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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted August 14, 2008

  • Issue Number Volume 30 Number 4
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
“The Jilted Issue: Poems of Love Lost” – I’ll admit I was nervous. In the interview that opens the issue with prolific poet and editor, Ontario native and British Columbia resident Tom Wayman, Wayman surmises that poets are drawn to write about love because poetry is the language of heightened emotion. And love is, certainly, one of life’s “main sources of heightened emotion.” Frankly, my anxiety was heightened from the get-go as I envisioned a volume of overwrought, or worse sentimental, verse. But this is, after all, Contemporary Verse 2, and I need not have worried! These are wonderful poems, surprisingly unpredictable in language, if not emotion, with contributions from widely published poets and poetry editors (Tom Wayman, Rocco di Giacomo, Susan McCaslin, Jenna Butler) as well as writers whose poetry may be less well known, but whose work is no less worthy (Kelli Russell Agodon, Robert Banks Foster). The issue also includes winners of the 2007 Lina Chartrand Poetry Award, Aldona Dzieziejko and Elsabeth de Marialfi.
  • Issue Number Volume 34 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
“To be valued more for the ethnicity I was seen to represent, rather than for what I could contribute as an individual, struck me as more than a little embarrassing, particularly since I felt myself to be hardly representative of any group that I could think of,” writes Mark Smith-Soto in his “Editor’s Note,” an essay exploring the difference between the terms “Hispanic” (more inclusive) and “Latino” (predominance of English with “overflow of Spanish,” among other distinctions.) While Smith-Soto’s essay is in no manner didactic, I read his remarks as cautionary and approached this collection of 16 “Hispanic and Latino” poets as I would any “uncategorized” and eclectic group of writers.
  • Issue Number Volume 25 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The special fiction issue of Louisiana Literature is full of ghosts. Each of the ten stories focuses on loss and loneliness. Together, they present a compelling picture of all the ways we get abandoned: by lovers, family members, pets, and even by our own sense of right and wrong.
  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date January 2008
  • Publication Cycle Bimonthly
Low Rent is a little magazine with a lot of heart. It put out its first issue in January and plans on publishing six times a year. Issues 1 and 2 are already out with Issue 3 in the works.
  • Issue Number Number 163
  • Published Date Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Hard as it would be to do, if I were pressed to name my top two or three favorite literary journals, I’d have to include The Malahat Review, which never fails to satisfy.
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Issue 1
  • Published Date Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
“Does the world really need another publication?” asks Didi Menedez, publisher of Oranges and Sardines. “Not really,” she answers herself, and goes on to explain, rather mysteriously, that small presses are instead “forming the path to what we really need.” While I have no idea what that means, I personally am glad that Oranges and Sardines exists, because it is clearly not just another publication.
  • Issue Number Volume 192 Number 4
  • Published Date July/August 2008
  • Publication Cycle Monthly
It’s always intimidating to review a journal of the stature, prominence, and historic importance of Poetry. Consider this issue’s Table of Contents, and you’ll see what I mean: a portfolio of poems by Jack Spicer (who, during his lifetime, never appeared in the journal) introduced by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian; poems by Kathryn Starbuck, Albert Goldbarth, Bob Hicok, Heather McHugh, Dean Young, D. Nurske, among other great and notable talents; a radio play in translation by the late and utterly remarkable Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, introduced by playwright Adam Seelig; and the “Comment” section, “Poets We’ve Known,” featuring nine near geniuses, including Fanny Howe and Eleanor Wilner. This issue, “Summer Break” (there is something of a break-from-the-standard-poetry-routine about this issue), also includes seven delightful poetry cartoons by Bruce McCall, and, finally, a series of Letters to the Editor that makes me very sorry, indeed, to have missed the Marilyn Chin translations of Ho Xuan Huong’s poetry that sparked such charged responses.
  • Issue Number Numbers 158/159
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Titled “War, Evil and America Now” isn’t going to get Salmagundi’s current issue any major attention. Any politically inclined journal can focus on that issue. But dedicating over a hundred pages to the discussion between formidable thinkers and speakers is a fantastic move forward. It’s not possible to summarize their various mindsets or cast an illumination on their thoughts in a review of the whole issue, however, and I’ll abstain from mentioning anything other than the fact that it hearkens to Salmagundi’s conference on the clash of civilizations, but increases its scope in all dimensions. That’s the latter half of the issue.
  • Issue Number Volume 45 Number 4
  • Published Date Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
In his essay, “Old America,” editor Brian Bedard sets the tone for this issue of the South Dakota Review. He paints this region of the country as a difficult but rewarding place in which success requires a tough body and tough spirit. The work in this issue illuminates a place where people acknowledge their past while working toward a better future and remaining in touch with the land. The theme is reinforced by Suzanne Stryk’s cover art that features a feather alongside a DNA double helix.
  • Issue Number Volume 1 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Published by the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, this is inaugural issue of the Southern California Review (formerly the Southern California Anthology).
  • Issue Number Volume 42 Number 2
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Published out of Auburn University, Southern Humanities Review has a distinctly academic flavor. Ann Struthers’s series of poems in formal verse pays tribute to the Romantic poet Coleridge. Among the poetry I also liked Bruce Cohen’s “Hotel Chain” which explores the creepiness of hotel rooms. He writes: “Bibles are blank / & escort services are circled in the yellow pages.” In T. Alan Broughton’s “Legacy,” a father comes to grip with his own father’s habit of arguing with him: “We still argue, my father and I, / although he’s dead. He leans on the table, / meshing his hands, gently chiding, never raising his voice.”
  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring/Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
The Straddler is a journal that hungers to challenge the mind of its readers by publishing a diverse and heady collection of literature whether it is poetry, fiction, essay, movie review or criticism. In one of their introductory pieces, “An Editor Has Her Say,” by Elizabeth Murphy, they break down their philosophy to its core elements: “Put even more simply, our hope is to provide a venue for work that understands the importance of its context. That is, without tossing the rinds and skating away.” So, do not cower in an intellectual stupor because you are scared of the truth. Here, the truth is something to be embraced, stimulated and coaxed into being because it is potent and intoxicating.
  • Issue Number Volume 9 Number 4
  • Published Date Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
This issue of Tin House contains writing that is as vivid and entertaining as its bright pink cover. In the editor’s note, Rob Spillman explains what his magazine looks for in a story or poem: “To see things anew, to be reminded of what it is to be alive.” Sounds like a large ambition, but the selection of stories, poems, essays, and book reviews in this magazine provide just that.
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