Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Summer Reading 2 : Some Journals

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks since getting back from hols. Any headway I made in my summer reading has bottlenecked somewhat. However, before what passes for summer these days has flown, here are a few journals whose summer issues I've been stuck into;

The Stinging Fly

The Summer 2008 issue of The Stinging Fly lives up to its now well-established reputation. The regular 'First Passions' feature, where writers discuss their early reading influences, features Vona Groarke, whose recollections range from the first book she ever owned, aged five (or six) to the 'full force gale' of individual poems. There's the usual rigorous selection of innovative new prose - a Stinging Fly trademark by now - alongside a very healthy mix of original poetry. Featured poet Grace Wells exhibits an artful whimsy over seven poems. Reviews include Tom Mathews investigating Wendy Cope's newest collection and Yvonne Cullen absorbing Harry Clifton’s extremely well-received Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994 -2004, among others. The highlight for me is an astonishing story by Desmond Hogan, a writer who has been in the news for less salubrious achievements of late. To simply call 'Old Swords' a story seems understated. This writing is a congealed amalgamation of reference and insight, with innocuous detail and character reminiscence layering and shifting to eventually conflagrate a human life, in all its tawdry hopes and limitations. Fascinating technique!

The Dublin Review

Another journal with impeccable editorial credentials here, the only bum note for this reader being a rather dry essay referencing Henry James - 'On Style and Freedom'. Worthy, no doubt - but perhaps a shade too academic for this slight intellect. Much more satisfactory were two (very) short stories by Kevin Casey, Maurice Walsh's squint into Salvadoran street gangs and a wonderfully evocative trip to Inishbofin in the company of Tim Robinson. Brian Dillon also provides a fascinating perusal of the various manifestations of Marcel Duchamp's 'ready-mades' - somewhat of a misnomer, as Duchamp, cute hoor that he was, held a 'flexible' approach to his own manifestos on what constituted an 'objet d'art'.

Crannóg 18

Bookending the covers with striking images by Jaber Lufti, the summer 2008 issue of Crannóg is crammed full of fine poems and some pretty good prose too! Standouts for me include poems by Fred Johnston, Deborah Moffat, Nicholas Messenger and Maureen Gallagher. My own poem 'A Piece' features here too, bringing the issue to a close on page 57. Thanks for the selection, people!

Pen Pusher 10

I've mentioned before that Pen Pusher is one of the more handsomely produced journals, and this issue is well up to the usual standard in all areas, with a cover illustration by Richard Short - who also contributes a story inside! It's hard to define the editorial policy at work here - but the result is a very classy selection of clean, crisp writing - to match the design perhaps? ;-) Peter Higgins writes on Elmore Leonard, that crime writer beloved by Hollywood. Elsewhere there's striking story 'My Stalker' from Pia Chatterjee, a little madness from Sir Charles Maxwell-House and a couple of somewhat surreal poems from Leah Armstead and Heather Phillipson. Still have to finish reading this one! BTW Pen Pusher have come up with an inspired way for supporters to sponsor their production costs by donating 2p per page - so for a quid you can sponsor a whole issue and get mentioned by name ....unlike us poor loyal subscribers then ;-)