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  • Issue Number Issue 8
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The editors of Barrelhouse can always be counted upon to present works that occupy the necessary space on the spectrum between “literary” and “pop culture.” Barrelhouse is the perfect journal to present to friends and family (or even strangers) who have far too long deprived themselves of the magic and potential of poetry, prose and even graphic art.
  • Issue Number Volume 33 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This very cerebral and provocative issue of Black Warrior Review begins with an unexpected critique of U.S. culture and international perceptions of the U.S. in Beth Ann Fennelly’s poem, “Cow Tipping.” The idiotic “tradition” of cow-tipping is juxtaposed with the speaker’s confusion about negative views of U.S. society/culture in other countries; in the end, she begins to understand that these international criticisms view bragging about cow-tipping “at a party for a laugh” as representative of a self-centered approach to the world. This issue is full of great poetry, notably Stephanie Bolster’s “The Life of the Mind.” Bolster’s poems interpret paintings, Sylvia Plath’s last residence, and captions from books and newspapers. Her words animate material objects.
This well-regarded journal focuses on poetry and fiction that uses “the deep image,” so the work here, as you might expect, focuses less on the narrative thread and more on lyric imagery. The poetry here seems more successful than the short fiction. Take, for instance, the following lines with their trilling sound effects from Silvia Scheibli’s “Monsoon Season:”
  • Issue Number Volume 20 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2004
Ever wondered what would happen if a mermaid were inverted with scales on the upper half?
The slim, saddle-stitched new poetry journal out of Portland, Oregon looks like care and attention has been lavished on its design; it resembles a well-done chapbook, with its heavy cardstock paper and clean, clear typeset. And the poetry you’ll find won’t disappoint either. Many of the poems have a lyrical bent and pack an emotional punch. I particularly liked Virginia Mix’s piece, called “Boundaries,” which culminates in these eerie lines: “And I can also fast-forward five years, and / squat down in her tiny kitchen, 29 years / old and pregnant, whispering into the / goat’s silky coat after he spent the day / munching on toxic rhododendron. / I cover my ears as he moans and screams / while the poison rushes through his blood, / and hold him in my lap at four in the / morning, and the moonlight shivers off / the linoleum.” I am looking forward to more of Burnside Review after this promising debut. 
This newsprint journal out of Shoreline, Washington declares on its web site that its editors embrace the romantic tradition, are biased towards narrative, and pointedly are not interested in academic exercise, minimalism, or surrealism. I believe those declarations to be true, especially when I found that the cover art was photographed by someone named “Moondoggie” and that this issue features parts II and III of a story called “The Elf King.” It is indeed an eclectic mix of poems, art, and prose. Many of the poems contain the words “God,” “Heart,” “Sadness,” and there is a lot of weather present in the poems as well – rain, moonlight, snow, Springtime, etc. So be prepared for open-hearted (if sometimes simple) writing, and you won’t be disappointed with what you find. Mary Carol Moran has two poems in here that I liked, “The Dance” and “X’s and O’s.” Here is the first stanza from “X’s and O’s:”
  • Issue Number Volume 31 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2005
Black Warrior Review does everything right. They consistently publish great fiction and poetry while doing things differently and standing out from the crowd. The most obvious example of this is their chapbook series: each issue includes a full-sized chapbook in its pages. The current issue is excellent from start to finish, and it seems impossible to decide what stands out the most: Julie West’s eight gorgeous full-color paintings? The minimal, haunting line-work of Richard Hahn’s comic? Adam Prince’s hilarious short story “The Triceratops”? One thing I feel compelled to comment on is G.C. Waldrep’s chapbook, “Precision Castanets.” His prose-poems here are written in dream-like prose with a strong inclination towards humor and absurdism. Maybe a cross between Ben Marcus and Dean Young could give you an idea. An excerpt from “Fight or Flight”: “The latest fashion was antlers.
This twice-yearly perfect-bound journal, which focuses on the practices and experiences of medicine, illness, and related topics, always contains touching fiction, non-fiction, and poetry of high quality. The knockout story for me in this issue was a delicate story of class, race, and responses to miscarriage, titled “Baby,” by Lois Taylor, and the poem “Being Nursed by Walt Whitman,” by Jennifer Santos Madriaga, about the experience of teaching poetry to dying students: “My father asks me what it’s like to teach / writing to dying people. ‘Are you afraid?’/ ‘Dad, we’re all going to die,’ I say. / ‘Yes,’ he says, ‘You’re right.’ / There’s a brief silence as static crackles / on the long distance telephone line./ ‘You’re right, absolutely right.’”
