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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted March, 2007

  • Issue Number Issue 3
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
If pop culture irritates and disgusts you, then this magazine is for you. If you’re a pop culture junkie and your admiration for Patrick Swayze and Mr. T is rivaled only by admiration for your father, then this magazine is for you. Equipped to satisfy the panoply of individual tastes, Barrelhouse brilliantly succeeds at “bridging the gap between serious art and pop culture.” With a wide range of fare – essays, interviews, poetry, fiction, art – Barrelhouse has it all. I mean, come on, who else is publishing poetry about Ed Asner? Exactly. Fiction in this issue is strong across the board, and to be fair, each piece deserves its own review. Melissa Yancey’s “Recommended if You Dig” is a perfect example of the Barrelhouse blend, where the young indie protagonist may finally have fallen in love but becomes obsessed with the fact that the woman he’s seeing does not share his love for Neutral Milk Hotel, and this seemingly irreconcilable difference threatens to be the deal-breaker. Another excellent piece is Wendy Wimmer’s “Billets Doux,” an art/fiction piece (Barrelhouse art director Kylos Brannon does a top-notch job laying this piece out) comprised of emails tapped on a Blackberry, offering verbal snapshots cumulating in a portrait of loneliness and desire.
  • Issue Number Volume 3 Number 1
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Every 9 Months
If I were a better thief, I’d steal this entire sentence from “Zodiacs,” by William Doreski, one of a handful of stellar poems in the most recent Burnside Review: “I’m afraid / to live in the suburbs, afraid / that no one loves anyone / without consulting the zodiacs / half occluded by pollution / from coal-fired power plants.” Maybe Doreski will let me have it if I say these lines are transcendent, which, pretty much, they are.
  • Issue Number Volume 26 Number 4
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2011
In N.D. Wilson’s story “Conversations with Tod,” the narrator lives across from an evangelist with twin nymphet daughters who have vowed to remain virgins for life. “God doesn’t ask a lot,” says one of the Lolitas, “just everything.” The narrator leers and Wilson steers the narrative to unexpected places, in unexpected confines. A crow plays a negative part (but have crows ever been positive other than in the two movies named after them?)
  • Issue Number Number 2
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Annual
We might think of ourselves as too sophisticated for fairy tales, that is, if the term conjures up Disney-ish recastings of classic tales; yet, fairy tales provide a body of common knowledge upon which to draw for literary allusions, and thus serve as currency even in our modern lives. Moreover, these tales recast archetypes and tap into our deepest fears: there are still beasts (literal and metaphoric) to conquer, the distressed who need a rescue, the hope of bliss—but at a cost.
  • Issue Number Volume 10 Number 3
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
A capricious God, a toad-killer with a nine iron, and a broke gambler whose only joy in the world is Howard Stern, walk into a bar called Five Points. The only question is, why aren’t you there already? This issue serves up poetry ranging from Charles Simic’s “Metaphysics Anonymous” (“The unreality of our being here, / an additional quandary we are cautioned / not to concern ourselves”) to Richard Howard’s challenging but compelling re-vision (“Look again, look closer.”) of Peter Paul Reuben’s painting, “The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus by Castor and Pollux.”
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2006
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
This issue of GSU Review showcases the winners and finalists of their 2006 fiction and poetry contests, as well as the art of Len Kovsky on the covers and six full-color pages inside, rounding out this solid collection. Taking first place in fiction was Midge Raymond’s “Forgetting English,” about an American teacher trying to start again in Taiwan. But in a place where “[…] amid the belief that souls are lost and lonely, that they drift through an eternal purgatory, appeased with food, drink, entertainment, gifts […]” she is led inevitably to face her own haunted past and decide what to do with her future.
  • Issue Number Volume 19 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2006
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
A good looking, glossy magazine, Green Mountains Review puts a strong emphasis on poetry. In fact, the best story in this issue is written by Therese Svoboda, who – not surprisingly – splits her time between prose (four novels) and poetry (four collections). The work “355,” about spies in the American Revolution era, contains the type of subject matter that most writers would spend half the story setting up so that they could splash their research all over the page.
“If this were another country, somewhere / in Latin America, say, or Eastern Europe, I could write lines like, / My country, take care of your light!, as Neruda did, / I could write, I am begging you the way a child / begs its mother, as he did… Oh, to live among those writers / who make unabashed use of vodka / and exclamation marks!” This is how Eleanor Stanford’s “Political Poem” goes, and it begs to be anthologized for its treatment of motherhoods and motherlands. James Tate and Dara Weir, two poets in constant conversation, are also interviewed and their poems prominently placed.
The Literary Review’s editors chose to begin their fiftieth anniversary year with a translation issue. They also chose Robert Pinsky to write an introduction to translation. And what an introduction it is. I have been a fan of Pinsky since I first read his poem “Shirt” for a workshop. That the former poet laureate has also translated Dante’s Inferno and Czeslaw Milosz’s The Separate Notebooks enables him to speak like the sage that budding translators need. “Translation is also the highest, most intense form of reading,” says he, in “On Translation.” For Pinsky, it is “also the only art that is like writing.
  • Issue Number Number 16
  • Published Date Fall 2006
In its sixteenth issue, Natural Bridge features a special section “in response to women’s writing.” The “general” pages feature poems such as Paul Hostovsky’s “People in Pediatric Oncology,” Rachel Hadas’s “The Middle Way,” and Andrew Sage’s “Paradise.” Each introduce their subject while illuminating it, tasks that seem just as vital in works explicitly responding to a text or writer. Natural Bridge’s most effective responses do this double duty.
I sensed what Anis Shivani’s argument would be in his essay, “Why is American Fiction in Its Current Dismal State?” before I flipped to it: lack of risk-taking fiction. Shivani’s tone in the essay is not sad, which saves the essay from becoming victim of its own subject. His attacks are scathing – “Fiction writing is the way it is because America has turned it into the last great Fordist model of production.” Elsewhere he argues that “the decline of American fiction is a sign of the decline of elite liberal consensus. The vacuum in political ideology is being filled today by an anti-politics, of personality and charisma…”
Prairie Schooner is one of the few journals with impeccable credentials, having disappointed few writers and readers. This issue is no exception.
It’s fitting that the journal whose health T.S. Eliot once lauded as an indicator of the world of periodicals should publish such an issue. The Sewanee Review’s issue comes subtitled “A Salute to British and American Poetry.” The opening pages are a list of books reviewed, including Wendell Berry’s Given, W.D. Snodgrass’s Not for the Specialists: New and Selected Poems, and the much lauded Adam Kirsch volume, The Wounded Surgeon. There’s a menagerie of material here.
  • Issue Number Volume 43 Number 1
  • Published Date Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In the introduction to the seventeenth installment of the “Writing in the South” series, Editor Bret Lott questions the past, present and future of Southern literature through the lens of Walter Sullivan’s essay in the original “Writing in the South” issue, thirty-nine years ago. Sullivan wrote, “[…] the new Southern writer must be something other than Southern: his faith and vision must be fixed somewhere beyond the Southern experience: he must find his own source.
  • Issue Number Volume 5 Number 44
  • Published Date 2006
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
You could try cocaine, or you could read subTerrain. This Vancouver-based magazine is rough around the edges but compensates with winning, dark intense fiction and warm, intelligent nonfiction and poems. The piece I can’t stop talking about in this issue is “The Shark Tumour Collection,” a short story by Jill Connell. An 18-year-old pet store employee with cancer decides sharks, an animal made entirely of cartilage, would be the perfect anti-cancer talismans.

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