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Katy Haas

Phoebe - Fall 2006

June 30, 2006
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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."

Pavement Saw - 2006

June 30, 2006
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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.

Orchid - 2005

June 30, 2006
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Orchid "celebrates stories and the art of storytelling" and it is, indeed, cause for celebration. Here are a dozen rich, pleasing, readable pieces of short fiction; stories to sink your teeth into; stories to lose yourself in. They are wildly different from each other, which makes the volume all the more exciting.
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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
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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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