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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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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