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Katy Haas

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Nearly 50 years ago, a few poets gathered near Princeton, NJ, to read their poems to each other. According to the editors of U.S. 1 Worksheets, this small group of poets formed the U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative, and many of the original poets are still involved in the Cooperative and continue to submit to the journal, which is headquartered in the Princeton suburb Kingston, NJ.

THEMA - Summer 2012

August 14, 2012
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A great literary magazine is one that makes you think and ponder and take several moments out of your busy life to just appreciate art and life. Thema offers some absolutely remarkable writing that grabbed me and forced me to sit and reread several times. I found myself thinking about the economy, relationships, writing, reading, art, and even the galaxy at large.

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Perhaps it’s only my personal attention span, but I believe that focused collections of any art can be easily perused and set aside for any number of reasons. A collection of one type of literature or art must be read or looked at one piece at a time and held for reflection. A combination allows for any mood and many returns. Such is the Still Point Arts Quarterly’s summer issue and their idea to showcase their current site exhibit.
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Snail Mail Review prides itself on being a print magazine that maintains “mail-only interaction” with its writers. Interestingly, although this magazine revels in the virtues of print, one main reason that it attains the amount of quality work as it does might be because of its online presence. Although the magazine is amateur-looking (they hope to move from saddle-stitching to perfect-binding soon), Snail Mail Review is professional in the way that it belongs to LinkedIn, has a Facebook page, Gmail address, and many calls for submission on literary websites and blogs. These calls work. In the introduction to this issue, Editor Christine Chesko writes of a gigantic stack of submissions sitting on a chair in Co-Editor Kris Price’s house.

Salt Hill - 2012

August 14, 2012
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The allure of the Spring 2012 issue of Salt Hill starts with an enticing cover, a black and white illustration by Aaron $hunga where a character named “Mr. Rhombus” is told to get ready “to enter Xenocave.” More of $hunga’s graphics detail a fantastical story in the concluding entry in Salt Hill. As if that graphic wasn’t enough of a warning about the kind of fiction contained in this issue, the editors’ note reads, “The twenty-ninth issue of Salt Hill is evidence of how capricious and flimsy our perceived world is, how gray and clouded the separation between phenomenological reality and the science fictions looming behind it. Or in front of it. The fantasies stuck between its dark matter. Either which way, the work in this issue pursues out-there dimensions.” Perhaps because of this dipping into strange avenues, the best work in this edition is the poetry, as well as amazing artwork done in ink on paper by Faye Moorhouse.
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They say not to judge a book by its cover, but to be honest, I do it all the time. Of course the work in a journal always ends up speaking for itself, but I’d be lying if I said first impressions didn’t influence the way I approach new lit mags. In this case, between the title and the cover art, Salamander had me feeling a bit uneasy.

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Although not the leading story in the Summer 2012 issue of Prairie Schooner, Justin Taylor’s “Flings,” is the one that seems the most summery, as it takes place in that in-between time of adjusting to life after graduation, soon after a group of friends leave a “semi-elite liberal arts college” in Ohio. The story follows each of the friends individually, as they make their ways to Portland, Oregon, bumbling through the friendships crossed with the romantic entanglements that define post-collegiate life. Many of the characters are vaguely artsy, with Andy working on an epic novel, and two of the female characters having internships in an experimental film festival, before “rapidly learning the extent to which they had overestimated their interest in experimental film.” Taylor’s writing excellently explores the confusion of this period of life, when one is trying to define one’s self in the world, as well as the narcissism that can come with a headlong pursuit of the arts. He understands the messy, crisscrossed relationships of a tight-knit group of friends right out of college. His writing is tinged with a sense of humor about the overly sincere and serious.
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Open Minds Quarterly, whose subtitle is “The poetry and literature of mental health recovery,” is a welcome contribution to the growing body of discourse by and about “consumer/survivors of mental health services.” OMQ is a project of the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) based in Ontario, Canada, whose purpose is to “eliminate stigma” by informing “mental health professionals, fellow consumer/survivors, and their family and friends—as well as society at large—of the strength, intelligence, and creativity” of its authors. A small, glossy, 8 1/2 X 11 journal, OMQ is a showcase for persons who have stories to share about mental illness; it’s not a literary feast. But it’s worth reading, and submitting to, especially if your concerns coincide with NISA’s.
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An inherent complication arises when writers (or editors or critics) consider the meaning of “place” in literature. It’s certainly true that an author is influenced by the geography and communities that shaped him. It’s equally true on another level that people are the same all over, filled crown to toe with the same hopes and fears. This issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review contains pieces that are accented by the flora and fauna and hardy inhabitants of the Great Lakes region. The contributors indeed communicate the unique feeling of being lost in the Minnesota prairie while tapping into the pathos that unites us all.
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Several of the poets included in this survey of “Voices in German” were familiar to me. The Expressionist Ernst Stadler, killed in battle in World War I, is represented by three evocative landscapes translated by Martin Sheehan and William Wright. Gertrud Kolmar, who disappeared in the Holocaust, mourns a child “(n)ot born because of my sins.” Her moving poem “Fruitless” is translated by Sandra Dillon.
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