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Literary MagNet

Literary magazines come and go. For some readers, that’s part of their appeal: The ’zine scene remains vital when it is constantly replenished. But others continue to put their subscription money on the old and reliable, which, in the end, is what insures that they remain old and reliable. Three such literary journals mark milestones in 2004. Granta (www.granta.com) celebrates 25 years in print with an anniversary issue, forthcoming next month, which includes new writing by some of the writers who made its reputation: Martin Amis, Paul Auster, Julian Barnes, V.S. Pritchett, and Salman Rushdie, to name a few. The Indiana Review (www.indiana.edu/~inreview), the biannual literary magazine at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, edited by Esther Lee, has also published for a quarter-century. And Black Warrior Review (www.webdelsol.com/bwr), the semiannual journal based at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, turns 30 this year. Dan Kaplan, in his optimistic editor’s note to the summer issue, reminds readers that, at the age of 30, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, Bette Davis won her second Oscar, and Harry Houdini performed his legendary “Mirror Cuff” escape at the London Hippodrome. Impressive, but not as impressive as keeping a literary magazine in print for three decades.

Columbia College Chicago, the first school in the country to offer a bachelor of arts degree in poetry, recently launched Court Green (www.colum.edu/undergraduate/english/poetry/pub/cg), an annual literary magazine edited by Arielle Greenberg, David Trinidad, and Tony Trigilio. Court Green, the second journal published by the college—Columbia Poetry Review (www.colum.edu/undergraduate/english/poetry/pub/cpr) has been around since 1988—features poetry, book reviews, and a special section or “dossier” of poems on a specific theme. The first issue’s dossier is a collection of poems about film. The next issue, forthcoming in 2005, will feature poets paying homage to modernist poet Lorine Niedecker.

Absinthe, an alcoholic drink containing wormwood, concocted by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire during the French Revolution, was once all the rage with poets and writers who believed it had inspirational powers. But the Absinthe Murder of 1905, committed by Jean Lanfray, a farmer in France who killed his entire family while under its influence, had a sobering effect on the public, and seven years later absinthe was banned in the United States. The green liquor remains illegal in this country, but its spirit—creative, not homicidal—is distilled in two literary magazines: Absinthe Literary Review (www.absintheliteraryreview.com), an online journal published in Spring Green, Wisconsin, since 1999; and Absinthe: New European Writing (www.absinthenew.com), a two-year-old biannual magazine dedicated to publishing translations of European writing that, like the liquor, is not widely available in the United States. Absinthe is published by a nonprofit organization in Detroit, and is distributed by Bernard DeBoer. The third issue, available later this month, includes a short story by Russian fiction writer Ludmilla Ulitskaya, poems by German poet Ulrike Draesner, and an interview with Polish poet Janusz Szuber.

Anyone who suspects that there might be more to prose poetry than an absence of line breaks, or who wonders if flash fiction requires more than a short attention span, may want to check out the online journal Double Room (webdelsol.com/Double_Room). Although Double Room is not the only literary magazine dedicated to one or both of the forms—see Prose Poem (webdelsol.com/tpp), Sentence (www.firewheel-editions.org), Quick Fiction (www.jppress.org), Minima (webdelsol.com/minima), Wild Strawberries (www.wildstrawberries.org), and Cue (www.u.arizona.edu/~mschuldt/CUE.html)—it includes a unique feature, Questions on the Forms. The editors, Peter Conners and Mark Tursi, ask contributors a series of questions, and the answers are printed in each issue. Some responses are enlightening, while others, like Jonathan Carr’s definitions from Issue No. 1 (prose poetry: “pure brainstem”; flash fiction: “firewater”) are simple entertainment.

Kevin Larimer is the associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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