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  • Issue Number Issue 32
  • Published Date 2017
  • Publication Cycle Biannual

Post Road Number 32 is a complex mix of storytelling that bobs and weaves, delights, and, in some moments, disappoints. The cover piece, a bland, semi-abstract digital drawing by Henry Samelson, is one such low moment, contrasted, incredibly, by the remarkable work of Charles McGill, which sits just inside the issue, seventeen pages away. McGill, who repurposes vintage golf bags to critique class inequality and racial injustice, exhibits a powerful aesthetic that would have made for a much stronger point of entry.

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  • Issue Number Number 90
  • Published Date Spring 2017
  • Publication Cycle Biannual

If readers aren't hungry before reading the Spring 2017 issue of Poetry East, they will be by the time they are done. The Food themed issue, dedicated to James Reiss who passed away in December 2016, is organized in seven sections for the seven courses of “the perfect meal.” Images throughout the issue, taken by the journal’s editors, feature Mary Jo McMillin’s “perfect meal,” and every other aspect fits the theme: the table of contents is a menu, recipes end each section, and paintings of food and meals adorn glossy pages. Like introducing a friend to your favorite dishes at your regular restaurant, let me tell you my favorites in the Spring 2017 menu.

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  • Issue Number Issue 12
  • Published Date 2017

PANK publishes work that plays with form and expectations to confound readers with possibility.

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  • Issue Number Issue 44
  • Published Date 2016-2017
  • Publication Cycle Annual

It is no surprise that the Paterson Literary Review was named the best journal in 2008, and has been in publication since 1979. The journal shares the talents of many amazing poets, prose writers, reviewers, interviewers, and memoir authors. I particularly liked how the poetry section often provides more than one poem from each poet so that the reader can experience a variety of work from each poet. In addition, this issue includes the poems from the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards.

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  • Issue Number Volume 11 Number 1
  • Published Date Summer & Fall 2016
  • Publication Cycle Biannual

Co-editor Aaron Barrell asks “And what force can a magazine of poetry have in this world?” and later promises that “each poem in these pages will offer sustenance.” I am inclined to agree. I would add to that the visual art on the pages of this issue of Poetry Northwest. Commanding and stunning, the images strike with a bold knowledge of beauty, joy, and heartbreak. Joe Wankelman’s photograph “Lines” arrests with cautious veracity. The works of photography and artwork in this issue are acute in their understanding of different realities.

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  • Issue Number Volume 111, Number 3 / 4
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2016
  • Publication Cycle Semiannual

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Robert Frost knew all too well that home is not always the place where one has chosen to be but is the place where one is, if not welcomed, at least allowed in. The poems in this issue of Poet Lore were meant to be together and fall under an umbrella theme of home; they deal with relationships of people and places inspired by or in reaction to the word home and all of its connotations. They explore the many manifestations of home in memories and observations tinged with bitter nostalgia, unapologetic and raw.

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  • Issue Number Issue 8
  • Published Date Summer 2016
  • Publication Cycle Biannual

Leave logic at the door when you step inside stories laid out for you in this issue of Pacifica Literary Review. They have just enough normality to allow you to accept the absurdities.

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  • Issue Number Number 37
  • Published Date 2016
  • Publication Cycle Annual

Passages North is a vade mecum. A canon. A bible for literati. An authority. A serious digest. A volume that induces wallet-cracking extra-baggage charges. This annual journal sponsored by Northern Michigan University publishes short stories, fiction flashes, modular and traditional essays, and poetry—loads and loads of poems of every possible breed: ghazals, sonnets, pantouns, free-verse, coupleted-cantations—diversity in form, theme and content receive open-armed welcomes at Passages North. From Pushcart winners to first-timers, from experimental to toe-the-liners, this volume is hefty hefty hefty, and by following the editorial compass of publishing only what deserves “merit,” they have produced a book to please the masses. If you can’t find something that thrills and rocks your sacrum, email me, and I’ll give you the number of my therapist, or maybe we can photoshop your name onto my prescriptions.

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  • Issue Number Volume 45 Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall 2015
  • Publication Cycle Biannual

“A short story should always move forward in time!” and “Use strong action verbs” and “Only leave the words that do the most work emotionally” are phrases former students of Alan Cheuse may have heard often. “He pushed for more drama, more emotion, fewer words,” writes Phoebe Editor-in-Chief Amanda Canupp Mendoza. “He wanted us to live up to our full potential not only as writers, but as humans.” In July of 2015, Alan Cheuse passed away and this issue, in collaboration with Alan Cheuse Literary Review, opens with a special section dedicated to the late George Mason University professor.

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  • Issue Number Issue 10
  • Published Date June 2016 online

Carl Heyward’s “Box/SING” is featured as the cover art for the 10th issue of Posit. The colorful, chaotic mixed media collage has been aptly chosen to greet readers, representing the work found in the new issue: the poetry, prose, and art all sing while pulling no punches.

  • Issue Number Volume 101 Number 3/4
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual

Editor of Poet Lore Rick Cannon describes the sound of a poem’s beauty as “a steady hum.” I don’t think he could have described it any better. A consistent vibration sounds through the pages of this sleek, perfect-bound journal.

  • Subtitle The Paris Review
  • Issue Number Volume 48 Number 179
  • Published Date Winter 2006
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly

There’s a division in literary magazines that’s becoming more pronounced as time goes on – there are those that treasure new voices and are a beacon of hope to the unpublished, and then there are those that serve as a seemingly untouchable golden palace upon a hill to be envied from afar. Both are viable, and as journals proliferate, this division was inevitable and necessary. The Paris Review is one of the most blindingly golden palaces in all the land, with a statue of George Plimpton standing watch, perhaps in the uniform of his Paper Lion days.

  • Issue Number Volume 2
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Annual

Practice is a beautifully designed journal, an elegant compilation of literary (prose and verse) and visual work (photography, paintings, and graphics) that successfully mines the past and present. The creators preface their work as well as being prefaced themselves with that ever-present brief bio. Most artists and authors are presented through multiple or multi-part works.

  • Issue Number Volume 53 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2006
  • Publication Cycle Triannual

The 50th Anniversary issue of Portland Review offers a mixed bag of poetry, fiction and photography. The editors favor prose poems and unpretentious narrative verse, which is of varying quality. The fiction, however, is quite appealing, including “Plenty of Room in Heaven” by Jonathan Evison, which kick-starts the journal. The narrator writes of a depressed former philosophy professor: “He even went so far as to devise what he called the Sweats to Pants Ratio (S.P.R.), by which success was measured relative to the number of days a week one spent in casual versus formal attire, formal being anything with pockets.”

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  • Issue Number Volume 89 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2015
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly

NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga—if you are reading or dare say, published in Prairie Schooner’s Winter 2015, then you’re playing in the big leagues; say good-bye to the minors, enjoy your box-seats, and greet Natalie Diaz as the guest commissioner.

  • Issue Number Volume 4
  • Published Date 2005
  • Publication Cycle Annual

“For genius, at least where poetry is concerned, consists precisely in being faithful to freedom,” Dean Young quotes from surrealist poet Yves Bonnefoy in the latest issue of POOL. Although this quote comes from Amy Newlove Schroeder’s interview with Young in the back pages of POOL, it might as well be the magazine’s credo. From the Natasha Sajé’s prose poem “B” to Jeff Chang’s “Things to Forget”—“Under the skin is another layer. / We call this baby skin. // Under a baby’s skin, / snowflakes.”

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  • Issue Number Volume 2
  • Published Date October 2015
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
For Polychrome Ink, the goal is simple: prove that “diversity is not a niche market.” The contributors and their content exhibit diverse sexuality, gender, religion, race, ability, and more. The authors featured dig into the intersection of power and vulnerability to tell stories where people are diverse, but most importantly: where people are people.
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  • Issue Number Issue 5
  • Published Date Fall 2015
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Phantom Drift is an annual journal of slipstream writing: fiction, nonfiction and poetry which experiment with fantastical and realist elements. The work published in Issue 5, Navigating the Slipstream, is unapologetic and unseats us from our perceptions of reality.
  • Issue Number Volume 42 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2003
Sometimes clichés are true: this issue of Prism International illustrates the concept that good things do come in small packages. The journal contains poetry which ranges from Bernadette Higgins’ traditional poem, “Short Wave,” describing language, music, and thoughts which tease and cross on the air late at night, to a strong contemporary poem by Matt Robinson, “why we wrap our wrists the same each time,” exploring a hockey player’s quest to “do anything” to beat his “jinx.” Ouyang Yu translates four Chinese poems from the 8th and 9th century, which are beautiful in their simplicity and complexity.
  • Issue Number Volume 25 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2004
Weighing in at two-hundred and eighty pages, this issue of the long-lived Passages North is a hefty journal not only in terms of the writers it publishes, but also just sheer size. That page count allows them the leeway to do what many literary journals cannot: publish a short series of poems by the same person so that it’s possible to gain a wider feel for the poet’s work. Bob Hicok and Jan Bailey, for example, enjoy a run of five poems each. The only complaint I had about the poetry is that there’s so much good stuff here, it’s difficult to focus on one poem or poet to the exclusion of the others.
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall 2004
It's nearly impossible not to pick up this issue of Pebble Lake Review, with its almost hypnotically vibrant cover photograph of a sun-dappled graveyard. Fortunately, the contents of this slim, unassuming journal don't disappoint. The poems tend to be short and straightforward; no experimental rambles here. Likewise, the fiction moves quickly, and there is a handful of various art works by seven different people.
I was immediately impressed by the overall presentation of this issues of Pleiades, beginning with the cover artwork by Julie Speed and following with the overall heft of the issue itself. The contents are pretty evenly divided between one hundred pages of creative writing and one hundred pages of book reviews.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall 2015
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Before even opening the first issue of Prodigal, its matte cover felt comfortable in my hands, inviting, like a good handshake at the front door of an unfamiliar residence. Inside, the journal is rich with traditional and experimental poetry that plays with form, structure, and even grammatical conventions. There are poems broken into parts, prose poems, and poems that demand attention in different spaces across the page. The issue also includes a few prose pieces, an interview with political theorist Wendy Brown, and translated works from Søren Kierkegaard, Juan Benet, and Bertolt Brecht.
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  • Issue Number Issue 8
  • Published Date Autumn 2015
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Created by three women in Vancouver—Melanie Anastasiou, Jennifer Landels and Susan Pieters—the hybrid PULP Literature “publish[es] writing that breaks out of the bookshelf boundaries, defies genre, surprises, and delights,” according to their website. “Think of it as a wine-tasting . . .  or a pub crawl . . . where you’ll experience new flavours and rediscover old favourites.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 41, Number 2
  • Published Date Summer 2015
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Ploughshares has returned with their much anticipated annual fiction issue, which features work from the likes of Lydia Davis and Daniel Pena, as well as some new writers coming into their own. In the introduction, Guest Editor Lauren Groff says she is “hungry for voices that speak to me with real emotion; because real emotion is always new.” One can see that influence in the latest installment, which includes a wide-range of narratives where the characters are dealing with unexpected and sometimes strange incidents that showcase little slices of humanity.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Weirdness attracts weirdness, unless of course, you are the kind of reader that is repulsed by the idea of dinosaur pornography written by an elementary-aged girl. (More on Benjamin Drevlow’s story later.) I am not that kind of reader, and neither are the editors of Profane. This journal aims to unsettle minds and bring to the page tales that are, “sacred, profound, heartfelt, raw, quirky, and, at times, a little weird.” Aside from its peculiar content, Profane also includes a raw soundtrack of the authors reading their work on its website. Not all writers are professional recording artists which makes listening to the text all that more interesting as the “authors’ very lives have bled into these tracks.”
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  • Issue Number Issue 22
  • Published Date Winter 2015
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
A Public Space fits neatly into my hands with its fine matte finish and folded flaps for bookmarks (in case there are no café receipts handy). The shade of magenta coordinates warmly with Lee Satkowski’s photograph—a writer in his studio, mosquito net surrounding his workspace, 50s checkered tile below his feet—providing a vibe that one would find in a coffee shop in Williamsburg. Its cream-colored pages are easy on the eyes, making it an ideal read under the sun or florescent lighting. Although designed with an aesthetic I am partial to, A Public Space provides content that fits neatly into your palms, but untidily in memory.
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  • Issue Number Volume 206 Number 2
  • Published Date May 2015
  • Publication Cycle Monthly
The May 2015 issue of Poetry prompts us to ask questions, and to observe without judgement the ways in which we act and operate as humans. In the opening poem, Frank Bidart’s “The Fourth Hour of the Night,” a young boy murders his half-brother for stealing a freshly-killed lark, and after, justifies his actions: “He looked / around him. Human beings // live by killing other living beings.” The poem positions us in a setting filled with slavery and brutality, a ruthless desire for power, and the search for immortality. Here, the boy acts based upon what he observes in a world that caters to those “stronger, taller, more / ruthless than you.”
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  • Issue Number Issue 35
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Quite notable in the 35th issue of Passages North is a section called Hybrid Essays that pushes creative nonfiction to daring forms of inventiveness and complexity. Nicole Stellon O’Donnell’s hyper-short, personal pieces are exercises in compression, gleaming with economy and calculation; each less than a page long, one might mistake them for flash-fiction pieces, such as “In Gratitude to the Dream Sequence,” which meditates on power in the confines of the bedroom against power in the confines of the boardroom: “Afterward, be glad because she will not turn into your boss and tell you you’re fired.”
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  • Issue Number Fall/Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The slim, new issue of Parcel is filled with experimental poetry and fiction, about half and half. The magazine’s website, however, says it has “international aspirations and an interest in a broad range of poetry, prose and art.” And though this issue has no essays, the editor’s note: “we have a special interest in lyric essays and essays that explore innovative forms and structures.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 88 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Without question, Prairie Schooner is one of the top American literary magazines, as measured by quality, presentation, and longevity. It began in 1926, and it continues as a print quarterly and online blog at the University of Nebraska, in Lincoln. Poet Kwame Dawes is editor-in-chief, and the magazine has a staff of 47 assistant editors, editorial assistants, and alumni readers. A well-established publication indeed. The current issue musters an impressive roster of contributors, most with advanced degrees, publications, awards, and residencies. More than a few teach writing at a college or university.
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  • Issue Number Issue 14
  • Published Date 2015
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Oh literature, oh the glorious Art, how it preys upon the marrow in our bones. It scoops the stuffing out of us, and chucks us aside. Alas! ~ D.H. Lawrence
The works of poetry, memoir, and story in the 2015 issue of PMS: poemmemoirstory aspire to and achieve Lawrence's requirements of literature. The pieces are finely crafted, yes, but, more, are significant in that they strive to reach readers on deep levels. This journal, publishing women writers for fifteen years, continues to showcase literature that is art, and that matters to readers of any persuasion.
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  • Issue Number Issue 35
  • Published Date Spring 2015
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
Per Contra promises that readers will find contrast in the range of work they publish, from fiction to scholarly essays, and they deliver in their Spring 2015 issue. Variety isn’t limited to the types of genre they provide, but can be seen in the individual pieces within each genre as well. The fiction section varies from “Things We Do To Keep From Dying” by Dominica Phetteplace, which follows a woman reclaiming her life and safety after being raped as her fear centers on dogs in the days after the attack, to “Unfunny” by Stephen Delaney, in which a man’s flubbed joke leads him to the uncomfortable task of facing his faults. However, a few stories stuck out as sharing a common element: the relationship between mothers and daughters.
If you have ever visited the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, California, you likely noticed a ping-pong table. This table, nestled amidst towering redwood trees, brings the library’s many visitors together in a single place, with a single purpose: ping-pong. It is appropriate, then, that the Library’s literary journal, Ping•Pong, unites a wide array of voices and works in a single volume, and to common purpose.
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  • Issue Number Issue 4
  • Published Date Summer 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Pacifica Literary Review embraces stories dealing with concepts that represent the reality of the world in which they are written. This is evident in the poetry, prose, and art of this issue. The things people wish they could say, or experiences that they may have had but never talk about, find their way onto the page in bold, eye-catching print. Individual poems, stories, and images work together to form a collective narrative of the ever-changing world in which we live.
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  • Issue Number Volume 46
  • Published Date 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Dysfunctional families, human nature, and the forces of Mother Nature are all prominent topics in this issue of Pembroke Magazine. While stories with happy endings, delivered with bows on top, are often sought after in today’s culture, it is refreshing and entertaining to read essays, stories, and poetry that have no real resolution.
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  • Issue Number Volume 36 Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Permafrost is an unusually entertaining collection of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews, drama and art published in “the farthest north literary journal in the United States.” All of the works provide perspectives that are fresh and introduce a broad variety of creative talent that doesn’t often appear in the same place. If there’s one characteristic throughout the entire collection, it’s the detailed imagery.
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  • Issue Number Number 82
  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of Poetry East is absolutely a pleasure to physically handle. Every page is of glossy finish, it is roughly the dimension of a medium-size paperback, and it is lightweight enough to pack anywhere without being in the way. No page numbers in this issue make it difficult to reference where to locate some of the poems I found most enjoyable. Linear structure seems to have lent itself to the editor's preference in selecting which works to include. Most of the poems included follow a very reasonable, almost philosophic arc toward endings that do not surprise so much as fulfill the reader. In response, since it feels good to go against the grain sometimes, I am going to employ reverse linear structure in presenting this review.
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  • Issue Number Volume 204 Number 4
  • Published Date July/August 2014
  • Publication Cycle Monthly

