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The Portland Review Fall Film and Video Issue
Sneak Preview Edition

I hold in my hands a sneak preview of The Portland Review’s “Fall Film and Video” issue, distributed to readers and reviewers at last month’s Wordstock festival.  It contains a smattering of prose and poetry by Rochelle Hurt, Dennis Hinrichsen, Sean Bernard, and J. Bowers.

The Physical Construction: Delinquently DIY
The advanced preview of this fall’s issue is understandably low-budget, which is fine; I don’t mind a low-budget.  Our small press is no stranger to limited coffers.  And in previous small press gigs, I worked on plenty of stapled zines made from cardstock and pilfered library printer paper.The sneak preview is basically a saddle stapled zine with 14 pages of internal content to choose from.  Unfortunately, as far as zines go, it’s not that well constructed—unaligned pages, copy grade paper cover, and a single staple with teeth facing outward for a nasty prick to the fingers.  But then again, it’s a promo piece, and I have to give them props for making use of the centerfold pages for a large, landscape piece of black and white artwork.But enough about the physical appearance—the final Portland Review issues are always beautifully assembled, with great artwork, perfect binding, and attention to detail.  I just like to address the volume’s physical quality, because layout and design is an important part of book production, even if it’s DIY-style.  DIY books can be beautiful when done with care and craft; I’ve seen other low-budget zines do a lot more with lot less.

The Writing: Humor and Humor Attempted

So let’s talk about the innards.  The preview issue opens strong with a delightful poem by Rochelle Hurt.  Her work is subtle, makes good use of perception shift, and has touches of humor.  I’d highly recommend finding additional work on her website.

After this strong opening, the preview takes a bit of a nosedive.  The Sean Bernard piece adopts a relatively unique tone, indicative of strong writing, but this excerpt from California doesn’t work well as a standalone piece—cleaved from its whole, the excerpt lacks decisive purpose or direction, and it feels unfinished.  Of course, excerpting can often lead to a feeling of absence, but a well-selected excerpt should generate some of its own gusto even in isolation.

The interview with Mike Grey, star of the Comedy Cellar Network show The Troupe, falls a bit flat too.  The interview has a punch line that tries to incorporate some humorous existentialist remarks, all swirled around repeatedly asking if it’s okay to light up a cigarette.  This premise sounds nice, but the entire exchange feels like a failed Abbot and Costello routine.  The Troupe may be a laugh riot, but this interview just didn’t do it.

Other selections in the preview were also okay, but lacked the “oomph” of Rochelle Hurt’s opening piece.  In the few days prior to reading this preview edition, I had found a better assortment of outstanding work on The Portland Review’s poetry blog, though most of these poems were obviously not suited for a “Film and Video” themed issue.  Regardless, The Portland Review has better writing currently relegated to the blog burner.

Overall, the preview has some polished text, but not much of a wow factor.  I wasn’t as impressed with this preview compared to what I know The Portland Review can deliver.  However, maybe I’ll still head to Powell’s and page through the full issue; maybe some more pieces like Rochelle Hurt’s great opener will find their way into the finished product—the poetry blog gives me hope.

Review by James R. Gapinski
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