  • Issue Number Volume 59 Number 4
  • Published Date Summer 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Toby Wiliguru Pambardu’s poem “First Truck,” “splutters,” and spins, and gushes, and presses forward, with the wild, persistent, percussive energy of the strange and magical beast of a “first truck” on the plain. Written in Yindjibarndi, the indigenous language of the people by the same name of the Pibara region of Australia, the poem creates a rumbling across the page that “clatters,” “rattles,” and “whirls” like the vehicle itself. The poem is translated by Shon Arieh-Lerer whose translation is not, in fact, the first of this poem. This one “attempts to capture Pambardu’s daring innovation, excitement, and poetic style.” Even without the ability to read the original, I can see that Arieh-Lerer has succeeded, and the poem (which takes up four pages in an issue of a mere 35) – and the translation – are thrilling, a highlight of the issue.
  • Issue Number Volume 32 Issue 61
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Aimee Nezhukumatahil, 49th Parallel Poetry Award judge, is not exaggerating when she calls the prize-winning poem “gorgeous” and “breathtaking.” Kaveh Bassiri’s “Invention of God” is divine. From Bassiri’s clever, lyrical tercets to Mardi Link’s experience of Tractor Supply as “a spiritual moment” in the essay “Chicken Trilogy,” this issue of Bellingham Review is about pure pleasure: that particular and spectacular pleasure of purely good reading.
  • Issue Number Volume 58 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
What knocks me out about the Beloit Poetry Journal’s fall 2007 issue is the cover. On the front, there is a black-and-white portrait of a woman. Her dress is leopard print but modest. She holds her left arm across her chest, revealing henna calligraphy that runs from her forearm up and across her fingers. She is not beautiful in the way of Gwyneth Paltrow, but she is beautiful – a woman Picasso might have painted. Her eyes are wide and dark, her lips thick, her hair short and curly. Her necklace is a swirling flame. Most striking is a great dignity, the shoulders straight, the chin raised high. I was spellbound by these details, yet it took me several viewings to see that in between tiles that form the background – stars of David – are other tiles shaped like crosses. On the back is the same woman, same pose, same background. Here she wears a veil that covers everything but her face and left arm with its calligraphy. I suppose these photos may represent the meeting or juxtaposition of the three Holy Land faiths, but there’s no need for simple conclusions. The woman is breathtaking. She is how you would want a poem to be.
  • Issue Number Volume 11 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Brilliant Corners, “A Journal of Jazz and Literature” celebrates its tenth anniversary with this Summer 2007 issue, featuring numerous tributes to the late Whitney Balliet as well as poems, interviews and children’s poetry about jazz. For those like me wholly unfamiliar with The New Yorker jazz critic Balliet, you may be disappointed with the narrow scope of the journal.
  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
A very special Swayze section, where contributors praise the mulleted icon from Dirty Dancing all the way to Donnie Darko. An action figure portrait gallery featuring Spiderman in repose, the Lone Ranger and Silver facing down the camera. A punk rock interview with iconoclast Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and five-dollar Fugazi. “We have a thing for pop culture.” Issue Two of Barrelhouse is fun. Though it tends to the silly side of kitsch, the comic eccentricities of some of the prose belies the quality and craft of the storytelling. With nearly all of the prose coming from male contributors, you can expect some father-son stories. In “Hey Now, All You Sinners” by Brian Ames, a father searching for his bipolar son drifts further back in time to the love of his life before he had a family. Putting his wife in a non-coma pales to the confession he must make about his past. Another son suffers his football coach father by shuffling his dead mother’s belongings from one corner of the basement to another in “Rivals and Hyenas Alike” by Sean Beaudoin. “Luck is for losers,” he reminds a girl, in a laconic, sparse style apt for the despondent narrator.
  • Issue Number Volume 61 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2010/2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The latest issue offers a high quality mix of poems exploring international themes and the idea of language. It announces the 18th annual Chad Walsh Poetry Prize winner, Charles Wyatt, for his poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Wallace Stevens,” and includes an extensive review of the anthology Best American Poetry 2010.
  • Issue Number Number 33
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
BPR is one of those slim, no-nonsense poetry journals that publishes a strong selection of the best work that comes their way, followed by several book reviews. No filler, no academia, no kidding. In that spirit, I'll just get down to a couple of the poems I admired most, starting with James Doyle's playful "Magritte," in which "an admirer / has slid the skeleton of a pheasant" through the surrealist painter's mail slot.
