Review of The Moth Issue 18

Issue 18 of The Moth Reviewed by Sarah Gonnet


The Moth consists of an eclectic mix of established and new writing. It includes short stories and poetry from up-and-coming poets and short story writers alongside intricate artwork and interviews with established names – in this issue Emily Berry. Reading The Moth takes the mind on a journey, leading the intellect through brutal realism, floating surrealism, and intriguing passages with the intensity of compulsive pressure of speech.

The magazine opens on a high with the impulsive outpourings of Dustin Junkert. His energy and self-referential style really fired up this reader, ready for a series of varied creative experiences. Junkert’s direct reference to writing in the final two lines of his poem: “’Are you as good as James Patterson?’ I said, ‘I’m no James Patterson’”, immediately gets us thinking critically about the literature that waits on the other side of turning the page.

This energy then continues with the first short story of the magazine- Emily by Mandy Beaumont, my favourite piece in the entire issue. It uses similar run-on lines and long sentences to the opening poem. Emily is a story of wishing and dreams – of all that might have happened “if only…”. Yet it is also a vital story of young sexual arousal and considering the possibility of love. This sense of eroticism, combined with intellectual technique and ultimate beauty is spread throughout the rest of the magazine.

Most notable of the art that accompanies the writing are the paintings of Wen Wu. Wu uses a combination of classical painting and modern fashion culture to create surreal paintings. His style is similar to the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, yet always with a 21st century twist. The atmosphere of Wu’s paintings is emulated in the writing that surrounds them, in particular the poem A Bee Flat Sonnet by Sarah Jefferies. Jefferies has a real sense for the ethereal, yet also connects her poetry back to the real world using very specific details. In this way her poem has some of the same qualities as Wu’s artwork, showing how the arrangement of artwork alongside poems creates new dimensions to both. It is something The Moth is very good at.

I also very much enjoyed the final short story of the magazine: Upcycle: An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Botanic Road, by June Caldwell. The strange title is the first sign of a bizarre, almost schizophrenic thought pattern, which the voice of the poem continues to use to communicate throughout. The story is speckled with Homeric-style epithets, utilised to describe idiosyncratic characters and the kooky world surrounding them.

The first and last stories actually have a lot in common. They are both examples of an intense and impulsive style of writing. They are also both highly odd, in their own way. This is something a lot of The Moth contributors have a talent for. It is impressive that one magazine can take on all of these unusual views of the world, and still maintain a cohesive structure. Yet The Moth achieves this in a seamless manner that allows the reader to flit between story and poem, always reassured that the voice about to be revealed to them will be interesting and entertaining.

Sarah Gonnet

Read more about The Moth Issue 18 here.

Review of Firewords Quarterly Issue 2


Firewords Quarterly accomplishes the extraordinary feat of gathering a cacophony of original voices under one title. Each writer featured is very different from the next. This is especially impressive when you consider they have been able to piece these voices together, like some kind of literary jigsaw, into a refreshing little magazine. Even the feel of the booklet lets you know that it’s something special. Inside the magazine, the carefully plotted layouts instantly grab your attention. The illustrations (some hand-drawn some produced digitally) are as varied as the writer’s voices.

Reading Firewords is an education in the types of stories that are up-and-coming right now. Like any literary magazine its aim is to update readers on the state of current and emerging writers. Firewords achieves this with a lively mixture of short stories, flash fiction and poetry.

The short stories form the focus of the magazine, with other pieces fitted around them. There doesn’t seem to be any one uniting theme, which is part of the magazine’s charm- refusing to adhere to the current obsession with themes that many literary publications hold dear.

The two stories given the most space are: Five Seasons by Malene Huse Eikrem and The Man of Harim Province by: Peter Davison. They are both enjoyable, but I preferred the grim descriptive passages of Five Seasons; to the Murakamiesque The Man of Harim Province. The latter story is an ironic look at a bizarre ideal world, but it is quite difficult to feel a connection with. Maybe I’m just a pessimist but I preferred the outright Nordic Noir atmosphere found in Five Seasons. Five Seasons is a fascinating and piercing look at real life, though through fairly surreal glasses. However The Man of Harim Province does have some great one liners.

The other highlight of the magazine is the “Short Short Stories” section. This section does have a theme, in the form of a writing prompt (the prompt was: “As the lights went out everything changed”). The short short stories have their intensity multiplied by their brevity. The idea behind short shorts comes from the current craze for flash fiction. Flash fiction tends to borrow features from poetry, quotations and short stories. It has also been linked to twitter and other social networking sites where brevity is essential, and has become a huge part of our daily lives. In the Short Short Stories section of Firewords I especially enjoyed the story My Evil Twin by Alison Wassel. Wassel writes with a mythical slight on the modern world. Her short short is powerful enough to get her imagery stuck in your brain for several days after reading it.

Overall the design and content of Firewords Quarterly is engaging and in parts even beautiful. I look forward to the next issue, which will hopefully maintain the wide, but eclectic, range of fiction in this issue. Buy yourself a copy here.


Sarah is a self-educated journalist, writer and artist, who creates from her shed in a northern village of the UK. Sarah has been experimenting with various forms of writing over the last few years. Recently she has been writing a lot of arts-orientated journalism for The Guardian, The Journal, Luna Luna, Sabotage Reviews, Screenjabber and essays on female artists for The Bubble. She is also working with Survivors Poetry and one of her poems was chosen as their ‘Poem of the Month’ in July. Under the pseudonym Azra Page, Sarah has published two collections of autobiographical pieces: Catharsis and Dull Eyes; Scarred Faces. Carolyn Jess Cooke published several of Sarah’s poems for her blog “On Depression”. Sarah also writes plays which are going through the development process of being performed at scratch nights.