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NewPages Lit Mag Reviews

Posted March 15, 2011

  • Issue Number Number 4
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual

“Poetry on tap,” is this journal’s tagline. But who needs booze when there are poets like Jane Mead? I was thrilled to find her here as I have loved her work since her first (watery, in fact) book, and she did not disappoint in “Dust and Rumble”:

  • Issue Number Issue 8
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
“This is how it ends.” That’s the first line of a poem by Jess Wigent. Could there be a more wonderful beginning? I love it. I don’t necessarily understand it, but I love it. That’s my overall assessment of the issue—weird endings and beginnings I find compelling and exciting and often perfect, even though I don’t necessarily always understand them or believe I can explain them or even know what genre I’m reading. Wigent’s piece, “This One Thing Truly Makes,” is a marvelous prose poem/story with visual complements of post-it-note/memo style fragments. It’s the idea itself of “what truly makes” that makes the journal appealing, the search for essential meaning.
  • Published Date Winter 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
With its generous letter-sized pages alone, Camas evokes the open space of the West. This winter issue includes stunning outdoor black-and-white photography, much of it full page, by David Estrada, Doug Davis, Doug Connelly, and others. Between these images is woven a collection of poetry and essays celebrating the many facets of nature and how we humans interact with it.
  • Issue Number Issue 6
  • Published Date Spring 2011
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
Brenda Mann Hammack’s poem “Little Hermit Sphinx” exemplifies this journal’s approach, strengths, and unique contribution to contemporary letters. The poem begins: “strings moon moths on thread. So much gauzier than horse-flies, / but not so illicit as eagle feathers.” Provocative syntax; risky images; the exuberant fracture of expectations—these are the hallmarks of A Cappella Zoo and Issue 6 is no exception. Here is the opening of short fiction from J.S. Khan, “Someone Must Stop the Bonapartists!”: "Alas, it is upon us: the most dire cataclysm to befall the Earth since the Late Heavy Bombardment—there are too many Napoleons!"
  • Issue Number Volume 41 Number 1
  • Published Date Fall 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The cover of the 2010 poetry issue of Coe Review features a striking photo shot from inside a shed, peering out through two square openings onto lush green farm fields as far as the eye can see. It seems appropriate to the content within these pages, as each poem carves out its own unique opening through which to view the world.
  • Issue Number Volume 2 Issue 1
  • Published Date Spring 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Here is a journal that truly is of consequence—poetry, nonfiction prose, fiction, artwork, memoir, and a “discourse,” all by accomplished writers writing about subjects that matter. There isn’t a contribution that doesn’t warrant attention, but it would take me longer than the US has been at war in Afghanistan to describe and critique every piece in the issue, so I’ll preface my brief review with this disclaimer: the selections I’ve chosen to highlight here are not the only ones worth your time or $10 of your disposable income, if, indeed, you have any. If you don’t and you’re lucky enough to live in a community where the public or university libraries offer literary journals, do ask them to subscribe to Consequence.
  • Issue Number Volume 27
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
By design, coincidence, or some intersection of the two, this issue focuses on writing about families. There are fathers: Judith Skillman’s prize-winning poem “June Bug” (“Heat dozes in the road. / You think of your father, / his love for the stars, / those summer evenings”); Kip Knott’s memoir-style prose “Gabriel’s Horns” (“My father, Gabriel Andrew Henry, had horns and a forked tongue”); and Dorothy Deaver Clark’s story “Still: Life” (“LeeEarle motioned the doctor to follow her to the bedroom where her father lay in his bed with hands clasped over the neatly drawn bedspread and his head propped up by two pillows sheathed with masterfully ironed pillows slips.”).
  • Issue Number Volume 35 Number 1
  • Published Date Summer 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
The journal’s first-ever special issue is a “Native Issue,” with contributions by writers “from many different places—tribal, geographic, aesthetic,” including writers who grew up in the Laguna Pueblo, and members of the Diné, Mi’kmaq Métis, Cherokee, Kanien ‘kehaka, Onodowaga, Yappituka Comanche/Southern Araphaho, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, Arkansas Quapaw, Poarch Creek/Muscogee, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, Oglala Lakota, Seneca, Sioux, Acoma Pueblo, Apache, and Chicasaw tribes and nations. These writers’ work is as distinct and diverse as the communities and nations into which they were born and/or have lived.