  • Issue Number Issue 20
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Despite an impending hiatus, Editor Christopher Harter is optimistic that Issue 20 will not be the last batch of Bathtub Gin. The challenges of producing a lit journal be damned: Harter expects Gin to reach legal drinking age. The stapled, zine-sized journal features new and familiar artists contributing pieces on war, work and marginalization. Carmen Germain's broken verse gets better with each read, specifically in the fight between a homeowner and a nest-building wasp in "Work Like This": “Work like this makes / work. I aim the garden // hose, sorry that killing / comes to what's / mine, what's yours."
The Broken Plate is an annual produced by undergraduate students at Ball State University, which includes the work of many novice writers alongside more accomplished contributors. Particularly noteworthy are poems and essays in the "In Print Section," which  features the work of authors celebrated during the University’s In Print Festival of First Books (March 2009). This section is composed of essays on craft by fiction writer Kyle Minor and memoirist Laurie Lindeen, and the poetry of Nickole Brown. Minor and Lindeen’s essays are insightful explorations of their own artistic processes. Brown’s poetry is expertly crafted and polished. Her voice is wry and worldly, feigning innocence, but demonstrating savvy.
  • Issue Number Volume 15 Number 2
  • Published Date Autumn 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The first few pages in this volume of The Bitter Oleander feature international poems, each first in the author’s language followed by the translation. I’m not multi-lingual, but I like seeing the poem in its original form. It gives me a feel for what can’t be completely translated. One such challenging poem is Rafael Jesús González’ Mexico, a “homage to the country in erotic hue.” The sexually charged imagery, such as “The banana bloom hangs like a horse’s sex / & your rough breasts give oil to suck,” makes me wish I could read and understand it in its original Spanish, as some of the nuanced sensuality is probably lost with the hard consonant sounds of English.
  • Issue Number Number 38
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The work in this issue of the Birmingham Poetry Review is terribly moving, highly accomplished, and unexpectedly inspiring. How not to be simply undone by Deborah Ager’s “A Poem in Which My Father is Not the Villain,” which opens the issue? “I believe we commit errors we want no one to know about, / that we wish we could bathe and be healed and sip whisky and be clean.”
  • Issue Number Issue 84
  • Published Date Winter 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Halldor Gudmundsson’s essay, “Halldor Laxness Across the Universe” opens the Winter 2010 issue of Brick, a Toronto-based literary journal. Using Nobel-Prize-winning-novelist Halldor Laxness as an example, Gudmundsson explores how literature travels and meaning evolves based on culture, language, and ideology. Building upon this premise, Bernardo Atxaga explores the publishing history of Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl” in Franco-era Spain. Yet, Jose Teodoro’s conversation with British writer Geoff Dyer and a subsequent excerpt from his novel, Out of Sheer Rage, serve as the thematic anchor for the rest of the journal.
  • Issue Number Volume 32 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2005
boundary 2 is a serious journal—with cover art by Theodore A. Harris titled "On the Throne of Fire after Somebody Blew Up America (for Amiri Baraka)."
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  • Issue Number Volume 4 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The aims of Bone Bouquet’s editors have been abundantly achieved in this issue. The writers represented are women experimenting with imagery and poetic forms while at the same time exploring social agendas, dilemmas, and personal experience. Most of the selected poems subvert language and present readers with vocabulary and symbolism that confounds all expectations, expressing voices that are not often found in literary magazines.
  • Issue Number Volume 12
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
What I’ve come to expect of the Bitter Oleander is work that is unusual. Not odd or inaccessible or experimental, but unusual — poetry with unusual diction or an unusual tone and stories with unusual perspectives. This issue is no exception. I liked, in particular, poems by Shawn Fawson, George Kalamaras, and Kenneth Frost, and an amazing piece of short fiction by Michael Roberts, “Found in the Wreckage,” in which a man contemplates his own death in prose that is both chilling and lyrical. All of the fiction, in fact, is sharp, disturbing, and unforgettable. This issue’s special feature is a long interview with poet Martín Camps, conducted via email in English, and a terrific selection of his poems, translated from the Spanish by Anthony Seidman. (Camps was born and raised in Mexico; he studied in California where he now resides.)
