The Toucan Magazine

Candle-Ends: Reviews
Theryn Fleming


The Toucan Magazine was founded in 2008 by two students at Columbia College Chicago, Liz Baudler (whose story, “It’s All Ice,” was published in Toasted Cheese 11:1) and Laura Rynberg, who style themselves as editrices.

The Toucan is published five times a year, online and in print. The online version, which I’m reviewing here, is hosted on Blogspot. The background of the page is a bright lime green; the body is pale orange and white. Immediately below the masthead is a sticky post, welcoming readers and writers. At the top of the right-hand sidebar are the submission guidelines.

What I like about the layout: the text is plain, but readable. The toucan artwork—by Tom Besson—in the masthead adds an original touch to the standard blog template. The sticky post at the top of the page orients first-time visitors and the location of the submission guidelines makes them impossible to miss. The guidelines themselves are clear and succinct.

What I’m less fond of: the blog-as-magazine format can be difficult to navigate, especially when reading archived issues. While each piece gets its own post/page, it’s surrounded by the sticky intro post and sidebar, which feels a bit cluttered and can distract from the writing. There are also some issues with the formatting (fonts, colors, line spacing) of the posts.

The Toucan publishes prose, poetry, and artwork. The artwork appears alongside the poetry and prose selections. The images are quite small, and it would be nice to see them on a slightly larger scale.

As of this writing, The Toucan has published sixteen issues online, the latest in May, and thirteen in print (the print issues seem to be on hiatus at the moment). Some of the issues are themed. Each issue begins with an introductory post with table of contents and concludes with a post of contributors’ notes. Most issues also include an “Editrice Note,” a bloggy version of the traditional editor’s note. Liz appears to do most of the editorial writing, and her voice is friendly and enthusiastic.

The contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds and include both new writers and those who’ve published extensively. I recognized some names from here at TC: Gale Acuff, John Grey (who appears in this issue), Corey Mesler, and Kristine Ong Muslim.

In Issue 16, John Grey’s “These Hollows” depicts a scene many writers can relate to—writing through the night while one’s partner sleeps:

I’m at the computer
pounding away
like an insomniac’s heart.

In “Autumn Evening” by Tony Burnett the melancholy of the farmwife narrator who’s missing her only child, who has left home to travel the world, is echoed by the bawling of a cow who has lost her calf. The claim that “all is well” in the final line is belied by the unsettled tension in the story:

“Will she quit bellowing soon?” I ask. I know the answer.

“Not anytime soon.”

Later, after he washes away the prairie, we lie beside each other in bed. He kisses me softly and pushes a strand of gray hair away from my eye. We kiss again.

“Sweet dreams,” he says. We don’t waste any energy creating unnecessary heat.

“Good night,” I say and turn off the bedside lamp. All is well.

Issue 16 also includes fiction by Beau Johnson, Theodore Obourn, Nikki Dolson, T.W Townsend, Kato Harris, and Rory Margraf, and poetry by Michael Estabrook, Prairie L. Markussen, L. Ward Abel, and Davide Trame, as well as artwork by Eleanor Bennett and Denny Marshall.

According their introduction to the issue, Liz and Laura just graduated from college, so we offer our congratulations and best wishes with The Toucan and all their future endeavors.

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Email: beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com

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