Poetry Reviews

jacket art for Buried Alive

BURIED ALIVE: A TO-DO LIST, poems by Carole Bernstein, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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From satirizing the mechanics of the American workplace to discovering motherly devotion in the myth of Persephone, Carole Bernstein’s third poetry collection Buried Alive: A To-Do List takes readers through caves and coffins alike, showing what living things still kick inside the previously presumed-dead ...
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YOUR STRANGE FORTUNE, poems by Chloe N. Clark, reviewed by K.C. Mead-Brewer

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I first encountered Chloe N. Clark through her prose, but even then, it was clear to me that she was a poet. Her work often feels multimodal in form, something that shines as a written text but that also seems eager to be performed aloud. Her debut collection Your Strange Fortune is no different, full of rich and devastating moments, each poem stretching with fresh life on the page or on the air. Some of these poems also function as works of visual art, such as “Flora and Fauna of the Outer Rings,” embodying their meaning in shape as well ...
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GREEN TARGET, poems by Tina Barr, reviewed by Jeff Klebauskas 

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In her latest work, Green Target, Tina Barr prods at the simultaneously tumultuous and cooperative relationship between humanity and nature, writing from her cabin in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Barr blends the intimate details of personal existence with the macrocosmic scope of collective human experience, cleverly balancing comfort and misery. Barr’s poetry harmonizes the intersecting lives she details, whether they be animal, botanical, or human. All is seen and accounted for through her kaleidoscopic vision in which events, objects and people are constantly shape-shifting, bleeding into each other, losing their original form, becoming targets for Barr’s eye-opening observations ...
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99 NAMES OF EXILE, poems by Kaveh Bassiri, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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99 Names of Exile begins in landscape. In the absence of the body of a deceased loved one, the book’s first poem “Invention of Country” searches for  a buried “uniform/ in a chest camouflaged as a scarab, its wings latched.” The poem goes on to ruminate on memories and details the speaker wishes they could conjure in the face of death, but cannot. Perhaps inspired by this loss of detail and still searching for a path to grief and intimacy, the speaker explains “I don’t trust flat surfaces” and “I know the earth is round, and if we continue falling,/ ...
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The Real Sky Book Jacket

THE REAL SKY, a mixed-genre chapbook by Valerie Fox & Jacklynn Niemiec, reviewed by Kendra Jean Aquino

Within the first few pages of The Real Sky by Valerie Fox and Jacklynn Niemiec we meet a theatrical tour guide in a haunted town, a man named Andrew who might turn into someone else at the end of the day, and a mother, covered in plaster, who walks into a field and never returns. Valerie Fox’s hybrid writing in The Real Sky is unexpected and surreal ...
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PRESSURE DRESSING book jacket

Pressure Dressing, poems by Mark Scroggins, reviewed by Johnny Payne

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It is a pleasure when a poet weds mind and heart in equal measure. Poets who tend toward innovation are often peremptorily classified by critics and readers as cerebral, the commenter overemphasizing surface play and failing to perceive—much less value—the emotional qualities they bring to their work. Thus ersatz schools and confederacies looser than that of Jefferson Davis come into being ...
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The Fire Lit & Nearing Book Jacket

THE FIRE LIT & NEARING, poems by J.G. McClure, reviewed by Kristen Sawyer

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J.G. McClure’s long-awaited first collection of poetry, The Fire Lit & Nearing meditates on the loss of romantic love and walks through darkness for an answer. McClure refuses, and simultaneously attempts, to mend himself on these pages ...
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A STAB IN THE DARK, poems  by Facundo Bernal, reviewed by Johnny Payne

A STAB IN THE DARK, poems by Facundo Bernal, reviewed by Johnny Payne

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One imagines this first existing as a notebook, non-committal if tending toward provisional completion, then, as Stein might put it, becoming what it became. In his most explosive work, Trilce, César Vallejo’s more formally complex poems are not necessarily more ambitious than those done in prose, in which he tends to offer greater immediate clarity, yet equal force. In fact, some of these explorations are more heightened and exploratory than the often-sentimental and casually conventional Human Poems. ...
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I’M FINE. HOW ARE YOU? a chapbook by Catherine Pikula, reviewed by Robert Sorrell

