It's not every day that a new magazine is launched in Philadelphia, and even rarer still does a literary journal make its debut in the City of Brotherly Love. But the latter is what happened not long ago when First City Review made its premiere. The magazine bills itself as "a journal of pop culture, fiction, essays, poetry, travel and review." The editor is Michael W. Pollock, whose work appeared regularly in Inside magazine (for the sake of full disclosure, I used to edit that magazine).
This first issue has been handsomely produced, with a fine eye toward the visual. The paper stock is good, the typeset readable and pleasing, and the photographic reproductions — all in black and white — have a lovely patina. None of these virtues are certainties when it comes to small magazines, especially when they're just starting out. The magazine received some backing from the 5-County Arts Fund and, according to the masthead, "donations from private contributors."
Pollock introduces his journal with a two-page confession, titled "The Beauty of Dysfunction," about what brought him to this point. As he sees it, it was a sense of peril that gave birth to First City. He had taken on the renovation of his home, singlehandedly, when his wife was six-months pregnant. They had secured financing, but the money hadn't arrived and, in a matter of weeks, they were broke. They'd given notice on their apartment and, if they couldn't find another quickly, they'd be facing homelessness as well.
They followed every lead, left lots of messages, but only one person called back — and she turned out to be a fairy godmother of sorts. A woman who called herself "Ms. Karen" was the owner of a B&B in West Philly — "a large, restored Victorian," as Pollock describes it. When she heard the couple's tale of woe, she seemed tickled pink. "She said she'd planned to close the B&B for a month while she was in Italy, but that in her absence we should stay for an agreeable price, which we could delay paying until her return." How could they say no? They moved in a week later.
It was out of this miraculous good fortune, says Pollock, that the idea for his new journal took shape. "From the outset," he writes, "I wanted to create a free-form magazine with no established theme. It would be similar to the old photographs that I'd collected since moving here, with disjointed themes and unresolved narratives. And it would have broad scope, publishing voices from around the world. Two years later, it arrives with one minor change: despite my hope for eliminating issue themes, one clearly has taken hold."
This is the Dysfunction issue, notes Pollock.
I wasn't familiar with any of the writers featured in First City, but all of them, according to their brief bios, have impressive credentials. I particularly enjoyed Thaddeus Rutkowski's brief, spooky story "Shots and Flames."
But there's lots more in the publication that will grab your attention. Let's hope issue No. 2 is well in the works.