reviewed by Tom Hartman

Published in Issue No. 61 ~ June, 2002

A quick glance at Elimae‘s index page suggests that only a modest assortment of content awaits readers: a few announcements, pitches for Elimae-published limited-edition books, with just a sprinkling of new writing. Select “archive” from the pulldown menu at the top of the page, however, and you’ll see just how much poetry, fiction, criticism and commentary editor Deron Bauman has curated.

In truth, as it’s currently constituted (and although each update technically counts as an issue), Elimae operates more like an anthology than a zine – which is fine, save for a few terminological and navigational idiosyncrasies.  For instance, after following a link to a poem or story from the index page (which, updated each time new content is available, is actually the menu for the “new” section of the site), readers – those who understand where they are – can’t simply select “new” from the pulldown to return to the menu they’ve just left, but must instead use any one of three links (“new”, “content” or the author’s/poet’s name) located at the bottom of the content page.  Happily, this is destined to change in the near future: Bauman has reinvented Elimae each year since it launched in 1996 and promises to uphold this tradition moving forward.

Still, even if reading the current Elimae does take a bit of practice, the effort is well worth it, because the quality of the writing Bauman has assembled is high indeed.  In the current issue (5), for example, there are poems by Katheryn Rantala, and Cooper Esteban, a rant against the current state of American verse by B. Renner, and, most notably, a short story  by the inimitable Jim Ruland, whose darkly absurdist fictions have appeared in Linnaean Street and Exquisite Corpse, among other journals. In “The Jabberwock Rules,” Ruland winks at John Irving while playfully repurposing  Lewis Carroll:

The uffish snicker-snacktion schedule for the various borogroves offered under the Jabberwock Rules is set forth in the mome raths Member’s Guide, which will be provided upon request or can be downloaded at our Tumtum tree. The borogroves offered in mome raths or Looking Glass Travel may be withdrawn, limited, or modified, and you may not be able to obtain or use all borogroves on all gimbles. In tulgeficating mome raths and/or vorpal swords, you may not rely upon the continued availability of any borogrove unless decreed by the Mad Hatter, then it’s okay.

Elimae is similarly strong in the poetry department, where a short but impressive list of past contributors includes Timothy Liu, M. Sarki and others. Barton Allen’s “The Bounded Outward Circumference” is a particular standout:

He begins in the middle beforehand
in his work. Back at the cellar door
perhaps. That slot in it. A ventshaft,
a hollow accidentally painted yellow,
blackness as odd as noticing the end.
And a noisemaker thrown down. What shakes,
inside the baby’s glass rattle, are as bone
shavings, or rodent’s teeth, crownshaped,
like asterisks, enameled jacks. Keepsakes lost
ticks ago. But these are after the fact.

He lifts his finger from the penlight’s clip,
reaches down and pockets the rest in case.
When he shakes his hand, lint falls.
Inquiry is more and more an answer. He responds,
despite it all, dissecting the means, the hinge.

Elimae also features some serious, pertinent criticism. Just one example of what readers can expect is B. Renner’s response  to Cynthia  Ozick’s 1989, “T.S. Eliot at 101,” which comments on Eliot’s notion of  “the  objective correlative,” the great modernist’s proposition that an emotion could be depicted as a chain of events, a situation, or a series of objects, and that furthermore such a correlative was the only way of expressing emotion in the form of art.  Ozick argues that in light of recent Eliot biographies the objective correlative “is suddenly decipherable as no more than a device to shield the poet from the raw shame of confession.” Eliot, she writes, “is now unveiled as a confessional poet above all. . . .”  Renner, however, cautions that “‘The Waste Land’ worked for readers for half a century as a deeply moving embodiment of grief, despair and the longing for rebirth, without the readers’ awareness that specific lines may have reflected [Eliot’s] wife’s hysteria.” While not particularly timely, Renner’s defense of Eliot is both passionate and carefully constructed.

Editor Bauman is also responsible for Elimae‘s design: a clean, stark presentation with minimal graphics suggestive (perhaps ironically) of what the magazine might look like were it made of paper and ink rather than bytes. Counter-intuitive navigation  aside, Bauman’s minimalist design makes for quick load times, which is good news for readers with old machines or slow connections.

Overall, when measured against the bulk of the zines currently plying their trade out there in the ether, Elimae stacks up very well indeed. Smartly edited, with an abundance of finely-crafted, intelligent writing, it’s a publication to add to your weekly reading list.

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Tom Hartman has been a regular contributor to Pif since 1999. He lives in Philadelphia.