Come follow us at The Conium Review Online Compendium

This particular WordPress blog has been dormant for a while, but all the content has been moved to our main site.  We recently changed our website and added functionality to it.  Our (dot-com, not dot-org) will be deleted soon.  Please follow the migrated blog if you want to keep receiving our posts.

You can find The Conium Review Online Compendium at

This site contains all our normal blog content, but it serves as a venue for online publication too.  Over the past few weeks, we’ve been posting new flash fiction to the site.  See what we’ve been up to, take a look at our upcoming print edition, and consider submitting to our Flash Fiction Contest ($300 prize, judged by Ashley Farmer).

We hope to see you at the new blog!

Contributor Update: Margarita Meklina’s recent publications

Margarita Meklina’s flash “Waiting for Warhol,” originally written in English, was just published in Star 82 Review. Her short story “Ai Weiwei’s Owls,” translated from Russian by Krystyna A. Steiger, appeared in the newly released Reunion: The Dallas Review #3. Finally, her novella, “Death in the Air,” whose title refers to a Mexican neo-expressionist Julio Galán’s death on the plane from brain hemorrhaging, was picked up by the Japanese magazine Shuei-Sha, and is slated to be published, in Japanese translation, this year.

Margarita was a contributor to The Conium Review‘s Spring 2013 issue.

Call for guest reviewers and bloggers

Hey, bloggers and book reviewers. From November 1st to December 1st, we’re seeking new blog posts. Send us interviews, writing strategies, reading habits, and anything else related to writing and reading.

Be a part of The Conium Review‘s growing online presence. Our print publication has been called “spectacular” by Small Press Reviews, and Prick of the Spindle says we’re “raising a unique voice.  And it’s one worth listening to.”

We’re looking for polished writing; make sure your language is crisp and creative. Every blog submission is considered by at least two staff readers before we decide to accept or reject it, so make sure your prose is engaging; you need to impress both staff readers.

See the blog post guidelines here, and check out the book review guidelines here.

Or go submit your posts through our Submittable page.

If you have an idea for a regular column or feature? E-mail us here:

Thanks for submitting!

Contributor Update: Check out Jonathan Alston’s blog

Jonathan Alston was a contributor to our Spring 2013 issue, and you can stay informed about his upcoming projects on his blog.  He posts a few times each month, often discussing the writing life and process: reviews The Conium Review’s Fall 2013 issue recently reviewed our latest issue.  The reviewer says “I found myself constantly itching to find out what was going to happen next . . . ” and she was pretty impressed with Claude Clayton Smith’s novella from the issue. Natalie Peeterse also gets a shout out; the reviewer says “Sonora” ” . . . cuts to the core of experience . . . ”  Take a look at the full review here.

Fall 2013 Cover Art Unveiled

Vol2 No2We’re pleased to unveil the cover art for The Conium Review, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Fall 2013).  The artwork, entitled “River Horse,” is courtesy of Loren Kantor, a LA-based woodcut artist and writer.  Loren has worked in the film industry for twenty years as a screenwriter and assistant director, and he’s been carving woodcuts for the past five years.  You can find more of his work at

Book Review: Stray Decorum

Stray Decorum
Written by George Singleton
Dzanc Books, 2012
ISBN 9781938103544

Stray DecorumGeorge Singleton releases his fifth story collection with characters who are odd sorts of people, strays in their own lives, while strangely likeable. Upon reading anything by George Singleton, the reader instantly gets a sense of his distinct voice, which is an amalgamation the small town South (as in Flannery O’Connor) and cutting, satirical humor. A first read through this collection makes it clear that Singleton is a dog lover, but most of these stories are more about people who love their animals and how they discover meaning in their lives through their animals. You will not find any Old Yeller plot constructions or any moments where the demise of man’s best friend serves as the climatic device. These stories are smarter than that.

The eleven shorts in Stray Decorum are often simple and commonplace in terms of setting and conflict. However, there is a richness in the characters that Singleton depicts here that is extremely rewarding for readers. The first story, “Vaccination,” begins at the veterinarian’s office while the protagonist, Edward, takes his dog in for his vaccinations. With the most excellent first line in a short story I have read in a while, the story begins, “My dog Tapeworm Johnson needed legitimate veterinary attention.” In the first several pages, the reader is treated with a trip through the interesting and specific ethos of Edward: that of one who respects veterinarians more than human doctors; one who is extremely suspicious of microchips implanted in pets; one who names their dog Tapeworm Johnson.

In “A Man with My Number,” a door-to-door salesman tries to sell the protagonist (whose thoughts often drift toward his collection of machetes and bolt cutters) numbers for his house after the protagonist’s street address numbers have coincidentally gone missing. The story seems to be about boundaries and breaking those boundaries. From “A Man with My Number”:

“But my dogs never feel the need to roam. People who know me—people who don’t show up unannounced with a stray wondering if it’s one of mine—know that my dogs somehow understand boundaries. They show up at my house for a reason, then settle in. Dogs seem to sense things we cannot fathom. They know fear, sure, that’s all been documented. But they also know what kinds of people won’t feed or pet them if they (the dogs) run out into the road or chase birds on a whim. Dogs know good music when they hear it, too.”

