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Katy Haas

River Teeth - Fall 2009

January 17, 2010
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Editor Daniel W. Lehman says his own stories seem like dreams: “Real-life writing sometimes is that way: the stakes are high; the details sting.” In a world where what constitutes “real” (nonfiction) and invented (fiction) is not merely blurred but often obliterated, the stakes are, indeed, very high. And River Teeth deserves high praise for recognizing and honoring the difficulty of the task and for selecting work that respects readers’ commitment to and on-going interest in the nonfiction enterprise. Alongside the masterful work of well-known prose stylists Rebecca McClanahan (an interview with her also appears in the issue) and Brent Spencer, there are worthwhile essays here by ten other writers.
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An eclectic and sophisticated journal that aims to sustain the past (a posthumous short story from Walker Percy), enliven the current moment (new poetry, fiction, and essays from a dozen writers), represent a range of nonfiction options (from a historical look at the use of puppets to literary criticism), serve as a mini gallery of visual artistic expression (fascinating drawings by Graham Nickson), and serves as an arbiter of current reading (reviews of fiction, poetry nonfiction, and other media by five experienced reviewers).

Geist - Fall 2009

January 17, 2010
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I would move to Canada just for the magazines, Geist among them. Geist is published in Vancouver (one of North America’s most creative cities on so many levels), and I don’t imagine it’s easy to find this side of the border, especially on the east coast. But, I doubt they’d turn down your subscription! And I doubt you’ll be sorry if you subscribe.
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This “general” issue of the journal includes analytical/critical essays on Archibald MacLeish, current writing about fatherhood, an examination of burlesque in classical myth, an exploration of a novel by Gail Godwin, review essays on Melville and books on pedagogy, and book reviews of books on poetry, rhetoric, and film. While clearly intended for an academic audience, the journal is nonetheless quite readable for a less specialized audience, in particular essays by Raymond A. Mzurek, “Work and Class in the Box Store University: Autobiography of Working Class Academics,” and Arielle Greenberg and Becca Klaver, “Mad Girls’ Love Songs: Two Women Poets – a Professor and Graduate Student – Discuss Sylvia Plath, Angst, and the Poetics of Female Adolescence.”

Broken Plate - 2009

January 17, 2010
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The Broken Plate is an annual produced by undergraduate students at Ball State University, which includes the work of many novice writers alongside more accomplished contributors. Particularly noteworthy are poems and essays in the "In Print Section," which  features the work of authors celebrated during the University’s In Print Festival of First Books (March 2009). This section is composed of essays on craft by fiction writer Kyle Minor and memoirist Laurie Lindeen, and the poetry of Nickole Brown. Minor and Lindeen’s essays are insightful explorations of their own artistic processes. Brown’s poetry is expertly crafted and polished. Her voice is wry and worldly, feigning innocence, but demonstrating savvy.
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Women Arts Quarterly launches its slender first issue with poetry by Julia Gordon-Bramer and Kelli Allen, a novel excerpt by Jacinda Townsend, nonfiction by Beth McConaghy, an interview with violist Kim Kashkashian, artwork by Ellen Baird and Vanessa Woods, and a music review. The journal “aspires to nurture, provide support, and challenge women of all cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds, and abilities in their role in the arts and seeks to heighten awareness and understanding of the achievements of women creators, providing audiences with historical and contemporary examples of the work of women writers, composers, and artists.” The inclusion of work about and by composers is unusual and does distinguish WAQ from other publications.

Watershed - 2009

April 14, 2011
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California State University’s student-edited journal Watershed is cohesive in its content and approachable in its length. This collection of poetry, prose and photography centers itself around recollections of childhood and of family, bringing the past and present together—illustrating through apt detail the way people live, work and connect with one another. While slim, only 66 pages, it shouldn’t be rushed.
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A Public Space publishes lots of up and coming literary stars and this issue seems particularly packed. A swift survey of the bios gleans that only one of the contributing writers in this issue is sans book, while the others have a title or two in print or one forthcoming from a major house or a well-respected small press. With regards to A Public Space, amateurs need not apply.
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The magazine’s 2010 fiction contest winners open the issue and they are, indeed, award-worthy. Tori Malcangio’s “A History of Heartbeats” is a smartly structured story that plays out the metaphors of heart rate, flight, and the body’s flight from its own heart (anorexia) in a heartbreaking story of substance (body) and soul (flight). Short-short fiction winner Darren Morris follows—in a stroke of editorial genius—with “The Weight of the World,” with its appealing and insightful narrator (“When you’re a kid the summer lasts forever, and that summer lasted two lifetimes.”). Short-shorts by honorable mention recipients Edith Pearlman, Jendi Reiter, and Thomas Yori are also terrific examples of the short-short genre. Their work is well matched by fiction from another 14 writers; nonfiction from 6 contributors; and 50 pages of poetry, including poems by the ubiquitous Bob Hicok, and 6 marvelous poems by Traci Brimhall.
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“Symposium: Poems Disliked, Poems Loved” is advertised on the cover, so it’s hard to pay attention to much else before turning immediately to the back of the magazine, where the special feature is located, to find out who is willing declare their dislike of certain poems or types of poetry in a public forum. The journal asked poets Wayne Miller, Helen Nelson, and David Rivard to present for discussion a “bad poem” (“weak or shallow or disappointing”) and a “good poem” (not defined!). The poets then “conversed” about these six poems via e-mail.
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