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  • Issue Number Volume 51 Number 1
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I am enamored of literary magazines devoted solely to poetry. I look forward to immersing myself in metaphor, surrendering to symbolism, and indulging in sensory imagery to my heart’s content. This issue of Southern Poetry Review delivers a compilation of poems of such craft and mastery that leaves me nearly speechless and most assuredly breathless.
  • Issue Number Issue 390
  • Published Date June 2008
  • Publication Cycle Monthly
Confession: It’s been ten years since I last read The Sun, and I’m not sure why, but now I feel a sense of regret for all I have missed. If you don’t read this three-decades-old, ad-free publication, or don’t know it at all, get this issue (at least). The interview with Edward Tick is an absolute, tell-everyone-you-know-to-read-this-now piece. Tick currently directs Soldier’s Heart, a nonprofit initiative to promote “community-based efforts to heal the effects of war.” As a college teacher working with returning vets, I felt guided by Tick’s insight. The most poignant comment for me: “We have a parade and shoot off fireworks, which scares the hell out of many veterans. A better way to honor them would be to listen to their stories. We should give them new ways to serve and an honorable place in our communities.” Thanks to Tick, I have already started an initiative in my community. This interview, read in combination with Edwin Romond’s poem “Brother in Arms,” about the treatment of ‘Nam vets in a particular workplace, gives voice to the sorry spectrum of response our “warrior class” experience.
  • Issue Number Volume 5 Issue 1
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Although its content was featured in notable anthologies, Sport Literate has been riding the proverbial pine since May 2005. Thankfully, the publication has returned to the mound and serves up this Chicago-themed issue of creative nonfiction, poetry and photographs.
  • Issue Number Volume 4 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual online
SpringGun, available through issuu, publishes work that is “unexpected, sudden, immediate, urgent—it’s happening now.” In the words of the editors, SpringGun is “simultaneously insane, comical, violent, practical, ingenious, irresponsible, terrifying, vulnerable, and deadly.”
  • Issue Number Volume 39 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2009/Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Full disclosure: I read this issue and am writing this review while recuperating from surgery to repair a fractured hip. So, this issue’s focus on the corporeal (Special Double Issue: The Lyric Body) is of particular interest. Of the body, editors Stephen Kuusisto and Ralph James Savarese say they present “a form for engagement" that "is always political…and always lyrical, whether we see it that way or not.” If lyrical means poetically inspired, and political means engaged with the world, then I would say their choices for the issue are, indeed, lyrical and political. And they’re also quite wonderful.
  • Issue Number Volume 46 Number 3
  • Published Date Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
When money’s involved, what constitutes a document can be volcanically contested. Prior drafts, letters of intent, symbols sketched on a corner of a tablecloth are material one way or the other, if at all. Not so with every literary magazine. The summer 2012 issue of Southern Humanities Review is the first out of maybe twelve issues that I’ve reviewed that is curiously harmonic, down to the detailed footnotes of an essay. The Minutes of the Executive Board Meeting of the Southern Humanities Council, the copyright attribution on the last page from November 1931 are allusive, contributing to a cohesive whole, teasing, in the vein of a modern Nabokov, what is real, what is to be believed.
  • Issue Number Volume 3
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Upon reading Volume III of Sakura Review, I had an immediate interest in finding out what the word “Sakura” referred to. I, of course, went first to Wikipedia where I learned that “sakura” might refer to “the Japanese term for ornamental cherry blossom trees and their blossoms.”
  • Issue Number Issue 8
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The cover explains the selections within very well: things are going to get weird. The publication is filled with more questions than answers; each story leaves you in a new locale, and while rereading may make things more understandable, true clarity is never given. The biggest mistake one can make entering these works is assuming that a solution, a character, or a situation will be made explicit. Often one is simply forced to fight imagination with imagination.
  • Issue Number Volume 49 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
When I first received my copy of South Dakota Review, I took one look at the cover—a photograph by editor in chief Lee Ann Roripaugh of roller derby queens “Olive Mayhem,” “Lady Boop,” and “Sandra D’vious”—and I knew I was in for a treat.
  • Issue Number Number 13
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Skidrow Penthouse’s website assures us that their magazine does not contain homeless people in suggestive poses (sorry to disappoint). They also assure us that their magazine is not “hospitable to eat-shit-shower-and-shave writing, or any kind of literary undertaking that aspires only to disturb the flaccid ghost of Bukowski.” It is a journal that specializes in absurdist literature and art, offering a “home for wayward voices, insect souls, architects of gutter, a place to hide one’s rain.”
A student journal as youthful and energetic and innocently/un-innocent as…well…youth: “You dig your fingers, thick with car grease / into me. I shiver toward you,” writes Caroline Kessler in “I Open My Mouth to the Storm.” Rob Rotell offers another storm of emotion in his story “A Couple of Problems,” which begins: “He woke up to Nikki’s crying. She sounded as if she was hiccupping. Her sobs were soft. They had a quick tempo.” Staci Eckenroth, too, starts off with a moment of heightened sensation in “a dime a dozen”:
  • Issue Number Volume 42 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Published out of Auburn University, Southern Humanities Review has a distinctly academic flavor. Ann Struthers’s series of poems in formal verse pays tribute to the Romantic poet Coleridge. Among the poetry I also liked Bruce Cohen’s “Hotel Chain” which explores the creepiness of hotel rooms. He writes: “Bibles are blank / & escort services are circled in the yellow pages.” In T. Alan Broughton’s “Legacy,” a father comes to grip with his own father’s habit of arguing with him: “We still argue, my father and I, / although he’s dead. He leans on the table, / meshing his hands, gently chiding, never raising his voice.”