In “Durkheim Looking Down,” the protagonist thinks his wife’s friends are odd while he secretly uses an electric dog collar to remedy his vocal outbursts during nightmares. A pompous intellectual (who the couples are traveling together to see) triumphantly claims, “Modern dance is to ballet as slam poetry is to literature.” The nuance in character depicted here elevates these stories beyond anecdotes or cheap laughs.

As far as fiction (especially short fiction) goes, I don’t generally seek out comedy. I prefer fiction that is visceral and gritty. So, I’m typically sifting through the steady stream of fiction flowing out of the South. That’s where you’ll consistently find your viscera and grit—not that satire can’t be cathartic and revealing of universal truths that we hope for in good fiction (John Swartzwelder’s short novels are great if you’re a fan of a The Simpsons). I wouldn’t categorize Stray Decorum as specifically comedy or satire, but Singleton’s humor permeates these stories. The humor and delicate social observations serve as the laces that hold these stories together, that elucidates who these characters are and where they fit in the scheme of things. Which, by the way, is exactly what this collection is about: people who are lost, strays, searching for where they belong. And like the animals we are so attached to, these characters want only to belong to someone or something or someplace.

Review by Adam Padgett
© 2013, All Rights Reserved
Adam Padgett’s short fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Appalachian HeritageSanta Clara Review, SmokeLong QuarterlyThe Conium Review, and elsewhere. He teaches writing at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Book Review: Counting Sheep Till Doomsday

Counting Sheep Till Doomsday
Written by Carlo Matos
BlazeVOX [books], 2011
ISBN 9781938103544

Counting Sheep Till DoomsdayBefore we’ve caught our breath, BlazeVOX [books] announced it will publish Carlo Matos’ newest poetry collection, Big Bad Asterisk* in 2013. Perhaps the editors feel eerily compelled to do so—for at the end of his last BlazeVOX collection, Counting Sheep Till Doomsday (2012), the Azorean-American Matos lets us know those who fail even once to grab on for dear life inevitably risk the wrath of many dire something-or-others. “When it lands between open arms, a simple catch, a lesson not learned enough—no blast craters to blow it all away”(from the poem, “The Insomniac’s Cookbook”). Consider yourself warned.

Or at least, be grateful you’re let in on the joke. For the next questions become: Well what exactly is supposed to rain down from today’s sky on our heads? How can we protect ourselves from insidious forces if we can’t even call them out?

In 2010, Matos demanded we pay attention to the sensual aspects of existence in his first poetry collection, A School for Fishermen (Brickhouse Books). He also authored a scholarly book, Ibsen’s Foreign Contagion (Academica Press, 2012), that focused on that most famous chronicler of human vulnerabilities. Now in Counting Sheep, Matos points out the many footfalls we poor mortals face daily which, if avoided, might yet insure our long-term survival.

This genuinely funny book imagines many gulp-laden takes on a planet seeded by Nervous Nellies, fatalists and rioting pachyderms. In such a world, Mr. Potato Head does not turn out to be the best consigliere for confession (an ear might just be delivered to your door); nor can caste systems ever be bucked by normal reindeer over reindeer who fly.

Counting Sheep struts in at 86 pages. Yet measuring 4X6, it’s just a wee bit bigger than a pocket-sized Bible or U.S. Constitution. So it seems apt to point out that, like those other texts, Counting Sheep is similarly useful to readers looking to be guided from here to there and back again—as Matos does right from his opening salvos in nine “Fate” poems which opine on inadvertent trespasses.

Matos often shifts perspectives and points of view in his poems to topple modern readers off self-satisfied thrones. If not, we might never find ourselves cheering for the Job-like beetle as a piano sonata rains down on his head in “The Insect King”. Or after reading three different poems labeled “Design”, we might not somehow tumble in our minds to consider when we last explored the moral ambiguities of purists who see their contributions as indispensable—perhaps not since our flashlight-in-bed perusals of Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Yet if we give in to these surprising mind-burps and farts (see “In The Spider House”) and also have the sense to chew, not simply swallow, the popping hot-buttered verse Matos puts before us, we might just find no food taster need be hired. For there are enough sentries, friendly gargoyles, and third parties flanking us in the Counting Sheep poems that we’re practically insured safe passage in this roller rink world.

Review by Michele Merens
© 2012, All Rights Reserved
Michele Merens’ short stories have appeared inPlumHamptonsLilithThird WednesdayInkwellTherma, and Crawdad literary magazines and three anthologies. She is won of a Puffin grant for her full-length drama, The Lion’s Den, a DVD of which is now archived in Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum in Madison. Michele is a Barnard Senior Scholar in Creative Writing and a member of the Dramatist Guild.