This elegant, high-quality journal has a little bit of everything: fiction, poetry, essays, book reviews, and striking art in the form of black and white photographs of Uganda by Gloria Baker Feinstein. In one of these, school children look sternly into the camera, as if demanding to know the photographer’s reason for taking these pictures; in another, they seem to offer her a flower. The two essays, though very different in style and subject, are the most engaging pieces. “Recovering Robinson,” a biographical sketch of poet Edward Arlington Robinson, recounts high and low points in Robinson’s career and conveys the nature of his craft and aspirations in a conversational manner that made me want to pour the writer, Scott Donaldson, another glass of wine and ask him to keep talking. “Portrait of a Homeless Art History Student,” by Andrew T. McCarter, is riskier work, told in second person:
The man who sits down at your table asks Stephan, “This your bitch?” tilting his head in your direction.
“He ain’t my bitch.”
“Pretty bitch, though,” says the man.
The poetry and fiction, though less surprising, are also satisfying. Deborah Greger’s narrative poem, “The Desert of Christmas,” is worth reading more than once, and Michael Pritchett’s novel excerpt, “Reason to Believe He Hath Deserted,” sent me straight to Amazon.com to see whether the novel it came from, The Melancholy Fate of Capt. Lewis, is available yet. (It isn’t, but I’ll keep an eye out.) The richness and variety of the selections in New Letters are impressive, and this journal will be one of my “must reads” from now on.