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Katy Haas

Written by
The stories and poems in this issue are unpredictable and surprising. They move in unexpected and original ways and come to unimagined conclusions.

Fugue - Winter 2005

June 30, 2006
Written by
Fugue is one of the journals I turn to when I'm in the mood for something reliable and satisfying. I know I'll want to read the whole issue, that I won't be confused about the editors' choices, that I'll find writers whose work I've enjoyed before and a few I'm happy to encounter for the first time. The work is always solid, readable, and pleasurable. This issue is no exception.
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Diner, "a journal of poetry," is impeccable in every sense; this is the single greatest issue of a literary review that I've ever read. Even the peripherals are outstanding: the cover design, the typeface choices, the layout; it looks as good as it reads. As for the poetry itself, Diner offers a surprisingly mixed bag of styles—editorial predilections don't seem to divert quality work that exists outside certain rigid parameters, as so often happens.
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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.
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Reading the 44th installation of this Chicago journal is an exercise in patience. Its stories start slow, build carefully, and almost always finish on a terrific note. The subject matter ranges all over the spectrum; the tone remains entrenched in realism. When this quotidian stylistic blend sinks too deep into structure the result can be a little workshoppy; oftentimes an OV story commits to a single metaphorical strand of development that, while turned smartly at the end, loses the reader before getting there. Even the principal exception to this rule – Tao Lin’s Daniel Handleresque “Love is a Thing on Sale for More Money than There Exists” – seems to be gazing playfully out at the rows of “normal” fictive prose lines which will follow it. What’s interesting is that Lin’s story, while wildly entertaining line-by-line, is also one of the few that fails to deliver a forceful ending punch.
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The Heartlands is bookended by poetic tributes to Sherwood Anderson, one a reprint, the other an original, both crying for ‘more, more.’ You hear Sherwood, you think Ohio, which is also home to the Firelands Writing Center, the producers of The Heartlands. The audience extends from the southern tip of Lake Erie, out to “Northwest Ohio, Ohio at large, the Midwest and the Nation…around our theme of Midwest Life and Art.” The community-minded publication includes photo essays from community college students to an essay by editor and teacher Larry Smith, who writes that the most important gift of writing is our intention, “If we can get out of the way (of our ego) our presence and our intent will come across quiet and clear. To do this we must be able to slow down and listen.” This idea, this community of sharing, from the classroom to the forest, courses through the black and white magazine-styled journal.
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Who could resist the cover art of this publication? Themed “Youth,” I had to keep reminding myself of that as I read the works in this issue, so varied were the contents and perspectives on this theme. Favs in poetry include “Why I Gave Up Mysticism” in thirteen parts by Sean Lause which combines concrete narrative with its own mystical rhetoric: “and ate Eskimo Pies / that wept down our shirts / as we listened to intricate crickets / design the dark.” And Ruth Kessler’s “Valediction” which presents the adult child’s departure from the parental point of view: “into your eager hands we would like to press everything we / have paid for so dearly at life’s roadside bazaar.” Michael Leong’s personification in “Blackboard” left me smiling, grade school memories replenished, while Jeremy Byars “The Last Time I Saw Her,” a boy’s recollection of most innocently being the last witness, left me haunted with so many childhood warnings about strangers.
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A slim annual, more chapbookish in its perfect-bound style, the content of The Eleventh Muse is anything but slim. The back cover gently boasts: “55 poems; 44 poets; 23 states; 4 countries.” What matters most to me is 1. Give me one great poem, and that makes my reading worthwhile, and this publication was more than worth my while.
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I love unassuming journals: those thinner, saddle-stitched endeavors with so few people working behind the scenes, I can count them on one hand. Some border on zine rather than lit mag, and it can be a hard call. With this publication, there is no question that this publication is right up there with much larger-staffed literary endeavors. With full-color throughout – photos, artwork, page design – this “little” publication is a huge feast for the eyes. As plagues fine art reproductions, however, there are some issues with resolution that I wish could be resolved, rather than holding the image at an arm’s length to limit the blur. The written works, poetry and fiction, are not to be held at arm’s length, but brought into close range. Not one piece in here I didn’t like for at least a line or stanza or image or feeling it dragged into me and out of me.

Saw Palm - Spring 2010

February 14, 2011
Written by
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.
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