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Published by the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, this is inaugural issue of the Southern California Review (formerly the Southern California Anthology).
  • Issue Number Volume 45 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In his essay, “Old America,” editor Brian Bedard sets the tone for this issue of the South Dakota Review. He paints this region of the country as a difficult but rewarding place in which success requires a tough body and tough spirit. The work in this issue illuminates a place where people acknowledge their past while working toward a better future and remaining in touch with the land. The theme is reinforced by Suzanne Stryk’s cover art that features a feather alongside a DNA double helix.
  • Issue Number Numbers 158/159
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Titled “War, Evil and America Now” isn’t going to get Salmagundi’s current issue any major attention. Any politically inclined journal can focus on that issue. But dedicating over a hundred pages to the discussion between formidable thinkers and speakers is a fantastic move forward. It’s not possible to summarize their various mindsets or cast an illumination on their thoughts in a review of the whole issue, however, and I’ll abstain from mentioning anything other than the fact that it hearkens to Salmagundi’s conference on the clash of civilizations, but increases its scope in all dimensions. That’s the latter half of the issue.
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The subtitle for Silk Road is “A journal of writings on place.” In an interview with John Rember, he coins a contemporary definition for place: “Place used to be something that stayed the same, by which you could measure changes in yourself. Now you have to stay the same and watch while place changes. It means that place, if it’s going to exist at all, has to become internal rather than external.” Silk Road’s authors write about different places in the traditional sense – as physical entities – but they also inevitably write about the internal sense of place as well. An excellent example of this duality is in John Rember’s own story, “When a Cold Place Turns Hot”: “Can you ever really know a place if you keep changing?” his narrator asks.
  • Issue Number Volume 14 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Southern Indiana Review takes geography seriously. Based in a heartland where visions of utopia still color local history, this journal blends a commitment to regional writers with an equal commitment to a broader audience. The resulting volume succeeds on both counts, celebrating a range of largely Midwestern voices within a far-reaching context that is anything but provincial. The variety of genres and forms presented here illuminates SIR’s encompassing aesthetic.
  • Issue Number Volume 19 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of the Santa Monica Review starts off with a bang: a reprint of the speech Ursula LeGuin gave upon receiving the Maxine Cushing Gray Award. Her words are brief and humble, and she insists on accepting the award “as a proxy, a stand-in, for Literature.” The rest of the speech is an engaging description of the power of literature and its role in our society, and as I left this opening piece to make my way through the rest of the magazine, I did so with a renewed sense of awe for the written word.
  • Issue Number Volume 12 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Salamander is nothing less than a triumph, a quiet diffusion of luminous work. From the gripping first story, “Evanthia’s Legs” (Henriette Lazaridis Power) to the socially critical insights of the final poems, this issue proves that too many jewels don’t spoil the necklace. Alternating small groups of poems with prose selections, Salamander ensures a fluid reading experience, anchored at the center by the colorful prints of Boston artist Kelvy Bird. The diligence and care of the Salamander editors is evident on every page, as is a commitment to diverse, expansive writing.
  • Issue Number Volume 39 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue begins with Catie Rosemurgy’s poem “Things That Didn’t Work.” Delicate. Restrained. Precise: “Picture frames. Targets. The psychological / boundaries described in books. / Any shape or line whatsoever.” And, fortunately, not a predictor of what lies ahead in Seneca Review. There are certainly pieces here that might not have worked in less capable hands. But the risks have paid off and the work is strong. In particular, I appreciated what Laura Brown-Lavoie accomplishes in “Bricklaying,” an essay that merges biblical language, fragments of fairy tales, poetry, political commentary, and the poet’s lyrical diction in prose-poem like paragraphs separated by sets of empty brackets. The piece is about (if it is fair to say that it is about anything) how we create, and while I’m not always sure I follow its logic, I want to see it through to the end.
  • Issue Number Volume 24 Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
“A conversation,” says Editor-in-Chief Jessica Jacobs of The Sycamore Review, “involves two people who know each other sitting down in a familiar room. But as anyone who’s ever picked up a book and had it speak to her knows, conversations can also occur in which not even a single word is said aloud, in which two minds engage each other outside the immediacy of same time, same place.” Jacobs’s words provide an appropriate introduction that mirrors the fantastical cover art by Kathleen Lolley. The latest issue of this journal from the Purdue University English Department wants to have a conversation with you, dear reader, and to share its poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, art, and book reviews.
  • Issue Number Number 12
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The Spinning Jenny team at Black Dress Press has put forth no lack of effort. The magazine’s cover design, as well as the first few pages, index, and footers, speaks of a literary sense of humor. The editors manage not to take themselves too seriously while also producing a line of beautifully fashioned issues, and issue number twelve is no exception. An equally as well-designed website for the magazine sports past issues and reviews, all of which are positive and a good introduction to a first reading of Spinning Jenny.
  • Issue Number Volume 48 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
“Foreign countries exist.” – Geraldine Brooks, The Best American Short Stories of 2011
Sententia opens with a kind-of abridged editor’s note on the inside of the front cover. The title name is “Latin for sentence, but also means thought, meaning, and purpose.” The magazine couldn’t be more appropriately named, and, in fact, I would’ve described the works in the journal with these three adjectives prior to reading this note. The editors of Sententia had a goal in mind, and they achieved it.
  • Issue Number Volume 111 Number 4
  • Published Date Fall 2003
If personified, Sewanee Review would be an accomplished scholar, wry professor and imaginative writer, persisting with an evening pipe and pale cardigan despite colleagues who have lurched forward into dark jeans and lunchtime smoothies. Indifferent to keeping up with any literary Cloneses, its spirited criticism, fiction and poetry abide no indulgent memoirs about tallness or the curse of an Irish childhood, no sneering hepcats, noble gang members or hyper-realist bodily functions.
