The Summerset Review

I do not often review journals that I am not ecstatic about. I tend to choose the journals I review by looking at the ones that I think are the most exciting and fun to read. Although I am not jumping up and down about The Summerset Review, I think it still deserves a review because there is much potential in the journal that can be improved upon (with the help of your submissions, in fact).

(On a side note, let it be said that my opinions are not always the right ones. Feel free to disagree with me if you find this journal particularly inspiring. You can leave a comment at the end of this review, or even send an alternate review of the journal to LitBloom itself).

The Summerset Review, based in Smithtown, New York, is an online journal that publishes fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry four times a year. While it does not have specific theme, I noticed that many of the pieces in the Fall 2013 issue, prose and verse, tend to explore the beauty of the natural world, with narrators and speakers who seek solace there.

I would characterize the poetry as lyrical and conventional. I thought some of it was rather trite, too heavy with metaphor and symbolism without enough attention paid to language. For example, I didn’t like the poem “Replacing the Irreplaceable” by John Grey which compares a man’s terminal  illness to the job that sucks the life from him. A poem from this issue which I did like was “Grilled Cheese” by Kathryn Gahl. I enjoyed its playfulness; it is clearly a poem meant to be read aloud.

As for the review’s fiction and creative nonfiction, I have to say the pieces from both genres fell flat in the latest issue, in my opinion. I was not captivated by most of the stories, which often told more than they showed and used uninteresting language. I did, however, enjoy two pieces: the short story “The Songbird Clinic” by Jean Ryan and nonfiction piece “Bare” by Caroline Hurwitz. I really liked how “The Songbird Clinic” wove in observations about nature and the animals the narrator interacts with as she embarks on a new stage in her life. The author was really able to capture the narrator’s solitude that is at the same time lonely but also peaceful just by showing how much she desires to care for these animals and the connection that she wants to make with the other bird caregiver, Leslie. “Bare” captured an interesting moment in the author’s life, “baring” herself for the reader to show exactly what motivated her to take intimate pictures for her husband serving overseas. I thought it was a beautiful piece.

From what I have read, I think the Summerset Review is a good place to submit as an emerging writer, since they need more fresh voices like the ones who wrote the pieces that I praised above. If you are interested in learning more about what they like to publish, they also have a recommended reading list of stories and poetry on their website to guide you.

Submission Period

Year-Round

For More Information

The Summerset Review

Website: www.summersetreview.org

The Cortland Review

Based in Cortland, New York, The Cortland Review is an online magazine of fiction and poetry, focusing mostly on poetry and emphasizing poetry as a performance art. All of its poems are accompanied by an audio file of the voice of the poet reading the poetry aloud.

The review publishes an issue four times a year, as well as putting out features twice a year— including translations of non-English poetry. Their website also has a unique widget,  called The Poetry Streamer, which may be of interest to those of you who want to listen to poetry, not just read it. The Poetry Streamer plays randomized audio selections of poetry from past issues of the magazine.

The poetry in the journal tends towards traditional, free verse poetry, often lyrical in tone. It is not a journal for experimental poetry, so if that is what you write, this is probably not the journal for you. As a reader, I found the poetry to be interesting and accessible, although a little stale at times. One poem that I really did like from the summer 2013 issue of the journal, Issue 60, was “What Happens Before Anything” by Dara Barnat. It is a simple poem, but I thought the way the author uses an image of snowflakes piling up as a comparison to how a mental or emotional burden can amass is very powerful.

The fiction published by the journal is mostly short fiction, “flash fiction,” that is almost short enough to be called poetry. Yet it retains a distinctly prose-like feel where a narrative emerges in just a short span of words. Both pieces in Issue 60 of the journal follow a similar format of fragmented snippets that add up to a whole. I didn’t really like either of them. I think it is incredibly difficult to make a piece of fiction that short that can convey a story in its entirety. “Tennis in a Dozen Easy Lessons” by Charles Israel, Jr. which compares different moves in tennis to the narrator’s life felt a little too obvious for me.

On the other hand, I really like the short story “San Francisco, Summer 1990”  by Michael Bourne from Issue 59. I wouldn’t call it flash fiction, since it is too long to fall into that category, but it is certainly a shorter short story. The story captures a pivotal moment in the narrator’s life as he encounters his dying father, to whom he has not spoken in many years, and the author seems to hint that he will make the same mistakes as his father. I think it is a subtle and intriguing piece.

Submission Period

Year-Round

Submission Details

Submit 3-5 Poems, or short fiction up to 3,500 words

A cover letter with biographical information should be included

For More Information

The Cortland Review

www.cortlandreview.com

Rainy Day Magazine

Rainy Day Magazine is published by undergraduates at Cornell University, but accepts submissions from undergraduates across the country. Founded in 1969, it is one the oldest university-based literary magazines around. The magazine, which is published twice a year, includes poetry, fiction, and other in-between genres, such as prose poems. They seem pretty flexible with their submissions, since they have no specified word count limitations.

Since the journal publishes undergraduate work, many of the poems and stories have themes about college life. Just as many do not, testifying to the inventiveness of young writers. Even if you are a 20-year-old college student, you, by no means, are obligated to write about college parties (in fact, most people would probably prefer to read about something else). The stories and poems in the latest issue available online have a wide range of interesting characters including a psychiatrist-turned-stalker, juvenile delinquents, and a hermaphroditic squid. A sense of originality and freshness ran through the works.

The poems in Rainy Day pay close attention to language, playing with words and shaping them in interesting ways. Some of the poetry struck me as too trite and clever, but others were full of rich imagery and interesting dialect. I recommend checking out “Low and Rustic Life” by Kevin Mosby in the Fall 2012 issue (and I should be transparent- Kevin is a good friend of mine, but I also think he’s a great poet, so his poems are worth taking a look at).  The poem looks at attending university from a different point of view, the view of the less educated family members who lament the younger generation’s eagerness to escape their humble roots. It rings with a poeticness that is unassuming and grounded.

My favorite work of fiction from the last issue was a short story called “Mountaineering” by Miklos Zoltan, which depicts a married man facing a mid-life crisis. The main character suffers from a malaise, a discontentedness with his mediocre life that he can’t quite put his finger on. I liked the way the author portrayed the inequality in the marriage through harping on their differences through the repeated use of unequal numbers to describe things about them, always using one-and-a-half for the wife, and three for the man. It gave me as a reader a concrete sense of how the couple can never match up anymore on their opinions or their experiences.

For More Information

Rainy Day

Website: rso.cornell.edu/rainyday