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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
nobody home
in the cardboard box

Bill Kenney

from the top
of the Space Needle
he phones me
the connection
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.

Bill

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Edited by Stephen Addiss, Angier Brock, Angela Detlev, Josh Hockensmith, Phil Rubin, Kelsey Rubin-Detlev; published by The Richmond Haiku Workshop.

With thanks to the editors.

A slender pamphlet (current is 36 pp.), each issue of SxSE invariably contains some fine haiku. One “Editor’s choice” from this issue:

stray dog
my tongue chases ice cream
around the cone

Lynne Steel

. . . who also has an elegantly simple haiga on p. 16. One more I particularly enjoyed:

Labor Day
the full cheeks
of chipmunks

Michele Root-Bernstein

This issue also contains an interesting interview of Tom Noyes, who says, speaking of today’s English-language haiku, “There is too much emphasis on juxtapostition, which requires a priori thought and anticipation, obviating spontaneity and immediacy.” Wow! I thought it was just the other way around, that too much grammatical tying down of the various parts of a haiku results in stodgy, statement-like things, not poems. In fact, juxtaposition, or “cutting” (J. kire) is one of the three non-negotiable features of classic haiku, all too often obscured by translators such as R. H. Blyth, who don’t seem to realize their importance to the original authors and poems, making too many of their translations seem like warmed-over prosaicisms. (Henderson, for all his unwanted riming, knew better!) Well, de gustibus non disputandum est, if I spelled that correctly. One man’s trash another’s treasure. I do agree with Tom that strictly applied the “sketch from life” approach yields too many “so-whats” for healthy haiku.

Most issues, like this one, include a sheet of anonymous haiku on themes, which subscribers may vote on. Top contenders appear, with authors identified, in a later issue.

An excellent read, SxSE is well worth any haiku fan’s attention:

SxSE
3040 Middlewood Road
Midlothian, VA 23113 USA

Current subscription rates: $16 (in US), $25 (outside US).

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