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Katy Haas

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The Northwest Institute for the Literary Arts (NILA) is a community of writers on Whidbey Island (Washington state) which supports, teaches, and guides upcoming writers by means of a freestanding low-residency MFA program, an annual conference, and this publication, Soundings Review. This was the last issue to be produced under the direction of founding editor Marian Blue. Subsequent issues will be produced by students and faculty in the Whidbey Writers Workshop, the Institute’s MFA program, where, according to the website, production of the Review is to become an aspect of the proposed MFA in Publishing and Editing. It’s apparent from the bionotes of the journal that much of the work published in Soundings comes from within the NILA community—but that doesn’t mean it’s local, or even regional. It especially doesn’t mean that it’s anything but “high quality poetry, fiction, and nonfiction” by writers whose deepest value is to create community and contribute to the field of writing. The institute’s website is emphatic about this; I find it very exciting.

Phantom Drift - Fall 2012

February 14, 2013
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Here, complete, is Mathias Svalina’s “Poetry Prompt: Reformation” from this thoroughly intriguing second issue of Phantom Drift:
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North Dakota Quarterly is a scholar’s delight. The well-chosen creative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction are bookended by two incisive papers and eight book reviews. All of the work is informed by an interesting frame of reference; the beautiful Great Plains can be found in these pages, as can knowing glimpses of the rest of the world.

Mudfish - 2012

February 14, 2013
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Mudfish, a journal founded by Jill Hoffman in 1984, marries poetry and art in a spellbinding series of verve and verse. For a quick and accessible view of the art in full color, the Mudfish website has an exquisite introduction to a moving collection of drawings, paintings, and photographs included in this volume. The poetry is likewise compelling and contains this year’s contest winners, as selected by Mark Doty. But for the poetry in its entirety, you may have to schlep it to a Barnes & Noble, where select stores feature the journal—see the website for participating locations.

Camas - Winter 2012

February 14, 2013
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From the rugged state of Montana comes Camas, a unique literary journal that focuses on environmental and cultural issues in the American West. Their winter 2012 issue features essays, fiction, and poetry revolving around work, but they’re not talking about white collar jobs here, folks. This issue is dedicated to the men and women who perform manual labor found in the rural parts of the United States. It celebrates, questions, and examines all aspects of this form of work, whether good or bad, legal or illegal.
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I’m going to refer to this publication as a “class in a book” for its incredible depth and breadth of content (in only 78 pages); ambitious would be an understatement. Transference is a new journal of poetry in translation published by the Western Michigan University’s Department of World Languages and Literature, which includes Arabic, Chinese, French, Old French, Classical Greek, Latin, Japanese, and Russian.
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As a south Texas native who relocated from the state in 1966, I immediately associate the town of Huntsville with its state prison. The Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville is the oldest of the state’s prisons, having been in operation since 1849. The unit boasts two distinctions: it houses the execution chamber where the largest number of prisoner executions in the United States are carried out, and from 1931 through 1986 it sponsored the Texas State Prison Rodeo. The rodeo arena was razed in early 2012, marking the end of a colorful piece of Texas history. Today, according to the Texas prison inmates’ handbook, the authorized team sports available to prisoners are softball, volleyball, and baseball.

Tampa Review - 2013

February 16, 2014
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If you are a starving artist, take $22 from your last hundred bucks and purchase a subscription to Tampa Review. Every time you behold the volumes, you will feel rich. This journal is one of the most lavish and beautiful publications in the world of literary magazines. Hardcover, with a four-color dust jacket and visual art throughout, the large-format Tampa Review is an instantaneous wow. The dust jacket flaps contain an eloquent orientation to the content, indicating the editorial goal of creating an integrated experience within each single issue. Contributor notes are relatively lavish, providing almost five pages of information about the 55 artists and writers represented in this issue.

So to Speak - Fall 2013

February 16, 2014
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A reader who gets a copy of this issue of So to Speak: a feminist journal of language and art will find that it delivers on the promise of its title. A mix of prose, poetry, and images, this print issue from a well-established publication has beauty, intelligence, and provocation. The journal doesn’t insist on any one definition of feminism, preferring instead to take whatever touches women’s lives as its subject. Anyone who cares about women and/or cares about good art will appreciate it.
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This is one of the most attractive lit mags I’ve viewed. For the astonishing price of five dollars, you can hold in your hands this substantial (eight-inch-by-eight-inch) volume with a technologically progressive cover and an extremely pleasing page design, whose innards are divided between visually striking color art, outstanding poetry, provocative interviews, and stories so good from the first line you want like crazy, but can hardly stand, to reach the ending.
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