  • Subtitle The Washington and Lee University Review
  • Issue Number Volume 54 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2004
At least half of the stories, poems and essays in Shenandoah feature explicitly southern environs: a contemplation of the moniker, “Southern Writer,” a reflection on the racial understory of magnolia-blossomed Mississippi, a woman’s return to the Carolina blackberry patches (and chigger bites) of her youth.
  • Issue Number Volume 24 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2004
The Normal, Illinois-based Spoon River Poetry Review features some of the best writing from the Midwest and beyond.
  • Issue Number Volume 48 Number 1
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
One of poetry’s most useful, satisfying, and unique characteristics is the power to capture life’s small philosophical or metaphysical realities with a kind of precise, economical, focused – and uncanny – accuracy. These are the sorts of poems at which this small journal seems to excel. Poems that embody both physical and emotional immediacy. Masters of the art represented here include David Wagoner, Margaret Gibson, Carl Dennis, and Kelly Cherry, who are joined by more than two dozen others who clearly also excel in this arena.
  • Issue Number Issue 11 Number 1
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Any Table of Contents where the names Simon Perchik and Catherine Sasanov appear is a good sign! These favorites of mine are joined by more than 50 other poets and 5 fiction writers whose work comprises an engaging issue of this magazine.
  • Issue Number Number 3
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
“Speaking the same language through literature” are the words spread in light gray block letters over a dark gray background on the cover of St. Petersburg Review. This publication is “independent and international”; it was founded and is headed by an American, Elizabeth Hodges. She has traveled to Russia numerous times and participated in several Summer Literary Seminars at St. Petersburg. Among the associate editors, staff and advisory board are many American-looking names, many who by their bios have traveled to or live in Russia. Others are native Russians or “citizens of the world.”
  • Issue Number Volume 31 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of SRPR is longtime editor Lucia Cordell Getsi's swan song before retirement; tempted though I am to draw a parallel between her moving on and this issue's many poems of grieving, I won't.
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Number 1
  • Published Date Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Storm Cellar is slender literary magazine—this issue is less than 30 pages—whose website advertises “a special emphasis on the Midwest.” The cover is catchy, a colorful curiosity of overlapping images. Flowers and faces mix among abstractions, and it all looks a bit like wallpaper from the neon ‘80s. Despite the inclusion of only three pieces of fiction, one of which is no longer than a page, and poems by five authors, this issue of Storm Cellar holds up as an interesting, varied read.
  • Issue Number Volume 24 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This issue of the Santa Monica Review starts out with a bang—literally.
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  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 3
  • Published Date Spring 2013
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Stealing Time is a magazine for, about, and by parents. When I discovered its existence, I was immediately intrigued, yet wary as well. Would it have an angle, an agenda to promote? Would it rise above the content of most parenting magazines out there? Thankfully, the answers are no and yes. Stealing Time lives up to its mission statement: “To provide a venue for quality literary content about parenting: no guilt, no simple solutions, no mommy wars.”
  • Issue Number Volume 33 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Editor Bruce Guernsey’s introductory note is nothing if not frank: “We . . . have no use for the celebrity mentality that infects the current poetry scene.” It’s a laudable sentiment, and one I share, though I’m not certain that the refusal to provide contributors’ notes is a meaningful way to respond to the “star scene.” Nonetheless, it does force me to focus exclusively on the work presented, poems by more than two dozen poets, including featured poet Michael Van Walleghan, with whom an interview also appears, an essay on pedagogy, and a review essay.
This issue would be worthwhile for the artwork alone – stunning reproductions of photos paintings, and drawings by Sialia Rieke, Ana June, Richard Sullivan, Norm Hamer, and Kim Gibbs, Rebecca O’Day, and Kira Becvarik, among others. Many of this issue’s poems and stories are equally memorable, and I was happy for the opportunity to get to know the work of writers I’d not encountered before, in particular poetry by Anne Valley-Fox Christien Gholson, and Mary McGinnis, and prose by Laura Madeline Wiseman. Wiseman’s essay, “To Starve to Die,” is a carefully crafted meditation on anorexia, more lyrical, less self-indulgent than much of the writing about “disordered eating” and more powerful for its balance between revelation and restraint.
  • Issue Number Volume 3 Issue 1
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
There’s a lot of variety in these average-sized, unspiralled pages—from the elegance of Paul Yoon’s “So That They Do Not Hear Us” to the humor of Ladette Randolph’s wonderful “The Girls” to the stark descriptions of Natasha Radojcic’s “You Don’t Have To Live Here.” No single characteristic defines the stories other than quality.
  • Issue Number Issue 13
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2012
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
Subtropics is the literary journal from the English Department of the University of Florida, and this issue is a true mix of fiction, poetry, essay and translation. The journal is hard to define and doesn’t offer a clear editorial or mission statement to go by. One can assume, though, that they are dedicated to publishing “the best” (as the submission guidelines on their website states) as this issue offers a mix of exceptionally strong writing.
  • Issue Number Volume 40 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Published by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (not to be confused with The Southwest Review published by Southern Methodist University), Sou’wester celebrated its fiftieth anniversary edition in 2011 and succeeds in the commemorative issue in creating a balanced fugue of themes, style and subject.