Because the Poetry Foundation’s website is such a fixture of my online reading, buying an issue of Poetry always make me feel like I’m donating to public radio. Lifting an issue from the bookstore shelf and leafing through it, I can almost hear the faintly accusatory voice of a pledge drive broadcaster playing the guilt card, asking, “How often do you find yourself enjoying the vast resource that is the Poetry Foundation website, or sending the articles and poems you find there to friends? Isn’t that worth $3.75 a month to you?

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  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date Summer 2014
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online

Pretty Owl Poetry is a brand new online quarterly that publishes poetry and, in opposition to the title of the journal, flash fiction. The poetry is very accessible, not overly complicated or using fancy language.

Take, for example, Clare Welsh’s “Almost Exorcism,” a poem broken into three pieces about children’s reaction to a lump “on the ribs of a dog.” The first part have the children imagining it as a second heart...

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  • Issue Number Volume 109 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual

This was the first issue of Poet Lore I have ever read, and it will not be the last! Well over 100 pages of outstanding poems, poetic history, interviews, and reviews made this more than just another issue to review; they turned it into an outright gripping read. While most of the works were brief (under one printed page), large-scale themes of loss and death are woven throughout. The editors did an outstanding job of finding beautiful poems that also highlighted positive moments in life through the pain. I am not lying when I tell you how a couple of pieces nearly brought tears to my eyes.

  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
In the 64 pages of this issue, John Zheng gives us 27 poets and 49 lyric and narrative poems; not surprisingly, one page is often enough to include the entire poem. Brief bios of contributing poets appear at the end, along with a page to mention a handful of noteworthy books of poems published since 2007 in the U.S.
Prairie Schooner is one of the few journals with impeccable credentials, having disappointed few writers and readers. This issue is no exception.
I sensed what Anis Shivani’s argument would be in his essay, “Why is American Fiction in Its Current Dismal State?” before I flipped to it: lack of risk-taking fiction. Shivani’s tone in the essay is not sad, which saves the essay from becoming victim of its own subject. His attacks are scathing – “Fiction writing is the way it is because America has turned it into the last great Fordist model of production.” Elsewhere he argues that “the decline of American fiction is a sign of the decline of elite liberal consensus. The vacuum in political ideology is being filled today by an anti-politics, of personality and charisma…”
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  • Issue Number Volume 34 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Pinch is so expressive and excellent that I’m confident any instance that I pick up this issue I will open it and begin reading something great. Publishing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, visual art, and the winners of the 2013 Pinch Literary Awards, this issue is just brimming with work you need to read and art that deserves your attention.
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  • Issue Number Volume 43 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2014
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Though I’ve read several issues of Phoebe before, I’m always impressed by how diverse the journal is in terms of genre, aesthetic, and style. This issue features poetry, fiction, nonfiction, comics, and art—a wide range of content that makes for an entertaining mix of reading and viewing material.
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Number 2
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Prick of the Spindle is a journal that fills its literary itinerary with almost every literary genre imaginable. It is one of the most comprehensively complete journals in terms of its subject matter as well as its devotion to the concept of representing large intellectual and culturally diverse writing communities. One unifying image of the type of writing that they publish is a merging of a chaotic and energetic prose flowing rapidly but with a structure grounding each piece in a specific style or meaning.
  • Issue Number Volume 28 Number 2
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
If ever there were reason to reject the age-old adage never judge a book by its cover, this issue of Pleiades would be it. Amy Casey’s marvelous “upended,” an acrylic on paper, which reflects her perception “of the nervous state of the affairs in the world,” certainly upends that advice. Casey’s images of a world suspended make me believe there are wonders, marvels, and fresh perspectives ahead, and this is absolutely true. Tom Fleischmann’s essay, “Fist,” is one of the riskiest pieces of creative nonfiction I’ve seen in a long time, a meditation on fists that is linguistically and sexually provocative, without being forcedly edgy, odd, or experimental.
  • Issue Number Volume 7
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
In this very last print issue of the journal POOL, which will become an online journal only at www.poolpoetry.com, the cover greets with two 1950’s children wearing star shaped sunglasses about to come out of a swimming pool, doused with the varying reflective colors produced by rippled water as a result of the sun. This image is joyous and playful and humorous and although not entirely reflective of every poem comprising this journal, it does represent a large portion of them. Whether the poems here are playing with the toy of language or the sounds it often emits, there is a kind of fun here at work, with an underlying seriousness of purpose or meaning jolting us back into reality.
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  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date August 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual online
Poecology, for me, was a return to the earth, to nature. The poems, dealing with crops, rivers, apples, bugs, sparrows, and summer squash, made me want to go outside, lay down in the grass, and breathe in the fresh air. Of course, instead, I sat in my house, cuddled with my cat, and finished reading and writing from a digital screen, but for brief moments, it was nice to be transported to a place outside my suburban home.
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  • Issue Number Number 21
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Post Road offered me surprises that I don’t believe I have actually seen in other magazines. For instance, during my first official flip through, my thumb stopped on a page where Micah Nathan reviews The Stories of John Cheever, claiming that, although not a “titan like Hemingway or Faulkner . . . there’s room in the pantheon for gods of all types. We reserve a temple for him.” I can’t recall how many reviews (celebrations?) of Cheever I have read in modern literary magazines—because I don’t believe that I ever have. And then on the page opposite began Asad Raza’s review of the 1983 Lizzie Borden movie Born in Flames, a movie that, according to the author: “makes most New York movies seem like sentimental fawning.” These two pieces represent the eclectic, brilliant choices the editors have made in putting the magazine together, which I think is its greatest strength. It caters to many different tastes, and, according to the magazine’s website, each submission is read by three different people before accepting or rejecting it—thus ensuring a strong collection with each biannual issue.
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
It’s possible that the mark of an evolved soul is the ability to pass at will into whatever state of consciousness is useful or appropriate at any given time. Over twenty distinct such states have been observed, with names like reverie, lethargy, trance, and rapture. The question of when such states are useful or appropriate is the subject of story and song from time immemorial. That they are essential to our lives if we are ever to be whole is the conviction behind a compelling new journal whose title hints at this ability I’ve described: Phantom Drift.
  • Issue Number Issue 36
  • Published Date 2008-2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
In a brief introductory note, editor Maria Mazziotti Gillan reveals that the journal receives 10,000 submissions annually. I wish there were as many people regularly reading and subscribing to these sorts of reviews as there are submitting to them! We are lucky that dedicated editors like Mazziotti Gillan are willing to do the challenging work year in and year out to keep journals like the Paterson Literary Review alive. Selected recently by Library Journal as one of the ten best literary magazines in the country, the review continues to offer readers the best of well-known writers and those “whose work is so fine it should be better known” – a much more apt and respectful phrase than “emerging” or any of the other terms used to define writers whose reputations are not as impressive as their work.
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  • Issue Number Issue 5
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Editor's Note for this issue suggests, "Texts, like lives, are precarious projects." And Iranian ex-patriot Moniru Ravanipur, whose writings are banned in her homeland, interviewed by Miranda Mellis, reminds us that, "Stories are a testament to their time, especially in countries like mine." Ravanipur knows too well the vital connection between writing and living. She describes how, "The short story for me is like a mirror that reflects different worlds—worlds that already exist, or worlds that could be or should be." No matter what else, writing allows for confronting and challenging any established order.
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  • Issue Number Volume 5 Number 1
  • Published Date May 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
I was immediately drawn to Plain Spoke. Poetry in plain language, I thought. Yeah, there we go. The subtitle only made it better: A Literary Speakeasy. Oh yeah. My kind of language in my kind of place. I imagined straight, honest poetry like bourbon served neat in a drinking glass—edgy, not quite legit. I couldn’t wait to get started.
  • Issue Number Volume 101 Numbers 1/2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I don't say this kind of thing very often, but flip to the back and read the essay first. Merrill Leffler's "Poetry: What I Want of It" is a thoughtful exploration of topics many poets struggle with: why am I reading and writing poetry; aren't all these "I" poems just navel-gazing; and what should poetry, ultimately, do for language?
  • Subtitle Story. Place. Spirit. Witness
  • Issue Number Volume 28 Issue 1
  • Published Date 2003
New publisher and editor Peter Anderson has saved the day! Long-time publishers Jack and Marcia Barstow retired last year, offering the magazine at no cost to anyone who would carry on the tradition of "personal reflective writing." Anderson has moved the operation to Crestone, Colorado where, if this first issue in the journal's twenty-eighth year is any indication, Pilgrimage will continue to delight and inspire us. According to Anderson, Pilgrimage serves an "eclectic fellowship of readers, writers, poets, naturalists, activists, contemplatives, seekers, adventurers, and other kindred spirits…" On encountering the moving and thoughtful writing here, one certainly wants to be belong to this "widespread community." About half the pieces in this issue are reprinted from other publications, but many are from independent presses or sources with which readers may not be familiar.
  • Issue Number Volume 5
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Pool is a great name for a poetry journal—all those denotations, connotations, symbols, and similes. Spanning a wide range of styles, this volume contains multiple poems by Gareth Lee, Bob Hicok, Elizabeth Horner, James Haug, Amanda Field, Paul Fattaruso, Tony Hoagland, Campbell McGrath, and Mary Ruefle, as well as single poems by three dozen others. Although many of the poems in this issue fell flat (belly flopped?), I enjoyed the playfulness of Jeanne Marie Beaumont’s language in “In Pursuit of the Original Trinket” and “Mosey Is as Mosey Does.” Corey Marks’s long poem “Lullaby” is this volume’s graceful dive from the high platform. In it he demonstrates skillful interweaving of avian imagery and symbolism with a fairytale motif and modern medical dilemma:

