Category Magazine Reviews

Find literary magazine reviews on the NewPages Blog. These reviews include single literary pieces and an issue of a literary magazine as a whole.

Magazine Review :: Crazyhorse Spring 2022

Crazyhorse literary magazine Spring 2022 issue cover image

Guest Post by Cindy Dale

It gets expensive entering contests. So, I love it when a journal includes a copy of the contest issue with the entrance fee. Case in point: Crazyhorse. No, I didn’t win, but the College of Charleston’s Crazyhorse includes a year’s subscription with your entry fee. From the very first story, Marian Crotty’s “Near Strangers,” I was hooked. Crotty masterfully interweaves the story of Betsy’s evening as a hospital volunteer assisting a rape victim with the story of her own fractured relationship with her gay son. Pair this story with Daniel Garcia’s unsettling poem about abuse, “What I’m Trying to Say Is.” Kris Willcox’s “In May” considers the long arc of a woman’s life concluding with, “It’s not the things that matter to me. It’s the choices over what to keep, and what to throw away.” The story closes with the narrator quietly feeding a handful of old sequestered photos into the fire pit. I found myself thinking about old photos again with Gregory Dunne’s poem “Quiet Blizzard.” The Crazyhorse Spring 2022 issue is 165 beautiful pages of an astounding range of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. This is an issue to be slowly savored by readers all summer long, and for writers, the Crazyhorse Prizes in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry open to submissions January 1-31 each year.

Reviewer bio: Cindy Dale has published over twenty short stories in literary journals and anthologies. She lives on a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island.

If you are interested in contributing a Guest Post to “What I’m Reading,” please click this link: Reviewer Guidelines.

Magazine Review :: Youth Communication

Youth Communication My Parents are Anti Vaxxers story image

I curate the NewPages Publications for Young Writers Guide, and as much as I do this to provide a resource for young readers, writers, teachers, and parents, we could all benefit from spending some time reading the voices of young people. I was distracted from my work (a regular occurrence here, as you can imagine) when I came across “My Parents Are Anti-Vaxxers” by an anonymous contributor to YouthComm Magazine. In it, the author recounts how shocked they were when their parents went down the Facebook “Covid hoax” rabbit hole, declined vaccinations even in the face of losing a job/income, and then what they put their children through when one parent contracted the virus and declined medical care. The plaintive yet matter-of-fact style in which the author presents their perspective is frustrating to read, even heartbreaking, “It has made me question the people that I idolized growing up. The people that I believed, in my childhood innocence, could do no wrong.” Yet there is some consolation, “This experience has taught me a lot about the complexities of humans. It’s hard to accept that we can be good people and still go down the wrong paths. That things aren’t always simply black and white, though it’d be easier if they were.” And the final resolution, “But I’ve learned other people can provide guidance when your parents can’t.” It’s a sad commentary on the kind of division this experience created, and that we see continue among family, friends, and communities. It’s tough to imagine these youth experiencing the need to break away from their parents’ ideologies, but at the same time, encouraging that they (and we all) may be better off as adults as a result.

Youth Communication offers short, nonfiction stories and related lessons to help students improve their reading and writing skills, and improve the social and emotional skills that support school success. They provide workshops and publications, including Represent Magazine: Stories by Teens in Foster Care.

Magazine Review :: “The Memory of Clay” by Bruce Ballenger

The Sun May 2022 literary magazine cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

The May 2022 issue of The Sun is loosely tied together by a focus on food or nourishment, so Bruce Ballenger’s essay, “The Memory of Clay,” initially looks like an outlier, as he focuses on his relationship with his father. He uses the metaphor of clay to guide his essay, as Ballenger’s daughter Julia explains why she works with clay, despite its unwillingness to easily follow the form she sets for it. Ballenger struggles to shape his memories of his father, an alcoholic journalist who was abusive toward their family, into something that helps him understand his father. Ballenger works to mold the story he tells about his father, ranging from the narrative of the wronged son to learning why his father never published the book he had a contract for. The essay ends largely unresolved, as Ballenger isn’t sure what to do with the complicated memories he has, but he returns to something else his daughter has taught him about clay. There are times when it resists taking any shape at all, and so there is nothing to do with it but start again. Ballenger leaves the reader and himself there, knowing that that is what we all have to do.

