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A common approach mysteriously unites the short fiction in this spring/summer issue of Black Warrior Review. Each of the six stories here possesses a similar obliqueness, a diagonal narrative attack that lends the characters and events an alluring inscrutability.
"Terrific" is how contest judge Robert Wrigley classifies the 49th Parallel Award-winning poem by Simone Muench, but this assessment could certainly apply to this whole special double issue. Sophisticated and polished, the work here (poems, stories, essays, interviews, Forrest Gander's comments on work by Cole Swenson, and Lucia Perillo's writing about photos by Scott Chambers) is never casual, yet it remains consistently accessible and, in the best sense, readable.
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  • Issue Number Volume 24 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The latest issue of Bluestem, based out of Eastern Illinois University, offers a hefty selection of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and art working in a broad spectrum of styles and aesthetics. The journal isn’t filled exclusively with big-name solicitations, but the range of work it includes is refreshing and strong.
  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Within six months of placing a small ad in Poets & Writers, the editors of The Broome Review received more than 1,000 submissions to consider for this inaugural issue. They selected the work of 28 poets, including poems by such prolific and well known poets as Stephen Dunn, Timothy Liu, Lawrence Raab, and Philip Dacey; five fiction writers; and three essayists.
  • Issue Number Volume 14 Number 2
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Finely etched is how I would define the work in this issue of The Bitter Oleander. Take Carolyn Gelland’s poem, “Wild Cat,” for example:
  • Issue Number Number 7
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Are you up for a side trip to Bat City? The landscape is compelling and the water’s fine. Compiled and produced by the University of Texas at Austin, the Bat City Review demands, as Editor Caleb Klaces states, “to be read closely.” Jam-packed with wonderfully wrought poetry and provocative prose, this issue is the perfect companion to take along on a weekend trip or for curling up by the fire on a chilly evening.
  • Issue Number Number 28
  • Published Date Spring 2007
This issue of the UK’s Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature features Lebanese poetry. The five prose selections are all novel excerpts – some contemporary, some from decades ago. Both poetry and prose are Arabic translations. This may be one reason why it took me so long to get through the journal. Another may be the very reason why I reviewed it: to relieve my ignorance to a culture’s literature.
  • Issue Number Volume 32
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Blueline describes itself as a "literary magazine dedicated to the spirit of the Adirondacks." Like many regionally-themed publications based in scenic areas, it includes a big helping of traditionally conceived nature poetry, most of it in competently handled free verse. Poets submitting to Blueline obviously find nature to be a source of beauty, interest and anthropomorphic imagery. Kathleen E. Schneider, for example, writes of digging mica fragments from a steep hillside and holding them out "like precious shards of broken glory." Georganna Millman writes a tongue-in-cheek account of a day in the life of crows, who, in late morning "beat it to the trees / hanging over Elk Creek / henpecking an old owl / where she hides."
  • Issue Number Issue 40
  • Published Date Fall 2012
  • Publication Cycle Semiannual online
In response to the results of the VIDA Count (which counts the male to female ratio in publishing—I’ll let you guess which gender got the shorter stick), Brevity decided to put out a special issue called “Ceiling or Sky? Female Nonfictions After the VIDA Count,” which focuses on “the important contribution of female writers to the creative nonfiction movement.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 1
  • Published Date July 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Big River Poetry Review publishes lots of poems online—eight in January 2014 and nine in December 2013, for example—then gathers them all annually in this journal. This first volume covers the period between the review’s founding in late May 2012 through the end of the year. Based in Baton Rouge, LA and published in an unwieldy eight and a half by eleven format with a bright red cover, it includes 154 poems by almost as many authors. The magazine is open to a wide range of styles, subject matter, and skill levels, including poems that would benefit from being workshopped.
  • Issue Number Number 116
  • Published Date Summer 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
MoMA advertises in Bomb. To be more specific, MoMA advertises on the entire back cover of Bomb. I noticed it immediately, and it wired my expectations for what I would find inside. MoMA doesn’t advertise in just any magazine.
  • Issue Number Number 89
  • Published Date Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
At its start, Brick was a collection of reviews, and at its heart still is. The editors say, “Brick’s mandate remains unchanged: to create a beautiful product filled with the most invigorating and challenging literary essays, interviews, memoirs, travelogues, belles lettres, and unusual musings we can get our hands on.”
  • Issue Number Volume 28 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Fall 2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Once again, Richard Burgin and his team present a well-rounded collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that will appeal to the reader’s intellect and emotion alike. The impact begins with the journal’s very first piece: a new short story from Joyce Carol Oates. In “Anniversary,” Vivianne has retired from higher education and has decided to volunteer to teach writing in the State Prison Education Program. Vivianne has been paired with Cal Healy, a much younger and far less experienced teacher. Oates builds tension effectively and organically, taking a lot of time to explain all of the many rules one must follow to work in a prison. (Avoid blue clothing so you can’t be confused with an inmate, avoid delving too deeply into their personal lives . . . and keep an eye on that pencil sharpener.) The ending of the story alone is worth the read. Oates manipulates the reader’s understanding of the narrative, lending greater power and a more disturbing undertone to a simple ride home.
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Issue 7 & 8
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2003
I urge you to check out, before even finishing this review, the website of Bridge Magazine, though I know the wish is sort of hopeless: there’s almost no way to conceive of the sort of madness and playful fun the magazine contains, promotes, inculcates, various other verbs. It’s sort of like McSweeneys, I suppose, though somehow more fun, grounded in a real world (perhaps this is the only magazine I can think of that’s made strangely more whole, more itself, because of advertisements [almost all of which are by/for Chicago-area businesses]).
  • Issue Number Volume 33 Issue 62
  • Published Date Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The awards issue – and the judges chose well! A poem by Elizabeth McLagan, “All Alien Spirits Rest the Spirit,” chosen by Paulann Petersen; an essay by Alexandra Marzano-Lesnevich, “In the Fade,” chosen by Kim Stafford; and a story by Irene Keliher, “SPN,” chosen by Kathleen Alcalá. Well-composed, confident work; subtle, yet focused and intense. McLagan’s poem is representative of much of the poetry in this issue, poems steeped in rich images of the natural world rendered in careful, round language (“There are rocks that have forgotten the body: / orphaned, smoothed by their journey, tossed up // at random and left to dry in the sun.”) The winning essay, too, sets the stage for the creative nonfiction that follows, other essays (is this intentional or coincidental?) which explore a childhood relationship with the beach/ocean (essays by Julie Jeanell Leung and Susan Buis). And the winning story is also typical of the work in this issue, family dramas that rise above the vast sea of such work, thanks to strong prose and a tendency toward understatement.