I’M FINE. HOW ARE YOU? a chapbook by Catherine Pikula, reviewed by Robert Sorrell

A few days after I finished Catherine Pikula’s chapbook I’m Fine. How are You? I read the following sentence: “I would like to make a book out of crumpled-up pieces of paper: you start a sentence, it doesn’t work and you throw the page away. I’m collecting a few … maybe this is, in fact, the only literature possible today.” The sentence came in the last hundred pages of The Story of a New Name, the second book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. And while the “today” referenced above was Italy in the 1960s, the description was oddly reminiscent of ...
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PORTRAIT OF A BODY IN WRECKAGES, poems by Meghan McClure, reviewed by Claire Oleson

PORTRAIT OF A BODY IN WRECKAGES, poems by Meghan McClure, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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Excellent writing is often lauded for its ability to transport and disembody the reader, to enrapture so completely that its audience floats along the sentence and forgets their place in the room. Meghan McClure’s Portrait of a Body in Wreckages does not do this, instead, much of its excellence is found in its proficiency to embody the reader, to address them in their own physicality, and move along the level of the cell as well as the sentence ...
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DEEP CAMOUFLAGE, poems by Amy Saul-Zerby, reviewed by Mike Corrao

DEEP CAMOUFLAGE, poems by Amy Saul-Zerby, reviewed by Mike Corrao

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Amy Saul-Zerby’s new collection, Deep Camouflage is the manifestation of heartbreak. It is the fables that spawn from moments of empathy and melancholy. It is the conversation that a poet has with their reader. More than most poetry collections, Saul-Zerby’s is a sequence that asks to be read all at once ...
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CUBIST STATES OF MIND/NOT THE CRUELEST MONTH, poems by Marc Jampole, reviewed by Alessio Franko

CUBIST STATES OF MIND/NOT THE CRUELEST MONTH, poems by Marc Jampole, reviewed by Alessio Franko

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Whereas his previous book references artists, movements, historical figures, and myths, Jampole has made the bold choice here to work from two overarching cultural touchstones. Rather than searching for the vocabulary it shares with the reader, Cubist States of Mind/Not the Cruelest Month undertakes the creation of a new such vocabulary altogether. The result is two series of poems that sit on the edge between the particular and the universal, the everyday and the extraordinary, the true and the beautiful ...
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THEY WERE BEARS, poems by Sarah Marcus, reviewed by Nathan O. Ferguson

THEY WERE BEARS, poems by Sarah Marcus, reviewed by Nathan O. Ferguson

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The poems in Sarah Marcus’ book, They Were Bears follow a young woman, the speaker of most of the poems, who pursues discovery and sensation in the remote corners of the American wilderness. The narrative shapes this wilderness into a wide-open expanse characterized by uncertainty, wonder, and menace. The backdrop also shifts from unpeopled natural settings to the speaker’s agricultural childhood home and to the industrial sprawl of Cleveland. The book’s three untitled segments each alternate between lyric poems and prose poems, and all use bears and other animals as central to their imagery and symbolism. Poems in the book ...
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TART HONEY, poems by Deborah Burnham, reviewed by Claire Oleson

TART HONEY, poems by Deborah Burnham, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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Divided into four sections, Deborah Burnham’s poetry collection Tart Honey seems cut into citrus slices— edible, organic, and aware of some lost and bodily whole it re-composes in the formation of its parts. The poems feature modern relationships with too much absence, a dissolving picture of Apollo 13 soon taken over by a persona attempting to collect her body into experiencing her partner, and paintings with colors that spill into cells, among other simultaneously harmonizing and divisive images ...
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Two Poetry Chapbooks from Doublecross Press reviewed by Rachael Guynn Wilson

