The Conium Review welcomes two new editors

We’re pleased to welcome two new staff members to The Conium Review: Hillary Leftwich and Adam Padgett.

Hillary Leftwich lives in Denver, CO.  She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Regis University, and she’s co-founder of the “Denver Shitty Writers” group.  She was recently interviewed by The Missouri Review for their “Working Writer Series.”  You can follow her on Twitter or read her WordPress blog.

Adam Padgett was a contributor to The Conium Review‘s Spring 2013 issue. His fiction has also appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Santa Clara Review, Cold Mountain Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. He is a mentor for PEN America’s Prison Writing Program, and he teaches writing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  You can follow Adam on Twitter.

Call for Fiction and Poetry Submissions: The Conium Review

The Conium Review is currently open for fiction and poetry submissions.  Submit between January 1st and April 1st, 2014 using our Submittable page.

We publish innovative writing from new and established authors.  There are no line limits or length restrictions.  Simultaneous submissions are okay.  Find the full guidelines on the Submittable page or on our website.

The Conium Review is on WordPress (again)

The Conium Review has had a WordPress blog for a while, but it’s main function was for hosting the podcast.  Moving forward, we’re making WordPress a more integral part of our online presence.

We’ve moved some of the most important posts from The Conium Review website (i.e. book reviews) over to WordPress.  A few other posts will migrate soon, and we’ll be more active on WordPress moving forward.

Please share the blog with your friends and followers. We look forward to connecting with the WordPress blogging community.

Thanks for supporting our small press!

Book Review: Iceberg

Iceberg
Written by Paul Kavanagh
Honest Publishing, 2012
ISBN 9780957142701

 
Iceburg Photo 2Paul Kavanagh’s writing is inimitable, and his novel Iceberg resists both summary and analogy, says David Rose in his review blurb on Honest Publishing’s website, which appears directly below the summary.  An enthused commenter suggests ‘hoovering’ is a neologism.  I disagree.  After I write this, I’m going to open red wine.  On page 62, Don removes his rucksack, leans it against the wall and searches for a bottle of wine.  This sentence is repeated as the next line of the next paragraph.  I wasn’t sure by that point if it was intentional.
 
 
I wasn’t sure by that point if it was intentional.Such is the hypnotic, laconic and somewhat stultifying style of the surrealistic travel adventure about Don and Phoebe’s escape from grim to grim in a changing world.  What I’m calling stultifying is the relentless sentence structure of subject, verb, {adjective}, object, such as the description of one of the tale’s wonderfully philosophic characters who give Don and Phoebe rides down Africa, on their way to claim the iceberg they won back in their grim Northern town.  “Youssef was small, had large ears, and a massive smile.  He drove a white van and chainsmoked.  Don climbed into the back and made a throne out of heavy wooden boxes.  Phoebe sat in the front.  Youssef was Tunisian and he was going to Rabat.”
 
 
Open to any random page, like where they get malaria and meet a doctor: “A Norwegian doctor visited them in their motel.  He was a tall man with lapis lazuli eyes and blond hair.  His soft voice was pleasant after the engines of lorries, cars and motorbikes. […] Phoebe started.  […] Don looked.”  I get the post-postmodernist juxtaposition of simple repetitive sentences against an increasingly dissociative plot, a style that attempts to avoid promoting good feelings and produces a trance-like state.  There’s quite a lot of it in print, my argument against the use of the word inimitable.  In Iceberg it predominates the changing landscape and colorful peripheral characters so as to make me curiously numb to Don and Phoebe’s kaleidoscopic equanimity timeline.  Is that how I’m supposed to feel?
 
 
Iceburg Cover 1Happily, Kavanagh peppers his diction with lexical swerves, in the form of funny dialogue, poetic descriptive microparagraphs – “Palm trees sprouted from pools of abandoned seawater” – and sudden vocabulary.  When Don goes to a wave-beaten bar in Elmina for three rounds of drinks, the bartender is first ‘rachitic’, then ‘hypnagogic’ and lastly feared to have narcolepsy, lashings of sesquipedalian loquaciousness I quite enjoyed.  Although, in the case of: “Don watched the virga over the buildings sway and hold the sunlight.  It was a soporific picture.  // Kristian sat down and sipped his coffee.” the device clangs loudly, and if I may say so, somewhat solipsistically.  But that’s just me.
 
 
The third section, about life on the iceberg itself, changes form to huge, unbroken paragraphs of dialogue and description – perhaps to mimic the cover illustration of the berg? It’s a perplexing choice.  Don and Phoebe’s denouement is original and charming enough, and certainly different enough from the grim Northern and grim African sections of the novel, to not need this distancing, textural shift.  I couldn’t tell if it was meant to slow the story down or speed it up.  Or what.  A lot happens in Iceberg.  In 116 small pages Don and Phoebe’s world changes, as do they while somehow sort of staying the same.  Maybe I should read it again.
 
Review by Susan Lynch
© 2012, All Rights Reserved

Book Review: Glimpses

Glimpses
Written by Neila Mezynski
Scrambler Books, 2011
ISBN 9780578081410

GlimpsesNeila Mezynski’s recent book, Glimpses, pre-dates her chapbook Yellow Fringe Dress (which I reviewed last month).  It was released in 2011 by Scrambler Books, so its publication date isn’t exactly ancient, but the book itself contains a blend of old and new work from this prolific poet.Yellow Fringe Dress, by contrast, contains more new material, and its ebb is collective in nature.  Glimpses is a hodgepodge of different selections—but this isn’t a major problem throughout most of the book.  Mezynski told me that the older pieces were left in because they are “sincere work, which seems to make a difference.”  She added “[the poems] are my kids”—a sentiment that most writers can appreciate.  Still, in some cases the old and new clash—there are two distinct tones running through this book, and they don’t always gel.