Defying the trade paperback design standard to most literary journals, The Briar Cliff Review is a magazine-size book with thick, glossy paper and an evocative array of crystal-clear full-color artwork scattered throughout. To peruse this journal is an enjoyable sensory experience, and I found myself savoring the pure pleasure induced by the design as much as I savored the contents, which are substantial: 28 poems, 6 stories, 3 nonfiction pieces grouped under the unique heading “Reflective”, 4 articles or exhibits dealing with the “Siouxland” surrounding Briar Cliff’s Sioux City origins, and 3 book reviews. The short stories here are highly literary, somewhat ponderously paced, and ultimately very winning in their shared reluctance to undercut the human mysteries they present.
  • Issue Number Volume 8 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2004
Probably one of the most unassumingly designed literary journals, The Baltimore Review stands up to the best of them with fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and book reviews that all have that special glint of treasures presented with a knowing wink of editorial conviction. This issue features six short stories, all impressively artful and absorbing. Joe Schall’s “Opossum”, winner of TBR’s 2003 Short Fiction Competition, treads with not a single unsure step the bizarre territory of agoraphobia, etymology, toxicology, and marsupials, blending it all together with a thematic grace that left me moved by the feeling that I’d just read one of the year’s best stories.
  • Issue Number Volume 7 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2003
Sponsored by the Baltimore Writers’ Alliance, this journal features “the short stories and poetry of writers from the Baltimore area and beyond.” There are more writers representing “beyond” this issue, including Virgil Suarez of Florida who must certainly be among the top two or three most frequently published poets in literary journals in the country. His “Recitative of a Moment’s Fugue” is a fine example of why: “In Havana the old street vendors / sell their coconut death masks, / fiber-wigged, a kiss of crimson lips” – he is undoubtedly the best known writer to appear in this issue.
Beloit Poetry Journal is one of the journals that poetry junkies in the know call a must-read because of the consistent quality of the poetry they publish, the freshness of the voices, and the terrific reviews. There can be no “ho-hum” response to this journal. In this slim but mighty issue, not only did I thrill to the emotional zing and wit of every single poem, I delighted in editor Marion Stocking’s review roundup of recent books by poets on poetry. Her pithy, intelligent descriptions helped me sort my own shopping list (check Roethke’s On Poetry and Craft, check Kim Stafford’s The Muses Among Us…) The melancholy themes of many of the poems here revolve around social, political and financial injustices, like Nicole Cooley’s “Madame X—about the connection between the famous portrait and a murdered girl X in the Bronx and a baby X in an ICU. The language in many of these poems leans towards the lyrical, as these lines illustrate, from Corinne Lee’s “Fulgent” about a poet who reads futures in palms in a concentration camp to save his life:
Bathtub Gin is an irreverent little saddle-stitched journal that will appeal to those who love the literary world but could care less about the more academic aspects. This issue includes an interview with writer Mark Terrill, along with four of his poems, a series of photographs by Caryn Thurman, a couple of short prose pieces and an array of short poems, as well as some small illustrations by Harland Ristau. 
  • Issue Number Volume 4 Number 1
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Burnside Review’s CD-case size fits snugly in my purse, a place from where I’ve pulled and read it the last couple weeks, despite the fact the issue is all about LA, and I’m a snobby Portlander. Sid Miller, Burnside Review’s editor, acknowledges the Portlander’s aversion to LA, then shows it’s unfounded – at least literary-wise – by including excellent LA writers and writing.
  • Issue Number Volume 28 Issue 4
  • Published Date July/August 2008
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly
The theme for this issue of The Bloomsbury Review is “Writing the Land,” and its book reviews primarily dwell on nature or regional writers across the United States. The lead review describes two Wallace Stegner biographies – Wallace Stegner and the American West and Wallace Stegner’s Salt Lake City as well as The Collected Letters of William Stegner. Reviewer Tom Wylie compares Stegner’s work to that of Twain, Faulkner, and Steinbeck, and calls him “one of our great American writers.” Wylie blends Stegner’s biography with the review of these new books, resulting in a survey of Stegner both as a man and as a writer.
  • Issue Number Issue 6
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The “pop flotsam” and “cultural jetsam” captured between the covers of Barrelhouse offers the best of both worlds. The material is literary and meaningful while simultaneously maintaining broad appeal. The “Barrelhouse Editorial Squadron” consists of self-proclaimed “misfits,” and they have found a number of beautiful red-haired stepchildren for this issue.
  • Issue Number Volume 30 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Spring/Fall 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Bellingham Review celebrates its thirtieth anniversary in this issue with three essays from the journal’s editors, past and present. While interesting for their historical narrative, the pieces are also a testament to the inspired, beautiful madness one must possess to start a literary periodical. At the end of the volume is an index of the pieces from Bellingham’s run (so far).
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 1
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
“We’re trying to take you somewhere.” Isn’t that every writer’s goal? To take the reader from their comfy couch or their little corner and place them into a scene to which they can relate. Or maybe it’s to put them in a situation they’ve never been in, but affects them in some way.
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  • Issue Number Volume 2 Number 4
  • Published Date October 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue of Blue Lyra Review has a special theme: “Stories We’d Rather Not Tell.” This, of course, is a little contradictory considering if the authors didn’t want to tell the stories, they wouldn’t submit. But it’s intriguing nonetheless, and I dove right in. I was instantly drawn in to the nonfiction section, eager to hear those stories first, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Although the November issue went live literally minutes after I finished reading this issue, I urge you to excuse the fact that this review is for the October issue. The October issue marks the magazine’s one year anniversary, and I figured it needed a celebration. And there’s a lot to celebrate here.
  • Published Date December 2011
  • Publication Cycle Weekly online
Run by the MFA program at Butler University, Booth publishes something every week on their website and has a print publication each spring. I have never seen the print edition, but found the online material quite intriguing. I was especially impressed by their selections of poetry.
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Number 5
  • Published Date November 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Aaron Milstead’s short story “The Pickled Man” was such an easy and captivating read that I suggested to my twelve-year-old son that he read it as well. As I predicted, he devoured the story of Wilber Will’s World of Wonders that features a mysterious oddity floating around in a pickle jar. That night, at around two a.m., I awoke to a shadowy figure standing at the foot of my bed. I knew immediately that figure was my son and that he’d just had a nightmare featuring, not surprisingly, the pickled man. After putting him back to bed, I thought about the power of Milstead’s story. It had left an unsettling impression on my son—one that lies just below the cerebral surface—long after he’d finished reading it. It is the titillating payoff that you hope for when you read something particularly spooky. This is exactly what Black Lantern Publishing’s fifth issue offers its readers with its collection of short stories, poetry, flash fiction, and artwork, all within a macabre theme. Despite my recommendation to my son, this is not a collection intended for children. BLP offers an assortment of haunting contemplations that deal with the subject of death and ushers readers to a darker side of literature.