. . . your body
unstitched our trust in it, thread by thread, pocking
itself with blood that no longer knew to contain itself
capillaries split and spilt across your face and hands
into a map of a country you’d never thought to visit.
  • Issue Number Volume 3 Number 3
  • Published Date Summer 2006
  • Publication Cycle annual
I love it when I open a journal and serendipitously the first piece I read is a winner. This recently happened when I picked up Pebble Lake Review and turned to Ted Gilley's poem "Password," which begins "Young Dewey's head / was shaped like a melon. / His password was I'm ripe. / His brother Matthew's was / I blow up mailboxes. / Mine was just ignore me." Although it includes several book reviews and works of fiction, including Dave Housley's hit-the-nail-on-the-head, slice-of-life piece, "Where We're Going," this issue focuses on poetry. It includes poems by Denise Duhamel, Kelli Russell Agodon, Judith Skillman, C.J. Sage, Dan Rosenberg, Barry Ballard, Paula Bohince, and some two dozen other poets. For their wonderful imagery, I recommend "Measure Twice, Cut Once" and "House Diptych" by Bernadette Geyer. I also suggest that readers visit the journal’s website, where they can listen to selected audio files of the authors reading their own works—a great addition to the print journal.
  • Issue Number Volume 195 Number 5
  • Published Date February 2010
  • Publication Cycle Monthly
Martha Zweig’s poem “Carolina” could be an ars poetica of sorts, or a Poetry manifesto, or the platform of a new (and possibly more satisfactory) political party, or a prayer: “Won’t somebody please start / something other & oddball soon // narrow her down out of folly /& trivia to destiny?” Or perhaps she is (without knowing it) responding to Robert Haas, who begins “September Notebook: Stories”: “Everyone comes here from a long way off / (is a line from a poem I read last night).” Maybe they are both responding (without knowing it) to J. Allyn Rosser’s “Impromptu”: “as if something I could say were true, and every / moment from now on would be my cue.” And all of them would have to ponder, with Joshua Mehigan what it means to be at the “Crossroads”: “This is the place it happened. It was here. / You might not know unless you knew.” Clive James seems to want to help them sort it out in the concluding lines to “A Perfect Market”:
  • Issue Number Volume 78 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2004
There is always something for nearly every serious reader in Prairie Schooner. It's not because Raz lacks a consistent editorial vision. On the contrary, issue after issue the journal feels whole and unified. It's more because her vision is large and generous. The prose is especially strong this issue, with a tender and memorable story by Tamara Friedman ("Stealing Sherisha") and a fine example of literary journalism by David A. Taylor, "Nailing a Freight on the Fly: The Federal Writer's Project in Nebraska." Taylor's essay is a solid and pleasingly humble combination of competent research, travel writing, and literary history.
  • Issue Number Volume 42 Number 2
  • Published Date Winter 2004
This issue features the winner of the magazine's 2003 Maclean Hunter Endowment Award for literary nonfiction, an essay contest judge Andreas Schroeder calls "beautifully calibrated."
  • Issue Number Issue 4
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I’m not easily distracted by bright, shiny objects, but it’s hard not to skip right to Harry Gamboa Jr.’s fotonovela (photo story). The fotonovela is a two-dimensional take on the popular, highly successful, and always melodramatic Latin American telenovela (soap opera). Aztlángst – which, I think, is Gamboa Jr.’s invention and probably means Azatlán-style anxiety (Azatlán is the Chicano term for the US states that were once a part of México) – is a narrative that unfolds in black and white photos of various dimensions with text-box dialogue. The story is introduced with the cast of “actors” and a photo of a man face down on the sidewalk who turns out not to be dead, as one might suppose, but has collapsed in response to financial disaster (the angst in Aztlángst). “The entire system is based on panic,” Serpiento says when he’s told, “Whatever you do, don’t panic.” What is there to panic about? Bank swindling, living beyond our means, gangs, vigilantes, corporate socialism, dirty bombs, no credit, possessions repossessed, and rich war profiteers, all in four pages. The photos are hysterical; the text is an entertaining combination of irony and melodrama. I can’t wait to read the next installment (this is No. 1).
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
After nearly five years of being solely an online quarterly, Prick of the Spindle has finally released its first print issue. The goal of the journal is to “both recognize new talent and to include those who have a foot planted in the writing community.” It was satisfying to see this journal continue its goal by taking its first step into the print world with a display of impressive literary work.
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  • Issue Number Volume 11
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Poemmemoirstory, also known as PMS, is both written and edited by women writers. This annual magazine includes exactly as its name suggests: poems, memoirs, and stories. Many literary journals have a certain aesthetic or style of writing that remains consistent throughout the pages; however, I thoroughly enjoyed how diverse each piece was. In addition to various topics being discussed, the approach to writing and how it looks on the page changes with each writer.
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  • Issue Number Volume 41 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Phoebe “prides itself on supporting up-and-coming writers, whose style, form, voice, and subject matter demonstrate a vigorous appeal to the senses, intellect, and emotions of [its] readers.” I found this issue to be proof of that: with each turn of the page, I found more new and exciting forms and subject matter. As a writer who can’t seem to hit a creative bone without form, I loved reading each and every one of these pieces—sifting through the forms and pondering on how each one opens up something new to the story or message.
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  • Issue Number Issue 15
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
PEN America is the journal of the PEN American Center, and so has access to a venerable stable of contributors for each issue. This issue, the theme of which is “Maps,” is no exception. It contains many short pieces, some less than a page long, by a number of esteemed writers. Writers were asked to respond to a prompt: “We hope you’ll allow us to accompany you as you reencounter a world you’ve come to know through literature . . . Or, if your mood is more essayistic, tell us about maps that guided or misguided you as a writer.” As one might imagine, the responses are quite varied, highly personal, and mostly interesting.
  • Issue Number Volume 104 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
“[T]he way you can feel his intelligence moving on the page in the choices and turns he makes.” This is Cornelius Eady describing the work of Gregory Pardlo, the poet whose work he has chosen for “Poets Introducing Poets,” always one of this magazine’s finest features. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a better description of that elusive and spectacular quality that makes great poetry so hard to define and so easy to love. And Eady – who praises Pardlo’s line and his ear, as well as his poetic intelligence – couldn’t be more right about Pardlo. His work is “dense, but it’s never a burden to navigate” (“Kite / strings tensing the load of a saddle- / backed wind”).
  • Issue Number Volume 35 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
I love guest editor Eleanor Wilner’s work, so it is terrific to have a chance to read her picks for the magazine. Some of her choices surprised me; almost all interested and satisfied me for they are unpredictable and wildly engaging in their use of language. Jaswinder Bolina’s poem “Make Believe” merges language that can border on the ordinary with syntax, line breaks, and images that magnify and elevate it: “We will eventually be archaeology, but now in America / I tell my young daughter the new headlights are a bluish-white / instead of the smoky yellow / of my upbringing.” and “It’s that time when I’m alone in America with my young / daughter that she startles / herself realizing the woodpile beneath the black oak is itself / formerly a tree, / and she wants to know whether these trees have feelings.”
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  • Issue Number Volume 47 Number 174
  • Published Date Summer 2005
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In its 1953 inaugural issue, William Styron, best known for his novel Sophie’s Choice, wrote, “I think The Paris Review should welcome these people into its pages: the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe-grinders. So long as they're good.” And they are good. This issue finds Liao Yiwu a seeming star, as both interviewer and subject, covering an alarming 35 pages, or about 18% of the issue’s 192 pages. Yiwu’s pieces range from encounters with a professional mourner, an independent public toilet manager, and a human trafficker, with China serving as each interviews’ backdrop.
To my mind (and perhaps those of women all over America), the acronym PMS as it appears boldly on the journal cover arouses thoughts of the combination of discomforts women experience at a certain time of the lunar cycle. So why, when it would have been so simple to scramble the letters into other combinations, is this quality journal called PMS? Title aside, there is much to appreciate in this review, which exclusively features women’s works and is divided evenly between the three genres.
  • Issue Number Issue 35
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The editorial staff dedicated this issue of the Paterson Literary Review to Allen Ginsberg, native son of Paterson, New Jersey. Much of the nearly four hundred pages in this volume are devoted to reminisce of Allen Ginsberg by those who knew him, were mentored by him and were profoundly influenced by him. They call him “bard,” “lover of earth and foe of the fascist state,” “poetry father,” “catalyst of utopia,” and “courage-teacher.” They recount vivid memories, reflect, and describe their sense of loss at his death. The poet Jim Cohn wrote, “Allen’s thinking had a way of causing a roar in your head.” The poet Eliot Katz wrote in an elegy, “Ah, Allen, you gave America a new shape & now you’ve lost yours.”
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  • Issue Number Issue 52
  • Published Date Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Potomac Review publishes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from a wide selection of established and emerging authors. From the homepage of their website: “Our philosophy welcomes variety, and through it, we create an organic flow of ideas to contribute to the literary conversation.” The conversation in this issue is definitely worth checking out.
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  • Issue Number Volume 202 Number 1
  • Published Date April 2013
  • Publication Cycle Monthly
If any magazine could create a mythology in one edition it would be Poetry. To accomplish this in one issue is next to miraculous, but this is what they have done in the April 2013 issue. Christian Winman and a small cast of editors make their work look effortless, the selections of work by established poets speaking for a larger humanity.
  • Subtitle Empathy
  • Issue Number Number 1
  • Published Date August 2010
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The Pedestrian is curious. In the best sense. A compilation of essays written by long-dead writers and today’s up-and-comers, The Pedestrian is dedicated to immortalizing what some may view as a dying art, the essay. With the rise of creative nonfiction, the essay has been sorely missing from many modern journals. The existence of this magazine is promising, and, like any good essay, ripe with curiosity, wonder, and philosophy.
  • Issue Number Number 194
  • Published Date Fall 2010
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Those who wish to participate in the latest literary world gossip should read The Paris Review. Articles have been written about its new editor, Lorin Stein, for months. Moreintelligentlife.com reports that the 37 year old former Farrar, Straus and Giroux editor is looking for “the best of the best, period—except I don’t really believe in The Best.” According to New York Magazine, Stein’s publishers told him they were looking for “boldness.” The Financial Times reports that “the magazine’s relationship with reportage has ended.” Poets are lamenting the choice of Stein and new poetry editor Robyn Creswell to reject all of the poems previously accepted and slated for future publication. (Many of the rejected poems can be found at The Equalizer.)
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  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
Psychopomp Magazine, a new online fiction quarterly, aims to publish work that “defies genre and isn’t afraid to go beyond the confines of traditional form.” Their first issue is a testament to that.
  • Published Date 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The newest issue of Post Road is certainly ambitious, including not just fiction and poetry but also essays, book recommendations, a one-act play, photography, an interview, and even an index of all the characters in John Cheever's short fiction. Highlights include Dan Pope's story "Drive-In," about a group of teenagers going to see a porno film at a drive-in, and Ralph McGinnis's essay, "The Omission of Comics," which makes a strong case for the inclusion of comics as modern art and also for their place in history as strong influences on Dadaism and Surrealism.
Poetry Kanto takes its name from the Japanese Kanto plain, but it's hard not to think Canto in the Western sense of the spirited song. This journal, published by an American Baptist-founded university, features four translated Japanese and eight international English-language poets. It refutes the conception that Japan is still the isolated land of the tanka and haiku. Tanikawa Shuntaro, for example, is well regarded for his breadth of knowledge of American pop culture. Yet Kanto also illustrates where the gaps remain.
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
For those of us fortunate to live in Massachusetts, the name Paul Revere nearly conjures magic, in the fairy-tale sense. Perhaps it was by design, then, that the publishers of this journal’s very first edition would use tales that evoke feelings of long-agos, and far, far-aways. Micaela Morrissette’s tale, “The Glowing Light in the Forest” is the perfect ambassador for Paul Revere’s Horse’s first foray, and the perfect example of magic conjured by pen. Truly, I can give but a hint or two of her ingenious story/poem. For example, “In the cool, damp, dark forest, a princess.” If this seems like a slight tease, then I’ll add one of Morrissette’s devilishly clever lists: “The forest. The princess. The well. The tower. The red rose. The frog. The ring. The dog. The tear. The servant. The key. The mirror. The witch. The disguise.” But that is all I will say. To give you, the reader, more would spoil the surprise that is Morrissette’s writing, and her utterly captivating tale. This imagining would be enough to recommend the journal; it’s that good, but Paul Revere’s Horse has so much more to offer.
  • Issue Number Volume 44 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
“What’s this?” Martin Riker, associate editor of Dalkey Archive Press, asks Warren Motte, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and world renowned critic of contemporary French literature. This first question, in an interview titled “Work and Play,” is a reference to a journal Motte hands Riker when they meet for the interview. The answer (“Something I thought you might be interested in”) turns out be an article about Motte’s quarter-century obsession with mirror scenes in literature. Motte estimates he’s identified (and catalogued on index cards) between 10,000-20,000 of these. His fascination with mirror scenes is, well, fascinating.