So, when it is gelling, what does Glimpses do as a collection?  It doesn’t have the same extended narrative arc as Mezynski’s newest book, but it approaches the thin (or perhaps thick) line between poetry and prose with Mezynski’s usual prowess.  This collection seeks to infuse poetics into fragmentary, micro-fictions.  It is a hybrid piece from a poet who thrives in this arena.  Unlike some of her other works, this book contains almost no deliberate structure.  It represents prose poetry in its true form—playing with syntax and diction within the confines of a paragraphed structure.  It’s an interesting experiment that pays off through the breadth of Glimpses.

Though Glimoses doesn’t have the unified arc that I enjoyed in Yellow Fringe Dress, it doesn’t need it most of the time.  This book achieves what it sets out to do.  It provides a good overview of Mezynski’s style, and it offers a series of individualized poems that let the reader pick up this book for a lengthy read or a single-page exploration.  There are minimalistic forays into microcosmic characters—like the allegorical poem “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Stay.”  And there are lengthier narratives that appeal to the fiction-lovers among us—like “The St. Francis,” a story detailing the eclectic, glib, and somewhat comical happenings of the title hotel.

It has a little something for everyone. Occasional fumbles in flow are overlookable in this installment of Mezynski’s work, since most of the individual pieces can stand on their own.  Glimpses is still available from Scrambler Books.

Review by James R. Gapinski
© 2012, All Rights Reserved

Journal Review: Anobium 1

Anobium
Vol. 1
Anobium Books
ISBN 9780615501062

Origin of Species

Anobium Vol. 1 is the schizophrenic brainchild of Benjamin Van Loon—and the schizophrenia thing is rather literal, seeing as the issue is officially headed by Mary J. Levine, a fictitious product of committee thinking.  Yes, the masthead lists an imagined entity.  Intrigued?  This simple quirk acts as a benchmark for Anobium’s ideology—the volume simultaneously takes itself seriously and has a good laugh. Think about it: a fake editor seems like an off-kilter joke for any self-respecting literary magazine, but in actuality it represents dedication to creativity and literary craft.  The masthead itself is a testament to Anobium’s charm—character development exists across every page, even “boring” credit pages.With Friend, Chimp in Lab CoatAnobium Vol. 1The first volume is wrought with humor, but it’s also enveloped in poignancy, incredibly well-designed, and meticulously edited.  The journal is able to successfully present a wide range of voices without losing the editorial tone, because it artfully shapes its tone as both the class clown and the chess club geek. Anobium reaches out to two extreme ends of the literary spectrum, and it does so brilliantly and without second-guessing itself.

Susan Yount’s “Hyperbolic Umbilic Catastrophe” and “Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking” present narratives as theorems.  Meanwhile, Stephanie Plenner’s “Instructionals” provides advice for literally burning bridges, cutting ties, and other idioms.  Plenner’s piece provides a smart, linguistic look at everyday human experiences through an intentionally flat affect.  It seeks to be staunchly rigid and serious as it deconstructs these idioms, and it does so in such a way that you can’t help but laugh (in a good way) and introspect.  Such experimental pieces abound inAnobium.

A series of pieces from Jonathan Greenhause hint at the contents of Sebastian’s Relativity, the first chapbook by Anobium Books, released this past November.  In these excerpts, Sebastian is tied to a restraint table by chimpanzee surgeons, watches visible syllables land in heaps on the subway floor, and more.  The magic realism of the pieces is intriguing, and each page-long entry has a distinct, microcosmic story arc.  Without having read Sebastian’s Relativity yet, I wonder if Greenhause successfully pulls these micro-fictions into a larger arc—as stand-alone pieces, these work marvelously, but even collections of stand-alone masterpieces need to  have a sense of continual movement through the pages.  I will say this: the teasers in Anobium Vol. 1 are enough to make me want to find out.

Anobium Vol. 1 is full of similarly dissimilar stories and poems, born from a contemporary, gritty version of The Twilight Zone on steroids with a Mensa IQ. Many pieces are remarkable in their uniqueness, yet they coalesce nicely as a collection.  Concerning the aforementioned need for a “larger arc,” Anobium has it in spades.  The selections and arrangements move through Anobium seamlessly, creating an even tenor to Benjamin Van Loon’s madhouse of literature.

With Family, Genetically Abnormal Deviant

However, the Managing Editor (and his Associate Editor cronies) can’t take all the credit.  A big part of what brings these different threads together is the volume’s artwork, designed by Benjamin Van Loon’s brother, Jacob Van Loon.  Think Coen brothers meet [insert more obscure brother duo here].

Anobium’s artwork isn’t just random flare pinned to the pages; it’s part of the main show.  Though Anobium bills itself as primarily a literature rag, it is fundamentally both a lit and art journal.  Each page of Anobium fits seamlessly together.  Big blocks of irreverent text sections off various elements of the issue, while black and white illustrations pop from the inner folds.  Anobium achieves an aesthetic more refined in its B&W pages than I’ve seen in some full-color journals.

And the Brooding Offspring

Anobium achieves excellence in its inaugural issue.  The literature is witty, and a large chunk of the writing pairs this with humor.  The artwork blends well and works as an actual, integrated part of the volume, rather than a tacked on extra. Essentially, it’s damn good.  Copies of Anobium Vol. 1 and Sebastian’s Relativityare still available.  Pre-orders are currently available for Anobium Vol. 2, releasing on January 31st, 2012.


Review by James R. Gapinski
© 2011, All Rights Reserved