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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted January 17, 2009

  • Issue Number Volume 19 Number 1
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
David Wagoner’s “The Shape of My Life” got it right: “Three or four beginnings, four / or five middles, and two or three / regrettable endings”(except for the endings being regrettable – they’re not). This issue is all about telling a good story, beginning, middle, and end. More than a dozen poets, four fiction writers, and three essayists demonstrate the power of narrative, the rich possibilities of an original first line, and the satisfying resolution of a clever ending.
  • Issue Number Volume 14 Number 2
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Finely etched is how I would define the work in this issue of The Bitter Oleander. Take Carolyn Gelland’s poem, “Wild Cat,” for example:
  • Issue Number Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Within six months of placing a small ad in Poets & Writers, the editors of The Broome Review received more than 1,000 submissions to consider for this inaugural issue. They selected the work of 28 poets, including poems by such prolific and well known poets as Stephen Dunn, Timothy Liu, Lawrence Raab, and Philip Dacey; five fiction writers; and three essayists.
  • Issue Number Issue 28/29
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
There seems to be general agreement that one of the better online literary magazines today is failbetter.com. They get their name from the short poem by Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. / Ever failed. / No matter. / Try again. / Fail again. / Fail better.” – certainly a philosophy we could all fruitfully adopt. I am particularly impressed with the layout of this journal, where everything is easily accessible from the home page. The latest postings are found at the top, and scrolling down allows one to sample recent fiction, poetry, visuals, and interviews in a descending chronological order. The editors also appear to be rather selective in accepting new work: only six short stories are presented on the site from July 15 to November 4.
  • Issue Number Volume 8 Issue 1
  • Published Date Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The fiction and poetry in this issue of Harpur Palate seems focused on examining the familiar through an exotic lens, and vice versa. In “Squander,” Jenny Hanning does interesting work with her reverently Kafka-esque premise. Katherine, a junior high English teacher and mother, wakes up as the family cat after a fatal car accident. Hanning makes good use of the material. She allows the playfully named Katherine to truly be a feline (she gifts her former husband with half-digested animals), and balances this with observations provided by her residual human perception.
  • Issue Number Number 9
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Hobart # 9 takes us back to our youth when video games were black and white, hookers were a few keystrokes away, playground ballgrabbing was cause for nasty nicknames, and mothers left fathers. The stories in this collection are as addictive as the games their characters play – pool, Scrabble, chess, poker, Jenga, blackjack, and Magic: The Gathering.
  • Issue Number Volume 49 Number 3
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
I like the juxtapositions in this issue of MR. On the left hand side of the page is Karen Kevorkian’s poem, “Crowded Rooms,” with lines as lyrically wrought as “the white coned / datura whose tissue cup / I lifted and there / it would be rankly sweet / in a starving time,” and on the facing page Fancine Witte’s sudden fiction, “The Way the Vase Got Broken”: “Was the cat. First, he did his little purr thing, followed by his sinewy arch thing. This was all topped off by his jump thing and then that, was just that.”
  • Issue Number Volume 36 Number 3
  • Published Date Fall 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Anyone interested in the present state of the literary journal, both print and online, should definitely consult the latest issue of the Mississippi Review. In the Introduction, the editors announce their celebration of the 100th anniversary of the contemporary literary magazine, and say, “We devote this issue to an investigation of what the literary magazine has become and where it may be headed.” There follows a cornucopia of useful information.
  • Issue Number Volume 3 Number 2
  • Published Date Summer 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The official journal of the low-residency M.F.A. program at Murray State University, New Madrid “takes its name from the New Madrid seismic zone, which falls within the central Mississippi Valley and extends through western Kentucky.” Earthquakes within this region have caused the river to change course and after-effects have been felt as far away as New England. The quiet, honest intensity of the work in this issue is less explosive than a violent weather event to be sure, but powerful and lasting nonetheless. This issue includes the work of sixteen poets, including a special feature on “Emerging Poets,” four stories, an essay, and a couple of reviews. The work is steady, sturdy, and precise, careful work that takes itself seriously and encourages thoughtfulness and deliberate, attentive reading.
  • Issue Number Number 108
  • Published Date Fall 2008
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Published at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, The New Quarterly is a handsome journal, obviously produced with great care, respect for the relationship between good reading and good design (short columns! white space!), and an appealing shape (think Brick or Tin House, but less bulky). I spent a long time appreciating the magazine’s physical appeal before I even began to take in the exceedingly good contents. Editor Kim Jerrigan tells us this issue’s theme is “Assorted Pedestrians,” a line from one of the stories featured in the issue, a theme borne out by intriguing photos of “human subjects” from Jonathon Bowman on the cover and title page.
  • Issue Number Number 31
  • Published Date Autumn 2008
  • Publication Cycle Triannual
How exciting to come across something new! Well, after 31 issues, this dynamic little magazine isn’t new, but I confess I had never seen it before – it’s not always easy to find British publications in US bookstores. This terrifically satisfying journal comes from Liverpool (with contributors this issue from Belfast, Liverpool, Australia, Oxford, and Lancaster). “New writing/book talk/news and reviews” is how The Reader accurately characterizes itself.
  • Issue Number Volume 8 Number 1
  • Published Date Summer/Fall 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The cover of this issue is a delightful reproduction of a painting (oil on wood) by Jayne Holsinger whose closely examined human subjects share the vivid spirit and astute observation of much of the writing in this issue of The Saint Ann’s Review. Holsinger’s paintings are so finely etched and so sharply defined, it’s hard to believe they are created in oils. The work of 13 poets, 10 fiction writers, two essayists, an “e-interview,” several reviews, and strong artwork by three other artists match Holsinger’s gift for original and memorable image making.
  • Issue Number Number 28
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Annual
This issue of Slipstream includes the work of four-dozen poets, many of whose bios (though admittedly not all) are among the quirkiest you’ll find. Jane Adam of Buffalo, NY, “is more liquid than solid and leaves behind the hyaline purity to melt under streetlamps.” Jon Boiservert of Corvallis, OR, “throws up a lot.” J. Blake Gordon of Evanston, IL, “sleeps soundly, thinks about music, prepares simple meals, and watches a little television.” Toni Thomas of Milwaukie, OR, lives with “two energetic children.”
  • Issue Number Volume 26 Number 2
  • Published Date 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The Southeast Review is a true literary variety journal, with strengths of selection across all genres. The fiction is dominated by strong character stories and relationship observations, not so much on place. Even Kevin C. Stewart’s “Baton Rouge Parish” is less about NOLA and more about a couple’s relationship, which heats up when unsolved murders are splashed across the media. “The Rooftop” by Sarah Faulkner turns the coming-of-age theme on its head with this story of three sisters attempting to out-sex one another. It’s insightful and so real it almost hurts to keep reading. “Fourteen Carousels” by Fulbright Jones and “The Travel Writer” by Joey R. Poole, the other fiction in this collection, are similar in that they are gutsy, human, and at times hurt our reality check centers.
  • Issue Number Volume 20 Number 3
  • Published Date Autumn 2008
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The editor of Thema announces themes a year or more in advance. So, when Virginia Howard chose “When Things Get Back to Normal” thinking of her house and her life in Louisiana in the post-Katrina years, she could not possibly have known how much many more of us would be longing for “normal” in Autumn 2008. “For us, things will never get back to normal. We are trying to forge new versions of normal,” she writes in her introductory notes.
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