A new literary journal has come to my attention recently and I am very excited about it. The LBJ: Avian Life, Literary Arts is a small but dense collection of poems, short essays, art and book reviews, all aimed at people who love birds and especially birders. Any collection that includes stories about birding along the coast of Alaska and has poems that include the scientific names and call notes of the birds in the poem has immediately caught my attention. Not only is the subject exciting, the writing is excellent! Add to that the artwork of Barry Kent MacKay whose name many of you will recognize and this new publication is a real jewel.
I knew this was something special when I read the Editor's Introduction by Nick Neely. This is a writer who knows birding and the intro is almost worth the cost of the whole journal.
Admittedly, I am not a literary critic. My experience with poetry doesn't go beyond the understanding that the words at the end of the lines must rhyme and that any poem that starts "There once was a man from Nantucket" should not be handed in for a grade in English class. That said, I really liked most of the writing in this journal. Some of the poetry is beyond my taste but even the way the poems are presented on the page gives them impact (I especially refer to the poem The Hawk by William S. Gainer).
The book reviews at the back of the journal are insightful and are aimed at the birding audience. While this is not writing about finding birds or identifying birds, reading these pieces will teach you about birds.
If I had to find fault with anything I would have 2 minor issues. One is the cost of the journal. The $9 newsstand price does sound like a lot for a small magazine but in my opinion quality wins out. It is a bit cheaper by subscription which is $15 a year for 2 issues.
The other complaint I have is the inclusion of a poem by Judith Carson called Graymalkin abut a bird killing cat. Her comparison of the cat to an owl put me off. Just a bit of prejudice I suppose.
I'll end by noting that I have no financial stake in this enterprise but I do hope that it succeeds because it brought me great pleasure while reading it. If you are interested in tracking this journal down the contact information is below:
The LBJ: Literary Life, Avian Arts
Department of English/098
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557