  • Issue Number Volume 36 Number 1
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue is dedicated – in a trend that is becoming increasingly (happily) noticeable in literary magazines of all kinds – to translation, and reflects the editors’ efforts to “sharpen Bombay Gin’s focus.” The Translation Portfolio includes versions from the Navajo of Frank Mitchell’s “17 Horse Songs” by Jerome Rothenberg and an accompanying essay; an interview with Zhang Er, followed by poems of hers translated from the Chinese; an interview with Chilean poet Cecilia Vicuña, followed by her work; as well as poems, ancient and contemporary, translated from Japanese, Finnish, and French.
  • Issue Number Volume 8 Issue 2
  • Published Date Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Published by Minnesota State University at Mankato, Blue Earth Review is a stellar compilation of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. This happy threesome is fresh and enjoyable. There’s no niche. No artwork other than the cover. No crazy long commentaries by editors. Therefore, why go on and on about this journal’s vision? No reason as far as I can see. Let’s jump right in.
  • Subtitle The Whiskey Edition
  • Issue Number Volume 7 Number 1
  • Published Date 2011
Burnside Review is a diminutive delight. Readers at the outset learn, from editor and founder Sid Miller, that whiskey is an "instigator.” Also both a "prelude" and an "epilogue."
  • Issue Number Volume 37 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Spring/Summer Issue of Black Warrior Review, featuring Graham Foust, Aaron Kunin, Bhanu Kapil, Sarah Gridley, Joshua Cohen, Megan Volpert, and many other fine writers, is difficult not to pick up and thumb through. The ritualistic cover art gets the issue going: two guys, two girls, all with skeleton heads, watching a horse as it is either pulled into the sky or brought down from it. More in this series by Joseph McVetty can be found later in the issue, in the Nudity Feature.
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  • Issue Number Volume 31 Issue 3
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Occupying the centerfold of this issue of The Bloomsbury Review is a wise, pithy conversation between two award-winning women writers of the West: Page Lambert and Laura Pritchett. Both have written for decades in multiple genres, but I had never heard of either. Their conversation is inspirational—grounded, specific, filled with references to writers, books, and the relationship between place and heart. “We are bound by a real and raw love of books and land,” Pritchett says near the end. For her, books and the natural world are so linked she “can barely see the difference,” possibly because she read books by the river when she was a child. Lambert says that Place (with a capital P) is as central to stories as a main character, listing Isak Dinesen, Jack London, and other writers as having formed her sense not only of place but also of writing that transfigures Place as Place transfigures the characters within it. The conversation—whose provenance is nowhere listed (where did it take place? When? Who transcribed it, or was it originally written rather than spoken?)—introduces me to women whose work I see I must learn more of. But by “work” I mean not only their fiction and nonfiction but also the unconventional ranching work they do daily, devoted to livestock, home, and place—the American West. Because this is where I live, this issue—this conversation—calls to me in particularly strong ways.
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  • Issue Number Issue 47
  • Published Date Summer 2013
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Banipal’s 47th issue features fiction from Kuwait. I’ve never read anything by a Kuwaiti writer, and all I know about Kuwait I know from images of the 1990 Iraqi invasion: torched oil wells lining the blue sky and then what seemed to turn almost immediately into a decades-long American affair. Peacetime Kuwait is indistinguishable, in my mind’s eye, from any other small Gulf country, with an oil reserve, women draped in black, workers from India and the Philippines. What makes Kuwaiti fiction Kuwaiti?
  • Issue Number Volume 24
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
As always, The Briar Cliff Review makes a strong impression from the second it is placed in your hands. The journal’s large pages offer poetry, fiction, and nonfiction room to breathe and allow pieces of graphic art to be reproduced in flattering detail. In her introductory note, Editor Tricia Currans-Sheehan affirms her obvious desire to embrace the “print-ness” of the review. The magazine, she says, “is for holding and looking and for leafing through—with a treat for the eye and mind on each page.”
  • Issue Number Issue 42
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Reading the Berkeley Poetry Review gave me one of those “grass is always greener” moments. It made me jealous that my town doesn’t have a journal like this, dedicated to highlighting local talent and the local scene.
  • Issue Number Issue 3
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
If pop culture irritates and disgusts you, then this magazine is for you. If you’re a pop culture junkie and your admiration for Patrick Swayze and Mr. T is rivaled only by admiration for your father, then this magazine is for you. Equipped to satisfy the panoply of individual tastes, Barrelhouse brilliantly succeeds at “bridging the gap between serious art and pop culture.” With a wide range of fare – essays, interviews, poetry, fiction, art – Barrelhouse has it all. I mean, come on, who else is publishing poetry about Ed Asner? Exactly. Fiction in this issue is strong across the board, and to be fair, each piece deserves its own review. Melissa Yancey’s “Recommended if You Dig” is a perfect example of the Barrelhouse blend, where the young indie protagonist may finally have fallen in love but becomes obsessed with the fact that the woman he’s seeing does not share his love for Neutral Milk Hotel, and this seemingly irreconcilable difference threatens to be the deal-breaker. Another excellent piece is Wendy Wimmer’s “Billets Doux,” an art/fiction piece (Barrelhouse art director Kylos Brannon does a top-notch job laying this piece out) comprised of emails tapped on a Blackberry, offering verbal snapshots cumulating in a portrait of loneliness and desire.
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  • Issue Number Issue 11
  • Published Date July 2013
  • Publication Cycle Monthly online
Only just under a year of publication, Bodega seems to be in its element. This issue is cohesive; it works together, and not because of a theme or genre. Bodega pieces capture vivid imagery, placing words and phrases next to each other in surprising and delightful ways. Such as “we adopted the ferns / as our pets and spent long hours brushing their hair” (Sarah Burgoyne’s “Autobiography”), and, “When the floral bouquets are passed from a beautiful woman / and the ribbon is cut, one aquarium opens and another is drained.” (Jake Levine’s “Kim Jong Un Looking at Things”). Read both of these poems; they are seriously good.
  • Issue Number Volume 21
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
I always look forward to this large format annual with its glossy pages, beautiful artwork and photography, and well-composed and thoughtful works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. This issue also features a section titled “Siouxland,” which includes an interview with poet David Allan Evans, and reviews of books by Ted Kooser and Andrew Porter.
  • Issue Number Volume 9 Issue 2
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This journal defines itself as “a unique collection of issues, events, & images from the Great River Road,” and it publishes works of history, the sciences, business, photography, and creative writing. Works are not classified in the Table of Contents, so it can be a little difficult to distinguish between genres in some cases. Not in the case, however, of Phil Harvey’s short story, “Tomato Only,” which is typical of much of the poetry and prose in the issue, accessible, readable, and what, for lack of a better term, I’ll categorize as natural. Harvey’s story begins: “Albert had asked for tomato on his tuna salad sandwich, no mayonnaise, please. He had been very specific, very precise, taking extra care because the man behind the deli counter at the American Grill looked oriental and probably didn’t speak English very well.”
