Sink Review Review… Review

White-Breasted Nut Hatch

Whoa. I think I almost got stuck in a word-repeating infinite loop à la Howard Hughes in The Aviator in my title line… (That was a close one.) So I originally planned to write my online literary journal review on Vinyl Poetry, but I’ve got to admit that I was kind of turned off once I quickly discovered that it in fact had absolutely nothing to do with music at all, even in spite of its rather misleading bluebird emblem. However, while I was scoping it out I just so happened to check out their LINKS page (Good idea: I’ll make a note of it…) and wouldn’t you know it? A certain Sink Review featured there just so happened to catch my eye, along with this completely attractive birdman artwork that I have included here because I just love its Max Ernst vibes. So says I, “Wouldn’t it just be mind-blowing and incredible if an editor of The Kitchen Sink literary review reviewed another, arguably more established literary review that was just called Sink Review?” There’s your infinite loop for you, and now I say just go with it.

Let me just begin by providing some expository information about the format of Sink Review, an apparently biannual literary journal that specializes in poetry in particular. Given the very non-bloggy layout and feel of the website–there’s got to be a better way to put that–it’s hard to believe that Sink Review is “proudly powered” by WordPress, as the page-footer informs us. Personally, the only tipoff that Sink Review is “just another WordPress site” is really only their Làb Nötes page, which fittingly features even some chapbook reviews (including some published by the Ugly Duckling Presse), making the date and comment functions typically associated with blogging I think wholly appropriate in this case. Although we at The Kitchen Sink have already broken ground on our website and have decided to build from HTML scratch, some of the stuff that can be done with prefab templates is actually pretty impressive, as the professional and streamlined design of Sink Review attests.

Along with the tip of the hat to WordPress obligatorily provided at the bottom of every page of Sink Review, the footer also includes another telling tidbit of information that I for one appreciate. The line, “Sink Review uses Modernity” also appears again and again throughout the site, and the word Modernity, as you can see, is underlined with a double meaning. More than just the name of the design theme used on the website, the word Modernity here also includes a little joke about the perhaps out-of-date character of not just Sink Review, but literary journals in general, even if they are only issued online.

And Sink Review is by no means fashioned as a “cutting edge” website, but instead boasts a very homemade and slightly eccentric aura, as though it were hobbled together by someone living in a slightly different dimension and not wholly acquainted with modern technology. Personally, I love the misused and unnecessary symbols used in the linkage, as in the navigation bar through the previously mentioned Làb Nötes anchor (not to mention Pôetry and Masthèad). The inappropriate accent marks also show up in the logo for the journal itself, transcribed there as Sink Reviéw, with a little symbol under the “n” so crazy that I can’t even reproduce it here. Along with the artiness these symbols add to the overall look of the journal, this little design quirk also brings to mind the scrambled nonsense that sometimes appear in connection with broken HTML, only further suggesting the lack of technical know-how on the part of the creators of the website, with just a touch of self-deprecation thrown in for good measure.

The out-of-touch character of Sink Review is also evident in White-Breasted Nut Hatch (pictured above) by artist and bookmaker Joseph Lappie, who created both of the frontispieces on display in SR7, the current issue of the biannual Sink Review. With his almost nineteenth century illustrator’s style–somewhat similar to the illustrations found in historical chapbooks, you might say–and weird but harmless monster subject matter, this image is a dead ringer for the magical realism of particularly Max Ernst, a prominent surrealist of the 1920s. The effect of prominently displaying this and other images like this against an otherwise minimalist and monotonous design layout gives Sink Review, in my opinion, a very modern, but not necessarily contemporary, character. While Lappie’s work appears only in SR7, a perusal of earlier issues of Sink Review indicates that their approach to the selection of display images generally follows the same line of thought, as the similarly old-fashioned sepia-toned photographs featured in SR6 show. On the same note, the taupe-and-gray color scheme is likewise dated, but still very sophisticated, if you ask me. In fact, you just might see this earthy color palette show up in another up-and-coming literary journal in the near future…

This brand of quirky and old-fashioned “modernity” carries over to the actual poetry featured in Sink Review, as well. In his poem 1959, Franklin Bruno provides the reader with an irreverent but still literary how-to for the preparation of processed foods: “Here’s a novel way to cook the ever-faithful hot dog,” the poet begins. As you can see, Queens native Bruno approaches the topic as though he really were a desperate housewife (so to speak) coming up with an inventive dinner menu on the quick in the year 1959–perhaps the last time that anybody could ever find the prospect of a “fresh garden salad” topped with chopped frankfurters “novel,” let alone appetizing. Upon closer inspection, much of the poetry published in Sink Review falls under the same category as 1959: good old American satire. Maybe Kim Gek Lin Short sums up the Sink Review and its backwards take on American culture best when she asks innocently, “What would Patsy Cline do?”

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