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The Atlanta Review

Gideon Kennedy

Dan Veach, review by Gideon Kennedy -- Otherwise, unlike many literary magazines in which readers are more likely to flip through stopping at titles of interest, Atlanta Review print edition can be read comfortably from cover to cover. Because whatever land it happens to be selling, it knows the value of its real estate.

by Editor and Publisher: Dan Veach

Poetry Atlanta, Inc.

Asia issue, Vol. VIII, No. 2

Spring/Summer 2002, 119 pages, $6.00

The Atlanta Review Knows Location, Location, Location

The Atlanta Review is aptly named not only because it hails from the capital of Georgia but, like many of that city's residents, it seems to want to be anywhere but there.

With each Spring/Summer issue dedicated to a different region of the world and each Fall/Winter issue printing the results of an international poetry competition, Atlanta Review's biannual issues maintain a focus on a global range. Primarily a collection of poetry, past issues have explored Ireland, Africa, and Latin America in the words of both their natives and their sightseers.

While still relatively young, founded in 1994, its presentation follows the mold of the established and demure little magazines, its cover always a simple black-and-white glossy touched with color text denoting the concentration of its contents.

Though this formal approach may not be the most alluring externally, its advantages gain depth within. Readers of literary magazines may not often take into conscious account the order in which the offerings are arranged, but placement can often determine which works are read. Atlanta Review excels at making all of its selections more accessible through its structure. The editors architect a concourse proper for the reader's arrivals and departures, finding a poetry of their own in the review's internal location.

Each of their international issues is arranged to open with some general work which lead up to the regional feature section, following a chain of linking themes bound to the gate of the centerpiece. In each international section, the reader then enters as a prepared tourist, usually with a poem of travel and/or arrival within the larger environment. The feature section forms its own internal volume, titled at its front and credited at its end with its own separate contributors list. It is then followed by more poems of a general order.

Among the transitional poems leading to this year's Asia section, two are of particular note. John Harris's "Unfinished Poem" finds the poet prompted while contemplating Shubert's "Unfinished Symphony" to recount his earliest memory as a child in the midst of Chinese revolts, finally revealing how all endings are, by their nature, tragic.

Another poem of transition, Jerry Cullum's "Snapshots of the Sand Mandala" points to the ironic though subtle conflict that arises when Eastern religion is brought into a Western context. Forming the poet's own snapshot, appropriately self-indicting, the poem shows the destruction of a Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala, a gesture symbolic of the ephemeral nature of everything, as its Western witnesses take pictures and covetously grab for the leftover sand.

The beginning of the Asia section proper opens with the Singapore poet Alvin Pang's "In Transit," contemplating the leisurely peace of air travel. Other poems by Pang included are "Religions in the Third World," "Real Estate," "The Meaning of Wealth in the New Economy," and "A Poet Is Instructed by the Death of His Master." Although Pang hails from Singapore, his poems, with the exception of the last, document the yearnings of a homogenous culture; his citizens dream of tomorrow's city and pray to The Immortal of Loose Change

Other highlights that draw the reader into the review's Asian landscape include a covert tour of Tienanmen Square given by Jack Crawford and poetic instructions on the proper use of chopsticks taught by Nancy P. Daley.

As the section continues, more specific themes emerge. Prison poems translated from Ho Chi Minh's prison diary are juxtaposed with pieces such as Ouyang Yu's nerve-struck "Theory," which effectively damns academia with such lines as "millions of people have died / as a result of marxist theory in china." Patty Paine contemplates her cultural straddling in "My Mother" and "Half Korean." Although it is effectively self-contained, Atlanta Review's feature section reiterates the attention to location the editors show throughout.

As a result of this attention, Atlanta Review has a tendency to create smaller themes within its issues, coupling poems of similar subject matter. Outside of the Asia section, Jack Crawford's "Milk" and Nancy P. Daley's "No Cow. Every Day No Cow" explore the lessons in life and patience to be learned from the bovine community. Sarah Patton's "Man Was Not Meant to Be Alone" and Lisa Zimmerman's "If This Were Egypt" form a duet lamenting the passing of pet dogs. Alison Seevak's "Self-Improvement," D. C. Frerichs's "Basalt," and Steven M. Thomas's "Set" all expose a fear of regress, a fear of the past that drives humanity forward.

The most obvious thematic continuity within this season's issue, however, is the unavoidable topic of last September's tragedy. Anne Silver's "Remains of the Day" and "Autumn Stars," Dave Lucas's "For Peter Jennings," Catherine McCraw's "Commercial Interruption," Marjorie Mir's "In a Time of Unease," and Jerry Mazza's "New York Dawn" open and close the volume as a whole. But possibly the most potent piece dealing with the subject occurs within the Asia section. Ouyang Yu's "Someone" shocks the reader, both in its own apt use of repetition and in its unexpected separation from the other pieces.

Although Atlanta Review has other merits and criticisms that can be debated, it definitely has one major fault: its online counterpart. Its website features no history, the content is not current, and the graphics are pitiful. While this may seem an unnecessary bashing of what is probably the best effort of staff to conserve funds by making the site themselves, it is meant to stress the importance of a solid web presence, especially for a well-crafted magazine touting an international audience. As it stands, it reflects poorly on the quality of work they publish.

Otherwise, unlike many literary magazines in which readers are more likely to flip through stopping at titles of interest, Atlanta Review print edition can be read comfortably from cover to cover. Because whatever land it happens to be selling, it knows the value of its real estate.

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