The Georgia Review
By: Michael Lewis
The Georgia Review is a quarterly literary magazine published out of the University of Georgia since 1947. Erika Krouse lists The Georgia Review as a tier two magazine on her 2021 “Ranking of 500-ish Literary Magazines for Short Fiction” due to its relatively high circulation of five thousand units and payment of fifty dollars per page. Every member of the editorial staff, including director and editor Gerald Maa and managing editor C.J. Bartunek, are either published authors or have earned PhDs in English. This presumably results in the magazine’s reputable standing in the literary community. The prestige attributed to this magazine is also apparent in the authors it has published throughout its lengthy career. Multiple poet laureates, including Billy Collins and Natasha Trethewey, several Pulitzer Prize winners, Jimmy Carter the 39th president of the United States, and Sharon Olds (whom I had the pleasure of seeing in person here on campus in 2019) have all been featured in The Georgia Review. In addition, there have been many lesser-known authors from various backgrounds have appeared within. Within this issue alone is a translated Russian work, several pieces by authors of assorted nationalities, as well as the ”feature” section which is devoted to remembering the queer literary conferences of the 1990s. This diverse cast of authors is indicative of their mission statement:
The Georgia Review seeks to create a lasting environment for literature by supporting writers at every stage of their careers. Committed to the art of editorial practice, the Review collaborates with authors of essays, stories, poems, and reviews in pursuit of works of enduring appeal that engage with the evolving concerns and interests of readers from around the world. For every established author I saw in the magazine, there was another whom I had never heard of. This diversity in not only content, but also in the authors featured in the Winter 2021 issue is what initially drew me to The Georgia Review. All the aforementioned content in their mission statement is on display in this issue and the pieces that comprise the magazine are of a consistent quality that demonstrates the history and status that this publication demands.
The cover of this particular issue was of interest to me, especially once I did some digging and compared it to the previous covers of The Georgia Review. The use of a portion of Lan Tuazon’s photo, the sole artist featured in this issue, over a white background with the words “The Georgia Review” repeated over and over is striking and deviates from what I would consider to be the stereotypical literary magazine cover. Many magazines would feature an entire unedited piece of visual art on the front with the magazine’s name and issue number placed somewhere in the upper half, including The Georgia Review in virtually every issue prior to this one. In fact, their earliest issues had uniform covers bereft of art. This issue’s front and back cover are also sideways, another interesting choice that, again, seems to be a new aesthetic choice for TGR.
Within, the text throughout the magazine is unobtrusive, minimalist, and functional. Author’s names are listed, and a line separates their name from the bolded title of their work. Any deviations from this are presumably due to the desires of the authors, with the most notable example being “The Houses Reconsolidation Built” by He Xiang. Every other page of this four-page poem inverts the colors of the page and text so that the page is entirely black with white writing; a stylistic choice that immediately draws attention to the piece even upon a cursory flip-through of the magazine’s pages. Another notable stylistic choice is the decision to begin the page count where the previous issue for the year left off. While perusing the poems and stories that make up the magazine, I found myself wondering “wait… how are there over one thousand pages in this, admittedly thick, magazine?” Upon closer inspection, I discovered that this issue begins with page 825. A potentially minor annoyance when selecting a single copy to review that isn’t the first in a series. These works are sandwiched between adds for symposiums, MFA programs, and other literary magazines; an odd, yet strangely apt, distraction from the pieces within. The specific organization of the pieces within TGR is another point of contention. Where many magazines may opt to either alphabetize their submissions by the author’s last name or group them together by genre, TGR instead chooses to mix and match the order of accepted works. While the “feature” section, reviews, art, and the 2021 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize winner and featured finalists are grouped together, the magazine otherwise swaps between poetry, fiction and essays seemingly at random, though multiple works by the same author are grouped together. Though the editor’s note, titled “To Our Readers,” states that the concept of friendship is the foremost theme presented in this issue, I frequently found myself wondering how friendship tied into the stories and poems I was reading. Another nitpick amidst a slew of excellent submissions, but something to consider nonetheless.
The style of writing on display in many of these pieces is of a quality representative of the high standards of TGR. I often felt out of the loop when finishing a short story or poem and sometimes spent days pondering the implications of a specific ending. “The Norse King Ivar the Boneless” by Morgan Hamill is an example of this. Both the title and the introduction, a brief theorization of the translation of the titular character’s name, gives the impression that this will be a poem about Vikings, conquest, and deformity. Yet the lofty title is juxtaposed with a mundane injury sustained by the narrator as she visits the doctor and then goes on a first date. Contrasting longer poems and stories, TGR also contains poems that consist of as little as three lines, as evidenced by “Garden” by Victoria Chang. With only fifteen words, Chang is able to ask existential questions about personal improvement and, in my opinion, the first noble truth of Buddhism that existence is suffering. The inclusion of Chang’s work proves that The Georgia Review is not just home to poems of ambitious length, but also more concise ones. While many of these stories speak to me in my own personal way, others leave me wondering whether I may be missing context or if the authors are simply operating on a higher plane than I am. Nevertheless, TGR proves to be an interesting read from cover to cover.