  • Issue Number Volume 30 Number 1
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
I grew up on the classics and consequently nursed a bias that minimalism restrained the imagination. Then, I read the most recent Southeast Review where minimalism is done so well that the volume became, to me, a classic itself. I was especially floored when I read Maria Kuznetsova’s short story “Before and After.” The language was certainly careful and restrained, but she mastered the best parts of modern craft while telling at least three mesmerizing stories about innocence, growing up, and the spectrum of emotions that, collectively, we call love. While there is only one narrator, the possibilities of interpretation and meaning explode like a rash of fireflies.
  • Issue Number Volume 120 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
William E. Engel’s compliment to J.D. McClatchy’s critical comments included in his Seven Mozart Librettos: A Verse Translation holds true for this issue of the Sewanee Review itself as a whole: “Written in an easygoing prose style, there is something in each section for every kind of reader.” George Bornstein adroitly reminds us readers in his essay on W.B. Yeats the irrevocable delicacy of the fact that “in poetry how something is said is what is said.” And throughout this issue all the writing explores and expounds upon this basic principle further demonstrated by Ben Howard in “Firewood and Ashes”:
  • Issue Number Issue 7
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The image on the cover of this issue of Saranac Review is arresting: a full-bleed shot of moldering books, their pages waterlogged and swollen, their fore edges painted green and brown with several kinds of mold. In an opening note, Editor J.L. Torres points out that the image is taken from an interesting work of art by Steven Daiber, who built a wall of books in a forest in the year 2000 and has been chronicling the books’ decay and slow transformation into compost. The installation begs several questions regarding the relationship between print and digital media. Torres invokes the ideas of Walter Fischer, “a rhetorician who argued that the human species should be called homo narans rather than homo sapiens: narrating man.” Mankind is above all a storytelling creature; the medium may change, but the instinct will not.
Seneca Review continues to showcase stellar poems and lyric essays by both unknown and familiar writers. Lucy Shutz’s poem, “The Philosophers Will Never Love the Poets and the Poets Will Continue to Smoke Cigarettes and Starve Themselves,” is adventurous and playful in style, while still dealing with some of the more serious problems of existence.
  • Issue Number Issue 36
  • Published Date June 6, 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
As always, SmokeLong Quarterly serves up a heaping plate full of appealing flash fiction; I couldn’t wait to dig in. “Ameilia Fucking Earhart” had me laughing—and easily disturbed—throughout as a young couple discovers an old skeleton wearing an aviator hat. Deciding it must be Amelia Earhart, Elias picks up the skull and has his way with it—both humorously and sexually:
Megan Alpert opens this issue with a wonderful poem called “Blueprints,” which starts, “Move into a house where love sleeps / next to you, hiding in a mouth all night / long . . .” I was intrigued with each turn of the line, my heart breaking with the last of them:
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2012
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
The thing I immediately noticed about SNReview is its online format—clean and crisp. It doesn’t attempt to use a lot of graphics or design, which is actually really working for it: black type, in an easy-to-read font, on top of a white page. Alternately, each piece can be viewed as a PDF with active links to previous issues and the website. Beyond the format, this particular issue’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry delivers so that the graphics don’t have to.
  • Issue Number Issue 2
  • Published Date April 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
This website is rather spare and the editors don’t tell much about the magazine. Its first issue was apparently in December 2008, and as of this writing the summer issue has not yet appeared. Based on a paucity of information, they are based in Montana “featuring writers and artists from all over the world.” The present issue gives a healthy presentation of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art, and “reviews and interviews.”
  • Issue Number Volume 45 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In the Artist’s Statement that precedes her lithographs, etchings, and acrylic and charcoal drawings, Bosnian immigrant Tanja Softi? writes: “The visual vocabulary of my drawings and paintings suggests a displaced existence: fragmented memories, adaptation, revival, and transformation…I have the arguable privilege of having lived more than one life.” This issue of The Southern Review, a particularly fine one, seems to offer every reader a version of this same opportunity to step, briefly, but deeply into another’s life, and to watch words and lives revived and transformed. Not necessarily changed, or improved, or repaired, but altered by their evolution as artistic artifacts and by our encounter with them,
  • Issue Number Number 170-171
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Founded in 1965, Salmagundi magazine takes pride in its spectrum of essays, reviews, interviews, fiction, poetry, regular columns, polemics, debates and symposia. In the past, the magazine has featured the likes of acclaimed literary figures such as J.M. Coetzee, Christopher Hitchens, Susan Sontag, and Joyce Carol Oates. Additionally, the magazine boasts that it showcases neither a liberal nor conservative predilection, proclaiming that, “in short, Salmagundi is not a tame or genteel quarterly. It invites argument, and it makes a place for literature that is demanding.”
  • Issue Number Issue 17
  • Published Date Fall 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Spillway, an independent, semiannual journal based in Orange Country, California has been around since 1993. But, Editor Susan Terris remarks in her editor’s note that it’s only been in recent years that Spillway became a themed journal.
  • Issue Number Number 9
  • Published Date 2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Brian Johnson takes over as the editor of Sentence in this issue, and if his first issue at the helm is any indication, this journal won’t miss a beat with the change.
Don’t be constrained by the name—Southwest Review, a cosmopolitan literary journal with a strong sense of the past (and thus, a keen understanding of where we might be headed), surely isn’t. Fearlessly fascinated by the inner life, The Review showcases the essay form, with offerings on the painter Tintoretto, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Baroness Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven, now recognized as “the great-aunt of punk” (“‘Cars and bicycles have taillights. Why not I?’ she quipped when asked to explain the battery-operated taillight tacked to the bustle of her dress.”) Chris Arthur’s “Getting Fit” offers a breathtaking description of the simultaneity of life, how, weird or wonderful as it may seem, everything everywhere—birth and death and whatever we can find to squeeze in between—is somehow happening all at once:
"It is the age of noon / when all the hours are sleeping / and you remain awake, for this / is where the poem begins…"—the young German poet Matthias Göeritz (translation by Susan Bernofsky) captures the essence of the entire glorious endeavor of poetry, waking us from sleep, from the stultifying trance of a hot, uncomfortable day—a "metamorphosis" as the poem's title announces.