  • Issue Number Volume 3 Issue 2
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Oh, how lovely! Produced and inspired by the power of wind (“The Bateau Press Office is run on the renewable energies of hydro and wind power”). Handsomely printed on a letterpress (a letterpress!). Small, square, a lithe 79 pages (poems, prose poems, reproductions of black and white woodcuts and drawings, and a two-page graphic story) that fit neatly in one hand. Unassuming, understated, unpretentious. And utterly gorgeous from cover to cover. I loved holding Bateau between my palms. I loved the work, poems that, for the most part, contain small lyrical mysteries and large telling silences. I loved discovering new writers with impressive credentials and stellar work, but who are not the same big name stars I encounter again and again. I loved the journal’s simplicity and elegance and quiet, self-assured lyricism.
  • Issue Number Volume 60 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2009/10
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Everything in this issue was (happily, happily) unexpected. Karl Elder’s “Snowman” in the shape of a snowman that could have then been silly, but was not: “this is snowballing toward a title below – / both visible and invisible like like without / the ‘k,’ like the buzz word for a buzzard / sitting on a blind man in a blizzard.” Mary Molinary’s series “poems composed for the left hand,” which combined verse in lines, prose poems, verse in columns, and childish hand-written scrawl (“to keep dementia away”). “Leaning in from the Sea” by Kerry James Evans, short bursts separated by bullets and punctuated by bold, violent outbursts (“Fucked the green out of her eyes,” and “All that blood. All those feathers.”). Philip Pardi’s “My Father’s Christening,” a poem in nine numbered segments that begins with the utterly seductive single line “After the story, its telling, and only then is it a story.” Don Shofield’s “Harmony, USA,” a poem in a dozen numbered segments that ends:
  • Issue Number Number 2
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The front cover of the 2009 issue of Barn Owl Review depicts a destroyed playground, the aftermath, perhaps, of a tornado: a blue twisting slide on its side, trees smashed into the remnants of a swing set, what might have been a plastic fort. On the magazine’s back cover is a picture of a little plastic lion cub sitting on a toilet, tail lifted. These photos are nothing too out of the ordinary yet convey states of mind caught between damage and play, humor and humanity’s excreta, metaphoric and otherwise.
I’ve recently begun teaching in the inner-city, so I thought I might find reading material for my freshman from the Bronx Biannual: The Journal of Urbane Urban Literature. Although I soon discovered that the explicit content guaranteed that these weren’t stories I’d casually give fourteen-year-old students, this issue contains great reading for the more mature reader.
  • Issue Number Volume 13 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
If you’re looking for writing that skirts, tunnels under, or transcends the ordinary, open any issue of The Bitter Oleander. Beyond any other criterion, this journal prefers provocative work – work that engenders a change in the mind of the reader, whether that change involves heightened sociopolitical awareness, or simply a gorgeous revolution of one’s perception of words and sound. Indeed, the best indicator of The Bitter Oleander’s character may be the uncompromising language found on nearly every page. Consider a sampling of lines from this issue’s poetry selections: “Your face breaks open to light” (Jacob Russell, “The Sea Bandits”); “the incarnate heart in your mouth pricks you” (Estrella del Valle, “My Room and Justine”); “Every morning the sun rises behind the guardhouses / wearing filthy hospital pajamas” (Titos Patrikios, “Habits of the Detainees,” in translation from the Greek). The short fiction offers similar raw intensity in lines like these from “Tale of a Long Winter” byAllen Kesten: “She remembered standing on her head after she had cut away the skin from her thighs, rivulets of blood running down her body and drying like prison bars on her torso.”
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2005
There seems to be a resurgence of interest for comics in the literary world from acclaimed McSweeney’s comic issue and Chris Ware’s award winning Jimmy Corrigan to the recent works by Michael Chabon. Backwards City Review adds their voice with five comics here, including a delightful except from Kenneth Koch’s forthcoming book of comics. There is also a beautifully drawn and haunting anti-war comic by Nate Powell (a very underrated comic artist). Backwards City Review in general takes a humorous approach to their magazine (as evidenced by titles such as “Hockey Haiku” and “Constructive Criticism of Bathroom Wall Scribbling”).
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  • Issue Number Volume 13 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of Bellevue Literary Review starts with eyewitness descriptions on the effects of last October’s Hurricane Sandy on New York’s Bellevue Hospital. The piece, titled “The Night of the Hurricane,” archives recollections from resident physicians of NYU’s Department of Medicine and is a tribute to the brave staff members who had evacuated Bellevue Hospital, hauling patients and equipment down stairs and through halls one by one to safety in the midst of enormous devastation rendering the building silent for the first time in more than 275 years. In her foreword, Editor-in-Chief Danielle Ofri writes, “Dollars, hours, gallons, and acreage can seem almost flimsy when trying to understand the effects on a human level—the patient who was carried down seventeen flights of stairs, the administrator who never left the hospital for a week, the employee whose home was destroyed . . .” We are relieved to hear that though “there still remain many displaced elements,” there is hope that “the hospital community will be fully restored soon.”
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  • Issue Number Number 92
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Have financial constraints or a lack of vacation days turned you into a regionalist against your will? Don’t fret, the new issue of Brick is here to take you on a whirlwind tour, sans pat downs, turbulence, and the high cost of airfare. Aptly labeled “an anthology of enthusiasms” by former editor Michael Ondaatje, Brick is filled with the work of writers and thinkers whose preoccupations are as categorically eclectic as they are geographically diverse. From the ice fields of the North Pole to a paradise in the mind, from Tokyo to Arizona’s San Rafael Valley, the latest issue of Brick gathers the essays, interviews, letters, travelogues, poetry, fiction, reviews and musings of writers eager to give you a guided tour of their personal enthusiasms. And while the magazine’s content is eclectic and truly international in scope, it’s never willfully obscure. Rather, Brick’s eclecticism feels like an extension of its editors’ trust in the ability of good writers to determine what is substantial for themselves and make that substance meaningful and entertaining to others.
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  • Issue Number Number 126
  • Published Date Winter 2013-2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
A gold square dominates the cover of Bomb’s 126th issue; it sits in the middle of a naked male figure’s chest, which appears to be a subject of a woman’s painting; her hand is partially hidden behind the square, the explicit center of intrigue in Peter Rostovsky’s Photoshop painting Autopsy (2012). Painting appears to be the ironic instrument of autopsy here, a way of dissecting. Conversely, the square underlines an intrusion, and omits something in the drama between man and woman, or hides it. The square seems out of place in the composition, as though it comes out of nowhere, ”bombed,” if you will. Thus, the image implodes with questions, conundrums.