  • Issue Number Volume 3 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This lovely little literary magazine doesn’t look like it could hold as much purely spectacular writing as it does, but don’t be fooled by its 50 pages. This speakeasy means business. Composed primarily of poems, with one short story, the editors have chosen wonderful explorations of emotions, both joyful and sorrowful, both reminiscent and forward-looking.
  • Issue Number Volume 30 Issue 2
  • Published Date 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I have never been disappointed by an issue of Pilgrimage. In a world that is exceedingly desperate, both on and off the page, this exquisite little journal never fails to soothe and stimulate in equal measure, with intelligence, grace, and authenticity. This issue's theme is "borderlands."
  • Issue Number Number 34
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I always enjoy uncovering a journal with a history that I had never known existed before. Pearl has a history (34 volumes now) that includes an impressive devotion to special issues. This all-fiction issue marks the eighth time Pearl has committed itself to the genre, and it doesn’t disappoint. Of the 19 stories included, most are under 1,500 words and immediately accessible; they can be tried on by all sizes to see which fit the best.
  • Subtitle A Journal of New Writing
  • Issue Number Volume 30 Number 1
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Let me be honest: I've always had a crush on Pleiades. This venerable journal publishes so much consistently good writing, especially poetry, that it is a pleasure to dive into the words between its covers. At 280 pages, it is bigger than a lot of books being published today; like a good novel, it can be zipped through, or relished over a longer period of time.
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  • Issue Number Number 17
  • Published Date Winter 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
A Public Space showcases a splendid selection of stories that balance plot, pacing, and literary innovation without sacrificing what makes classic short fiction remain essential. From the first story in the volume, “American Lawn” by Jessica Francis Kane, to the last, a translation, “Something in Us Wants to Be Saved” by Patricio Pron, the reader glides through the narrative. There is enough drive in the stories, metered without sacrificing the thrall of language, to make you read endlessly, wanting to know the end, but letting the powerful pacing direct your review—allowing all truths in its own time.
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  • Issue Number Number 12
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual
I hear women’s voices when I read this magazine. I should: this is a “140-page, perfect-bound, all-women’s literary journal published annually by the University of Alabama at Birmingham”; every voice is a woman’s. But I didn’t expect to feel such a bond, such a connection, and I was unexpectedly moved as I read: these writers know how I feel, they live my life, they speak my language. I teach fiction writing, so I went to the story section first. Every story made me smile with recognition and appreciation, and each one left an echo in my mind, an impression I carried around with me as I do with the best literature—a new way of perceiving my ordinary world, no longer ordinary, thanks to these women writers.
  • Issue Number Volume 7 Issue 2
  • Published Date 2003
Porcupine is a fine mix of what you’d expect from a literary magazine, and what you’d never see coming.
  • Issue Number Volume 99 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2004
"Turn each page and imagine yourself out for a nice bicycle ride like the women on our cover," advise the editors.
  • Issue Number Number 11
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2004
More poems than plays, the drama here consists of three short, one-act pieces.
  • Issue Number Volume 33 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2004
This issue of Phoebe delivers a fresh, diverse selection of fiction and poems.
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  • Issue Number Volume 8 Issue 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2013/2014
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
If you read only one issue of a literary magazine this year, let it be this issue of Poetry Northwest, if only to read Stanley Plumly’s gorgeous essay “The End of Keats.” Plumly writes with gentle reverence of the poet who famously died too young, in poverty and failure. Plumly’s writing kept me reading to the end of Keats’ life, and I learned so much. At the end of the piece, Plumly shares his view of Keats’s short life and painful death and writes that the tragedy “lies in the not knowing; or worse, knowing the wrong thing.” He goes on to say that “that is true for most of us: we never know, we never really know the long consequences.” This theme runs through the essay and through many of the poems in the magazine that also deal with truth and the experience of dying and how the living deal with it all. In many of the poems in this issue narrators speak to lost loved ones in sadness and in hindsight at what might have been missed in lives ended too soon. Plumly’s essay is a perfect ending to this issue that deals with endings.
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  • Issue Number Volume 6 Issue 1
  • Published Date Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual online
I’m sure, as writers, we sometimes feel compelled to write a letter to someone—as a way to organize our thoughts and say it “just right”—rather than try to explain what we are feeling or thinking out loud. This issue of Poemeleon is titled “The Epistolary Issue.” Each of the writers in this issue uses this form of poetry in different ways, some even explain it with a short intro.
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  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 3
  • Published Date October 2012
  • Publication Cycle Monthly online
After seeing the cover of Pithead Chapel—a colorful collection of birds amongst flowers and plants—I expected something a little different. I’m not sure what, but I somehow expected stories of nature, or stories that were calm, and safe. But what I got was a different kind of surprise.
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  • Published Date Fall 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
This magazine is one that features women writers all over the age of 60. The editors write, “Too often older women’s artistic work is ignored or disregarded, and only those few who are already established receive the attention they deserve. Yet many women are at the height of their creative abilities in their later decades and have a great deal to contribute.” This magazine’s mission is endearing, especially to me as my grandmother didn’t even start writing until she was in her ‘60s. It’s nice to see a magazine that showcases this type of work.
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  • Issue Number Volume 199 Number 2
  • Published Date November 2011
  • Publication Cycle Monthly
One is prone to read Poetry expecting not only to find good poems, but also that something will be said about poetry. In this issue, the about reverberates most abundantly in Michael Robbins’s insightful review on three volumes, Clavics by Geoffrey Hills, Moving Day by Ish Klein, and Come and See by Fanny Howe. As Robbins suggests, poetry can be one thing—or that thing’s very contradiction: “where Flarf’s virtue is in its failure to hang together, Klein’s poems exude counterintuitive coherence.” This broad definition seems useful in dealing with a collection of poetry so diverse as in this issue of the journal.
  • Issue Number Number 76
  • Published Date November 2007
The Painted Bride Quarterly, published four times a year online and annually in print, has a long and proud history of giving voice to new and established talent. For over thirty years, PBQ has consistently sought and published writers whose very individual work seems to rush us to the edge of the known world, and then signal us to risk the leap; yet, as innovative and personal as these works are, they seem to belong, too, to the communities and cultures that gave rise to them. Perhaps more remarkable is that although PBQ is sponsored by great institutions and organizations (Drexel University is home), the magazine has retained its authenticity.
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 2
  • Published Date Summer/Autumn 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
What I like most about the Poetry is Dead Magazine Society is how serious they take their role as the poetry imp. You can almost hear the stifled giggles breaking as you begin to catch the joke. “Poets tend to take the art form a touch too seriously,” writes Editor-In-Chief Daniel Zomparelli. “Try it next time you are around a poet… Just say something like, ‘the only true form of poetry is lyrical’ or ‘conceptual poetry is here to kill off the fossil we call lyrical poetry’ or ‘if it’s a project than it is not poetry’ and watch their faces turn red.” Art Director Easton West writes in his letter, quoted here in its entirety: “I gota actually wrtie some shit [sic].”
  • Issue Number Volume 3 Number 3
  • Published Date Summer 2003
If minimalism had a role model in format, it would be Pawhatan Review, which only adds to the surprise and delight readers will discover in the depth and complexity of content. The magnet for me in this saddle-stitched format was the centerpiece: a b/w photograph by Mark Artkinson entitled “Vermont girls, summer at the beach,” which perfectly and preciously captures two distinct inner workings of young feminine psyche.
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  • Issue Number Issue 6
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle online
For an online publication, Penduline offers a massive amount to read in flash fiction, sudden fiction, prose poetry, and short fiction. This issue, themed "WTF?," contains strange, but entertaining stories, no doubt aimed to make you say, “WTF?”
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  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date Fall 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Here, complete, is Mathias Svalina’s “Poetry Prompt: Reformation” from this thoroughly intriguing second issue of Phantom Drift:
  • Issue Number Volume 54
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Polaris has always been about undergraduate writing, specifically the undergraduate writing of students at Ohio Northern University. The issue I reviewed, however, offered a slight twist on the focus. Editors Brian Hohmeier and Andrew Merecicky explained that “for the first time in the over fifty years of our history as a magazine, the staff and editors were pleased and excited to open up submissions to the global undergraduate writing community.”
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  • Issue Number Number 70
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of Poetry East is a compendium of 100 short poems evenly divided into four sections?Morning, Midday, Evening, Night. While readers will be treated to a few poems from household names, what is far more significant is the natural flow from one piece to the next regardless of who authored them. I have never heard literary magazines, or poetry collections for that matter, referred to as "page turners," but there is a kind of lightness in these poems that leads to precisely this end. Take for example Andrea Potos's poem "Abundance to Share with the Birds," which evokes the image of hair strands removed from a brush taken up by the wind to be collected by birds for a nest.
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  • Issue Number Volume 36 Issue 1
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle annual
The pleasure starts as soon as you pick up this magazine. Striking black-and-white linoleum block prints by Melissa West on front and back covers are worth lingering over before you even get inside. Their design and typography call so little attention to themselves that you may not even stop to think about how beautiful type can be when it’s handled well. Instead, you sit back and let yourself be drawn effortlessly into some wonderful writing.
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  • Issue Number Volume 32
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Parnassus is a brick. At 500+ pages, it holds forth as a mammoth among literary journals (Fulcrum and Vlak being two others having recently published issues that come immediately to mind). The other night at Glen Park Station after a poetry reading, a friend, who himself happens to edit a literary annual, remarked that he finds such a size far too unwieldy and awkward to get around in as a reader. Yet nonetheless, there’s a rather charming and fascinating draw towards large volumes. They possess a seductive quality that’s difficult to resist as they always bring on the feeling that the next round of reading is going to yield another surprise. In this regard, the new issue of Parnassus does not disappoint.
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  • Issue Number Volume 87 Number 3
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The cover of this issue of Prairie Schooner greets the reader with an impressionist autumn scene painted by Faridun Zoda. The inviting image is appropriate; the editors have chosen work that compels the reader to take a step back and enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation.
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  • Issue Number Volume 39 Numbers 2 & 3
  • Published Date Fall 2013
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Travis Holland’s “Planet of Fear” is one of a number of brilliant stories in this all-fiction issue of Ploughshares, edited by Peter Ho Davies. Holland writes beautifully. Three strands make a rich, bright braid: the narrator’s work with an exceptional youth in a boys’ correction facility, his frustration with his dementia-disabled father, and his love for his smart but innocent five-year-old daughter. Scenes slide seamlessly from one of these strands to another, the tension level rising slowly, steadily, as the client is bullied, the father drifts further and further from his original professorial authority, and the daughter grows into her own. Each episode is wonderfully drawn. Of a “nature walk” through an unfinished housing development with the daughter, Holland writes:
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  • Issue Number Number 7
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Plain, and rooted in the plains: that’s what remained with me after I finished reading Paddlefish, the annual literary journal from Mount Marty College in Yankton, South Dakota. A photograph of a boundless golden field and blue skies spreads over the front and back covers; the book reviews visit the Nebraska landscape and snippets in South Dakotan history; the stories and poems touch on post-military and Native American life. Paddlefish is plain, too, in its subjects, sentiments, and language. The reader is often told exactly what the writer is thinking, a mode that may appeal to some but which, to others, may leave too little to the imagination.
The venerable grand-dame of literary journals has been through some major changes lately, with the recent sad passing of enthusiastic founder, George Plimpton. However, the quality of the journal has remained very high, as might be expected. This issue features interviews on the art of poetry with poet Paul Muldoon and Paris Review’s own Poetry Editor Richard Howard.
  • Published Date 2004
  • Publication Cycle Print Annual 2
A little thicker than Bridge’s double issue, PBQ is, for those of us not in the know (which includes me until recently), now entirely an online presence and then, once a year, published as a print anthology. I’ll fully admit to the prejudice: I love print journals, and am always somewhat nervous or anxious about online stuff.
  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date 2010
Prole is proudly launching its inaugural voyage, and what a voyage. The message on page two states that this is “a journal of accessible poetry and prose to challenge and engage.” This journal is nothing if not challenging and engaging. Prole’s fiction and prose uses only artful story-telling, skillful-weaving, compact wording; no literary tricks, twists, surprise endings or jolts to deliver one deep into their vast little worlds. There are short stories with suspense and horror, such as “Book Covers” by Rebecca Hotchen and “Flower as Big as the Sky” by Matt Dennison. There are minute character studies such as “Shoes” by Dave Barrett and Bruce J. Berger’s “He had to Go.” And completing this tasty assortment are the odd and sad like “Stone and Wind” by Carl T. Abt, “Scarred” by Kevin Brown, and Stephen Ross’s “Clocks without Hands.”