  • Subtitle Creative Nonfiction + Art
  • Issue Number Volume 14
  • Published Date 2012
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The editors of South Loop Review invite “essays and memoir, lyric and experimental forms, non-linear narratives, blended genre, photography and art . . . personal essays and memoir with fresh voices and new takes on presentation and form.” I reprint the description for emphasis. The magazine is not feigning interest in the experimental. Rather, essays appear (in Micah McCrary’s case) as meditations on color through a list format, toy with a redline feature as a method of managing conflicting emotions (as in Adriana Páramo’s case), and explore what one might term the “meta-essay” through the careful tides of stating and redacting comments about what illness can signify (see Vicki Weiqi Yang’s essay).
  • Issue Number Issue 4/5
  • Published Date 2010/2011
  • Publication Cycle Annual
The body of great literature being created outside of the English-speaking world is vast; St. Petersburg Review is taking great strides to bridge the gap between cultures and languages that sometimes keep writers and readers apart. The thick volume is jam-packed with fiction, poetry, plays, and creative nonfiction plucked from everywhere in the world. A great deal of the work has been reflected through the prism of translation: a double-edged sword. Reading work in translation is, in some ways, like seeing a great painting through a pair of cracked eyeglasses. You can see the whole of the work and take it to heart, but there will always be some measure of intellectual distance between you and the artist. On the other hand, translations such as these are wonderful because you get a taste of the different music made by phrases that emerge from minds trained to think in unfamiliar languages.
  • Issue Number Number 30
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
This issue is a beautifully composed collection of poetry and black-and-white photography commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of Slipstream Magazine. Elegant, hauntingly surreal images by David Thompson and Lauren Simonutti, interspersed among the poetry, compliment perfectly the magazine’s tone. Poems contributed by authors from walks of life ranging from the academic to the janitorial present a similarly diverse range of perspectives, yet the poems feel like they were meant to be published together. The collection flows seamlessly from beginning to end in a way that makes reading it in its entirety not only easy to do, but extraordinarily rewarding as well.
  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
In the Letter from the Editor, Darren Richard Carlaw states that the goal of StepAway Magazine is “to perpetuate the evolution of the walking narrative,” and encourages authors “to submit work which forges pathways through the cityplace.” Carlaw recalls his childhood fascination with William Blake’s “London,” which later spawned an admiration for Guillaume Apollinaire, Charles Baudelaire, and Walter Benjamin. In this issue, the featured contributors transport readers to the bustling streets of New York City to the fast-paced glitz of Los Angeles. While Carlaw sought inspiration from classic literature, StepAway Magazine is an undeniable product of modernism, unafraid to unflinchingly explore the ugliness of such cities.
In this issue, Saltwater Quarterly channels inspiration through one of the most powerful and seductive emotions of the human condition: desire. Whether it is carnal or the spiritual, the maternal or the romantic, the selection of poems and prose are crafted by a sense of urgent yearning, carved from the deepest truths of the human heart.
  • Issue Number Volume 19 Issue 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Sycamore Review refuses to be lost in the “to be read” stack, partly because the magazine is an 8-inch by 8-inch square, which leaves its wings outstretched from most towers of books. However, not only its unusual dimensions (but, really, what is unusual anymore?) and comfortable paper quality make the magazine an aesthetic delight. We are gathered here today to find out whether form and content are unified as equal partners.
  • Issue Number Issue 3
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Although Subtropics is only three issues old, it’s already hard to imagine the American literary scene without it. Published at the University of Florida, it offers a wealth of quality fiction and poetry, including a few works in translation. In this issue, you’ll find an excerpt from Sándor Márai’s Hungarian novel The Rebels, and poetry by Romanian poet Mariana Marin and French poet Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786-1859).
  • Issue Number Volume 5 Number 45
  • Published Date Winter 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Generally speaking, I hate theme issues – if I wanted to read that much about a single topic, I’d buy a book – but subTerrain’s issue on “Money” won me over.
It is hereby noted that Sojourn has everything in it. Consider it a digest of contemporary writing, featuring fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translations, interviews (with poets Noami Shihab Nye and Ted Kooser), a play, and an array of photographs and paintings that build momentum from one page to the next. Yet in trying to be everything to everyone, Sojourn can feel incomplete and lacking in places.
  • Issue Number Issue .0875
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Sleeping Fish is, like many experimentally-based journals, not a collection of stories or even fiction in the traditional sense, but more the evocation and exploration of a single aesthetic premise: in this case, the unconscious mind at work. To say that its content is driven principally by wordplay goes without saying, even if titles like “The Mushroom Withdraws Among the Roots” and “The Bearded Favor” didn’t suggest this beforehand.
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
If poetry as a whole struggles to avoid becoming a minor art, prose poetry may be even more endangered; and what’s clear is that Sentence, like may contemporary poetry journals, sees its mission as much about preservation as promotion. With this comes anxiety: Contributing Editor Russell Edson declares himself “one of the established masters of the prose poem,” while Peter Johnson, also a contributing editor, sees the tradition of “publishing excellent prose poems” as dating back to the establishment of his own journal in the 1970’s. Clearly, biographical modesty has not made it to Sentence’s’s agenda. But while such arrogance generally confines itself to an enclosed academic establishment, I was happy to find many contributors living on wheat farms (Louis Borgeois), healing the ill (Cecil Helman) or posthumously honored with continued translations (Friedrich Hölderlin – 1770-1843).