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  • Issue Number Volume 64 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2013/2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue of Beloit Poetry Journal is chock-full of powerful poems with interesting word presentations. Eleven authors contributed fourteen individual pieces to a short, impactful magazine. Editor Lee Sharkey rounds out the volume with an interesting article in the Books in Review section titled “Poems in Conversation.” Of the many ways to write and present poetry, I agree with Sharkey that some of the best are mobile selections “spanning time and cultures in a spirit of reciprocity.” Snapshots of instances are often most celebrated as successful pieces of work in the literary world, but our current society is in constant motion and its best poetry should be appreciated for moving in that direction.
  • Issue Number Issue 14
  • Published Date Spring 2005
Published in Chicago, Bridge is a slick culture-oriented magazine that cranks the volume to eleven. The content is comprehensive – interviews with filmmakers and artists get as much space here as fiction and poetry – but sadly seems a bit loose: too many typos really do frustrate a reader’s experience, and some of the pieces seem to swing and miss.
  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter 2005
It’s fair to say that Barrelhouse is the most promising recent journal so proudly founded in drunkenness; in the introduction to their debut issue, the editors quickly establish its origin, writing, “Fine, we’ll admit it, we were drunk,” thus establishing a youngish masculinity that reverberates throughout.
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2005
The debut of Ballyhoo Stories, a biannual print magazine aiming “to reach the broadest audience possible,” is solid. It loses points for presentation – a less than elegant black-and-white cover, oddly shifting black-on-white with white-on-black text pages, and distracting borders and page number fonts – but the content is stronger. The eight stories loosely collected under this issue’s theme of “Portraits and Snapshots” are character-driven works that are at best quietly ambitious and at worst tend toward the sentimental, an understandable side-effect of fiction grown from personal photographs (and from a journal concerned with establishing a large readership). Several works stand out, including Michael Hartford’s “Call Me Pearl” and Amy Brill’s “The Pursuit of Joe Kahn.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 9 Number 1
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle 9-Month
This issue of Burnside Review brings with it some big changes. While it is still unmistakably an issue of Burnside Review, a new poetry editor, John Pursley III, and a new fiction editor, Adam O’Connor Rodriquez, have brought a new energy to the journal and are taking the journal to the next level.
  • Issue Number Volume 7 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle online
This Spring 2012 issue of Blood Orange Review is all about collections: collections of stories, of locks and keys, of facts, and even of elephants. What some of these stories also have are stellar first lines. Brently Johnson’s nonfiction piece “The Raisin Invasion” starts out with, “When my sister got kicked out of the house for good, my mother filled her bedroom with raisins.” With a line like that, I couldn’t help but click the “more” button to read on—and I’m glad I did. It is compelling and honest throughout. Stephanie Friedman’s “I Want the Copy that Dreams” starts off with, “Jean felt nettled for no reason she could name, a pricking just beneath her skin.” With just a few short stories, this magazine can be read over a lunch break or after work to unwind—it’s just the right size.
[www.bloodorangereview.com]
  • Issue Number Number 34
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The “borderlands” concept has never been more accurate. Along with a more general selection of more than 20 poets, this issue features a special section of “translingual poets,” defined as writers who “create in a language other than the one they were born into.” Editor Liliana Valenzuela praises the fine work of the translators whose work appears here alongside the originals and notes that many are gifted poets themselves. This issue also includes wonderful artwork by Liliana Wilson, terrific images with surreal elements, but wholly “real” human aspects that render the work both familiar and wondrous in the magical (but not silly or childish) sense of the word.
  • Issue Number Issue 80
  • Published Date Winter 2007
When a literary journal opens by recognizing the greatness of Dostoevsky and The Brothers Karamazov, it aims not just to entertain but to endure. Issue 80 of Toronto-based Brick embraces the world of words with arms more expansive than most literary journals. The giants of Russian literature are further celebrated in two memoir/biographies: the acrimony of Chekov's wife and his beloved sister is recalled by Gregory Altschuller, the deceased (1983) son of Chekov's doctor; Viktor Nekrasov journeys through post-Bulgakov Kiev to the house of Bulgakov's youth and place of his characters.
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  • Issue Number Number 78
  • Published Date Winter 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Canadian journal Brick is a slap in the face (with a brick) to mediocrity. Brick 78 is chock full of nuts: Robin Blaser, Robert Hass, Sylvia Plath, Ko Un, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Barry Gifford, and certainly more. This journal is not long-winded, and still Brick answers to some of the most interesting essays, memoirs, tributes and speeches, and of course, good poetry. The essays of Brick are always the most fulfilling. The piece “Milosz: The Conscience of Solidarity” by Peter Dale Scott is fascinating. A quote at the beginning of the essay by Adam Michnik should be of interest to poets and revolutionaries alike: “I remember that when I once was arrested the police found a box of treatises by Milosz in my apartment. And during the interrogation the officer was saying, ‘Mr. Michnik, do you believe that with the help of this little poetry you are going to win against Communism?’ And we won.”
  • Issue Number Volume 33 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2006
  • Publication Cycle annual
Stylish and quirky, BWR continually reimagines what it means to be a university-affiliated journal. Amid the chapbook and gorgeous art portfolio, Steve Davenport’s “Murder on Gasoline Lake” unfolds the toxic layers of his childhood spent in a refinery town and illustrates the ways home, even sludge and stink, gets graphed to us “whether we like it or not.” Angie Carter may have entered the world just as Elvis exited, but her nostalgic essay proves music and video as seductive as warm flesh to the obsessive psyche. While paragraphs labeled “First sight,” “First jealousy,” “Our song” suggest stalkerish fandom, Angie’s awareness of the absurd and coverage of other Elvis aficionados (freaks?) sweetens the insanity.
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  • Issue Number Volume 40 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
In order to commemorate its 40th anniversary, Black Warrior Review decided to focus on “time travel.” The pieces selected for this issue meet the aims of time travel in such interesting and intriguing ways, this is one journal you will want to make sure to read front to back.
  • Issue Number Issue 16
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual online
A serene and bright swathe of red and yellow sunset greets you before you even read a word of Blue Print Review, a journal that incorporates an image, be it a painting, photograph or sketch, with something like a poem, short story or prose piece – although it never explicitly labels any of them as anything but “words.” Even the all-encompassing theme of being “Lost, Found and Stolen” is open to interpretation, much like a painting or photograph.
  • Issue Number Volume 3 Number 1
  • Published Date March 2008
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly online
Blood Orange Review is a poetry, fiction, essay and art journal with a dark skin and a smooth philosophical center. Enter the orange confines of their most current issue and be exposed to crimson narratives imparting stories of characters and places told with their fascinating and sometimes tragic details (whether the narrative centers on class, a jellyfish or the struggles inherent in the immigrant experience).
  • Issue Number Issue 25
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Blue Mesa Review, a product of the creative writing program of the University of New Mexico, almost did not see publication this year. Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Rose Richardson reports that her fellow editors had to fight to keep their magazine alive during their school’s funding crisis: “They organized fund raisers, attended countless meetings, and they brainstormed in order to bring you this very issue you’re holding. Each editor gave above and beyond to ensure this issue had a chance to make it.” The folks at Blue Mesa have a lot to be proud of in this issue. The result of their hard work and dedication is a handsome journal with great content.
