Permafrost (Review)

2021

Reviewed by Kira Labosky

Susquehanna University

Permafrost, The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ literary magazine, publishes poetry, fiction, and literary nonfiction by new voices and established writers from all over the world. Permafrost is run by creative writing graduate students and publishes a print winter issue along with an online spring issue.


Permafrost’s online issue presents a very visually appealing and unique interface. The University of Alaska Fairbanks has presented a new take on the traditional table of contents, as it is presented not as a list of works, but instead as a cork board adorned with pictures that represent the pieces of writing. Click on any of these pictures and you will find yourself teleported to the work that it represents. This layout brings forward a fresh and engaging experience for the reader to explore all of the different works that are showcased in their respective issues.


Though the print issues are only available to purchase, Permafrost does display the cover art on their website. The covers that Permafrost tends to choose are very interesting and seemingly out of the box. For their most recent Spring 2020 issue, the cover depicts a green-blue alien-looking figure with an almost marbly looking pattern and the Permafrost logo in a vibrant purple. The contrast of these colors is very visually stimulating and appealing and would seemingly entice a reader to want to explore its contents.


One piece I particularly enjoyed in my reading was a piece of prose titled “Washed” by Sara Brown. I thought the imagery was highly captivating and really allowed me to be transported into the scenery of the piece and feel, see, and sense everything that Brown describes. The line “You want to throw that away too, but it’s important to you, deep down in the pockets of it all” was very impactful to me. I think many people will be able to relate to that line and have it resonate with them in the same way that it does for me.


The photography and artwork that the magazine publishes is nothing short of astounding. The artwork by Brittany Kiefer is moving and compelling beyond comprehension. The three individual art pieces that are featured in this issue really tell a story behind each one of them and allow the reader to feel the emotion.

“Affection” by Chad Hanson is also particularly compelling. Depicting two horses in black and white as their heads rest on each other’s, this piece of photography is deeply touching, and the title perfectly accompanies the photo of these beautiful horses.


I found the piece of prose titled “Diner Dialogue” by Janis Butler Holm to be very intriguing, and it left me wanting to know more about the story. The prose is accompanied by a reading of the piece by Bett Butler, which I also thought was a very engaging and interactive feature of the online publication itself. The story left me wanting to know more about the two characters and their situation, and it seems as though this was the goal of the author. It is a great depiction of genuine human interaction and I was enamored with it from top to bottom.


Permafrost is truly an all-inclusive reading experience and is certainly more than just a literary magazine. The online components are wonderfully constructed and the selected pieces are highly enjoyable to read and very well written. The team and writers involved with Permafrost truly have something to be proud of here.

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