  • Issue Number Volume 35 Issue 1
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
“Body, My House,” is the theme of new editor Maria Melendez’s first issue. “Human bodies, alive and in crisis, command the spotlight in the non-fiction books that have held my attention for the last 18 months,” she tells us in her “Welcome.” This is possibly, she reveals, the result of bodies in crisis in her own life, first her father’s triple bypass surgery, and later bouts of H1N1 from which she and family members suffered. There is certainly much writing about the experience of illness and disease in this issue, but there is also a good deal of work about food and eating; the body’s connection to the natural world; reproduction and aging; an essay about quitting smoking; and a poem about the art of maintaining a home as art (“this house is my poem!”).
  • Issue Number Volume 82 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In these painfully unsettled times, or perhaps I should say even more painfully unsettled than usual, I am grateful for the few things I can rely on. Out my west Bronx window, the sun still rises in the east, as far as I can tell. My boss will say “TGIF” with childish glee every Friday afternoon as if he had just invented the expression. The first sip of hot coffee in the morning will cheer me in a way that is unreasonably optimistic. And Prairie Schooner will satisfy and even comfort me with its steadfastness.
Prose Ax’s zine-like appearance (saddle-stitching, black-and-white photocopied art works on the cover and throughout the issue, untrimmed pages) and authors with attitude who write pieces with titles like “Brain Spiders” are going to appeal to a zine audience more than your typical academic audience. And this little collection of poetry and short prose pieces has edge in spades, although occasional clichés creep in to zap a piece’s potential.
This free, bi-monthly newsprint publication offers West Coast readers insights into the lives of poets and publishers, plus a handy calendar for poetry-related events up and down the West Coast. The front-page articles include a discussion of The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth by Jack Foley and an interview with Kazuko Shiraishi and her translators Samuel Grolmes and Yumiko Tsumara by Ikuko Tomita. Inside are more essays on Rexroth, a few poems, including one by Shiraishi, as well as reviews and news about various poetry figures, including a discussion of Louise Glück. The reason this newsprint publication is invaluable to me, besides the fact that it is wonderfully inexpensive, is that it contains a detailed lists of conferences, readings, festivals, classes and even public radio programs devoted to poetry, mostly focused on California, but including events from Seattle to Colorado. When planning trips, I always glance through their schedule to see if I can make any readings or festivals while I’m there. [Poetry Flash, 1450 Fourth Street, #4, Berkeley, CA 94710. E-mail: . Single issue: Free on newsstands; Mail subscriptions 12 issues/$30 (U.S.). www.poetryflash.org] – JHG
Poetry International is an annual journal out of San Diego that manages to present a collection of poetry, essays, art and reviews that feels thoroughly edited yet diverse and exuberant. The essays are original and lively, especially Jeredith Merrin's "And Damned If It's Not a Hart Crane-Azure Sky!--Some Notes on American Modernism and Influence," a discussion of how Modernist writers have influenced her writing, and Mark Weiss' essay, "The Worlds of Cuban Poetry." Mark Weiss is also the translator of the featured Cuban poems, including my favorites, "The Girl in the Forest" and "Mother Goose," two surreal but intimate takes on popular children's stories, by Eliseo Diego. A few lines from “Mother Goose”: “…Then / amid the golden flames / that cavernous mouth. / A hurricane whispers: / ‘Once upon a time…’ / And everything begins.”
  • Issue Number Number 8
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
After a seven-year break, The Prague Revue is back. The journal, which categorizes itself as “Bohemia’s Journal of International Literature,” is a compact little tome, just right for a bohemian life of travel. And if you’re about to set out on a trip, I certainly recommend you take this issue with you. No matter how long the lines at the airport, you’ll never be bored. Produced under the auspices of the Prague Cultural Foundation in the Czech Republic, the journal presents fiction, essays, poetry, drama, and reviews in English (some written in English, others translated from their original languages) from around the world. This issue features work, including a short play and photographs by writers from the US, China, the Czech Republic, Scotland, Belgium, Ireland, England, and Germany.
  • Issue Number Volume 193 Number 1
  • Published Date October 2008
  • Publication Cycle Monthly
Often one of the best things about Poetry is the prose, which is the case this month in which letters, essays, and reviews comprise nearly half the issue. Prose contributions include an excerpt from Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop, an essay on reviewing Hart Crane by William Logan, and reviews of new books by Jason Guriel. Logan’s essay is a thoughtful, if mildly self-serving, “response” to critics of a controversial review he wrote for the New York Times last year.
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  • Issue Number Issue 25
  • Published Date Fall 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
Per Contra's fall issue offers a varied sampling of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art.
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  • Issue Number Volume 2 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual online
In an introduction to this issue’s featured artist—Caleb Cole—Joshi Radin discusses how Cole takes old group photographs and whites out all people but one. “We focus on this individual,” writes Radin, “plucked from the crowd. Confined by the white space where companions once crowded, she is alone even in the company of others.” Take, for example, “There Yet,” in which you can see a young girl’s blank expression, barely visible. It may have been lost in the photo originally, blocked out by the other children. Each of the photographs emits loneliness, solitude. “As a group,” Radin says, “They are all alone together.” The pieces of writing contained in this issue speak that same message to me.
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  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The subtitle of Palooka seems to indicate that editors Nicholas Maistros and Jonathan Starke have something of an outsider’s mindset. This “journal of underdog excellence” contains work that, according to Maistros, responds to the “storms” we experience in “different yet collectively elemental ways.” From the journal’s colorful and playfully disturbing cover art to its entertaining contributors’ notes, Palooka turns the difficult trick of making itself accessible to a wide range of audiences without talking down to them.
  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date Summer 2006
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
A Public Space, destined to become a “big” journal from the outset, now adds the term “importance” to its resume. Though APS fiction shows surface divergences – teenage assassins (Nam Le), cult followers (David Mitchell), imprisoned women (Malie Chapman) – the aesthetic remains consistent. The essays, by contrast, point to the coutercultural bankruptcy of the present, and environmental destabilization of the future.
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  • Issue Number Issue 49
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
This journal is a joy, and my only critique is that it’s not pages and pages longer! I found Ted Kooser's "A Farmhouse in Winter" instantly. This edition opened to this poem, as though I were assigned to encounter a chilly personality, first. As one who worships summer heat, I forgot that when I read, “It's taken weeks but at last the cold / that poured down out of Alberta / has found its way into the old rock cellar / and up the steps to the kitchen door.” This spirit drifts into homely, hidden spaces, and somehow is expected. All is well. Are those "shelves of canned tomatoes" and "dusty rags of cobweb" prepared to move aside for this icy, temporary guest Kooser's touch is simple, not simplistic. How I cherish the sweet power of image at the end!
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  • Issue Number Number 5
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
If the unsettling cover art is meant to hint at the contents of this thick annual print issue of PANK, I'm at a loss as to the meaning of the hint, even after reading through to the very end. I'm not sure if that says more about the nature of the artwork, or the disparity of the work within. The pages hold prose poetry, visual poetry, and flash fiction, as well as more traditional poetry forms and longer short stories, and virtually everything in between. In the truly liberating fashion of contemporary experimental literature, PANK does not require its writers to classify their work, or if it does, it chooses not to disclose those labels within its table of contents. This can be refreshing, or occasionally annoying.
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  • Issue Number Issue 34
  • Published Date Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual
This issue of Passages North transports readers in all directions to many destinations where memory is immediate and present and history is imminent and alive. The opening pages are home to the winners and honorably mentioned of the 2012 Fiction Prizes. The winning stories convey readers down corridors of metaphor and into realms of secrecy. Traci Brimhall’s story, “After the Flood the Captain of the Hamadryas Discovers a Madonna,” the winning entry of the short-short fiction category, is a poetic work of prose that clarifies with its ambiguity and wonderment. The opening paragraph immediately draws us in:
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  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Ping•Pong is the journal of the Henry Miller Library. Their mission statement maintains that they publish a journal because continuing the literary and artistic legacy of Henry Miller does not mean just publishing Miller, but also others, and that “Given our interest in these peculiar and often-overlooked centers and margins, not everything published in Ping•Pong will be pretty.”
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Each piece in this second foray of Paul Revere’s Horse seems to encompass both denial and truth. Inasmuch as this not a remarkable combination, in the deft hands of these writers, denial, and the sometimes painful desire to find the truth, take on whole different meanings, each perfectly tailored to fit the writer’s needs.
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  • Issue Number Volume 86 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Although not the leading story in the Summer 2012 issue of Prairie Schooner, Justin Taylor’s “Flings,” is the one that seems the most summery, as it takes place in that in-between time of adjusting to life after graduation, soon after a group of friends leave a “semi-elite liberal arts college” in Ohio. The story follows each of the friends individually, as they make their ways to Portland, Oregon, bumbling through the friendships crossed with the romantic entanglements that define post-collegiate life. Many of the characters are vaguely artsy, with Andy working on an epic novel, and two of the female characters having internships in an experimental film festival, before “rapidly learning the extent to which they had overestimated their interest in experimental film.” Taylor’s writing excellently explores the confusion of this period of life, when one is trying to define one’s self in the world, as well as the narcissism that can come with a headlong pursuit of the arts. He understands the messy, crisscrossed relationships of a tight-knit group of friends right out of college. His writing is tinged with a sense of humor about the overly sincere and serious.
  • Issue Number Number 9
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Never has PMS been so delightful! PMS PoemMemoirStory is a journal of women’s writing, full of energy, life, color, politics, love, and verve. Issue number nine combines 40 pages of poetry, 47 pages of memoir, and 41 pages of fiction—all well-crafted and all high-quality.
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This lit mag is generally considered to be one of the better on the web at the present time. They state rather proudly that they have received a special mention in the 2007 Pushcart Prize anthology, along with two Best of Web anthology awards, and a top ten Million Writers Award – pretty good stuff. In reading their latest collection of fiction and poetry, it is easy to see why.
  • Subtitle Make Believe
  • Issue Number Issue 11
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The opening invitational forum of PEN America was given to writers as choice on "Make Believe." The first option: “Imagine a book you wish you had written, either by yourself or by someone else, living or dead, real or imaginary.” I loved Cynthia Ozick’s playful answer:
  • Issue Number Volume 40 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
A generous and attractive volume, this 40th anniversary issue of Puerto del Sol contains a 60-page excerpt "El Malpais (The Badlands)," from In the Shadows of the Sun by Alexander Parsons, a compelling novel set in the New Mexico countryside of the mid-1940's when ranchers were allowed to return to confiscated—and possibly contaminated—land: "It was hard to believe how quickly it had been ruined: they had made it to last, painstakingly fitting each stone so that the cement mortar was superfluous to the binding force of gravity. But the impact from the atomic detonation, two miles east, had undone this." 
  • Issue Number Volume 79 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer 2005
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
One of the standards, Prairie Schooner has published worthy prose and poetry for seventy-seven years, and this issue's four stories, five reviews, and work by thirty-eight poets may be so described. The highlight for me is Ron Hansen's "Wilde in Omaha," in which the narrator, a local reporter, spends a few hours in Wilde's witty, but taxing, company and experiences the truth (at least, for his lectures) of the Punch pronouncement: "The poet is Wilde. But his poetry's tame." There are poems and stories here of which Wilde would approve; not half bad—Rita Mae Reese's "My Summer in Vulcan," on catching the eye of an older sister's boyfriend; Lon Otto's "What Is Son?" – the question to ask if learning to dance on a rooftop in Havana; and a story of bitter betrayal, "Wooden Fish" by Matt Freidson.
  • Subtitle Poetry in Review
  • Issue Number Volume 28
  • Published Date 2005
If you haven't used all your vacation time yet this year, you might want to consider taking a few days off just to read this issue of Parnassus—it's that good. Don't plan to travel with it, at 470 pages it's nearly too big to fit in a carry-on bag. But, if care about intelligent writing and about poetry, however you do it, make room in your life for this issue.
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  • Issue Number Issue 4
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
This issue delivers a lot of interest in relatively few pages by coming at writers from more than one angle. This is particularly effective in the treatment of Carolyn Elkins, a fine poet now living in North Carolina but with roots in the Mississippi Delta, where Poetry South is based. We’re given a generous serving of Elkins’s poetry, seven poems, as well as an interview with her by the magazine’s editor, John Zheng. As a bonus, Zheng discusses three additional poems with the author in some detail and prints the texts in full. Here, all in one place, is an introduction to a poet whose skill and imagination run deep.
