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Katy Haas

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The cover of the 2010 poetry issue of Coe Review features a striking photo shot from inside a shed, peering out through two square openings onto lush green farm fields as far as the eye can see. It seems appropriate to the content within these pages, as each poem carves out its own unique opening through which to view the world.

Camas - Winter 2010

March 14, 2011
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With its generous letter-sized pages alone, Camas evokes the open space of the West. This winter issue includes stunning outdoor black-and-white photography, much of it full page, by David Estrada, Doug Davis, Doug Connelly, and others. Between these images is woven a collection of poetry and essays celebrating the many facets of nature and how we humans interact with it.

Caketrain - 2010

March 14, 2011
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“This is how it ends.” That’s the first line of a poem by Jess Wigent. Could there be a more wonderful beginning? I love it. I don’t necessarily understand it, but I love it. That’s my overall assessment of the issue—weird endings and beginnings I find compelling and exciting and often perfect, even though I don’t necessarily always understand them or believe I can explain them or even know what genre I’m reading. Wigent’s piece, “This One Thing Truly Makes,” is a marvelous prose poem/story with visual complements of post-it-note/memo style fragments. It’s the idea itself of “what truly makes” that makes the journal appealing, the search for essential meaning.
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Brenda Mann Hammack’s poem “Little Hermit Sphinx” exemplifies this journal’s approach, strengths, and unique contribution to contemporary letters. The poem begins: “strings moon moths on thread. So much gauzier than horse-flies, / but not so illicit as eagle feathers.” Provocative syntax; risky images; the exuberant fracture of expectations—these are the hallmarks of A Cappella Zoo and Issue 6 is no exception. Here is the opening of short fiction from J.S. Khan, “Someone Must Stop the Bonapartists!”: "Alas, it is upon us: the most dire cataclysm to befall the Earth since the Late Heavy Bombardment—there are too many Napoleons!"
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This issue of Tin House contains writing that is as vivid and entertaining as its bright pink cover. In the editor’s note, Rob Spillman explains what his magazine looks for in a story or poem: “To see things anew, to be reminded of what it is to be alive.” Sounds like a large ambition, but the selection of stories, poems, essays, and book reviews in this magazine provide just that.
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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.”
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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).
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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.
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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.
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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.
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