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Labour of Love, Vol. 35: Winter Bluffs

Poetry; short prose
44 pages
5 1/8” x 7 5/8” Saddle-stapled, high-gloss, full-color magazine
ISSN 1192-621X
First Edition of ~400
Labour of Love
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Available HERE
Free; donations or Canadian postage appreciated
Review by Cetoria Tomberlin

Brevity is the word that keeps coming to mind as I read through the pages of Labour of Love. For the most part, the journal seems to specialize in short-form poetry. This isn’t a criticism, of course, because it is clearly a deliberate decision on the editor’s part. These pieces are clipped and biting and their intent is to take direct aim at their subject matter.

The cover art is entitled, “Winter Bluffs,” and, like the season itself, invokes a quiet grief for that which is dead or dying. These poems are dealing with things the speakers have either lost or wish to lose, be it another person, pain, anger, or self-respect.

In the poem, “Itch,” by Duncan Armstrong, the speaker details his addiction to another person. The obsessiveness of the speaker’s inability to forget, or at least to move on from, a past relationship is painfully felt. Instead of a resolution, the poem ends with a resignation:

I got that itch
you know the one
that can only be scratched
by your tongue
(p. 27).

One of my favorite pieces within the journal is “That Messiah Moment” by Raymond K. Avery. The poem can be read with or without a sense of humor. Either way, it works. The speaker sets the scene of an audition, heavy religious undertones, that ends with:

The competitors stood before them
Each holding his own wooden cross
While Judas asked the tie-break question
That he knows no one can answer
(p. 33).

The journal also has a lot working for it in terms of appearance. The cover and pages within feature skilled artwork, some photography, some paintings. The text throughout is not positioned uniformly, but is done in a way that adds to the aesthetic, instead of taking away from (no easy feat to accomplish when playing around with page layouts). One point of mystery, however, is the page numbers. They begin like normal, but then stop and appear later, but not in the correct numerical order. I suspect a format editing error, but it really is quite noticeable given the numbers that do make an appearance are at the top center of the pages. There are also no author biographies within the journal, which I would have liked to have seen.

A good number of the poems are dedicated to sound, always a key feature in poetry, I believe. Some actually use a blatant amount of rhyming. At first, I found it a bit jarring to see so many hard-end rhymes, but after reading the journal as a whole, I think their selection was intentional as something rare and unique in a modern journal. I’m not sure if it had the hoped-for effect, but it was different to see in a collection of modern poetry, and it’s good to know that there’s a home for rhyming poems, too, as many journals nowadays won’t print them. Overall, I think the publication is doing some interesting things and would like to see more from them in the future.

Cetoria Tomberlin is a Staff Book Reviewer and a poet and fiction writer who lives in Northwest Georgia. She received her bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from Berry College. Her work has previously appeared in Fairy Tale Review, NonBinary Review, Southern Women’s Review, The Battered Suitcase, Spires, and online at LADYGUNN and HelloGiggles. She is also a book reviewer for Mixed Diversity Reads.
• This book was submitted to Alternating Current by the publisher. The reviewer does not know the publisher and received the book from Alternating Current at random. • Permalink • Tag: The Volt •

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