• The Iris Review

Review of Columbia Poetry Review

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

I chose to review the Spring 2018 (most recent issue when ordered) of Columbia Poetry Review literary magazine from Columbia College Chicago. I didn’t choose this magazine for any other reason than I like poetry, and I considered going to college in Chicago.

Overall, I really enjoyed the magazine. My favorite part is the cover. I love the peachy-pink color and the angular design of the title (which, after looking at past issues is a format they used several years ago). I also enjoyed the artwork, since it’s the only visual art in the entire magazine. This magazine wasn’t marketed as featuring artwork, so I wasn’t expecting any, but overall I think using art as the cover instead of photography was a good choice. I think it makes the magazine seem more modern and mature. The way the pink of the artwork ties in with the pink of the rest of the cover is really nice, too. The cover has a matte finish, which I love, and the cardstock is thick and sturdy. However, this magazine has been in my backpack for a couple of months, and it did get a small puncture wound in the back cover, so it isn’t the most durable. Speaking of the back cover, I would’ve liked it if all of the contributors were mentioned,

but considering there were so many, I understand why they weren’t. I do like how the style of the title stayed consistent, however.

Moving on to the inside of the magazine, again, the title design remains consistent. I like the font size of the front matter, since it makes it easier to read. The front matter seems very official and professional, and not like it was designed by college students. This seems like something from a serious publishing company, which is a good thing. The Contents page is listed by appearance, but the contributors don’t appear in any particular order. They aren’t in alphabetical order, and I didn’t notice any particular themes connecting the poems. Multiple poems by the same author do appear together, however. If the poems are arranged by theme, then those themes went over my head.

Something I appreciated is that the editors seemingly kept the original format of the poems. Some poems have clear stanzas, some are written in paragraphs, and others are in straight columns. Most poems are left aligned, but some are centered on the page. I’m glad there’s some variety. Something I thought was odd was that some poems are tilted sideways. I doubt they were submitted that way (though I could be wrong), so I wonder why that choice was made. I guess in a way it fits with the angular formatting of the title, so I think the choice works, but it’s still odd to read. There aren’t any notes on contributors, and I wish there were, because I’d like to know who is and isn’t a student. Some poems seem like they were written by someone older, and I’d

like to know for sure. Since it’s nationally distributed, I’d imagine many non-students are published, which is pretty cool.

One of my favorite poems in the magazine was actually the first poem in the magazine, “Swedish Death Cleaning” by Denise Duhamel. I like how the poem tells a story in a non-linear way. I also like how the poet paired sadness with humor, such as the stanza “I’d made a joke about my stiff hips / but I felt a strange survivor’s guilt / living so far into my 50s.” I don’t think I can pin a definite meaning or message to the poem, other than it being about death and enjoying life while you have it, but that’s cliche and this poem definitely isn’t cliche to me.

A poem that really stuck out to me was “Jenn” by Nick Rattner. I don’t think it stuck out to me in a good way, necessarily, but it certainly left an impression. It’s one of the poems that was tilted sideways, so that’s one reason it stuck out, but it’s also overtly sexual. However, I don’t think the poem is entirely about sex since the last line is “builds a house with his bones and invites him in.” I think the poem is about power, and the poet frames sex as someone holding power over someone else, so it all works together. The poem also doesn’t have any punctuation, so it reads as one big, odd ramble.

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed this magazine. I thought the poetry was great, and I thought the overall design was excellent.

-Abbigail Jackson, editor

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