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  • Issue Number Volume 33 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Possibly every reviewer has made a reference to the Pleiades constellation when reviewing Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing (& Reviews). The connections are hard to miss. Just as the constellation has many stars, some of which shine brighter than others, the journal is a collection of many polished works that resonate even if one has to examine them closely, as if with a telescope. The stars are also known as the Seven Sisters, and here the connection ends, at least for the Winter 2013 issue in which none of the pieces seem to be siblings but perhaps distant cousins of one another, at times a few steps removed.
Although it's not meant to be a special theme edition, it almost reads like one: "the men's fiction issue"—approximately 75 percent of the magazine consists of short stories by male authors. These are conventional, but highly satisfying pieces for the most part, the sort of well plotted tales that take one, ever so briefly and deeply, inside another's life. While these stories are quite different from each other in tone, in style and in the subject matter they treat, they have in common their uncommon psychological insight. Each one of these stories is narrated with close and astute attention to what moves and motivates people. 
  • Issue Number Volume 100 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2005
"This is what we seek: Clarity, fluidity, unselfconsciousness, poems that guide us without fanfare into what is genuinely human—an insight, experience, or mood which, though we'd not perceived it before, we recognize it instantly." Some of the more accomplished poets whose work satisfies the editor's vision include Linda Pastan, Diane Lockwood, Jim Daniels, and Jane Shore. Shore introduces seven poems by Nadell Fishman that "recast the roles of mother, wife, and daughter, retelling her personal story through fairy tales and popular culture…"
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  • Published Date Spring 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The magazine Parcel is a city of mirages, each component story its own minaret and long stretch of shadow. One such structure is Rebecca Emanuelsen’s short exercise “Transmissions.” I found it especially evocative of the power of allegory. The characters channel various spirits from different continents and eras. We have the brooding Bronte men and the sequestered Burnett children, the precocious du Maurier innocents and the brittle old women who will always transcend time with the ultimate lubricant of such travel—old money. I felt that Emanuelsen teased this reader too much with allusion, where the word “quite” infected the page and the aforementioned characters did seem borrowed from other casts, but she wrote a story I couldn’t put down. The premise is that of a bookseller who becomes entrapped in a strange thread. (Yes, it leads her to an unexpected peace, but you won’t guess where). Her opening is perfect: “Olette wakes one morning to find a string running taut from her left ear canal out through the crack beneath her bedroom door. She sits up and touches the place where the thread connects to her head, perplexed by its presence.”
  • Issue Number Volume 39 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
When I received phoebe, I was struck by the name. Phoebe was one of the Titan gods and for some time was in control of the Delphic Oracle. She’s been called Goddess of Wise Counsel, Thoughtful Replies, and Snappy Answers. What a great name for a journal! I though with glee. I began reading with an earnest hopefulness that phoebe would turn out to be wise, intelligent, and quirky. Was she ever!
An all-poetry issue. No short fiction, excerpts, or memoirs to help shake off the feeling of confusion or understanding that follows a two-page long poem. That is why this magazine should be taken in doses, not inhaled nonstop from beginning to end. The formats are adventurous, and the language is crisp and new. The topics range from playful to thought provoking, yet it all seems to melt together perfectly.
  • Issue Number Issue 39
  • Published Date 2007
A sparkling array of African American writers is featured in this issue of Pembroke Magazine. The editors chose to feature the Caroline African American Writers Collective (CAAWC), plus more African American prose and poetry.
  • Issue Number Volume 81 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue of Prairie Schooner contains poetry, short stories, reviews, and great cover art by Chris Ware which made me want to read his graphic novels.
  • Issue Number Volume 37 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of Phoebe is a thin volume, weighing in at 110 pages, but it more than compensates with a huge variety of genre, style, and subject matter. Charles Bernstein’s poem, “The 100 Most Frequent Words in My Way: Speeches and Poems,” is fairly self-explanatory: simply a column of the most frequently used words in alphabetical order. Many of the words chain together and webs of meaning form and expand so that upon reaching the end, one has a distilled sense of Bernstein’s book. Also included is work by Joe Hall, Miriam Stewart, Brandon Lewis, and more.
  • Issue Number Volume 53 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
This issue of Portland Review showcases “innovative fiction,” beginning with two pieces selected from the FC2 Writer’s Edge workshop for experimental writing that was held at Portland State University last year. There are hazards to publishing work selected from a pool as small as a workshop, which is not to say that these two stories aren’t interesting, but rather that other work that appears in the journal is better. Martha Clarkson’s “Water Filter,” for example, tells the story of a family that acquires gills (through surgery) and moves into the pool for a few months to get away from Dad.
  • Issue Number Volume 10 Issue 1
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Porcupine literary magazine is concerned with both the visual as well as the literary arts. Each issue contains poetry, fiction, and essays, as well as portfolios of artists and a full-color section dedicated to visual media. In this issue, Janet Yoder describes the basketry of Vi Hilbert, an Upper Skagit elder, who has been weaving her entire life, binding her community and her past as tightly as her cedar root baskets. We are given photos of two of her baskets and left wanting to see more of this amazing woman’s art.
Want to get a taste of modern and contemporary Japanese poetry but don’t speak Japanese? Then Poetry Kanto will give you a draught. It includes English translations of Japanese poems by members of the Kanto Poetry Center at Kanto Gakuin University in Yokohama. They have prefaced the works with helpful introductions to the poets’ lives and works. Many of the poems collected here have appeared previously on web sites or in books, and a number of these poems are slated to appear in Japanese Women Poets: An Anthology (M.E. Sharpe, 2007). I have the impression that many of the Japanese poems lost vitality in the translation, and this is the likely nature of translation because, of course, many aspects of poems (sounds, wordplay) cannot be rendered well in another language. What remains then are the images, and if the reader is not stirred by the images, the poem falls flat. Of the translated poems, “Eating the Wind” seemed to be the most successful, partly because the Indonesian terms are included so the sounds are not lost, and because of the difference in meaning of the title phrase in Indonesian and Japanese, as explained by the persona.
  • Issue Number Volume 5 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
With this issue, the journal moves from its home at the Attic Writers Workshop in Portland, Oregon to the Written Arts Program at Everett Community College on the Puget Sound. Editor Kevin Craft says the journal will remain true to its “capacity to be of one place and reflective of many,” and he describes the journal’s editorial approach:
  • Issue Number Volume 105 Numbers 1/2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue’s cover is a riveting photo of Japanese-Americans at a Los Angeles rail station on their way (forcibly) to internment camps in 1942. In fact, the photo is so beautifully composed and so striking, it’s hard to open the cover and leave it behind. But, it would be a shame not to, the issue’s simply terrific. “Poetry…survives war’s upheavals and seeks to leave an enduring record…rebuilding has always been part of poetry’s promises,” assert Poet Lore’s editors. Much of the work here certainly deserves to endure.
  • Published Date Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
This is the “short story” issue, fifteen short works (2-4 pages) many of which read more like memoirs or personal essays than fiction, and they may be (genres are not identified). They are direct in their intention to be “reflections of Jewish thought.” Half have titles that announce their Jewish-ness in one way or another (“Post-Abrahamic,” “Tekiah Gedola: The Strongest Call,” “Mamala,” “Zaydie the Courageous,” “A True Hillel and Shamai Story,” “Yom Kippur,” “Israel Journey, ’94 Heart”), and all have overtly Jewish themes of one type or another: one’s relationship to Israel; the portrait of a grandparent as an example of Jewish life as it used to be; differences in Jewish practice or belief between parents and children; the experience of Holocaust Survivors; memories of synagogue services; relationships with Christian neighbors; coping with aging parents; the changing nature of Jewish families.
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  • Issue Number Number 4
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The cover art for this issue—“The Little Prince” by Andrew Robertson—speaks greatly to the aura of the writing held within. The Little Prince stands on his asteroid, back turned to us, with just his rose. The fiction, poetry, and nonfiction held within the magazine emit these same senses of loneliness and solitude, though in a way that is both beautiful and poetic.
  • Issue Number Number 1
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Editors Nicholas Maistros and Jonathan Starke introduce their new journal: “we’re determined to find those writers and artists who are flying under the radar producing great works that are going unnoticed by other journals.” The journal’s title comes from the world of prize fighting; its tagline is “a journal of underdog excellence.”
  • Issue Number Volume 192 Number 4
  • Published Date July/August 2008
  • Publication Cycle Monthly
It’s always intimidating to review a journal of the stature, prominence, and historic importance of Poetry. Consider this issue’s Table of Contents, and you’ll see what I mean: a portfolio of poems by Jack Spicer (who, during his lifetime, never appeared in the journal) introduced by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian; poems by Kathryn Starbuck, Albert Goldbarth, Bob Hicok, Heather McHugh, Dean Young, D. Nurske, among other great and notable talents; a radio play in translation by the late and utterly remarkable Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, introduced by playwright Adam Seelig; and the “Comment” section, “Poets We’ve Known,” featuring nine near geniuses, including Fanny Howe and Eleanor Wilner. This issue, “Summer Break” (there is something of a break-from-the-standard-poetry-routine about this issue), also includes seven delightful poetry cartoons by Bruce McCall, and, finally, a series of Letters to the Editor that makes me very sorry, indeed, to have missed the Marilyn Chin translations of Ho Xuan Huong’s poetry that sparked such charged responses.
  • Issue Number Number 8
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
I had high expectations for this special “all-black women’s issue” of PMS. Guest edited by renowned poet Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, this issue featured several mega-literary names like Lucille Clifton, Patricia Spears Jones, Nikki Giovanni, and Edwidge Danticat. As a white woman only vaguely immersed in black women’s writing, I was thrilled and eager to dive in, more than anxious to finally become edified in this wonderful and “sassy” universe.
  • Issue Number Volume 83 Number 3
  • Published Date Fall 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Guest Editor Grace Bauer was given the reins of this issue of Prairie Schooner. Influenced by the number of recent baby boomer milestones, including news reports about their first retirements and the golden anniversary of Barbie, Bauer decided to dedicate the volume to the generation. Not only have boomers produced a wide range of work, she notes, but they are, perhaps, the most-written-about generation of Americans. The choice is an apt one; baby boomers witnessed vast societal change. They are capable of writing about the times of both typewriters and computers. They bridge the gap between 45s and the ubiquitous iPod.
  • Subtitle Poetry in Review
  • Issue Number Volume 31 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Always as a big as a doorstop, and often heart-stopping-ly good, Parnassus is a monumental-sized read. This year, I find especially worthwhile an essay with photos, “Seven Rhymes,” by Peter McCary; a grouping of essays and poems all dealing with music (work by Daniel Albright, John Foy, Dian Blakely, and Mathew Gurrewitsch); a memoir by Joy Ladin (who has published work previously in Parnassus as Jay Ladin; the transition from one to the other is the subject of her essay); an essay on Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay by Devin Johnston; and a translation of the poem “Dunia” from the original Spanish by its author Otto-Raul González.
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  • Issue Number Volume 107 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Poet Lore was established in 1889 as a brilliant exploration of literature. It expanded through inspired conversation and has grown over a century into a repertoire of well-known and new authors, each issue a beautiful collection of work that deserves the reputation. The spring/summer issue is no exception.
This issue of the venerable Ploughshares was guest-edited by Campbell McGrath, a poet famous for his exuberant descriptions of all things American, from pop culture to politics. You’re not in for a lot of surprises here as almost all the writers included in this issue are well-known quantities (Denise Duhamel, Stuart Dybek, Michael Collier, Rick Moody, Bob Hicok, Tony Hoagland, the ubiquitous Virgil Suárez…the table of contents reads like a directory of Poets and Writers magazine), but the quality is impeccable, and reading this cover to cover was enjoyable. And McGrath definitely makes an effort to include poets from a range of movements, from elliptical to expansive and everything in between. I particularly liked the tongue-in-cheek humor of Beth Ann Fennelly’s “I Need to Be More French. Or Japanese.” Other standouts include Cynthia Weiner’s ambiguously chipper story “Boyfriends,” the poem “Going Bananas” by Rita Maria Martinez and the poem “In the B Movie of Our Lives” by Dionisio D. Martínez. - JHG
  • Issue Number Volume 36 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
When I can, I like to single out one or two stories in a journal for particular praise, but all four fiction entries in this issue of Phoebe merit attention. “Forgery,” by Steve Yates, is a tale of corporate revenge set in the offices of a company that sells pornographic toys, yet it manages to be sweetly romantic. “Harvest,” by Danielle Evans, sets a group of women of color, Ivy League college girls all, against a friend who is able to sell her eggs to infertile couples for loads of cash simply because she’s white. William Jablonsky’s “In Dreams” features a fireman who is able to perform amazing acts of courage because he has seen his own death in his dreams and “knows” he won’t die as long as he doesn’t drive his truck through a certain fateful intersection, while “The Good Life,” by Jonathan Lyons, centers on a character who is so blitzed out on drink and drugs that he and his buddies can’t quite manage to care when they kill four strangers in a tragic highway accident.
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  • Issue Number Number 24
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The blurbs on the back and in the ads in the middle of this issue of Post Road say things like “I often give away literary journals to my students . . . but I can’t give away Post Road—all I can do is show my copies to my students and then protectively snatch them back!” And “I trumpet Post Road not out of kindness but out of the purely selfish pleasure I take in a frisky, alert, independent magazine whose words and images spring off the page and sometimes turn a somersault or two before they stick their landings in my brain . . .” The former, by Aimee Bender, and the latter, by Walter Kirn, add up to something sounding too good to be true. However, let me reassure you: even a skim through this issue confirms their joie de la lecture.