The Memory of Clay” by Bruce Bellenger. The Sun, May 2022.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. You can find out more about him and his work on Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or

Take a Journey with The Birdseed

Guest Post by Emma Foster.

Literary journal The Birdseed knows where the best of flash comes from: the sky and sea, the beginning and end of things. In its third issue of volume one, The Birdseed’s flash pieces appear from those mysterious depths in succinct one hundred and fifty words or less each time.

The issue’s five themes, Space, Sea, Myth, Magic, and Death, all examine the unknown, the enigmatic corners of ourselves. Whether ominous with dark exploration like Katie Holloway’s “Reaching for Nana,” or composed of poignant emotion like Lou Faber’s “On the Shelf,” each flash piece leaves the reader with a little something afterwards. The emotional resonance of each either packs a punch or leaves reader’s hearts full, creating beauty and calm among the issue’s heavy, potentially heartbreaking themes.

As someone who loves and writes flash and microfiction, being dropped into a descriptive setting or a complex mind for a few moments never fails to surprise and challenge. The Birdseed’s journey into the places we dare to tread turns up satisfying results.

The Birdseed, December 2021.

Emma Foster’s fiction and poetry has appeared in The Aurora Journal, The Drabble, Sledgehammer Lit, and others. Links:

Delectable Poetry by Dorothy Chan

I love Dorothy Chan’s poetry, so I’m always excited to see her name in a lit mag’s table of contents. Two of her poems are included in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of Colorado Review: “You Might Change Your Mind About Kids” and “Triple Sonnet for Batman Villains and Whatever This Is.”

In “You Might Change Your Mind About Kids,” the speaker is told this titular sentence by a man she has a romantic relationship with. The poem is the mental dissection of his opinion on this topic, an inner rebellion broiling beneath the surface. Who is this man to claim her body, her future, her future child? How is she seen as “the place to reserve / for a baby, the hotel for a womb?” She feels palpable derision toward his assumptions and I love that clarity of the speaker knowing exactly what she wants and does not want. She’s not going to change for this man or any other man and she finishes the poem with, “If I ever love someone, I’ll be baby forever.”

“Triple Sonnet for Batman Villains and Whatever This Is” is such a fun poem that still holds a hefty dose of seriousness in its final stanza. This poem has one thing I always enjoy about Chan’s poetry which is the absolute pleasure of experiencing different foods. These two pieces are just as delectable as “sashimi and Snow / Beauty sake and mango mochi for dessert.”

“Blowback” by Mimi Drop

Guest Post by Bonnie Meekums.

As a flash fiction writer myself, I love to read other writers’ work, usually while making myself a cup of tea or waiting for an appointment to start. That’s one of the beauties of flash. You can devour a complete word-cake, and feel ready for more.

Mimi Drop’s offering “Blowback,” at 755 words, isn’t as short as some of the micros I read (and write), but even the title pulls its weight. It was only after reading the story a couple of times that I understood the significance. Dealing as it does with the difficult topic of PTSD, it has resonances with the word ‘flashback,’ examples of which are given in the story as the protagonist struggles to disassociate normal, everyday actions from his traumatic memory. But there is another, more sinister meaning to this word, which has to do with the precise nature of that traumatic memory.

I’m not in the business of giving spoilers, so you will just have to read it to discover that other meaning. Suffice it to say there is a juicy twist towards the end of the story.

Blowback” by Mimi Drop. Flash FIction Magazine, September 2021.

Reviewer bio: Bonnie writes novels (A Kind of Family, Between the Lines), flash fiction/memoir (Dear Damsels, Reflex, Open Page, Moss Puppy, Dribble Drabble), and the odd poem.

Confessional Voicemails

Magazine Review by Katy Haas.

