Octavo, which has been in business since August, 1998, is an appendage of the popular literary zine The Alsop Review. Unlike Alsop, Octavo accepts submissions; however, the zine publishes only eight poetry and short-short fiction pieces per month, hence the name. Having such a small selection of poetry and short prose is refreshing. People are more apt to read everything, and they leave hungry for more.
Octavo looks very much like Alsop. It even shares the same gray granite background and artwork placement on the page. Octavo also shares Alsop’s penchant for cutting-edge, high quality work. I particularly enjoyed “November 7, 1997, The Human Animal,” a prose piece by Australian writer Coral Hull. The imagery in this work gets your neurons firing, as she explores intrusive medicine’s affect on the human spirit, and consequently, our relationship with our physical bodies â€“ both fascination and horror.
Some of the material, both poetry and prose, was obscure and proud of it, particularly “Annabel and Mary Lou,” by Don Taylor. Yet, even the pieces that defy sense and meaning are playful, highly imagistic and contain a creative use of language. Nonetheless, the blatant obscurity is somewhat off-putting to the casual poetry reader and would probably smack of elitism to most people. At least they don’t intersperse italicized foreign language quotes throughout their works and expect the readers to know what it means (a la T.S. Eliot).
Octavo is a fine zine to visit for a smattering of lively poetry and prose, some of the most high-quality work on the web. Those of you who spend a lot of time trying to find worthwhile literature on the web, like I do, know that all too often ground chuck is passed off as prime rib. This zine is worthy of a hungry reader’s attention.