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Casey Hill

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If I were to close my eyes and imagine a literary magazine, it would look much like The Antioch Review—no filler, the only artwork a cover to hold the stories together. Of course, the stories inside aren’t as stodgy as one might presume from the appearance. Kris Saknussemm’s “Time of the End” belongs on any shortlist of the best stories of this year. Hephaestus Sitturd invents things that don’t work, but now he must invent a Time Ark so that his family can escape the William Miller-predicted end of the world, based on his evidence, “[…] only the year before a dairy farmer in Gnadenhutten had found a cow pie in the shape of the Virgin Mary. Clearly the world was working up to something decisive.” Saknussemm’s imagination proves bottomless in “Time of the End,” as the long lists of the inventions and interests of Hephaestus’s genius son Lloyd attest, “The child had already constructed a steam-driven monorail that ran from their house to the barn, a crude family telephone exchange, and an accurate clock that needed no winding. A rocking horse that turned into a simple bicycle and a giant slingshot that had propelled a meat-safe over the river.” The rest of the fiction has a hard time reaching the heights Saknussemm attains, but Scott Elliott’s excellent “The Wheelbarrow Man” comes closest. Though the cover states “All Fiction Issue,” there is poetry to be found inside The End of Time, and the poems ascend their own peak. From the last lines of Scott Dalgarno’s “Mea Culpa Mea,” “I know, I know, it’s true— / I should be shot. I’d do it myself, except / who blames the victim anymore?” to Molly Bendall’s “Pass up the Votives” (“Suit up / In your mood, look at the people who / never take trips”). The Antioch Review shows sixty-five years has given them a pretty good idea of how to put something special on paper. [The Antioch Review, P.O. Box 148, Yellow Springs, OH 45387. Single issue $8. review.antioch.edu.] –Jim Scott
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Okay, full disclosure: I will love any magazine that includes any work by Paul Maliszewski, fiction writer. I cannot help it. In the world of small literary magazines, most of us have authors for whom we’ll shell out anything to get the latest—a Dean Young or Bob Hicok or Olena Kalytiak Davis Poem, a Paul Maliszewski or Thomas de Zengotita or Aimee Bender story. So I’m biased toward this particular Gettysburg Review from the start because of Mr. Maliszewski and his story, which, like nearly all his other published work, is fun, funny, strange and beautiful.
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This slim journal out of Berea College, Kentucky, lives up to its name, with an intriguing showcase of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, reviews, and photographs by regional writers and artists.
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With its introspective and lyrical qualities, the writing in Bellingham Review invokes the brief northern daylight and drizzly afternoons of the little bayside town, just south of the British Columbian border, which is its namesake. But don’t misunderstand: this unassumingly slender journal (which must be one of the country’s most beautifully designed) is neither slack nor unadventurous; its pages contain all the great weight and mass of true literature. While the 22 poems tend to induce a mellow and reflective state of mind, they are never staid, never complacent, and are nearly always—whether on a grand or quotidian scale—breathtaking.
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The thirtieth anniversary edition of BWR starts out strong with “Mother of Pearl Clouds,” a poem by Larissa Szporluk that ends with a line articulating what is possibly the impetus of all art: “let’s not let them / think that we’re just passing.” And it just gets better from there, offering fiction, nonfiction, interviews and a chapbook, all of which are smart and enjoyable.
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An elegantly slim volume, the Fall 2006 Bellingham Review is an eclectic collection with the slight political edge of interviews with two poets: Gerald Stern: "So I don't know where all my leftist influence comes from, maybe it was just in the air, but I identified with them. I was a socialist."in conversation with Kate Beles; and Robb St. Lawrence's interview of Rita Dove: "I admire the Star Trek universe for the way it has always encapsulated our social structures and put them on spaceships, and I love the way they disregard race and other ‘differences.’”
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Very early on, the issue boasts the lines “Funny thing about the Autumn sun / how it warms the heart first / and later the skin” (Dexine Wallbank’s “Autumn Light”). And that is how this issue of The Antigonish Review sinks into a reader’s being. The issue continues with a Zoë Strachan (Betty Trask Award winner) piece, “Play Dead,” which adds another dimension to the fluidity of human sexuality, and makes sublime its otherwise trite last line: “I don’t suppose she’d ever felt so alone.” It’s a must read, if only to see how Strachan’s line makes the piece and vice versa. There’s a playful, narrative arc in every piece, even the reviews of Canadian poets. Ken Stange reviews Allan Brown’s Frames of Silence, a collection, beginning with: “This is not an unbiased review […],” for reviewer and writer are close friends. Stange does an evenhanded job, despite the admitted favoritismtreading finely the thin line between over- and under-whelming with his and Brown’s personal history; a fine place to start researching for an honest best-man speech.
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I have always loved The Antioch Review and this "All Essay" issue deepens my appreciation. The editors succeed in demonstrating that "essays…comes in all forms and about all subjects" and in meeting their goal to "highlight [the essay's] diversity and vivacity." This would make a fine volume for any workshop in the essay's strengths and varieties and is exceptional reading for any devotee of serious nonfiction. The thirteen essays include political/social analysis (Bruce Jackson, Bruce Fleming, Michael Meyers and John P. Nidiry, Irwin Abrams), personal essays (Floyd Skloot, Nick Papandreou, P.F. Kluge, Paul Christensen, Carol Hebald), ...
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What Blue Collar Review succeeds in doing, I think, is putting a human face on nearly every problem you’ve seen on the nightly news in recent years. War, layoffs, violence, crap jobs, bad schools: these are the subjects of the poetry published here. I have to be honest: not every piece is very well crafted, but what some poems lack in skill they make up for in conviction. As I write this, the U.S. is attempting damage control on the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, and Mike Maggio’s “Collateral Damage” is an impressive litany of mind-numbing public apology snippets that certainly fits this situation as well. An excerpt: “(we swear on our mothers) / (we swear on the flag) / (we swear on the bible) / (we swear on the corporation) / (we’re sorry).” Amy E. Oliver’s “Professional Chef,” about what really goes on in restaurant kitchens, took me back to my waitress years (“the sick onion grease stench” indeed!), and I admired the quiet dignity of Jeff Vande Zande’s “Losing Work,” about a laid-off man fearing loss of respect by his family yet finding support from his wife. If you like poetry by and for the people, you’ll want to pick up a copy of this magazine. [Blue Collar Review, Partisan Press, P.O. Box 11417, Norfolk, VA 23517. E-mail: . Single issue $5. http://www.Partisanpress.org] - JQG
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Established back in 1948, the tiny literary magazine known as The Carolina Quarterly is a model of humility: a pamphlet-style book not even a hundred pages long, yet filled with writing of such distinction that the reader is provoked to the kind of loving pondering elicited by publications of the snazzier variety. After careening straight through this winter issue, I found myself turning it over and over in my hands in wonder.
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