Bitterzoet, pronounced “Bitterjoot” is an online bimonthly that also publishes “bon bon” chapbooks. They are committed to free content and fostering a “love triangle” between the reader, the author and the word. Although this review is covering their two-year online digital issue, they do print handmade magazines which would make any etsy-artisian proud. Their blog, The Melting Pot, is thin and delicate and young and growing. Containing mostly interviews with artists and writers, with a couple recommendations and recipes sprinkled on top.
The August issue has twelve poems and a flash fiction piece. Almost all the writing is sweet and short and accessible. Well-structured, straight poems seem to make it into this magazine. The selected poems are relatively realistic, there is no Dada, no bizarre speculation. There is one zombie prose poem, but I won’t hold that against them, the text is solid. The exception to the short structure poem, Jiordan Castle’s "This is How You Lose Me," is a sprawling seven page poem that revisits a relationship gone sour. Not an easy poem to publish nor write, but a pleasure to read:
When I was in your bed talking about prison and plans and staying in San Francisco
I asked about her enough to know but not to pry.
You said you didn’t know if you should reach out to her
I wonder if she still hates me you whispered.
Castle’s eloquence should be commended. She captures those youthful romances that keep coming-of-age in New York so exciting. Cait Cole’s poem "Composite" also stands out:
I found myself in my childhood home
strung out and beat down and left out
I wanted to kick you into the dust
and shot myself three thousand miles
into the west when you said ‘no’
Tight and musical, the reader experiences the passion and pain. The Seattle rain, that Cobain pain, cigarettes and pizza and heartbreak—packed into four well-carves stanzas and a last-line dinger, which I won’t drop here.
The contributors to Bitterzoet are burgeoning. There are no full-length books to their credit. There is only one MFA. They seem to be young and at the beginning of their careers, as is Bitterzoet Magazine as a publisher. This is a good place to submit for unpublished authors who want to get their first credit. The authors published in this issue come from a diverse array of backgrounds. The editors are looking at what you are doing, not what you have done and that is a sweet thing.
If I were to offer any advice to the editors, it would be either pump up the fiction section by adding more or just focus on poetry, which I think is the key to longevity.
Bitterzoet is young and pretty and tasty. The simple design makes focusing on the text a pleasure. Although laced with confectionary sugar, there is a craftsmanship par excellence. The hope is they keep baking so readers can enjoy those bonbons long into the future. Perhaps the editors, Wes Solether and Pattie Flint, say it best in the opening notes for the issue:
“We know that the road has been long and challenging, and we have a long way to go yet, but this issue is our way of saying, ‘you know, we’re actually doing pretty well.’”
And they are. Go on, you know you want to, forget about that diet, order a bonbon!