  • Issue Number Volume 56 Number 4
  • Published Date Summer 2006
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
I’m sure I finally understand the meaning of the term “fine etched” now, which I confess I wasn’t always certain I did, because I can think of no better phrase to characterize the luminous poems in this issue of BPJ. These poems are like this venerable journal itself, slender, deliberate, careful, and nearly perfect. Many are delicately wrought (poems by Sonja James, Marsha Pomerantz, Lynette Ng), others are urgent or exuberant, but never in a casual way (poems by Garth Greenwell and Anne Marie Macari), and a few are more direct, more immediate, and equally well crafted (poems by Kristina Martino and Malcolm Alexander). Poems by Aimee Sands, Robert Buchko, and B. Z. Niditch are a testament to the ordinary word’s exquisite potential, in the hands of a gifted writer, to reveal whole centuries, continents, and galaxies of thought in a few spare lines. Here is Niditch’s poem, “Holocaust and Art (Gorky, Celan, and Levi),” the last in the issue — a measure of how thoughtfully BPJ is edited, for what poem could follow?
  • Issue Number Volume 28 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Bellingham Review, produced by Western Washington University, offers an outstanding selection of poetry in its fall issue. A number of the poems are inspired by visual art, such as Diane LeBlanc’s “Bardo,” Ricardo Pau-Llosa’s “Brujula,” and Matt Donovan’s “Guernica, First Draft”: “May 1, 1937, four days after the fact, / Pencil lead on blue notepaper, / contours, skeletal whorls.” Melissa Kwasny’s bold and sprawling poem, “The Waterfall,” is also a standout. The prose is strong as well, with a preference for straightforward, earnest narratives in fiction—
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The new issue of the Bat City Review starts off strong with Michael Czyniejewski’s “Pleurisy,” a strangely moving story where the small lies of a marriage get reflected in the inconsistency of the family dictionary's definitions and eventually other written materials in their home. Clocking in at only four pages, its slippery definitions haunt well beyond the story’s size on paper. Elsewhere, Maryl Jo Fox's “Marker” brings us a post-apocalyptic tale regarding an artist’s capture and near-escapes from the vain dictator who rules her world. As the warlord stages twisted beauty pageants and forces refugee artists to paint her image, the narrator can do nothing but flee uselessly towards the borders of her failed society. Cruel and evocative, “Marker” shouldn’t be missed by anyone interested in the quickly emerging slipstream genre. In poetry, Stephen Dunn’s “How to Write a Dream Poem” brings a light tone to the difficulty of conveying a powerful dream to someone else, its advice wisely steering the dream-writer away from truth and toward the more profound potentials of story, feeling, and those ever present dream symbols. 
  • Issue Number Issue 8
  • Published Date March 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Rage and risk in writing is a powerful tool that can generate the most passionate work. In Blood Lotus, issue 8, the editors believe that if you write you should “Write like words are beautiful, powerful and dangerous…” In “katrina” by R.D. Coleman we are exposed to such risks and conviction head on: “my family up and / left me here, they knew / it called to me. / ...could smell the gas out by / the road. / life was done, she said. / she surely meant to die.”
I immediately noticed that this small journal devotes a surprising amount of space to fiction and essays: 9 pieces total followed by 17 pages of reviews.
  • Issue Number Number 25
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Started in response to the Gulf War and the editors’ dissatisfaction with the self-absorption of much of contemporary poetry, Borderlands calls for work that “shows an awareness of connection—historical, social, political and spiritual.” Many of the poems in this issue do demonstrate this awareness, though never didactically.
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  • Issue Number Volume 29 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Occasionally the predominant voice of a journal can be found within a single statement embedded indirectly in a piece within. For this issue of Boulevard, one turns to Robert Zaller’s essay on Robinson Jeffers. Zaller writes that Jeffers defines “the task of culture as the pursuit of truth.” The essay is about the poet not the publication, but it speaks in microcosm what the journal does throughout. Boulevard does not seek to categorize the journal as something as amorphous as “the pursuit of truth,” but I think it presents at least twenty clips of veracity from aperture to aperture, until we barely recognize the camera against the disciplines of truth themselves.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date April 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual online
Muse-Pie Press’s new magazine (they also publish Shot Glass Poetry and the fib review) puts out video and sound files of spoken word poetry. While this often includes slam poetry, it isn’t exclusively so: “Bent Ear Review is about giving a voice to poets, enabling them to express their work with their own emotions and passion in the form of the spoken word.”