I’ve decided I will never be a mother, but when friends tell me the good news of their pregnancies, I feel so incredibly happy and excited for them. Hiding under that happiness, though, is always a small part of me that feels sad to know priorities are changing and our friendship is changing along with them. The speaker in “Charles, Delete This Voicemail” by Nate Duke grapples with this sad acceptance.

The poem is honest. Confessional. The speaker admits to their friend they wish “I could turn you / back from a dad into the boys we swore / we’d stay [ . . . ]” and goes on to compare Charles’s daughter to a bear “grunting [ . . . ] outside the tent” she was conceived in. The comparison isn’t pretty. The confession isn’t a pretty thought. And that’s what makes it feel so real, so relatable to the thoughts we hold back from the people we love so we don’t hurt them with our ugly truths. The title brings everything together—a wish to take protect the loved one from those truths, to take it all back. “Charles, Delete This Voicemail” is an almost painfully honest (yet still fully enjoyable) read.

Charles, Delete This Voicemail” by Nate Duke. Willow Springs, Fall 2021.

A Lifetime in a Minute

Guest Post by Mimi Drop.

“I hurled paper and paste into space, as a tortured howl climbed from occult depths. I knew what I must do.”

Flash fiction has a way of getting under my skin, like poetry. I read it once, twice, looking for meaning. Just as I reach understanding, it elevates. Oh, there’s another level. I found it. And above? Another.

“After I Do” by Bonnie Meekums appears to sum up a marriage in trouble. Or is it? Marriages are long, complicated tomes punctuated by passages of reflection and climax. We remember how we began. We begin again. The writing, lovely in both conception and execution, gives a lifetime in a minute, which is about how long it takes to read it. Enjoy.

After I Do” by Bonnie Meekums. Reflex Press, May 2020.

Mimi Drop’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, and THAT Literary Review, to name a few. Links at

128 Words

Magazine Review by Katy Haas.

128 words. That’s what Cathy Ulrich gives us in “I Do Not Want to Live Without You.” Just 128 words. And somehow that’s exactly enough.

We’re introduced to characters in a motel and the motel’s swimming pool, a quick snapshot but a vivid one. The narrator says, “maybe later there will be consequences and police cars, maybe later it will be like our parents said,” and this is the perfect amount of information to allow readers to put together a backstory for this snapshot.

Is it the backstory Ulrich imagined when writing this piece of flash? Is the backstory you assign it the same as mine? Maybe or maybe not. And that’s what I love about it. There’s beauty in the language used and beauty in what’s kept from us.

I Do Not Want to Live Without You” by Cathy Ulrich. Fkash Frog, June 2021.

Fallibility of Memory

Magazine Review by Katy Haas.

What if there existed a span in your memory that wasn’t really your memory at all?

Jeff Ewing goes through this in “Impermanence,” his account of experiencing Transient Global Amnesia (TGA), “a temporary condition marked by the sudden onset of anterograde amnesia, a disquieting inability for a period of 5-12 hours to make any new memories.” During this time, “the brain resets every 30 seconds or so, the slate is wiped clean, [ . . . ].”

Due to TGA, Ewing loses eight hours of his life. While his body moved around an ER and underwent tests, he doesn’t really remember it. And the faint memories he does have may not even be his. Ewing goes on to talk about the ways our memories fail us. We perform “memory thefts,” sometimes subconsciously taking someone else’s memory and believing it’s our own. What he remembers could actually just be what has been told to him. Suddenly intimately aware of this fallibility of memory, he tries to savor moments in his life post-TGA, to “fasten it all down for good.”

This piece of nonfiction is an interesting look at memory and TGA, something I had never heard of before. Ewing’s writing style is inviting, and he casually yet carefully explains TGA and memory, making sure the reader is following along. He doesn’t bask too long in the emotional, but leads us there gently, wrapping up this piece with a reminder to take stock of what it is we’d want to “fasten down” in our own memories.

Impermanence” by Jeff Ewing. Zone 3, Spring 2021.