  • Issue Number Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
A new journal is born, one with an ancient name. How does it merge the split-ends of legacy and innovation? It embraces the age-old tradition of straightforward storytelling and updating it with a solid cast of fledgling writers.
  • Issue Number Volume 94 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2006/2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This Santa Clara Review opens with MC Hyland’s Palm Poetry Prize-winning poem, an apt entry into this issue with its measured cadence and stark pronouncements: “God is blond, and loves you, though not as you are now.”
Slipstream 23 presents work with an urban, contemporary edge. This issue was mostly poetry that has a “spoken-word” vibe but also included three pieces of short fiction and artwork and photography. I liked Johnny Cordova’s prosy but gritty poem, “A Kind of Dance” with these lines:
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  • Issue Number Issue 3
  • Published Date September 30, 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biweekly online
A brand new litmag, Sassafras Literary Magazine, may be in its third issue, but it has really only been publishing for a month. Putting out an issue every other Monday, Sassafras surprises me in that it has so much material in an issue, but kudos to them—or I should say “to her,” as it’s a one-woman show. There’s a selection of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and artwork, viewable online (in which they each open as new pages) or easier to read as a downloadable PDF.
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  • Issue Number Issue 8
  • Published Date 2013
  • Publication Cycle Annual online
As part of SpringGun Press, SpringGun Journal has just transitioned from a biannual publication to an annual one with this issue. I hope that they still get decent readership, because the writers—at least in this issue I know—deserve it. Without given much to go on about editorial taste, you really have to read the journal to discover how it feels. While I wouldn’t necessarily categorize it as themed, it does seem to ask, “Where are we going? What’s next? And how do we get there?”
  • Issue Number Issue 9
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
This special issue of Subtropics features over thirty translations from France, Japan, Russia, Spain, Romania, Argentina, Mexico, and other countries that interpret a variety of crossings. “Hazaran,” by nobel laureate J.M.G. Le Clézio, introduces a mysterious handyman and storyteller who leads his neighbors when they learn that the government plans to evict them from Frenchman’s Dyke, a shantytown populated by migrants. The story concludes with an exodus as one character, Alia, glances back at the darkened shore. Translation can inspire feelings of displacement, but at its best, becomes appreciable as confident work rather than as a shadow of the original.
  • Issue Number Volume 46 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2010
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
There is no announced theme in this issue (which marks the journal’s 75th anniversary), but do you perceive a pattern? Here are the opening lines of the issue from “In the Village of Missing Children” by Rigoberto Gonzalez:
  • Issue Number Issue 5
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Saranac Review is an annual featuring work by American and Canadian writers published at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh. The terrific cover art is by Ric Haynes, oil paintings from a series called the “The Floral Wars” composed of combinations of “flower set ups” and toy figurines. His short essay, “The Floral Wars: Beauty and Brutality,” (with studies/drawings of the individual figures) is a highlight of the issue. The artist’s approachable style, both in the essay and the visual works, is representative of the journal as a whole, which features work that tends toward the “accessible” and casual in tone and diction.
  • Issue Number Issue 4
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
You’re idling in rush-hour traffic. Bored, and sick of hearing the same droning pop song for the fifty-seventh time, you flip through the radio stations and happen upon a song you’ve never heard before. The beat is good; the lyrics are fresh. You’re really in the groove. Bouncing head, tapping fingers, all that. You wait for the end of the song, desperate to discover the identity of the mastermind behind the creation. But the DJ cuts straight to commercial, and like me, you aren’t technologically savvy enough to own a robot-like phone that tells you what the name of the song is or who sings it. You’re stumped and annoyed, and you spend the next week humming the song to all your friends to see if they’ve heard it, too.
  • Issue Number Volume 57 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
A long poem by Wendell Berry, entitled “Sabbaths 2005,” opens this issue of Shenandoah. The poetry is exquisite, capturing what Berry refers to as “moments of pure awareness.” In the interview that follows, Birkin Gilmore engages the poet in an entertaining (for the reader at least) game of verbal dodgeball as he tries to get Berry to elaborate on his subject matter. Berry skillfully avoids most of the questions with responses like, “If [art is] any good, it’s happening pretty far beyond the sort of scrutiny that interviewers’ questions suggest.”
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Annual
This first issue of the St. Petersburg Review: White Nights 2007 is an opening for English readers to a part of the world previously denied them, to ravishing poetry, fiction and essays that will hopefully be coming for decades.
  • Issue Number Issue 14
  • Published Date 2007
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Smartish Pace is exclusively a journal of free verse poetry. It was a treat to read translations from Hindi – to have, as renowned translator Elliot Weinberger might say, “the news” of a faraway country brought to me through poetry. In Katyayani’s darkly-playful poem, “A Woman Hiding in Language,” a woman seems to disrupt language itself by hiding inside of it, such that, “. . .the dictators / didn’t get a wink of sleep all night. / That day the poets couldn’t play / with words searing as a mass of fire.” Shrikant Verma’s “Hastinapur” reminds me of how anyone might feel about a city or village in times of war or simply rapid change: “Just think / about that person / who comes to Hastinapur / and says: / “No, no this can’t be Hastinapur!” Though the average reader, like myself, probably speaks no Hindi, I thought it would have been illuminating to see the original poems – how they look on the page – as well as a read a translator’s note on the challenges in translating from Hindi to English. I’d have favored fewer poems in the issue to make space for this (several poets have 5-6 poems included).