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  • Issue Number Number 45
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual
If you want a devastating collection of modern literature, reach for Pembroke Magazine. The journal was launched from North Carolina in the late 1960s and has matured to a strong print presence among the small presses. From the variety of vantage points and voices, you might not even realize that it showcases the best of compilation out of the Edenic East Coast—one hundred miles from Charlotte, one hundred miles from the sea. But it manages to capture this in time and place with a rich lyricism and insightful prose.
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Having never visited the Henry Miller Library, I had no idea what to expect from Ping Pong, the Library’s annual art and literary journal. When it arrived, I was impressed with the exceptional production quality: thick and glossy paper, beautiful print, vivid and colorful art pieces and, yes, the work inside the journal was striking, too.
  • Issue Number Volume 34 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
“Nothing original can ever be said about a trip to Paris; in some ways, that is its saving grace.” Kate Peterson may be right, in her installment-style story “Eighteen Conjugations of Cambridge,” which delights and ultimately stirs the dirty waters of nostalgia to a point that parallels “The lights in paintings […] afterglows: just-extinguished candles, early morning streetlamps, or dying stars.”
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  • Issue Number Issue 4
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Point is a sophisticated 187-paged Chicago-based literary magazine about contemporary life and culture. The Spring issue's most frequent theme is sports entertainment and rationale, although its five sections, "Letters from the Editors," "Essays," "Art," "Symposium," and "Reviews" include other topics. It's good that it is a biannual, as its many articles require, more often than not, erudite engagement, and certainly more than one sitting.
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  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer 2011
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
It is truly shocking to know that Prime Mincer is a young magazine still in its first year of publication. This edition is packed with insightful, daring, and creative work that will appeal to a diverse readership. So many poems, stories, and nonfiction pieces stood out and demanded to be heard. This is certainly a magazine you will have to hold in your hands to enjoy the punch it delivers.
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  • Issue Number Volume 85 Number 3
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
We’ve all said or heard from time to time: “old friends are the best.” This adage is certainly true with the Fall 2011 issue of Prairie Schooner. I’ve known this magazine for a long time—it has been published for longer than most of us reading it have been alive—and the current issue is just as lively and alive as the issues from the 1970s when I first subscribed in graduate school. Its generous collection of poems and prose is at once rich, exciting, challenging, and refreshing as the ample section of reviews is enlightening.
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  • Issue Number Number 198
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The Paris Review is such a great magazine, edited with such discrimination that likes and dislikes inevitably come down to matters of personal taste. The pieces that I most enjoyed in this issue were two essays—Lydia Davis's "Some Notes on Translation and on Madame Bovary," and Geoff Dyer's "Into the Zone"—and a poem by Sharon Olds, "The Haircut."
  • Issue Number Volume 6
  • Published Date Spring 2004
It’s easier, of course, to define the physical boundaries of an enormous space like the Great Plains than to come to an understanding of its essence, the unwalkable borderland where place meets person, where the geography of a region becomes home to a human heart.
With a few small exceptions, PEN America, the annual journal published by PEN American Center, is peopled with the work of world-famous or much-published writers, both contemporary and posthumous. Here you’ll find such familiar names as Samuel Beckett, Edward Albee, Susan Sontag, Wallace Stevens, Rick Moody, and Rainer Maria Rilke.
  • Issue Number Volume 27 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Whoever made the sign adorning the building in Greg Otto’s pastel cover, which reads “The New United Church of Love and Deliverance Miracle Center” must have the same aesthetics as Passages North—there’s space available, why not use it? This massive 250-page paperback is filled with 100 pages of fiction, 30 pages of nonfiction, and 100 pages of poetry. I was a bit put off at first by the number of non-adult narrators in the fiction (half of the stories are told by children or teenagers), but each stands on its own.
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  • Issue Number Volume 37 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2011/2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Ploughshares is one of the most prominent literary journals on the market because of its long tradition of quality and ability to publish and discover leading writers. The journal is also notable for its practice of working with guest editors for each issue. Alice Hoffman, the editor, has taken the reins of this issue and presents work unified by a simple but powerful theme: the glorification of the storyteller present inside each of us.
The winter issue of Prairie Schooner contains poetry, stories, and reviews, sprinkled with the names of literary stars like R.T. Smith and Alice Ostriker and some new voices as well. Particularly charming were Alice Friman’s imaginings on the biblical character Ruth in “Remembering in Lilac and Heart-Shaped Leaves,” and Annette Sanford’s story, “Spring ’41,” about a young girl whose beloved aunt comes to live with her in a conservative town – bringing an illegitimate baby with her. I also liked Steve Langan’s poem, “Apricots,” a sensual homage to William Carlos Williams’ “This is Just to Say.” Here are a few lines from Langan’s poem:
Perhaps I’m just slow, but apparently Missouri, a state I know nearly nothing about, is where good writing, if not comes from, then at least is published. We all know the Missouri Review is the [insert whatever glowing adjective you’d like here] literary magazine in the world, but Pleiades, published in Warrensburg, Missouri, is a close close second.
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  • Published Date July 2012
  • Publication Cycle Monthly online
In writing this review, I struggled to find a thread that sews all of the pieces together, but then I realized that perhaps it doesn't need that. The pieces in this issue stand apart for themselves, in the excellent narration, the witty lines, and the way they portray life's uncertainties. Anthony Moore's "Speak Memory" was easily my favorite; the narration in it had me chuckling to myself. The narrator is in the process of writing as the story develops, commenting on the writing and metaphors he is using—sometimes pointing out the flaws in them and trading them out for new ones. The story itself brings up questions of memory as the couple's baby has nightmares. Their doctor says that the baby doesn't have any memory beyond eating, sleeping, and pooping once it falls asleep. Yet, she still wakes up every night screaming and crying. Paul, the father, takes steps to insure that he won't forget anything.
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  • Issue Number Issue 17
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
What most distinguishes Poetry International from among other similarly sized (600 page) brick, behemoth literary annuals is the emphasis placed upon poetry alone. Unlike many others, there’s no fiction here, no interviews, and barely any critical commentary or other prose. This uniqueness is undeniably detrimental. There aren’t even any contributor bios! But there is good poetry, even if little of it manages to be surprising or challenging.
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  • Issue Number Volume 33
  • Published Date Summer 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Even the cover of Permafrost looks cold. And this issue of the “farthest north literary journal in the world” is solid as a hulking glacier. It’s rare that I come across a journal where I am almost equally enamored of both its poetry and its fiction. But I could not stop turning the pages of this issue.
  • Issue Number Issue 11
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
In more than a decade of writing reviews, I don’t think I have ever said this before – read this journal for the editorial remarks. I’m serious. Here’s editor Sean Bernard in an interview with poet Neil Aitken, winner of the 2008 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry: “How does being Canadian (ed. Note: Neil is Canadian) give you a poetic advantage compared to being a wine swilling urban American?” Oh, did I mention that his interview with Aitken is one of the best magazine interviews I’ve read in a long time, maybe ever? Here are the editor’s comments preceding an excerpt from a novel-in-progress: “This is an episode from a novel-in-progress and it is fairly self-contained: Prism readers will be reassured to learn that the boy survives.” Here is the editor responding to Aitken after a particularly fascinating and unusual answer to one of his questions: “I don’t believe that for a minute.” Here is the editor from the notes that precede the “Canon Interview,” an imaginary conversation with a dead author (Jane Austen this issue): “On a recent full moon night, we were driving our editorial van through the Inland Empire.” Our editorial van!
  • Issue Number Numbers 64 & 65
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This double issue of the journal begins with an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, titled simply “The Poet,” the magazine’s “Past Masters” feature. And Emerson begins with a definition of those who are “esteemed umpires of taste”: “often persons who have acquired some knowledge of admired pictures or sculptures, and have an inclination for whatever is elegant; but if you inquire whether or not they are beautiful souls, and whether their own acts are like fair pictures, you learn that they are selfish and sensual.” First, I am struck by the lovely internal rhymes (acquired, admired, inquire). Then I am simply worried that reviewers are self-proclaimed “umpires of taste.” Finally, I am convinced that the “beautiful souls” are the poets who have contributed to Poetry East where, for the most part, the poems are “personal,” heartfelt, earnest, sincere, and, for lack of a better term, accessible (as in approachable, read with apparent ease).
I have been reading this issue of Plume now for a couple of weeks, each time going in to reread the poetry, catch parts of it I might have missed. Each piece has its own unique pull, making this issue of Plume one for everyone. But as a monthly magazine, a new one will be our shortly, so make sure to read this one soon.
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  • Issue Number Issue 17
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
After falling behind for a small amount of time, The Puritan is now back up and running, this time with a new reading format. Available to read online or as a PDF, this issue offers a number of poems, fiction pieces, and interviews. The magazine features writing that “may push toward the symbolic frontier, challenging limitations and forging into previously unexplored aesthetic territory. But it may also revisit and revitalize traditional forms.”
  • Subtitle A Journal of Arts & Humanities
  • Issue Number Issue 38
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2004-05
In this issue, Clarissa T. Sligh writes movingly of the unspeakable: how her mother’s twelve-year-old brother was killed by racists, his body dumped on the ground in front of the house. “Her parents were still in the fields. Not able to accept that her brother was dead, she cradled his lifeless body in her lap and rocked him back and forth.” Sligh’s grandparents, needing to work in the fields but desperately afraid for their other sons, resorted to hanging them high in the trees in burlap sacks so they couldn’t wander away from the farm. Carla Panciera’s gently incisive “Darcy Didn’t Want to Be Home” tells the story of a wandering cow, a sentient being wanting more than her allotted life, from the perspective of a daughter caught between her father’s view of the animal as a product, and her own, more intuitive understanding of the world’s ways. Potomac Review, though not a religious publication, generously makes room for several offerings touching on the life of the spirit, such as Viva Hammer’s essay “Our Yarmulka” which quietly demonstrates how even a simple article of clothing, seen in the light of history, can become an article of faith, and the wearing of it, a way of keeping faith with those who are lost to time. If there is an overriding theme to the Potomac Review, it is the bonds of relationship—the sometimes excruciating sacrifices they ask of us, and the best of ourselves they give us in return. [Potomac Review, 51 Mannakee St., Rockville, MD 20850. E-mail: . Single issue $10. www.montgomerycollege.edu/potomacreview/] - Ann Stapleton
  • Issue Number Volume 185 Number 5
  • Published Date February 2005
A long-time reader of Poetry, I have a confession to make. I read Poetry for the reviews. It's not that I don't appreciate the poetry, of course—what, in this issue, Wislawa Szymborska describes, along with the work of Plato, as "litter scattered by the breeze from under statues / scraps from that great Silence up on high…"—but what inspires and angers and thrills me, above all, is what is found under the heading "comment."
  • Issue Number Volume 26 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of Pleiades, with its cover depicting George Washington with his scalp on fire, contains a generous review section (nearly half the issue’s pages are devoted to reviews) and a few features, including multiple poems by Kevin Honold and Jap Hopler, with introductions by Cate Marvin and Louise Gluck, respectively. Kevin Honold had a long sectioned poem about the Iraq war, quite topical and all that, but my favorite of his was the brilliant “The Groves of Baal,” meant to echo the Biblical language of the book of Lamentations with an odd, colloquial voice chiming in the background:
  • Issue Number Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2006
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The debut issue of A Public Space is probably one of the most highly anticipated magazines in recent history. Brigid Hughes, the former editor of the Paris Review, tops the masthead and the contributors include literary heavyweights like Rick Moody, Kelly Link, Charles D’Ambrosio, recent Pulitzer winner Marilynne Robinson, and John Haskell—not to mention a rare interview with Haruki Murakami, a Japanese author who enjoys a cult-like following. And A Public Space does not disappoint.
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  • Issue Number Issue 40
  • Published Date 2012-2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The Paterson Literary Review only arrives once a year, but leaves a lasting impression. This Passaic County Community College-based journal boasts 400 pages of poems, stories and essays and could easily keep you occupied during several intercontinental flights. In her editor’s note, Maria Mazziotti Gillan declares one of her primary motivations for selecting work from the 10,000 submissions the PLR receives each year: “I attempt to be inclusive of the work of writers from many races and ethnicities, choosing what I believe to be the best works.” She certainly achieved her goal; the journal balances the experimental and the traditional, the personal and the universal.
  • Issue Number Volume 105 Numbers 3/4
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The cover of Poet Lore is wondrous, a photograph of ice skaters posing for the camera on Mirror Lake in Yosemite in 1911. The Editor’s Page describes the photo as an appropriate introduction to the issue’s work with its—unanticipated—focus on winter as metaphor. The photo’s technical and artistic qualities are, to my mind, the finest metaphor for poetry, or, perhaps, an apt metaphor for fine poetry—making the real seem both more and less real than seemed possible, drawing what is far-off into close view and moving what is right in front of us into the background. The photo is clear in its misty-ness and misty in its clarity, like much of the poetry in this issue.