  • Issue Number Volume 63 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Whenever I review a poetry journal, I look for one or two poems that stitch all the poems to each other and, ultimately, to the fabric of my conscience. I trust the editors, whenever possible, to produce a publication that ties itself together with a common theme, a certain style, or a period in literary history, to name a few of the devices at an editorial team’s disposal. If I leave myself open to all the ways that such a “stitching” can happen, I am almost always pleased—as I am with the Fall 2012 Beloit Poetry Journal, which is a gem of a journal. The poem “Above the Lake,” by Stephen O’Connor, manages to pull the journal together.
  • Issue Number Volume 10 Issue 1
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This journal reads like a road trip. Its rich landscape left me with a lingering sense of journey as I found characters and imagery replaying in my mind like saturated photographs.
  • Issue Number Volume 15 Issue 3
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The editor’s note of this issue of Blue Collar Review reads, “We must not allow ourselves to become demoralized or cynical because to do so would be suicide. As poets, we must reclaim our culture and its narrative of community, solidarity and social conscience, recognizing the power of culture in defining our identity and vision.”
  • Issue Number Volume 35 Issue 64
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
You will love the most recent Bellingham Review on a microscopic level; you will love it on a macroscopic level. You will find considerable literary achievement down to the expert punctuation. The writers in this journal have a mastery of plot and a quiet rebellion of framing stories in segments. When reading this journal—as long as you aren’t in a subway—you will discern almost aurally a powerful philosophical clarity.
  • Issue Number Issue 10
  • Published Date Spring 2008
Bejeezus is subtitled “Reclaiming Southern Culture,” but its coverage of culture extends far beyond its Kentucky roots. Encompassing the broad categories “See, Watch, Read, Eat, Listen, Make, Visit, & More…” the magazine provides short columns on each, keeping the publication varied and concise.
  • Issue Number Number 5
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
You know that cousin you have who is really weird but whom you would defend to the death if anyone badmouthed him? He may be a little different, but you mean that in the best sense. He’s eclectic and creative and bound to do something amazing with his nontraditional life. That’s kind of how I feel about Barn Owl Review (BOR). There were times I was reading and shaking my head in wonder at the same time. BOR is definitely not bor-ing.
The Bellevue Literary Review explores the connective tissue between the practice of medicine and literature in a way that is sensitive, surprising, and compassionate. I routinely read and love the work of this journal, in part because the subject matter is so intensely personal, the vulnerabilities of illness and injury, the uncertainties of working with the ill and injured. This issue is sprinkled with the work of well-known authors like Alicia Ostriker and Hal Sorowitz and focuses on the impact of relationships with others in a medical setting.
  • Issue Number Volume 7 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue’s charming cover photo, taken during WWI in Vichy, France, shows a nurse from Bellevue’s medical staff helping a dog apply a stethoscope to the temple of a man in uniform—eavesdropping on the man’s thoughts, perhaps? This image says much about the journal’s literary aesthetic; the stories, poems, and essays inside are about death and loss (of health, loved ones, ways of being in the world—the many things there are to lose as we encounter the human body’s various limits), but these are not depressing tales melodramatically told. Instead, they are creative and sometimes humorous engagements with realities we usually prefer to avoid.
  • Issue Number Number 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
What a find Big Fiction is! The magazine publishes only three to five “shorts” or novellas of 7,000 words or more, bound in a beautiful hand-designed letterpress volume of just the right size: perfect for a weekend away, an afternoon of rich leisure, an evening curled up by the fire. This issue is a delight to hold, to view, to read carefully. The editors’ intention of visual and tactile beauty aligned with literary delectability is fully realized. The green, tastefully mismatched typography of the title takes up a small top left corner of the white cover, which is filled with a red etched fiddlehead fern. “No. 2” takes up minimal space in the bottom right corner, and in the title corner the image of a young fiddler playing unobstrusively.
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  • Issue Number Volume 19 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Theophrastus wrote that the root of Oleander when mixed with wine makes the temper gentle and more cheerful. While Theophrastus never got the chance to read The Bitter Oleander, he surely would have had similar sentiments about what reading it could do for a person. The Bitter Oleander strives to provide readers with deep, image-driven work that will “open eyes to a world our habits and blindness ignore everyday.” This issue is a testament to that goal.
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  • Issue Number Number 40
  • Published Date Spring 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the Birmingham Poetry Review presents readers with a special feature: six poems and an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning, former Virginia Poet Laureate, Claudia Emerson. The six poems demonstrate her range and proficiency as an acclaimed American poet; from her historical poem “Virginia Christian,” a narrative of the “first female electrocuted in the state of Virginia in 1912,” to the “Lightning” sonnet that brings us to the electric moment when the poem’s persona “hears the strike that splits the pecan tree,” readers are treated to language that at once is immediate and powerful.
  • Issue Number Volume 59 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
What I liked best about this issue of BPJ is the dissonance – the clash of tones, styles, voices, and intentions. “During the processing of new acquisitions / evidence of cogitation must be monitored” writes Paul Lisson in a tightly composed prose poem, “Cartesian Melody,” excerpted from “the Perfect aRchive.” “A little celebration: / it is six a.m. and I am not sick.” writes Muriel Nelson in “For the Night People.” “My day as a tragedy / brand manager: the red- / on-void block letter logo / for Backwater Black Widow” begins “If It Bleeds, It Leads,” by Steven D. Schroeder. In some ways, it almost seems as if the poems in this issue belong in 17 different journals (that’s the number of poets who appear here), but together they work to create a marvelous compendium of mismatched styles and tones that somehow coalesce into a unified whole. These poems are some of the most original I’ve read lately. I never had the impression I was reading a poem I’d seen a version of dozens of times before. I was always a little surprised, taken aback, stunned into paying better attention. What more can we hope for from poetry?
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Number 1
  • Published Date Summer 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
If ever you’ve gazed upon artworks born of the Surrealist movement with awe, you’ll readily absorb the concept that not to understand is, in itself, a way of understanding. Just as Surrealists aimed to circle like sharks the locus of aleatory explosion, the subconscious surfacing, spilling forth through the murky waters of convention, so, too, do the writers that comprise the Summer 2005 issue of Burnside Review. In theory, Surrealist art, like artwork of any era, concerns itself foremost with itself, then its audience. Artists aimed to tear at the piñata of despair to reveal the ripe and virile confetti within. This is where some of the work in this issue breaks down, and where some of it really takes off.