  • Subtitle A Journal of Prose Poetics
  • Published Date 2005
  • Publication Cycle Annual
N. Santilli's essay introducing a feature on the prose poem in Great Britain calls the form one that "appears in print but is not formally accepted by its author or its audience, both simply accepting it for what it is." More than anything, it seems the purpose of Sentence is to correct this assumption by building a formal set of both intellectual and artistic frameworks for the consideration of this form, as well as to highlight the work already being done in the genre.
  • Subtitle A Creative Mosaic of Fiction
  • Issue Number Volume 1
  • Published Date 2005
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Ex Machina Press adds a new journal to the all-fiction genre with the debut of Silent Voices. The oxymoronic title is best defined by an excerpt borrowed from Isak Dinesen: “Where the storyteller is loyal, eternally and unswervingly loyal to the story, there in the end, silence will speak.” The loyalties range from the traditional to the experimental, stories of ghosts and toilet scrubbers, mad professors (“perhaps the jump from professor to career patient was not such a big one after all.”) and madder neighbors. Michelle Melon’s “Nameless,” winner of their first contest, refers to the book of names that a dying woman finds in the shack that used to be a church for slaves. Desperate to carve their names into tombstones, she hears their song and knows she is not alone. “ . . . she craves and fears the companionship they offer following the lonely, uncertain journey that lies ahead.” Raffi Kevorkian mingles with the afterlife in his parable, “Misfit.” The townspeople summon first the police, then the Der Hayr (an Armenian married priest), and finally a doctor who cannot help the man who carries his heart in his hand, a hole in his chest.
  • Issue Number Issue 4
  • Published Date Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Florida is a wildly unique collage of environments, from the gritty urban core of Miami to dense crocodile infested swamps; from the upscale shops of tropical Longboat Key to the historic architecture of Jacksonville, where the nights are distinctly northern with their chilly edges. This journal reflects this rich diversity from the edgy, tongue-in-cheek poetry of “spotlighted” poet Denise Duhamel, to the arch intelligence of prose stylist Janet Burroway (an interview and a story)—I have always admired them both.
  • Issue Number Volume 16 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2010/11
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This strong issue includes the winner (Timothy Mullaney for “Green Glass Doors”) and runner-up (Susan Magee for “The Mother”) of Salamander’s first-ever fiction contest, three other stories, a memoir essay, and the work of more than two-dozen poets.
  • Issue Number Volume 35 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2006
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Two short stories in this issue of Sou’wester just knock me out: April Line’s “What It Would Be Like To Have a Baby With a Turnip” and Patricia Brieschke’s “Eat!” Both feature ordinary women as protagonists and both cover themes done before: the experience of pregnancy (Turnip) and self-starvation (Eat).
  • Issue Number Volume 43 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The Southern Review prides itself on excellence, on not letting the reader off the hook. This issue has three essays on “Mind and Metaphor,” none of which are an easy task to read, partly because each of will unsettle your preconceived notions of those two abstract concepts.
  • Issue Number Volume 115 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In a world of the increasingly gritty, beyond-experimental, post-post-modern and devil-may-care, The Sewanee Review feels almost old-fashioned in its emphasis on clarity, craftsmanship, and quality. It was a treat to carry it around with me, leave it beside my bed, and, before falling asleep underline stand-out bits of analysis in critical essays. Christopher Clausen’s “From the Mountain to the Monsters” intrigued me from the opening lines: “Take nature as your moral guide, and before long you find yourself haunted by nightmares of monsters. The relation between cosmic nature and human ethical conduct was the most important intellectual problem of the nineteenth century.”
The Santa Monica Review has little space for drawings or photographs. From cover to cover, pages are packed with writing presented in a generic font as though it were simply a college essay waiting to be graded. It is rare to see a nationally distributed literary arts journal with a layout entirely devoted to sharing high quality writing without unnecessary visual distractions.
  • Issue Number Volume 35 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter/Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This 35th anniversary issue is editor Bruce Guernsey’s last after four years. He will be succeeded by Kristin Hotelling Zona, associate professor of English at Illinois State, where the journal is published. This issue’s Illinois Poet (an interview and a dozen poems) introduces the work of Cathy Bobb; the Poets on Teaching column presents Wesley McNair’s exercises for introducing students to free verse; translations include work from Brazil, Spain; and poems by 20 poets.
  • Issue Number Volume 44 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
My recent reading just happens to have included a great deal of poetry by women whose work in the first half of the last century is now largely forgotten or ignored, so I was surprised, pleased, and curious to discover Mina Loy’s name in a poem by Priscilla Atkins in this issue’s TOC. I had to start there, though I was tempted to begin with a poem by Michael Andrews, “Lykambes Has Promised Neobulé,” because it has the most unusual title in the issue; or Terry W. Thompson’s “Spencer Rex: The Oedipus Myth in Henry James’s ‘The Jolly Corner,’” because I am fond of academic essays, and as editor Chantel Acevedo notes in her Comment, few journals publish them.
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 1
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2009
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The inaugural issue of this self-defined “independent poetry magazine” presents the work of three dozen poets with no fanfare, pronouncements of intentions or predilections, no submission policy statement, no announcement of prizes or awards, no editorial commentary, and no explanation of its name. In fact, the only information about the journal appears at the end of the its 74 (small format) glossy pages: one page listing the four staff members and editorial address in Salt Lake City, UT and a note that the journal is published biannually; the other a “thank you” to the journal’s sponsor (“Thank you to our sugar daddy”), Nations Title Agency, Inc. in Midvale, Utah.
