By, for, and about Queens: A review of the first issue of Newtown Literary

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Image source: Newtown Literary 

The first issue of Newtown Literary opens with a poem by Bob McNeil written from the perspective of the borough of Queens. From the first-person point of view, it chronicles the long history of Queens – from the time of the Matinecock to the current-day cultural hodgepodge – and sets the stage for a collection of pieces that are mostly by Queens writers or about Queens in some way.

Newtown Literary (which is named after Newtown, one of the original towns that became part of Queens) is a new publication inspired by the diversity of Queens and dedicated to sharing “fiction, creative nonfiction, essays, and poetry that go beyond entertainment and storytelling.” This debut issue is a collection of words from 26 amateur and professional writers that makes for an exciting addition to the growing list of Queens literature. It’s available for purchase in print or in your choice of electronic formats.

Many of the featured poems, stories, and essays reflect glimmers of life in Queens: the diverse set of characters we encounter everyday and the urban scenery that surrounds us. Maria Terrone‘s poems consist of authentic observations of people seen in mundane situations such as reporting for jury duty, waiting in the emergency room, and getting a manicure – reminding us that behind every face in this borough is a backstory, each one as important as the next.

Going even more in depth, Annabel Short gives us an essay about her interviews with people who live and work on 30th Avenue near the East River, a neighborhood that’s hardly ever covered in the media but that has plenty of stories to tell.

Chandra Steele also gets at these personal backstories and interpersonal connections in her piece of fiction about an orphan from Saudi Arabia working at a gas station in Astoria, and how his world is opened up when a warm coworker – whose personality and background couldn’t be more different from his – takes him under his wing.

With a completely different premise and tone, Brian Harrison’s short story portrays unlikely interactions among strangers too; his is told from the perspective of a man dying after a car accident on the “Boulevard of Death.”

These were just a handful of our favorite pieces that take place in Queens; but there are also excellent locally focused stories and poems about hipsters, pigeons, street games, the 7 train, and walking over the Queensboro Bridge. The subjects are (almost) as diverse as our borough, and the talent uncovered in this issue is definitely enough to make us proud.

Only a few of the pieces or writers featured in Issue #1 have no apparent connection to Queens. Among them, Chelsey Clammer‘s poignant account of lesbian relationships and friendships drifting into each other stands out. Although Clammer lives in Colorado, the inclusion of her unique voice contributes to the journal’s wider mission: “celebrating a diversity of voices and experiences, especially those often not given space.”

Newtown Literary is accepting submissions for its second issue through February 28, 2013. We hope you consider adding your stories to the mix – and we can’t wait to read what the creative minds of Queens (and beyond) come up with next!