  • Issue Number Issue 76
  • Published Date Winter 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Brick, a Canadian journal of non-fiction and poetry, is a magazine in a class of its own. The contributors in the winter issue include prominent writers like Donna Tart, Oliver Sacks, David Sedaris, Geoff Dyer, and Fanny Howe. The issue begins with a quote from John Berger, the perfect writer to introduce this pioneering journal that relishes in investigating and pressing against the boundaries of literature. The nonfiction pieces are incredibly eclectic in style and subject, with essays on boxing, Dublin, highways, the novel True Grit, and Thom Gunn, in addition to a transcript of a speech made at the 2005 Griffin Poetry Awards ceremony—and interesting and often humorous meditation on the state of poetry—and letters from Norman Levine and William Faulkner. The previously unpublished letter from Faulkner to an aspiring writer is a standout; he prescribes Dostoevsky, Mann, and Hardy to the struggling artist and offers gems like “no writing that was worth doing was ever done in one day or one year, sometimes, oftentimes, not in one decade.”
  • Issue Number Volume 62 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Notwithstanding Lee Sharkey’s essay/review on the poets Kazim Ali and Brian Teare, this entire volume of BPJ features just one poet, Michael Broek—more precisely, his series of thirty poems titled The Logic of Yoo. Reading the collection is a transforming experience. The series tackles the problem of violence in modern history. The problem is approached without preaching or thundering. A protagonist—a doctoral student—researches the topic, not because he is passionate about it or wants to rid the world of violence, but because he is paid for his work. Masterful irony reverberates in the laconism of the student’s research notes, in his quoting factual documents, and in evoking authentic objects, places, and persons.
  • Issue Number Volume 34 Issue 63
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Brenda Miller, author of five Pushcart-Prize-winning works and co-author of a best-selling creative nonfiction text, is the editor-in-chief of Bellingham Review. The names of Rita Dove, Tess Gallagher, Tobias Wolff, and other better-than-well-known poets and writers light up the editorial board. And with such a masthead, and a mission statement that includes a cry of “hunger for […] writing that nudges the limits of form, or executes traditional forms exquisitely,” how could we not expect excellence from this fine journal out of Western Washington University? This hefty issue contains nearly 250 pages of striking fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and photography. And from the contest winners that open the issue to the interviews that conclude it, not a single entry misfires.
  • Issue Number Number Five
  • Published Date Spring 2004
A wild little journal of "innovative writing and art: collaborations, interviews, collage, poetry, poetics, long poems, reviews, graphs, charts, non-fiction, cross genre…" not to mention the marvelous pasted-on-the-page-as-separate-slips-of-paper reproductions of photos and artwork. Does somebody do this by hand? Now, that's innovative! Innovative is one of those tricky words that confuses me, even though I confess I often use it to describe work that is risky or unusual or odd or curious and there's all of that and more in Birddog. There are excerpts from Mark Tardi's divided-columns poem "Chopin's Feet," where every other page is divided graphically with a straight vertical line and the verses are like Chopin's complicated music moving from dense rhythms to lighter ones and back again. There's Heidi Peppermint's poem, "The Gulf Streams," whose diction wavers between the utterly familiar and ordinary ("Boy, those days we've talked about are here! / pamper yourself with daily maid service"), to a playfulness that veers toward the arcane ("Boy, those sways wave tangent about arrant! / Boy, those swerves as stranger about arsy-varsy!"). There are excerpts from Bob Harrison's poem "Counter Daemons—4D," incorporating concepts from computer programming, as well as from the "counting coups" of the Plains Indians. There are Brigitte Byrd's prose poems whose fate, we hope, will not be the same as this title: "Comparative Obscurity": "If there is estrangement what is the difference between speaking to the dead and speaking to the living." If you're open to Birddog's innovation, you'll know the answer to that question.
  • Issue Number Volume 37 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Bombay Gin, the product of The Naropa Press and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, continues its legacy of eclecticism and experimental genre-bending in the Fall 2011 publication. Before a word of text is displayed, there is a black and white photo of a woman, handsome in a neck tie delightfully draping dreadlocks. Friends and former colleagues at Naropa and the world of poetry lost Akilah Oliver in 2011. Eleni Sikelianos reflects on the memory of her friend, “She never settled on an identity handed to her, be it her name, her gender, her genre, her theories, her performances, her race—she made herself, from scratch.”
  • Issue Number Volume 38 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
After thumbing through, then devouring, the 2011 Fall/Winter issue of Black Warrior Review, I’m convinced that this publication is one I need to keep my eye on. Reading work from nearly thirty different writers and poets has simply impressed me with not only the quantity but also the quality, the originality, and the freshness of the prose and poetry in this magazine.
Strong first lines. That’s the highly enviable trait shared by several of the pieces in Bacopa, the Writers Alliance of Gainesville-produced journal named after a family of aquatic plants with medicinal strength.
  • Issue Number Volume 2
  • Published Date 2004
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Many of the works in Buffalo Carp, “a hybrid, an amalgam” of two species native to the Quad City Mississippi River area, also celebrate the natural world. Dennis Saleh’s terse yet lyrical poem, “The Delta Songs of the Harper,” evokes Ra, the Sun God from Egyptian mythology.
  • Issue Number Volume 18
  • Published Date Spring 2005
  • Publication Cycle Annual
In Keith R. Denny’s short, remarkable dream-sequence of a story, “Ulrika,” the reader is swiftly trammeled up in the twisty mind of a would-be fiction writer for whom “the possibility of narrative is machine-gunned down in the street like a mad dog.” Lucky for us, the narrator’s self-effacing assertion does not hold true for “Ulrika” nor any of the other stories in the wonderfully narrative-packed Beloit Fiction Journal. The issue starts off strong with David Crouse’s “The Observable Universe” in which an estranged brother and sister who share a tragic childhood reunite amidst the surreal hubbub of a science-fiction convention.
  • Published Date Summer 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Don’t be deceived by the unassuming cover. Or should I say: be deceived, be very deceived, on account of the delicious merit of surprise. Such is the case with every issue of Barrow Street, and I have to say, I like it that way. Inside the summer issue are 72 poems, 6 poems-in-progress, and 3 reviews. Not bad for 127 pages, even better for $8 an issue. Barrow Street is perfect bound, the heft of a paperback novel, copious, a literary variety show. It seems more discerning than other journals, but by no means to a fault. While Barrow Street is known for publishing established writers bearing lists of publications, most of its contributors are past or present professors, making the journal no more or less academic for it. A cursory curiosity, though worth noting.
  • Issue Number Volume 17 Number 2
  • Published Date Autumn 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
It would be a greater justice to write an eight-word review of this volume of Bitter Oleander. Stating simply: “Read the volume! It’s worth your time!” would spare having to select a few pieces from a collection in which each and every piece offers something insightful, interesting, or beautiful. The volume contains sixty-nine poems (free verse or prose), four pieces of short fiction, and an interview. It features writers representing many cultures: American, Azorean, Canadian, Chinese, Estonian, Faroese, French, and Korean (which doesn’t even begin to recognize the complex multicultural heritage/experiences of many of the writers).
