Journal Review: Kenyon Review, January/February 2015, Volume 37, Number 1

I fear this review is all style no substance since the most obvious thing to comment about this issue of the journal is its fresh new design. Along with increasing frequency to publishing six times a year instead of four comes a slimmer, easier to carry with you look that seems more steamlined. Excellent content, as always. Michaela Jenkins very well-deservedly won the 2014 Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers for her fantastic poem “indigo sister”. Amy Beeder’s poem “Letter from Inmate 0709-609” was fabulously creepy. Lee Upton’s non-fiction piece “A Reverse Alphabet for Finishing” I very much appreciated, especially this: “And at some point revision should be stopped. The older writer rewriting his or her younger self can consume his own, like Saturn devouring his children.” Indeed.

Journal Review: Gulf Coast, Winter/Spring 2015, Volume 27, Issue 1

Some great pieces in this issue, including Natalia Toledo’s poem “Altar” with two closing lines I really love for some reason:

I hear a voice:

the devil has wings

Kelle Groom’s non-fiction piece “Antibody” includes some wise words from Thich Nhat Hanh concerning death. Tony Hoagland offers writers brilliant advice in “12 Things I Know About the Life Of Poetry” as does Juan Villoro in “Sixty-Three Original Languages” (he also mentions his friend Roberto Bolaño, reminding me of the stack of books behind me on my shelves waiting to be devoured this winter…). Amy Butcher offers heart-wrenching confirmation in “A Slow Kind Of Unraveling” on the pain of losing someone.

My favorite piece of short fiction was Caitlin Horrocks’ “Mermaid and Knife”. Beautiful, short, yet such real prose and beautiful sentences that seem simple but speak volumes. “There have been so many sadnesses it had seemed there was not room for more.” “I had such plans, and they all went wrong.” Universal truths veiled in fiction….

Journal Review: Sycamore Review, Fall/Winter 2014, Volume 26, Issue 1

Every single piece of short fiction in this issue of the Sycamore Review was well crafted and written. I was excited when Julialicia Case popped up again with “A Certain Kind of Animal” and she didn’t disappoint. Her writing is full of wonderful sentences like this one, loaded with intense visual imagery: “She lifted one arm and, quick as crazy, smashed the fish against the ground.” I can’t wait to read more of her work in the future. And although I haven’t read him, I appreciated a lot of the things Paul Harding said in the interview “From the Inside Out.”

Journal Review: crazyhorse #86, Fall 2014

I thought Julialicia Case’s short story “The Internet Hates You” was fantastic; it was my favorite piece in the latest issue of crazyhorse. The characters were so well drawn I thought I knew them. I also enjoyed William Black’s “Wildcats” which was full of rich detail and lush description. Alberto Ríos has three poems this issue, “Two Men,” “Charm String,” and “Citizens of a Great Country,” all excellent. I also liked Robert Wrigley’s poem “Accompaniment.”

Journal Review: Ploughshares, Winter 2014-15, Vol. 40, No. 4

Annual Poetry and Prose issue edited by journal staff, also containing the Emerging Writer’s Contest Winners for 2014. My absolute favorite piece in this issue was the Plan B essay by Sherrie Flick, “Caretaker, Murderer, Undertaker” – as a gardener I found myself laughing out loud at every twist and turn of the narrative as I recognized so many familiar things and at times I felt I was reading about adventures in my own urban yard in the Northeast. [See my review “On Sherrie Flick’s “Caretaker, Murderer, Undertaker” for more of my thoughts on this wonderful essay.]

I also thought this year’s contest winners were very well chosen. Tomiko M. Breland’s narrative technique in “Rosalee Carrasco” was interesting and well-crafted. I voraciously consumed Eliese Colette Goldbach’s essay “In the Memory of the Living” which was just all around excellent. Other stories I really enjoyed this issue were Jennifer Hanno’s “The Case for Psychic Distance” (which will be part of a collection of linked stories – I definitely want to read more about these characters) and Ying-Ju Lai’s “No Damage”. Jeanne Marie Beaumont’s beautiful poem “Fifteen Views of a Christening Gown Portrait with Closed Eyes”. As always all of the selections are fine examples of their craft, which is one of the reasons Ploughshares continues to be one of my favorite journals I try to remain subscribed to in order to hone my own writing.

Book Review: Stephen King, Revival

“This is how we bring about our own damnation, you know – by ignoring the voice that begs us to stop. To stop while there’s still time.”

This book will haunt me for DAYS if not for the rest of my life…. lurking in the background…. what if…. something happened…. Another masterpiece by, in my humble opinion, today’s greatest living horror writer. From the opening pages where King honors “some of the people who built my house” to the excruciating climax in, where else, Chapter 13, King’s clever wit and brilliant storytelling shines on every page of this electrical novel. I had a lot of fun reading this with Wanda, collecting clues scattered by King one by one, helpless to stop, like Hansel and Gretel on their trail to the witch’s cottage, or… like ants, gathering their crumbs, carrying their source of life as well as their dead upon their backs as they march single file into the underground.

Revival follows Jamie Morton through his childhood in Maine and into adulthood in Colorado (SPOILER ALERT: Ned! I actually squealed when my beloved former mountain town popped up in the narrative and woke up everyone sleeping in the house). Jamie and his shadow, the good natured though odd “Rev” Charles Jacobs, who Jamie becomes connected to in Maine after a terrible accident and a terrible sermon, and stays connected to after a chance (or was it fate?) encounter at a tent revival in the mid-West. As Jamie will find out, the Rev’s generosity doesn’t come without cost, as he plunges into a mad world in order to save some small part of his past.

“I think that gratitude for life, whatever the cause, indicates that one has managed to hold onto the core of one’s sanity.”