This journal is always unpredictable and sometimes even startling. Editor Paul B. Roth promises to free us from "enslavement to the usual and expected" and the unexpected is certainly one of The Bitter Oleander's trademarks. "The fish arrived in my dresser drawer, / swathed in socks, its eyes calm as a desert."—a poem by Katherine Sanchez Espano opens the issue. This fish has something to say, of course: "I open its mouth and see pictures / of a lost Ticuman woman / who looks like me.” "The Fish" is representative of the issue as a whole: powerful work that means to change the way we think about the world around us or, at the very least, to change the way we read. The centerpiece of the issue is a series of poems by six Mexican poets, along with their "ars poetica."
  • Issue Number Volume 23
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The worst part about The Briar Cliff Review is that it only comes out once a year. The journal, published by Briar Cliff University (Sioux City, IA), is packed with uniformly excellent work. Editor Tricia Currans-Sheehan managed to find poetry, prose, and artwork that are technically sound and satisfying to a wide range of readers.
  • Issue Number Volume 1
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Published by Lake Superior State University, Border Crossing shows just how vibrant a small journal can be. Many of the poems stand out, but it’s the first two lines of George Bishop’s “Watching Dolphins In the Harbor With the Homeless” that really stand out in my mind: “I found myself / carving silence into a shelter.”
  • Issue Number Number 4
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Big Lucks, much like its name, has a quirky but earnest mission statement. “We at Big Lucks feel as if the most exciting and noteworthy writing lurks in the unlit depths of the ocean, amid the lifeforms and creatures humanity was never meant to see. It’s our goal to be the vessel—the nuclear submarine—that helps these new life forms breach the repetitive ebb-and-tide of this metaphorical ocean’s surface.”
  • Issue Number Volume 24
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
If I hear writers talking about literary magazines, I often hear them getting excited about some new magazine on the scene. They talk about the experimental aesthetic or the unique formatting or the promise of aggressive marketing. They talk about what they’ve submitted and what it might mean to get something accepted. They talk as though the magazine might just be the next Paris Review—or the next Beloit Fiction Journal, for that matter.
  • Issue Number Volume 4 Issue 2
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Tomatoes, children, cats, drinks, and boats. Reading a poetry journal in one sitting can be problematic. You notice odd, inconsequential connections between poems, like those listed above. An excellent categorization of this issue of Bateau is that which the editors put forth: transformation and morphology. Themes aside, the charm of Bateau is in its understatement and uniqueness. Including the work of thirty well-accredited poets, this issue is a mish-mash of inventive, quirky poems that play with form and content, impressively pinpointing elusive emotions and giving artistic value to the most banal moments.
  • Issue Number Volume 2
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Broken Bridge Review sports a three-piece painting as cover art: three gorgeous blue-green panels titled “World View Trip-Tik” by Jessica Hathaway Scriver, painted on top of world maps. The editors chose to make this painting the inspiration for this issue, and included a substantial amount of material that is in some way connected to the political sphere.
  • Issue Number Volume 20
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
With a splendid cornucopia of colors and textures on the large, glossy front cover, and many gorgeous full pages of voluptuous art and photography within, The Briar Cliff Review could be a splendid coffee-table book. However, with the quality literature inside, it proves it is something more. The art is spectacular – twenty-two works from oil or acrylic to graphite, sculpture, even archival inkjet. Thirteen photographs are equally spectacular and eclectic – the issue is a feast for the eyes.
  • Issue Number Number 4
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue of Beeswax Magazine, with its red and gray letterpressed cover and “hand-turned metal binding pegs,” is so beautiful I had a hard time opening it. When I finally did, I discovered the inside is just as distinctive as the outside.
  • Issue Number Volume 34 Number 1
  • Published Date January/February 2009
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly
Boston Review essays tend to follow a somewhat predictable pattern, and I couldn’t be happier about it. A serious, well-informed, literate, critical mind challenges the conventional wisdom about a controversial and highly politicized subject or issue of undeniable significance and urgency. Here are the two opposing views we commonly hear and debate, the writer begins, but there is something wrong with each of them, and I want to offer an alternative, he concludes. Subjects covered in the current issue of the Review include the “post-racial” in the Obama era (Stephen Ansolabehere and Charles Stewart III); free market regulation (Dean Baker, Robert Pollin); tax cuts (Jeff Madrick); Guantanamo (David Cole); Afghanistan (Barnett R. Rubin); Iran (Abbas Milani); and new (old?) philosophical approaches to God (Alex Byrne).
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