Review of The Moth Issue 18

Issue 18 of The Moth Reviewed by Sarah Gonnet

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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

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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 GONNET

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.

Review of The Grind Issue #1

grindLogoShortStops is delighted to welcome our first reviewer, Rosalind Minett, reviewing the first issue of new Scottish journal The Grind:

It was enlivening to read the first issue of The Grind, an online magazine showcasing short fiction and visual art from across Scotland. The Grind will give new artists and writers the opportunity to have their work seen by an interested audience. Always ahead in the field of Education, Scotland has its own voice and personality, perhaps insufficiently seen internationally.

Some of the contributors will be completely unknown, others have already won acclaim for their work. I enjoyed all the contributions but can only mention a few in a brief review.

The first issue is certainly as diverse as the parts of that country. Dramatic treescapes from Jamie McFarlane open the magazine. This is followed by some poetic gems. I particularly liked Dreamscape by Seonaid Francis, short but lyrical, and delicately to the point.

The tone is very different for the arresting architectural and life-style statements by Declan Malone. These photographs both appealed to the eye while depressing the spirit, and as spatial configurations, they somehow sum up a visual experience for a significant proportion of the population.

This is a stimulating and exciting magazine.

Also memorable, are the very disturbing psychological portraits by Bryan M Ferguson. Somewhat filmically, he portrays what is happening and has happened to his subjects whom he allows to speak for themselves. His use of black/white contrast add to the effect upon us.

There is flash fiction in this issue, as well as poetry. I would pick out the haunting set of mini ghost stories by David Flood. These are less fantasy than a representation of the living loss for the ordinary person of those departed. The short pieces held together well as a set.

In the same vein, I loved the haunting shadowy photographs of TV Eye, like flickers of memory. Some photographs please as a work of art, some as technique. These appeared to strike some new ground, touching on half formed thoughts or minimally perceived movements.

In strong contrast, the impressive and central work NMDA by CD Shade is an intellectual presentation. It uses text, rhythm and diagram to present a visual representation of the glutamate receptor and its functions. This work really needed larger pages for readers to appreciate the scientific, cognitive, language and life implications it draws attention to. I enlarged each section in order to read it properly. NMDA is in essence a scientific poem, unique in its style. I am sure it will receive the attention it deserves .

This is a stimulating and exciting magazine. I did wonder if a different title would benefit it; a hydrophonics magazine has been using it for some time. Otherwise, only one criticism – the layout sometimes made it difficult to determine whose work I was seeing, so that I had to return to the Contents page. The author’s name, often written very small, hovered between pages. One artist framed his work, and this made for much easier viewing, especially on a tablet.

The talented writers and artists present a range of themes and genres in this first issue of The Grind. If there are to be changes in the later issues, I hope there will be a chosen theme each time. It will be exciting to see how the different individuals respond to this within their own medium and style.

Thank you, Rosalind! We hope this has whet your appetite – you can read Issue 1 of The Grind here. If you would like to review a literary magazine or a live lit event for us, drop us an email shortstopsuk@gmail.com.