  • Published Date Winter 2011
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly online
This is a progressive journal that understands the advantages of being online, and offers the reader a number of options that are simply not available in the print format. In the past they have presented an animated version of "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe, a live reading of the same story by Vincent Price, various live comedies by different comedians, artwork by Dali, Goya, and El Greco, and even a Flamenco dance. One never knows what they are going to present each month, but that’s part of the fun.
  • Issue Number Volume 77 Number 1
  • Published Date 2010-11
  • Publication Cycle Quarterly
Here is what I appreciate about New Letters: “a whispery shriek like cracked clarinet reeds.” That’s a characterization, by the first person narrator, of the voice of a character in Abby Frucht’s story “Tamarinds,” and if you know anything about clarinets it will be music to your ears. It’s that precision, and the unique and exacting sensibility of New Letters’s writers, that I anticipate and am perpetually grateful to encounter. The writing is unceasingly original, competent, and always worth my time.
  • Issue Number Volume 7 Number 2
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2010-11
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
This is one gigantic Happy Meal of an issue! Or maybe it’s more like Cracker Jacks—that surprise at the bottom of the box that sweetens the whole crunchy-munchy experience. The editors call these goodies “Supplements,” but they are integral to the whole gestalt. The magazine comes shrink-wrapped with a motel key-fob, a pink striped birthday candle inside a small seed envelope, a postcard with an illustration of a take-out dish of “Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato Combination,” a “Newspoem” by William Gillepsie on a skinny folded sheet, an enormous “Corn in the USA” diagram, and a variety of other illustrations, texts, and diagrams on different types of paper stock, which adds to the tactile/sensual pleasure of print. The Art Director’s note explains: “By unwrapping the contents of this issue, you have dislodged the original cover design and set in motion an unpacking of parts that together create a kind of landscape within which the stories, essays, and poems can situate themselves.”
  • Issue Number Number 1
  • Published Date 2010
  • Publication Cycle Annual
Editors Nicholas Maistros and Jonathan Starke introduce their new journal: “we’re determined to find those writers and artists who are flying under the radar producing great works that are going unnoticed by other journals.” The journal’s title comes from the world of prize fighting; its tagline is “a journal of underdog excellence.”
  • Issue Number Issue 30
  • Published Date January 2011
  • Publication Cycle Monthly online
The table of contents for Red Fez 30 sprawls down the scrolling page, heralding articles and reviews, comics and other artwork, poetry, and stories. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the array of choices, I wasn't quite sure where to start, but I ended up choosing well with Eric Day's essay “The Class of 1987.” Eric is reluctant about attending his twentieth high school reunion, and yet for some intangible reason he felt compelled to go. Eric has come a long way from his class clown years, having moved away and earned a master's degree, gotten married, and become a teacher. But none of his former classmates know any of this. When Eric approaches the greeter's table and sees all the name badges lined up, he observes that “just a glance at them filled me with terror.” Much of what follows is to be expected: stilted conversation, awkward moments with an old girlfriend, and social dynamics that seem to have frozen in time. But as the night progresses, Eric finds that a few things actually have changed and he even ultimately makes a few tenuous connections.
A student journal as youthful and energetic and innocently/un-innocent as…well…youth: “You dig your fingers, thick with car grease / into me. I shiver toward you,” writes Caroline Kessler in “I Open My Mouth to the Storm.” Rob Rotell offers another storm of emotion in his story “A Couple of Problems,” which begins: “He woke up to Nikki’s crying. She sounded as if she was hiccupping. Her sobs were soft. They had a quick tempo.” Staci Eckenroth, too, starts off with a moment of heightened sensation in “a dime a dozen”:
  • Issue Number Number 67
  • Published Date Fall/Winter 2010
  • Publication Cycle Biannual
A terrific issue! Strong, memorable poems, including translations from the Italian by Martha Cooley and Antonio Romani of the work of Gianpiero Neri; a great essay by Katie Ford “Writing About the City: New Orleans, Destruction, and the Duty of the Poet”; a satisfying story by Urban Waite, “No One Heard a Thing in the Night the Chicken Died”; thoughtful book reviews; and Garth Greenwell’s “To a Green Thought” essay, this issue’s “Marginalia,” one of the journal’s most original and appealing features, which focuses this time on recordings of poems.

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