Literary Magazine Review: Palooka (Issue 4)
Issue 4 (Print Edition)
Review By Ashley Jean Granillo
Palooka is a contemporary literary magazine devoted to the art of composition – “a magazine of underdog excellence.” A publisher of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, drama, graphic short stories, graphic essays, comic strips, artwork, photography and multimedia – it seems as though there is no limitation when it comes to submissions, making Palooka fitting for creators of post modernism art. So what defines a text, exactly? The answer resides in the pieces showcased in Palooka’s latest issue.
Upon first glance, Palooka appears to be a standard tour guide into the world of literature, but once a reader delves into its pages another world emerges. Editor Jonathan Starke offers a poetic note, summarizing the world Palooka has helped cultivate: “Sometimes we wonder how far down really goes or what it says about us that the death of beauty often becomes a show.”
My journey began with Aaron Anstett’s poem entitled, “Please List All Previous Addresses.” It’s a potent couplet piece with a meaning that doesn’t present itself easily. The language, however, intrigued me. Especially the line: “…learns what’s a weapon:/anything.” Even as I type this I am re-reading each stanza in attempt to offer more than a simple line of refreshing syntax, but as with most post modern texts, not every rule (or any, actually) of literary analysis applies. Beautiful language – check!
Sean Thomas Dougherty’s nonfiction piece, “Nowhere Near Somewhere,” is extremely musical, and perhaps it has something to do with the incorporation of jazz and blues and pool cues. There is a culture being offered, not in imagery or plot alone, but in the words. There is a soul to this narrative, belting out notes from the loss and a memory in New Orleans. For those who struggle with finding the ground, Dougherty teaches readers that sinking is the way to breathing again:
…I watched him sink those balls, and for the first time in months I began to feel–to feel I was going to be able to find the ground. I fell into a pocket of felt…and I knew I had found the way that might lead me back from my long journey against grief and loss (20).
Although I have not had much exposure to graphic novels, aside from Persepolis and Maus, Dan Wolff’s short, Quetzalcoatl Part One: Down the Rabbit Hole, was truly exceptional. Wolff’s piece offers a reflection on one’s existence, or rather, how one can come to exist within a world in which he feels invisible to. Religion comes into question. What Would Jesus Do? Or…what did Jesus not do? However, perhaps humans and their phantoms isn’t what anyone needs to be heard, so long as there is a piano reachable to one’s touch.
Greg S. Johnson’s fiction piece, “Kasia,” reminds the reader of all the variations of love in the world. An instrument equates to a lover, a best friend whosedeath is just as traumatic. There is guilt when the protagonist moves on and invites another piano into her home. There’s familiarity but a disconnect. But what is beautiful is the value of this relationship. There is something useful about loving your art.
I am probably the last person who should be commenting on art, seeing as I’ve done so few illustrations and paintings in my life. I have a fond appreciation of it, however. Regina Valluzzi and Scott Brennan are the only two artists whose pieces are glittered amongst the pages. They’re a nice break from the standard black on white, all vibrantly crafted with color. My favorite pieces of them both would have to be Valluzzi’s oil on canvas, Atlantis Sinking, juxtaposed against Shira Richman’s poem, “Listing to Port,” and Brennan’s acrylic and India ink on paper, The Waitress, which is also juxtaposed against a poem from Courtney Bush entitled, “The Dance for Mississippi.” These artists have enhanced my reading, unlike paintings found in doctors’ offices across the country.
Although I was sure I was finished reading essays (in general) for…ever, I came across Winnie Khaw’s essay, “A Firs Class Act of Deconstruction.” To the unsuspecting reader who isn’t ‘in the know” with any sort of deconstructionist theory (Wiki Jacques Derrida for more info.), so long as you’ve a love for X-Men: First Class, and can appreciate a smartly crafted literary analysis that places the movie’s themes into a context relative to the modern world, the rest will fall into place. I can only hope to anticipate further essays of this sort, as I believe fandoms of this magnitude do offer more than just really cool fight scenes.
Palooka was nothing I expected to encounter in my lifetime – a magazine devoted to the progression of contemporary literature. While I wish I could discuss every piece featured in this issue in greater detail, I would be writing more than a review and rather an anthology on some of the most talented writers of our time. I will say this, though: I found these pages to be my closest friends, and that’s saying something about a publication I’ve just ‘met.’