, who won the Arts & Letters Prize for Poetry, especially “The Oldest Living Bombshell Bares All,” whose lines echo Plath’s “Lady Lazarus,” especially the ending:“And yet she rises, //batting her eyes, / cracking a whip with aloof va va voom, / the woman who strips down to her death, / then ignites herself again.” Excellent work in an attractive package, Arts & Letters deserves a place on your literary magazine shelf. 
This issue of American Poetry Review, the bimonthly newsprint journal that keeps its readers on the cutting edge of poetry criticism, features poems by Donald Revell, translations of Vallejo by Clayton Eshleman, a review of Michael Ryan and a smattering of his poems, and several excellent poems by Anne Marie Macari, but the standout features for me were two essays. One was Dana Levin’s perceptive essay “The Heroics of Style” on the effects of stylistic pressures on the poetry of Sylvia Plath, and the other was John Yau’s piece, “The Poet as Art Critic,” on John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara’s writing on art criticism.
  • Issue Number Number 3
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Issue #3 of the Agriculture Reader has a nice feel to it, literally. For one thing there’s something particularly satisfying about the paper it is printed on; it somehow feels thin without seeming fragile; somehow gives the entire issue a nice flexibility, somehow lends itself to a comfortable back pocket curl. Coming in at 103 pages, if you count the three final lined pages tagged on for taking “notes,” this issue is the perfect size for summer reading, for savoring, for holding up in a sun shielding position while swinging to and fro on a hammock.
  • Subtitle The Literature of Food
  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Don't read Alimentum when you're hungry! On the second thought, read it when you're very hungry—it will satisfy your appetite for good writing, as well as for good food (not to mention spirits). I was reading Sophie Helen Menin's personal essay, "First Growth—An Essay on Love and Wine" on the bus and nearly leaped off, several blocks before my stop, when we passed a wine shop. Her essay about the wines her husband collects, and which they both savor, had me nearly desperate for a bottle of Barolo. Who knew it was possible to write such mouth watering fiction, or scrumptious poetry, or savory essays as the many appetizing works here by Michele Battiste, Patsy Anne Bickerstaff, and Jehanne Dubrow. Alimentum is more than luscious descriptions of great meals and the emotions they inspire, more than a whiff of fine coffee. 
  • Issue Number Volume 9 Issue 33
  • Published Date Winter 2006
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
It’s back. After an eight-year hiatus, American Short Fiction returns with a new publisher, a new design, an essay and a photo narrative, and an admission “to a certain amount of uncertainty.” The tight, 122-page journal includes five pieces of fiction that should assure readers that they “are concerned as always, and above all else, with fiction.” The writing is quality, the story-telling unconventional, the authorship distinctive though not necessarily American. Susan Steinberg’s narrator lurks in the parking lot, observing and obsessing over the “Court” of a basketball game, revisiting her past, reimagining the present. Steinberg’s style, witty and self-conscious, sparse but biting structure, elevates the undercurrent of sex and longing, brilliant and self-conscious, sparse prose-poem like narrative:
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  • Issue Number Number 64
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Call AGNI brain food. This issue is full of literature that is not meant for mere entertainment; it’s meant to be digested. “215. Philosophy is to the intellect what art is to the imagination; philosophy is—and ought to be a kind of art.” Parallels can be drawn to Issue 63; in addition to the art of story, this journal uses words to exalt all art. Vietnam and other wars are referenced in several pieces, and traditional themes like parents’ deaths are juxtaposed with a Slovenian parable, reservation blues and renderings of bats and witchcraft. The artistic references, especially in A.P. Miller’s “Blessing the New Moon” can be daunting more than esoteric—the contributors imbue so much passion for art that it never waxes on artistic pretension. Not art for art’s sake—art for sustenance and at over 250 pages it’s quite a helping. Paul Eggers’s “Monsieur le Genius” is, for instance, about a chess player who initially fools Burundi officials into believing him to be a master chess player. The insistence of the official to maintain the comic masquerade is undercut by the Hutu-Tutsi war that is spilling over the border from Rwanda.
