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Katy Haas

Vallum - 2006

January 31, 2007
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This end-of-year issue by the Canadian journal Vallum is a pleasant and serious counterpoint to the monthly whimsies of Poetry. Its theme is the desert, and I’m not talking about the American diet. Through poetry, Vallum explores deserts of ice and deserts of sand and deserts of the mind. Still hungry? Good.
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Washington Square is edited by students in the New York University Graduate Creative Writing Program, which includes among its faculty members E. L. Doctorow and Philip Levine. This issue contains work by writers of sometimes dual national backgrounds, among them Kurdistan, Romania, Australia, India/Hong Kong, England, Bulgaria, Japan/Germany, Lebanon/France, Spain (Kirmen Uribe of the Basque region), Palestine/USA, Palestine, and USA—fitting for an issue proclaiming itself the Inaugural International Edition.

TriQuarterly - 2006

January 31, 2007
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For TriQuarterly, one of Chicago’s many estimable literary venues, their 125th issue is surprisingly erratic. It allows Moria Crone’s flat, turgid “The Ice Garden” to consume nearly 30 pages, and David Kirby’s initial travelogue/essay to proffer descriptions of how we consider sex: “The question is a loaded one, and the gun that fires it is double-barreled, for nothing is more wonderful than sex and nothing more tawdry, nothing more elevating yet nothing more degrading.”

Swivel - 2006

January 31, 2007
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Before I start, I have to admit to being confused by humor, which at least I do know is a very individual construct. I don’t watch stand-up comedians because I can’t enter into the proper frame of mind, David Letterman’s smug face makes me want to hurl (hard objects at the TV), and bitter sarcasm makes me anxious for the state of the world.
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A magazine’s readership can be found in its advertisements. MFA programs listing esteemed writing faculty spot the pages of The Threepenny Review, a quarterly, newspaper-styled arts chronicle. There is a high-brow academic element to the review, but it’s balanced by questioning yet incisive prose.
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Is it me or have Shenandoah’s covers gotten hipper and hipper? Vibrant full-page paintings, an enormous guitar, now a haunting neon-red vintage Billiards sign—finally covers as bold as the contents. George Singleton goes wild with a 25-word title to his story about a religious group who print Revelations on their trailers for weather protection (“everyone took to insuring them with the Good Book”). Mixing his trademark humor and imagination, this brilliant critique-of-Southern-culture-studies-gone-wild leaves you grinning like a madman.

Saranac Review - 2005

January 31, 2007
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It would take a particular effort of resistance to ignore this debut of The Saranac Review simply because Frank Owen’s vibrant painting In Season August adorns the cover. And while the black-and-white interior renditions of his paintings do not do justice to his work, the written works (fiction, non-fiction, verse, and “inter-genre”) match the cover’s brilliance. I enjoyed reading excerpts of the forthcoming novels Deadline Fiddle (HarperCollins, 2007) by Jay Parini and Push Comes to Shove by Wesley Brown. Parini’s novel, with its sympathetic characters and well-drawn settings (couldn’t tell much about plot in so few chapters), will likely take a prominent place among novels set during the American Civil War.
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This Brooklyn-based review celebrates its fifth anniversary with this issue, and I must say, they are five quite underrated years. Alongside some new pieces, the editors have selected the best of their fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Brian Baise’s “Don’t Leon Sanders Me” is flat-out hilarious.
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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.

Porcupine - 2006

January 31, 2007
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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.
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