The literary life

Ready for a contemporary literary treat? On March 10, a new issue of Portland Review hits local bookstores.

Ready for a contemporary literary treat? On March 10, a new issue of Portland Review hits local bookstores. Volume 55, issue three, the Winter/Spring 2009 edition of this PSU literary magazine is packed with 16 poems, eight short stories and nine drawings.

Local artist Carolyn Main provides the cover illustration plus four more drawings inside, including a satirical drawing of fast-food icon Wendy sitting on Colonel Sander’s lap. Also, local freelance writer, teacher and PSU alumnus Sean Patrick Hill contributes a short story.

The stories and poems are well crafted and enjoyable to read, even if some are a skosh depressing when cancer and philandering husbands predominate their plots. Other stories are less cliché, testing the bounds of friendships, remembering eccentric relatives and exploring human psychology.

The poetry is wonderfully diverse, ranging from abstract to explicit, lengthy to short, flowery to straightforward. Topics range from love to nature, to the art of writing itself.

Portland Review is a publication that has been funded by PSU student fees since 1956. It is student run and always looking for volunteers to read submissions and copy edit. They publish magazines three times each year, including work from well-known and new artists. Portland Review states that its goal “is to promote and inspire new authors and artists while maintaining strict editorial standards.”

Notoriously, Portland Review is criticized for not publishing PSU students. As an internationally distributed magazine that receives thousands of submissions, many of these from talented writers, Portland Review is only able to publish approximately 1 percent of everything they receive.

Most submissions come from poets, authors and artists outside of Portland. They receive almost no submissions from PSU students, though there have been a few alumni or artists that have made the effort to be in the magazine.

The Portland Review says that submissions from PSU students are usually unfinished or don’t meet submission guidelines. Like all magazines, they immediately reject anything that doesn’t meet the guidelines.

Editor Chris Cottrell makes an active effort to make sure local artists are included.

“If I don’t feel like we’re getting at least a little local representation,” he says, “I’ll solicit work from established local writers. Portland Review has a significant presence in the industry, even though we’re pretty small, and I want to make sure Portland is getting recognition for its talent.”

Preference is given to solid, dynamic poetry or prose that seems to push the individual author’s envelope. Writing that is too formula-based becomes predictable, so Portland Review looks for work that surprises them. Poetry should be well crafted but not so rigorous to form that it loses its spark.

Portland Review is also starting to run reviews of small-press books and recent releases by new or emergent authors. PSU writers interested in getting material into the magazine are encouraged to contact Portland Review for details.

In the meantime, pick up your copy of Portland Review‘s latest issue. Beginning March 10, it can be purchased at the PSU bookstore, independent bookstores such as Broadway books or Looking Glass, or at Powell’s.

Powell’s carries the most copies at any one time because Portland Review sells out there regularly, displaying that the Review‘s hometown is returning the appreciation that the publication has strained to give local artists.