  • Issue Number Volume 6 Number 1
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Although Basalt is based in and linked to the state of Oregon—taking its name from the igneous rock prevalent in the northwestern U.S.—a number of the pieces in this latest issue seem interested in crossing or expanding borders. While the front and back covers feature photographs of Oregon’s geography, the roughly thirty pages in between discuss the idea of place, both literally and figuratively.
  • Issue Number Issue 83
  • Published Date Summer 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I have always loved Brick, a handsome, polished, semi-annual from Toronto. The journal typically features some of the finest, and most influential, writers and from across the Americas and around the world (this issue’s stars include Michael Ondaatje, Eduardo Galeano, Edmund White, Dionne Brand, Francisco Goldman, Jim Harrison, Jack Spicer, and Juan Cruz for example); what I’d call “pure and original finds” (a brief essay on Harold Pinter by acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Patricia Rozema, along with a marvelous photo of her and Pinter; and the posthumously published “Three Wishes” by Pannonica de Koenigswarter, fascinating black and white photos of and fragments from bebop and jazz musicians); and terrific graphics (some great photos in this issue).
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
While Bone Bouquet is subtitled “a journal of poetry by women,” the poems in this issue go beyond the idea of women writers only writing about women’s issues. Instead, it holds a wide spectrum of styles and subjects with only the commonality of being written by women.
This issue sizzles, ignites, burns, and lights a literary fire with the special theme of “Heat.” The contest winner, Ann Cwiklinski, contributes a third-person narrative about a woman who takes her children for a day at the beach, but she cannot relax as she is constantly on the lookout to keep her children safe. Yet, as the sun blazes down on her, she is drawn to the water. She wants to take a swim by herself and perhaps disappear. Titled “Selkie,” this story came from Cwiklinski’s research about Irish folklore: “These weren’t romantic fairytales, but matter-of-fact stories about some local woman who jumped into the sea one day, her mild eccentricities finally making sense to her neighbors: ‘Shoulda known that she was part seal!’”
With no more of an introduction than “It’s not all sunny skies and lake breezes. Deal with it. And read the new issue of Blue Lake,” this issue dives in with mixture of poetry, fiction, and essays.
  • Issue Number Issue 4
  • Published Date Fall 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
Created last Thanksgiving, Birdfeast aims to quarterly provide a feast of poetry; publishing all forms and styles. “Think of how you might see a dessert pudding sitting comfortably by a roast turkey on your Thanksgiving table,” the editors say.
  • Subtitle Texas Poetry Review
  • Issue Number Number 23
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2004
For those still Stone Age enough to think of Texas poetry as an oxymoron, welcome to Austin. Alex Grant’s “Vespers” offers home and peace and space and the beautiful old word quieten. Kelle Groom’s poems find the soul of things and help us hear the faint but heartfelt dialogue between the living and the dead: “I wonder / If they are always talking behind the glass, / Full of joy for us, if they are in the trees, swinging, / Smiling, saying live, live, live, & on this side / We hear birds, / Songs from far away.” Brenda Ladd’s photo series gives us lost-(or perhaps found) in-performance soul glimpses of the likes of B.B. King, Abbey Lincoln, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. (A white light shot of a joyful Ray Charles graces the issue’s cover.) Weston Cutter’s wondrous strange, down on all fours and calling “Same Animal” reminds us that evolution of the human kind can be a tricky proposition. To delight you even as it makes you weep that we’ve all but lost to computers the handwritten record of our writers’ painstaking choices is the manuscript page of Walt Whitman’s lovely “unpublished, undated, and perhaps unfinished fragment” “In Western Texas”:
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2004
The debut of a new literary journal always causes me a small pang in the breast. It can be such a vicious world for these little literary nestlings. A trim, handsome journal out of Greensboro, North Carolina makes its debut with this Fall 2004 issue, and if Volume 1 Number 1 is any indication, the folks behind Backwards City Review should be assured that, whatever perils await them on the road of financing, distribution, sales, etc., they’re well ahead of the game in the editorial department. This inaugural issue is happily modest, but by no means meager, in its offerings: 4 short stories, 1 nonfiction piece, 26 poems, 3 fascinating comics, and as a delightful bonus: a facsimile of a hilariously pungent dispatch from the famous Kurt Vonnegut, answering the query: “Where do you get your ideas from?” Michael Parker’s story “Results for Novice Males” pictures in restrained (but never constrained) prose, the sticky relationship between two fledgling triathlon competitors, each struggling through dysfunction from opposite poles of class, and takes its thematic cue from the compelling idea of “junk miles”—“the mileage one accumulates without actually getting better, stronger, faster.” Alix Ohlin’s “Local News,” concerns a TV reporter who dreams of a better, happier, more successful life, and finds herself dramatically subject to the maxim of her journalism teacher: “When you…break all the rules I’ve taught you, then you’ll know you’re working in news.” And Adam Berlin’s unique story “Speeding Away” portrays the mean-spirited machinations of two bachelor protagonists as they wriggle their way out of a promise to drive an annoying friend of a friend home to New York from an Indiana wedding. 
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2005
The second issue of Ballyhoo (meaning extravagant publicity—from the American, of course) brings together writers at all levels of their careers on the theme of “Songs and Cacophony.” The 8.5 x 11 black and white journal frames each story with a prominent black or white border. On the third anniversary of his mother’s death, Andrew Bomback’s narrator prank calls his ex to misquote the Beatles’ “I Will.”
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Part comic book, part ironic guidebook for today’s troubled yet repeatedly humorous world, the winter edition of Backwards City Review reveals the more playful side of the more reflective, more meditative literary journal; and yes, this is possible. While its contents won’t dazzle your minister—unless, of course, he’s not put off by a hearty double helping of sarcasm—this issue offers roughly 100 pages of quirky, if, at times, campy, quality writing, complete with a giant, purple, city-crushing, donut-eating robot on its cover. All the world an oddity. Let’s just say you know what you’re in for when you see the cover and your interest continues its meandering inside. 
  • Issue Number Volume 56 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2005
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Beloit Poetry Journal threw me for a loop with this issue, by including not one, or two, but seven poems by Mary Molinary at the beginning of the journal—and in a slim journal such as this one (48 pages total) this makes quite an impact. The upside of having so many poems by a single artist is that you get a good solid idea of that artist’s work. Molinary’s seven poems are seven lyric, existential takes on the time 8:38—in a style more post-avant-garde/experimental than you might expect from this journal. Does this signal a shift in editorial preference? I await the next issue to find out.
This hefty journal is art-in-the-palm; it is a singular delight, a challenge, and a joy, all at once. Readers are presented with a collage of literature, poetry, memoir, music, and photography. This journal explores realms of authorship with notably startling computer images of Japanese mathematical scores by the renowned visual artist, Ryoji Ikeda.
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