Katrina Denza’s Lit Mag Roundup 2.1

litmag2.1.JPGThe Lit Mag Roundup is a quarterly feature at Moorishgirl.com, in which North Carolina-based fiction writer Katrina Denza shares her literary discoveries of the season. Below is the second installment of the spring roundup, where Katrina reviews the latest from Subtropics, Bellevue Literary Review, and Passages North.

I’ve enjoyed reading these next three journals; they include eclectic, and sometimes breathtaking, pieces. The debut issue of Subtropics, for instance, is handsome, inside and out, with its intriguing cover art and glossy inner pages. Edited by David Leavitt, it will be published three times a year by the University of Florida in Gainesville. If I were to choose a word to describe the contents, it would be ‘elegant.’

A retirement community is stirred up in John Barth’s story “Peeping Tom.” Eileen Pollack’s “The Bris,” is the story of a man who requests a bris on his deathbed so he can finally become the official convert he’d been pretending to be all along. A mathematician is confronted with the possibility that his most famous theorem is incorrect in Manil Suri’s “The Tolman Trick.” In Ariel Dorfman’s “Gringos,” a South American couple traveling in Barcelona accepts the help of a stranger with less than positive consequences. In Joanna Scott’s uniquely organized story “The Lucite Cane,” readers are introduced to people briefly connected by a man’s cane.

Kent Annan takes readers to Haiti with his essay “Sketches of Scarcity.” Harold Bloom discusses the work of Hans Christian Andersen in his essay, “Trust the Tale, Not the Teller.” In her memoir piece “Guilt,” Abigail Thomas writes openly of her feelings surrounding her husband’s life-altering accident. Chris Bachelder’s “Near the End of the Symphony Strike,” a musical prose poem, decorates the back cover, and Anne Carson’s “Grasscolored: A Threat Documentary” really struck me. Here’s an excerpt:

“…You may receive your own obituary in the mail. A person in black stops before you in the street then hurries away. And suddenly, at six in the morning, as if swept by winter rivers, everything will change. Your telephone, your kitchen, your driveway, all these things that had a notion of you now change their gaze and watch you from a different place, no, from two places. Everything now happens from two places. You brush your teeth in the second and third person, watching the driveway, waiting for your child who is late from school. You sweat from those places.”

Bellevue Literary Review‘s spring 2006 issue features the BLR Prize winners among other stories, essays and poems relating to health and healing and the human experience. Fiction editor Ronna Wineburg begins the issue with a note commenting on some of the pieces within. She also reveals that BLR receives over 2500 manuscripts a year, a fact that highlights how hard these editors work and how difficult it is for writers to place stories. Publisher Martin J. Blaser, M.D. discusses the success of their first annual contest—the deadline for the next contest is August 1, 2006.

Joan Malerba-Foran’s “The Little Things,” a story of an alcoholic teacher’s day, won first prize for fiction entries. “Breathe,” a story by Caroline Leavitt, about a boy with asthma and his mother, won Honorable Mention in the fiction category. A professor is asked by a colleague to be an executor of a collection of paintings in Ken Champion’s “Art House.” In Christine Terp Madsen’s “Leitmotif,” the narrator explains why razorblades are her leitmotif. Translated by John Woodsworth, Mikhail Sadovsky offers a melancholy tale of an orphanage and an unusual boy, in “Mitenka.” A physically challenged girl has her first love affair with a childhood friend in Adam Tamashasky’s brilliant story, “The Crush.” A grieving maintenance man finds solace in a tenant’s apartment in Amy Mehringer’s “Apartment 1-A.” In David Kilmer’s “Doorways,” a woman with Parkinson’s must endure the humiliation of her friend’s well-intentioned intervention. In “Beware of Falling Coconuts,” a story by Marshall J. Getz, a brain-damaged janitor gets his revenge. A skeptical and stressed-out doctor tries something new in David Milofsky’s “Biofeedback.” A young woman begins a new job and is reminded of nearly drowning as a child, in Kodi Scheer’s “Intensive Care.” In Victor Gischler’s moving short-short “Irish Setter,” a man hopes for redemption when he chooses a puppy for his son. The last story is Daniel Gutstein’s short-short “The Disease, Then, But a Constellation,” in which a man contemplates the constellations of cancer, a mysterious experience with static, and the death of his brother.

Judy Rowley considers a cochlear implant in her prizewinning essay, “The Color of Sound.” Sandy Woodson highlights the advantages and drawbacks of antidepressants in her creative non-fiction piece, “A Pure and Lovely Flame.” Diane Lawson Martinez writes of the pain and resilience of victims of the Serbian-Croatian war in her piece, “The Road to Kotor Varos.” In “Butterflies in Blood,” Joanne Wilke shares her sense of helplessness in the face of her father’s disease.

Of all the excellent poetry, Carolyn Moore’s “How to Housebreak a Shadow,” David Shine’s “Revelations,” and Gibson Fay-LeBlanc’s “Worry Bone” stood out for me. Here’s an excerpt from “Worry Bone:”

“…I’d picked it clean though,/ chewed the joint, cracked one end/ sucked all the marrow. Tell me,/ Mind, why you ravaged this limb-part–/tell me what its owner told you in the dark.

The winter/spring 2006 issue of Passages North is enormous and pleasing to the eye, thanks to the cover art by Baltimore artist Greg Otto. The content of this annual out of Michigan is divided neatly into three sections: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry.

An academically gifted teen discovers some things cannot be overcome by love in Emma Wunsch’s story “Marshall, Drowning.” A family is scarred by a father’s illness in Diane Allenberg’s “Thanksgiving.” Perry Glasser’s “The Veldt,” is a humorous account of a man’s unfailing survival skills upon the loss of his job. In Alexandra Leake’s “How to be a Moron,” a young girl whose parents are divorced, gives her father a green hat and scarf for Christmas before traveling to Florida with her mother. A man is visited by apparitions and fantasies in Sean Padraic McCarthy’s “The Precipice of Sleep.” Lolette Kuby’s “Body Image: A Fable,” tells of a woman’s journey to self-acceptance. Autumn Arnold writes a knockout story of love and friendship in “The Sideline.” Arlene Eisenberg describes the loneliness of a one-sided relationship in “Walking on Ice.” Miriam Moeller’s narrator finds the joy in living in the gorgeously written “Speaking with My Mouth Shut.” A lonely widowed doctor receives an acupuncture treatment and fantasizes about helping a young female patient in John Poch’s “Dr. Warner Mourns His Wife.” Francine Witte’s imaginative short-short “Spy Story,” tells of a woman who hires someone to spy on her cheating husband. In Tami Anderson’s “Rigatoni Superman,” a young boy attempts to understand his older sister, his mother, and his own developing sexuality.

Anne Panning writes candidly about growing up poor in Minnesota in her prizewinning creative nonfiction piece, “Trailer Court: Rolling.” Ryan Wilson shares his experience of his participation in the Model United Nations when he was in junior high school in “Nation Building.” Jacob M. Appel’s “She Loves Me Not,” is a humorous essay on unrequited love. Jeff P. Jones’s “Children of Cain,” is a riveting, disturbing look at man’s potential for violence.

From a selection of over ninety poems, there is sure to be something for everyone, but Frannie Lindsay’s gentle, yet powerful, poems of pleasing father, good old dogs, a mother’s aging body, riding a bus, and a pair of coveted corduroy pants were this reader’s choice. The issue ends with an interview of writer and interviewer Robert Phillips by Gregory Fraser.

Have a wonderful spring and happy reading!


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