Aurora Antonovič, Editor-in-Chief.
With thanks to the editors/publishers.
This first issue of what promises to be a semiannual journal contains an interview with recent-past U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky (held office 1997–2000); a brief review of Pinsky’s most recent poetry collection by Antonovič; six pages of poems headed “Free Verse and Form” (22 poems); ten pages of short stories, including a “Special Feature” (5 stories); two pages of haiku and senryu (15) and three of tanka (18); a brief essay on writing; and four pages of contributors’ bios. A table of contents at the front is followed by a brief letter from Antonovič that speaks of the magazine’s beginnings and its related web site, and submission guidelines take up the final page.
The covers, outside and inside, feature the same single photograph, a striking snowscape from Mont Blanc, and the 8.5×11″ format allows for ample room on the pages for the content. One could wish that the designer understood how to number pages—the first numbered page, called “1″, is actually page 2, making for confusion as odd numbers appear on left-hand pages—but that is a small gaff for the first issue of a seriously intended journal that begins as the child of a web site, an environment where one doesn’t have to worry about page numbers.
A few poems, more or less at random:
Mission to Schleswig-Holstein
by Taylor Graham
“The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third, and I have forgotten all about it.” Lord Palmerston.
Politics is always local. These two duchies—stuck
between Germany and Denmark, North Sea and Baltic—
share a history that could drive anyone crazy.
It’s 1850, after two years of uprising, border skirmishes,
unsatisfactory truces, and beyond, real powers
with their arguable legitimacies, positioned to take
sides. And you, Mr. Burritt, delegate from the
World Peace Congress, think to make reason of it all?
Show the Danish Minister tha[t] an American can grasp
the intentions of Bismarck and even more distant Austria?
Slow-train diplomacy, Copenhagen to Kiel, and back
again, then on to Hamburg. After months of this,
at night in your hotel room, does Schleswig-Holstein
slip into an easy sleep? Or do you dream battle cries
in dialects you can’t quite understand?
In a deadened night, do you wake to quick boots
marching below your window? By the glare of dawn
on helmets, do you see that all your diplomacy
is as lost as Lord Palmerston’s memory
and the good professor’s mind?
I selected this from among a number of contenders, not because it is typical—I’d be hard pressed to identify a “typical” poetic mode in this issue’s non-Japanese-related poems—but both this poem’s subject and treatment interest me. (I’m a bit of a history buff, though European history is far from my strong suit.) The short stories, also, provide a range of approach to what makes a story.
snow in the city
in the cardboard box
from the top
of the Space Needle
he phones me
still clear, after years
Janet Lynn Davis
These two, a haiku and a tanka, respectively, are by writers new to me, but among many names very recognizable in the English-language haiku and tanka communities, such as An’ya, Curtis Dunlap, Peggy Willis Lyles, John Barlow, Cathy Drinkwater Better, Sanford Goldstein, etc.
The intent to produce a cleanly designed magazine of quality writing clearly emerges from these 32 (not 31) pages, and as the magazine progresses I’m sure we’ll see improvements in detail, like losing the unneeded word “by” in front of an author’s name—a carryover from journalistic style that’s not needed in a lit. mag. (I wonder why they didn’t treat all poems the same, with authorship indicated at the ends of poems, as they did with haiku/senryu and tanka. And I hope they’ll study up on the proper presentation of dashes, etc.) The relative freedom of the large page-size and modest type (10 point) has been put to good use, allowing for two columns or more on the poetry pages and accommodating long-line poems as well as those with more typical short lines as above, while still allowing for enough white space to make reading pleasant.
So, an interesting and well-conceived debut. See their web site, http://www.magnapoets.com, for more information on the magazine as well as the many other activities of the Magnapoets, essentially a poetry publishing cooperative.