Parcel is a corporeal labor of love, a treasure for the reader who yearns for the simplicity of words on paper. This edition is dedicated to those "with a love of the elegant, tangible, hand-delivered book." When Heidi Raak, owner of The Raven Book Store, and Kate Lorenz, Kansas kindred spirit, became a team, they wondered: could they produce a gem of a journal, crafted to arrive at each reader's door, a ready-to-open-present?
  • Issue Number Volume 27 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Pinch offers a strong variety of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction with a few interviews thrown in the mix. Although poetry is a strength of The Pinch, the narratives shine the brightest in this excellent literary magazine. J. Malcolm Garcia led off the issue’s creative non-fiction with “Leave Taking,” a retelling of his experience of going to a brothel simply “for a beer.”
Parnassus is beautifully constructed. First, there’s the odd but intriguing painting on the cover, Gustave Moreau’s “Oedipus and the Sphinx,” which forms part of the subject matter for one of the poems found inside – “To Constantine Cavafy,” by Richard Howard. Turns out Cavafy wrote a poem about this painting without ever having seen it.
  • Issue Number Volume 41 Number 3
  • Published Date Spring 2003
At 56 total pages of creative work, PRISM sends a tremendous wallop of beautiful writing that, it’s made clear on both covers and often throughout, is (primarily) from Canada, although they do feature writers from the United States and declare themselves globally cosmopolitan. For those unfamiliar, there’s an organization called the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association that, through both a stamp on the back cover (“Genuine Canadian Magazine”) and an advertisement in the rear of the journal appearing just a step across the line between pride and swagger, establishes what could feel like a strange provincial sneer, if one were so inclined.
This journal, originating from Portland State University, includes poetry, fiction, photography and art from a variety of voices, not just those of the Northwest. Standout pieces for me included Dustin Nightingale’s poem, “Shoot Out the Lights,” and James McCachren’s story, “Driving,” which begins with the irresistible lines: “We had two reasons for going there: 1) because it was called “the supermarket of the stars,” and 2) because we had no chapstick. I saw we had no chapstick, though I think my wife may have hidden it.
“My name is Damien Echols, and I am a poet, author, and death row inmate who is currently awaiting exoneration through D.N.A. testing.” That’s how one handwritten cover letter addressed to Porcupine began, and when the editors read it, they knew that merely considering Echols’ poems for publication wouldn’t do him justice. Echols’ is a well-known reputed case of wrongful imprisonment (as one of the “West Memphis Three”) and his professed innocence has created a minor cause celebre among activists. But what’s really moving here is the personal account of the psychological horrors and spiritual growth experienced behind bars.
An annual poetry journal out of the underrepresented Los Angeles area, POOL comes with two surprises. The first is its structural egalitarianism: the poems are arranged alphabetically by author, encouraging readers to pick through the mag in any order or style they so please. And the reactions to these customized readings, those are the second surprise.
This issue of the venerable, well-respected Ploughshares was guest-edited by poet and essayist Martín Espada, and many of the poems and prose he picked for the issue pack incisor-sharp observations and an emotional wallop. The table of contents boasts so many poetry luminaries I can’t list them all, but here’s a partial list: Adrienne Rich, Yusef Komunyakaa, Robert Creeley, Gary Soto and Sharon Olds. 
  • Issue Number Issue 45
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Potomac Review is a publication of the Paul Peck Humanities Institute at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland. It’s not suburban Washington D.C., where the college is located, however, that graces this issue’s cover, but an exquisite black and white photograph of “Scotland’s Royal Mile,” by Roger Fritts. The street scene is viewed through a window behind a desk. The window’s divided light imposes its grid on a table of objects (drawing and scientific tools), the geometry of the buildings in the distance reflected in the instruments on the table.
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Annual
If you think that high school poetry and fiction tends to be clever and stocked self-consciously with modifiers, you could be at least partly right, but if you passed up Polyphony H.S., you’d be missing a whole lot.
  • Issue Number Volume 35 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Phoebe is a biannual journal of fiction, poetry, art and special features (interviews, art/text collages, etc.). It's quite a prestigious review and, like others in this niche, features a certain kind of poetry. It's Greg Grummer Poetry Award winner, Lynn Xu, epitomizes this. In "[Language exists because]," she writes: "Language exists because nothing exists between those / who express themselves. All language is therefore / a language of prayer."
  • Issue Number Volume 10
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The "Low Carb Issue" of Pavement Saw is a tasty buffet of (primarily) narrative and list poems. The writing is concrete, unpretentious, idiomatic, unadorned and occasionally surprising, a welcome remedy for all the lofty, self-important abstractions found in The Paris Review and other journals. The writers follow Levine, Wakoski, Tom Clark. There are traces of Bukowski and Ginsberg.
  • Issue Number Number 26
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Published by the Kanto Poetry Center at Kanto Gakuin University, Poetry Kanto publishes English translations of Japanese poems (along with the originals) and “exciting English language poetry from anywhere on the globe.” The journal is handsomely produced and clearly an effort of editors passionate about poets and poetry. The work of ten poets is presented here, each series of poems preceded by a long bio and photo of the poet.
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  • Issue Number Number 58 and 59
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Poetry East is a 220-page journal containing nothing but poetry and contributors’ notes. The journal often publishes theme issues, past themes including post-war Italian poetry, Finnish poetry, and issues dedicated entirely to Robert Bly, Muriel Rukeyser, and “Ammons/Bukowski/Corman.” I’d like to get my hands on some of those past issues. The current issue has no purported theme, but a majority of the poems would fit well with the past issue “Praise,” (Poetry East has actually published a Praise I and a Praise II) or with the forthcoming issue, “Bliss.” I don’t mean to suggest that I don’t care for praising or blissful poems, but this relatively thick journal seemed to me, taken as a whole, a bit too even in tone. A good many of the poems could have pushed the envelope a little more.
  • Issue Number Volume 190 Number 3
  • Published Date June 2007
  • Publication Cycle Monthly
Once yearly, Poetry eschews its commentary and letters sections to focus on its namesake; this year, the month chosen is June, and the result is not disappointing. Left to fend for itself, the poetry feels less intellectual, and more kinetic, than generally. Its strongest offerings are surrealist satires; David Biespel’s “Rag and Bone Man” struggles to fasten a trickster mask around a Literatus; Ralph Sneeden’s “Prayer as Bomb” provides vibrant satire in which explosives come to be seen as individualized elements of misplaced hope. Heidi Steidlmayer’s brief, deft “Scree” is worth citing in its entirety:
  • Issue Number Number 3
  • Published Date Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
For those who enjoyed the first two issues of A Public Space, get ready for more of the same. The journal has settled into a steady routine: its “If You See Something, Say Something” department contains a mélange of cultural criticism and ruminations on environmental changes; its comics confront the potential disunity of strict cultural roles; its poetry is experimental and edgy. It’s the poetry which is most improved, particularly Eugene Ostashevsky’s “DJ Spinoza” and Anne Carson’s “Zeus Bits” (the latter a series of lighthearted fragments worthy of Fence). In fiction, Martha Cooley’s “Month Girls” features three word processors (April, May and June) telling the stories of their names to an orphaned coworker; the arbitrariness of a name provides a smooth segue into emotional indifference.
  • Issue Number Issue 12
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
A Public Space publishes lots of up and coming literary stars and this issue seems particularly packed. A swift survey of the bios gleans that only one of the contributing writers in this issue is sans book, while the others have a title or two in print or one forthcoming from a major house or a well-respected small press. With regards to A Public Space, amateurs need not apply.
  • Issue Number Number 10
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
PMS poemmemoirstory is so good that the journal’s already-annoying title becomes extra irksome.
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  • Issue Number Volume 32 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The magazine’s 2010 fiction contest winners open the issue and they are, indeed, award-worthy. Tori Malcangio’s “A History of Heartbeats” is a smartly structured story that plays out the metaphors of heart rate, flight, and the body’s flight from its own heart (anorexia) in a heartbreaking story of substance (body) and soul (flight). Short-short fiction winner Darren Morris follows—in a stroke of editorial genius—with “The Weight of the World,” with its appealing and insightful narrator (“When you’re a kid the summer lasts forever, and that summer lasted two lifetimes.”). Short-shorts by honorable mention recipients Edith Pearlman, Jendi Reiter, and Thomas Yori are also terrific examples of the short-short genre. Their work is well matched by fiction from another 14 writers; nonfiction from 6 contributors; and 50 pages of poetry, including poems by the ubiquitous Bob Hicok, and 6 marvelous poems by Traci Brimhall.
  • Issue Number Volume 84 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer 2010
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
I am interested in almost any writing about work (as in the exchange of time spent in goal-oriented activity for wages) and also in the work of crafting long poems, so I was drawn immediately to “After Work,” a poem in 20 brief sections by Martha Collins:
  • Issue Number Issue 28
  • Published Date Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
You, the reader, may notice that this review seems to be split in half. How odd, you may think. Actually, I’ve combined the two because they are combined within the same two covers. You can tell, though, when the magazine switches from The Pacific Review to Ghost Town, as the pages abruptly turn upside down at the intersection. Now, to the first…
  • Issue Number Volume 35 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2009/2010
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
This issue brings together prose and poetry on a variety of subjects. Tony Hoagland edits this issue, choosing to pair works of transcendentalism and realism in such a way that brings out the best of both. Each piece varies in style from the previous one, serving to continually cleanse the palate and keep each work fresh.
Turning the page in Post Road always brings a new surprise. Will the next piece be a non-fiction essay on the local dogcatcher, a book recommendation made by one of your favorite authors, a poem or a long series of video stills? Post Road issue 10 is a real hodgepodge of writing with plenty that had me excited. The aforementioned Matt Roberts piece, “The Dogcatcher Hates Politics,” was a fun and clever piece containing this gem: “’Excitement,’ the dogcatcher says, ‘is a dumpster full of raccoons.’”
  • Issue Number Issue 6
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In the appropriately named Paradigm, it is as if all the disparate forms of literature have unified to create a beautiful spiders web of art that includes sounds for the ears too. If you try to read every piece in one sitting, you may be so enthralled as to stay up to the wee hours of the night.
  • Issue Number Number 3
  • Published Date Fall 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I don’t know if this magazine dropped out of the sky or sprung from the mud, but few have shown what Parthenon West Review has to offer: a fully-formed poetry magazine whose vision is frightening to behold. Coming in at under 200 pages, a weekend is too little time to get through this mammoth. If San Francisco is the city where West meets East, PWR takes advantage of the label, building on its Zen-influenced roots in modernism, imagism and the Beats, approaching the avant-garde without leaving contemporary conventions behind. This excerpt from Rusty Morrison is an exemplar:
  • Issue Number Number 16
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Post Road has everything. The sixteenth issue contains short stories, flash fiction, poetry, nonfiction, criticism, portions of a play, an interview, excerpts from journals, literary recommendations and full color artwork.
  • Issue Number Number 3
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Pank Magazine seems to delight in thoughts born of the abstract. The unassuming cover art sets the tone and establishes the journal’s aesthetic. The brush-painted invitation/confession “to anyone I have ever met:” precedes poems and short fiction that meditate on the serendipity that can be found in the life of a contemplative, literary person.
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  • Issue Number Volume 46 Numbers 1 & 2
  • Published Date Summer 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Puerto Del Sol is always inviting. The volumes flex and relax into the hand. Art wraps around both front and back covers. Inside, readers will find prose, poetry, and reviews from familiar and new writers alike. This issue of Puerto Del Sol contains the winners and runners-up of the Puerto Del Sol Fiction and Poetry contests, judged by Dawn Raffel and Julie Carr, respectively. Let me tell you, these ladies know how to pick strong, well-crafted writing.
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  • Issue Number Issue 13
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The wintry cover of the 2011 issue of Prism Review projects two RVs squatting on a frozen landscape under an ominous clouded sky. I liked it immediately, and it urged me to open and begin reading. The editors at the University of La Verne (California) dispensed with any editorial pleasantries and let their contributors' work spill forth from the get-go.
  • Issue Number Issue 38
  • Published Date 2010-2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
More than 360 pages of poetry and prose selected from the 10,000 submissions the journal receives annually. A “spotlight” on Diane de Prima, including a short bio, a number of poems and a story, is followed by poems from more than 70 poets, 8 prose selections, reviews, and this year’s Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award winners and honorable mentions (another 40+ poets). The issue’s highlights include the magazine’s beautiful cover, an original oil painting by Robert Andriulli, “Mill Town Neighborhood.”
  • Issue Number Issue 8
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Most of PEN America reads less like a traditional literary journal and more like the transcript of conversations with authors, which makes sense, since much of the writing comes from PEN’s annual World Voice festivals. The unique format allows for interviews, conversations formed around a theme, and short remarks, as well as the traditional poetry, fiction, and essays. Of the various forms, the interviews and conversations stood out the most to me.
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