  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Artifice announces that its editorial aims are to showcase “by context and content” work “aware of its own artifice.” Issue 2 is certainly true to this mission, beginning with the self-conscious Table of Contents, divided not by genre but by more abstract classifications (“Those That Tremble As If They Were Mad”; “Innumerable Ones”; “Those Drawn With a Very Fine Camel’s-Hair Brush”; “Others”; “Those That Have Just Broken a Flower Vase”; “Those That From a Long Way Off Look Like Flies”).
  • Issue Number Volume 14 Issue 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009-2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Aurorean seeks to publish poetry that is inspirational, meditational and/or reflective of the Northeast.” In this issue, the magazine carries out its mission to reflect the Northeast with poems that specifically name or make reference to the area: “Mohonk moon” (“Scarlet Turnings” by Mike Jurkovik); the Atlantic ocean as seen from a “bed & breakfast” in Ogunquit, Maine (“Yellow Monkey” by Lainie Senechal); New England’s “slate skies” (“January Poem” by Ellen M. Taylor); a frosty New England context for the hammering of fence posts (“Fences” by Olivia Wolfgang-Smith); a salt marsh at Plum Island, Massachusetts (“Boardwalk” by Margaret Eckman); a weeping beech tree at Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston (“Weeping Beech” by Alice Kociemba); a cranberry harvest near Beaver Dam Road (the specific state is not mentioned in Judy Snow’s “Harvest off Beaver Dam Road”); a nighttime ride to Mt. Riga (“Mt. Riga” by David Sermersheim); an unusually warm first-day-of-fall near Mt. Adams (“If, Ands, or Buts” by Russell Rowland); a view of middle age as seen against the context of the view of a heron at Hall’s Pond (“Middle Age” by Robin Pelzman); the varieties of apples grown in the Northeast – McCoun, Northern Spy, MacIntosh, and Cortland (“The Ingathering” by Carole W. Trickett); and the wild Lake Superior cold (“Lone Baptism” by Steve Ausherman).
  • Issue Number Number 8
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
It’s a good thing Aufgabe only comes out once a year because it takes nearly that long to read the whole issue – and the whole issue is worth reading. The 2009 special feature is a huge section on Russian poetry and poetics guest edited by Matvel Yankelevich, who teaches Russian literature and language at Hunter College in New York and is a founding member of Ugly Duckling Presse. Poems, essays, and manifestos by fifteen contemporary Russian poets appear in translation (no originals are included), along with Yankelvich’s introductory essay. The poets’ essays are of particular interest, offering insights both about the nature of poetry in general and of contemporary Russian poetics in particular.
  • Issue Number Volume 16 Number 1
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Keith Flynn, the editor, proudly states that this is the only poetry journal in the United States that subsists entirely on retail sales and subscriptions. It boasts a circulation of 3000 and has fourteen staff members. The latest production is 223 pages and contains a wide variety of poetry, interviews, essays, and book reviews. It was founded in 1994, and my only regret here is that I lack sufficient space to give this subject proper justice.
  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date January 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Editor Bryan Borland introduces readers to this new journal by announcing that Assaracus has “no formula” other than that all poems are authored by gay men, a “place for our poetry to dance with its own kind.” Poems are preceded by bios documenting writer’s credentials (poets who are both quite experienced and first-time in print are included in this premier issue), and the poems reflect much diversity in style, tone, and approach. Shane Allison contributes a spare “Dream” of bare single lines, “Used to / wonder / late at night // Boxers / or / Briefs”). Jay Burodny contributes a sense poem all in italics, “A Needy God.” Raymond Luczak contributes a prose poem, “Six Gallery, San Francisco: October 7, 1955.” Matthew Hittinger contributes a long poem of couplets, “A Bus Journeys West”:
  • Issue Number Number 50
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
This is the journal’s 50th issue includes the work of 14 poets, the most recognizable or established among them being David Trinidad; 10 fiction writers, the most recognizable or lauded among them being Achy Obejas and Bayo Ojikutu; two nonfiction writers; a number of reviews; and “Et Al.” hybrid and uncategorized work by Joseph Gallimore and Jill Summers.
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