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 :: “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.

  • A Slow Burn ‘By the Creeks of Wyoming’

    Magazine Review by Katy Haas.

    Shoshana Akabas begins “By the Creeks of Wyoming” with just a hint of what’s happening: “Aspen leans over and says, ‘You know, Natalie’s telling everyone about your brother,’ [ . . . ].” Who is Natalie and what’s going on with the narrator’s brother? Akabas hooks us into the story and then reels slowly, the answers appearing one by one, so brief they could almost be overlooked.

    While the story of what happened to the narrator’s brother becomes distorted through the gossip of Natalie, the narrator’s friend who is slowly drifting in a different direction now that they’re in high school, it becomes clearer for the readers each time the narrator responds to the classmates who have heard the gossip. I loved this slow burn, the piecing together of the puzzle until the full picture is revealed.

    The narrator’s brother plays a large role in the story, but Akabas chooses never to actually place him in the story. He’s always on the other side of the door or wall, an unreachable and almost legendary figure.

    Melancholy and rife with the emotional ups and downs of high school, “By the Creeks of Wyoming,” is a quick yet beautiful read.

    By the Creeks of Wyoming” by Shoshana Akabas. AGNI, 2021.

  • “Not For Us”

    Magazine Review by Katy Haas

    Rage Hezekiah has three poems in the Summer 2021 issue of Colorado Review. Of these, “Not For Us” stuck out to me the most, visually grabbing my attention as I paged through the issue.

    “Not For Us” is an erasure of rejection letters. I assume these were taken from publication rejections, and appreciated the poet’s ability to create new writing out of these. The reader takes in the sparse words left over and it’s interesting to see how similar the language is, the repetition leading the reader’s eyes over the two-page spread of rejections.

    Hezekiah’s piece is a good reminder that just because something is “not for us,” doesn’t mean that’s the end.

    Not For Us” by Rage Hezekiah. Colorado Review, Summer 2021.

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