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Casey Hill

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This handsome new journal, from its burnished full-color matte art-adorned cover (beautiful work by painter Gaither Pope) to the last page, left a surprisingly pleasant impression. The roster of contributors includes a diverse but impressive set of writers, including David Lehman, Beth Ann Fennelly, and Pulitzer-winner Robert Olen Butler, just to name a few. I especially enjoyed Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s poem “At Medusa’s Hair Salon.” Here’s an excerpt: “…I say to Henri, Cut it, // cut it all. It’s clear no one in the salon knows / how Medusa even became a Gorgon;…who would want her hair cut to stun / men into giant concrete tongues, lapping / for air.” I also very much enjoyed the poem that answers that largest of questions, “Why So Many Poets Come From Ohio,” by Margo Stever, especially the line about “why shopping malls built to last / for centuries.”
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An incredibly strong awards issue with work that is funny, moving, surprising, and memorable, and, though I mean this in the most positive way imaginable…strange. If you're tired of coming-of-age poems or skeptical about poems that work to be humorous, Christopher Bursk's "E Pluribus Unum" (chosen by Lucia Perillo for the 49th Parallel Poetry Award) will forever alter your view of poems about adolescence and the use of humor in poetry. Creative Nonfiction Judge Paul Lisicky says Bonnie J. Rough's winning essay, "Slaughter: A Meditation Wherein the Narrator Explores Death and the Afterlife as Her Spiritual Beliefs Evolve," "shines with its fusion of gravity and wackiness."
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The question of national literature is never without debate, and in Canada there’s always plenty of discussion going on about what it means to be truly Canadian. While the debate doesn’t end with The Antigonish Review, it’s a very good place to begin it. I find much of the literature here to be decidedly traditional: it belongs to the outdoors, to fishing and heron spotting and crafting driftwood into spirit masks. Like Anita Lahey’s “Cape Breton Relative,” these works paint a colorful but sometimes sobering portrait of a rural landscape distinctly belonging to Canada (or at least Nova Scotia and, on occasion, Vancouver Island). But this is “Canada’s Eclectic Review,” and there are also many fine turns and surprises. In “Impaired,” Devin Krukoff hits an emotional chord by viewing the world through the eyes of suffering: “The moon is split clear through the center, / a severed tongue on the plate of my window, / while across the world the sun climbs over Africa, / a continent shaped like a spear.” Kevin McPherson’s story “On Stilts” finds a man on the edge of his sanity after his wife’s death in a car crash, using long, run-on fragments to convey grief and vengeance: “My legs threaten to betray me they want to go AWOL head for the fence but I force them back in line.” And Thomas Trofimuk’s “unfolding” is a passionate and strange tale of a poetic one-night stand whose nervous rush still makes it hard for me to let go. As it turns out, there’s a worthwhile reading venture to be had here. [www.antigonishreview.com] — Christopher Mote
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What captures my attention and then holds my interest is Cutbank’s predilection for strong, inviting first lines. Ingrid Satelmajer’s story “How to Be a Disciple” starts off the issue: “Sure, there’s the obvious – Jesus H. Christ, as Binky says, his thumb between a wrench and a hard place.” Rebekah Beall’s personal essay, “Sight,” which begins with “My God, you’re heartsick.” Cara Benson’s prose poems (though I am not sure they couldn’t also be labeled sudden fiction), which begin: “The kettle was boiling above and the baskets were underfilled” and “Everybody walked in the room I mean everybody in the same room then walking around that room to sniff the walls as a type of appraisal of that room.” And Daniel Doehr’s “The Ticket Office Girl,” which opens with, “I saw the ticket office girl again.”
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Beloit’s annual journal of fiction contains engaging stories with clear prose. Every literary magazine usually has at least one story in which I feel the author’s style detracts from the characters or narrative – one of my biggest pet peeves – but I couldn’t find that fault in any of these stories.

Bayou - 2008

May 25, 2009
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Despite having to evacuate the city during the fall term, Bayou’s editorial staff nevertheless had time to compile an impressive selection of work. Especially notable are the nonfiction pieces and George Pate’s “Indifferent Blue,” winner of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival One-Act Play Competition.
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It’s a good thing that Alligator Juniper comes out only once a year because if you want to take in all of it – and you should – it would take nearly that long to get through it. That is, if you give the journal the time and attention it deserves. I hardly know where to begin.

CutBank - 2012

May 14, 2012
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Published by the University of Montana, CutBank turns a neat trick: the journal reads like a great radio station sounds. Each short story, poem and piece of nonfiction flows into the next in an interesting, thematic way. A short story about a man who tickets rainwater collectors precedes a pair of poems about the calmer ways in which rain complements our lives. A short story featuring an uncle who stands in, slightly, for the boy’s father is followed by a nonfiction piece in which the author seeks to understand his uncle’s suicide. In this way, Editor-in-Chief Josh Fomon has created a sense of momentum, propelling the reader through the slim volume.
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Crazyhorse, its pages wide, heavy, and flexible, curls over the hand. The paired-down design seems to say, “let the work speak for itself.” And the work does just that. A well-handled mix of genres, styles, and subjects makes this issue of Crazyhorse exciting to read and disappointing to finish.
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I earmarked dozens of pages while reading through the magazine as it is absolutely brimming with bright pieces that speak for themselves. Many poems are just a few lines but force the reader to stop and ponder the full impact and resonating meaning. After I read Charles Jensen’s one sentence poem, I got up and started telling everyone in my house about the amazing poem I just read: “Planned Community.” I mean, wow! There is setting, characters, description, action, movement, sound, and the list goes on. So much is accomplished in just a short sentence. Court Green putting out a dossier for short poetry was not a tall order; there are many more fantastic poems just like it.
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