  • Issue Number Volume 2
  • Published Date 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Specs presents itself as a journal of contemporary culture and arts. Each issue has a theme, and this one is “faux histories.” A brief introduction from the editor-in-chief explains the theme is inspired by the “Renaissance Wunderkammer or wonder cabinet,” and the hope is that this collection of pieces will “allow for an uneasy coexistence between the campy, the sentimental, the political, and the repulsive – a mobile archive of committed fakeries in print and digital form.”
  • Issue Number Issue 10
  • Published Date Spring 2009
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Boasting content creepy – in the best possible sense of the word – enough to match the eyeless, button-mouthed citizens congregated across the cover, Skidrow Penthouse is a lovely, straightforward literary magazine of avant-garde grotesquery. Definitely not for the easily disturbed, this issue displays numerous splashy images of sexual amorphous nightmare creatures, visceral flash fiction, and poetry rife with primordial images of animals, colors, and traumatizing childhood experiences. Anorexia, the Holocaust, street life, abortion, insanity, and BDSM are all addressed, often in excruciatingly, darkly humorous ways.
Spire is a slender volume of poetry, fiction, and stated purpose (from the web site): "Spire is dedicated to publishing traditionally marginalized voices of minority, low-income and young writers and artists who will create the future of arts and literature. Spire publishes new writers alongside more established writers in order to lend credibility and establish interest in the work of the new writers.
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  • Issue Number Volume 65 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The mission statement of The Southern Literary Journal is to publish “articles on the literature and culture of the American South and especially encourages global and hemispheric comparative scholarship linking the American South and its literatures and cultures to other Souths." This issue features both articles and reviews that present fresh and compelling ideas to the strong body of comparative scholarship that already exists on the literature and culture of the American South. Articles range from analyzing Gone with the Wind to the trauma of lost sovereignty within the South to the analyzing of Ellison’s Invisible Man as a “public jazz dance” in which each individual chapter on a grand scale represents the movements of syncopated communities.
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  • Issue Number Volume 43 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that reading a collection of lyric essays can require more concentration, more effort, than reading a collection of short stories or personal essays, and that is true of the pieces in this issue of Seneca Review. This intense hybrid genre, a form of many forms, gives rise to responses like responses to poetry—visceral, shocked, troubled, enraptured—partly because it is filled with images, juxtapositions, and gaps, yes, but partly because it depends on the frontal lobe too, the facts and footnotes of argument and persuasion, at the same time it claims the personal, the fragile and emotional.
  • Issue Number Volume 40 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2006
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
For how trim SHR is — barely over 200 pages — its 39-year-old mission to publish “fiction, poetry, personal and critical essays, and book reviews on the arts, literature, philosophy, religion, cultural studies, and history” is grand in scope.
  • Issue Number Issue 50
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
For its 25th Anniversary Issue, Sonora Review called on some of the University of Arizona’s MFA graduates and the journal’s previous staffers: Antonya Nelson, Tony Hoagland, Ken Lamberton, all of whom have gone on to successful careers. The cover features slivers of 37 past covers, all artfully arranged side-by-side in a bright stack of faulted literary strata. And although they couldn’t get Richard Russo and David Foster Wallace, also one-time SR staffers, this issue reaches lyrical heights without them.
  • Issue Number Volume 2
  • Published Date Spring 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Still in its infancy, Silent Voices, published by Ex Machine Press, is making its own foothold among the vast array of literary journals. Its fiction-only focus is a plus for those of us looking for contemporary story collections, and a welcome relief from some of the more popular “Best of…” publications that seem to have bottomed out in terms of presenting a variety of style. (And for short story/creative writing teachers out there using those publications in your classes, SV certainly offers an alternative that might be of more interest to your students.)
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 1
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
In SUB-LIT’s first issue, you get the not so subtle impression that you will be titillated or at the very least tantalized. And you will, but in a more intellectually risky manner than first expected when you come face to face with the sexy 60’s style rock’n’roll poster on their website. The poems and stories in this issue challenge your definition of the truth.
  • Issue Number Volume 116 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
The Sewanee Review begins with twenty pages of “Current Books in Review” written succinctly about both authors and their current books, making these introductory pages informative and entertaining.
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  • Issue Number Volume 30 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2005
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
When I write a review, I try to organize it around the distinct pillars in the book that define the reading experience for me. With The Spoon River Poetry Review, that doesn’t work so well. There are as many writing styles as there are poets in this volume. Pillars here are like museum artifacts: free-standing, but still awesome to look at.
  • Issue Number Volume 90 Number 4
  • Published Date Fall 2005
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Joshua Harmon’s lead-off essay is titled “Live Free (Or Die Trying).” Yes, it’s a skewed reference to New Hampshire, and to the political divide in the U.S. and the secessionist fantasies entertained by blue-staters. Yet Harmon, a self-described “Mass-hole” and shrewd observer of place (see AGNI No. 60), discovers that voting patterns are not so easily explained when he visits a region he knows well, Coos County, NH—an otherwise conservative area in the rural mountains that John Kerry won in 2004.
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  • Issue Number Issue 9
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2013
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Sugar House Review is an independent poetry journal based in Salt Lake City, UT. It is named after one of the oldest and most artistic neighborhoods in the city, Sugar House. The journal aims not only to be rooted in their region and to gain local recognition, but to also appeal to a larger national and international audience. This desire for a global reach ensures that each issue of Sugar House Review is filled with great poetry and thoughtful reviews. As the artwork of this issue suggests the underlying theme is of the honeybee, each poem calls upon the “spirit” of the honeybee in some form of another making issue number nine a delectable issue.
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