Two Poetry Chapbooks from Doublecross Press reviewed by Rachael Guynn Wilson

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Headlands Quadrats and It’s No Good Everything’s Bad speak to anyone who appreciates poetry, and lovingly handcrafted poetry chapbooks. Both works strike a delicate balance between lyric and narrative modes—the former leaning further into lyric and the latter into prose narrative. Headlands Quadrats will be especially notable to those with an abiding interest in ecopoetics, and It’s No Good Everything’s Bad to those drawn to feminist poetics, Marxism, and humor ...
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TIME OF GRATITUDE, essays and poems by Gennady Aygi, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

TIME OF GRATITUDE, essays and poems by Gennady Aygi, reviewed by Ryan K. Strader

Time of Gratitude is an unusual text: the collected pieces are both prose and poetry, some of them written for events and some written as personal reflection. Translator Peter France has organized the book into two sections. The first one is devoted to Russian and Chuvash writers and artists, including Boris Pasternak, Kazimir Malevich, Varlam Shalamov, and Chuvash poet Mikhail Sespel ...
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BLACK GENEALOGY, poems  by Kiki Petrosino, reviewed by Claire Oleson

BLACK GENEALOGY, poems by Kiki Petrosino, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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Situated between a national and a personal history, Kiki Petrosino’s poetry book Black Genealogy sifts through the past in search of lost identity, language, bodies, and self-possession amidst the legacy of the Civil War and slavery in America. The book details an exploration of both a familial and a larger American reality through the lens of a contemporary African American persona ...
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LIGHT INTO BODIES, poems by Nancy Chen Long, reviewed by Trish Hopkinson

LIGHT INTO BODIES, poems by Nancy Chen Long, reviewed by Trish Hopkinson

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The poetry of Light into Bodies begins and ends with a theme of identity while its pages flutter with the imagery of egrets, pigeons, swans, and starlings. Nancy Chen Long presents the complexity of exploring identity from multiple perspectives—from the viewpoint of a mathematician, from a child whose mother repeatedly becomes the property of other men by the “generosity” of her own father, to a daughter’s experiences growing up in a multi-cultural home and discovering the nuances of relationships in adulthood. The poems stitch together an intricate lace of childhood memories, family stories, myth, and Asian-American experience with a thread ...
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THE SCIENCE OF UNVANISHING OBJECTS, poems by Chloe N. Clark, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck

THE SCIENCE OF UNVANISHING OBJECTS, poems by Chloe N. Clark, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck

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Completely mundane happenings take on significant meaning in Chloe N. Clark’s The Science of Unvanishing Objects. Everyday things like butterflies, telephones, and mirrors assume a role beyond their normal functions. Likewise, ordinary events such as conversations between strangers and seeing a lover naked for the first time become catalysts for a deeper understanding of the universe. Through her explorations, Clark repeatedly returns to loss, a major motif in this collection, which is amplified by recurring narratives centered on missing women ...
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BONE CONFETTI, poems by Muriel Leung, reviewed by Marilynn Eguchi

BONE CONFETTI, poems by Muriel Leung, reviewed by Marilynn Eguchi

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Muriel Leung’s Bone Confetti is an open door into a house of mourning; an exceptional look into the aftermath of loss, and in turn, an examination of what it is to love someone. A challenging collection of lyric and prose poems, the poet manipulates the space where words are carefully placed and the space where there is nothing. The theme of the book is grief, and it is palpable. It is disorienting and enveloping, but manages to avoid being overly sentimental, allowing it to be both intimate and universal. The poet stated in an interview that “applying the role of ...
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FLOWER WARS, poems by Nico Amador, reviewed by Claire Oleson

FLOWER WARS, poems by Nico Amador, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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In Nico Amador’s Flower Wars, the lines of poetry are full of flesh and voice, both of which are sure of their uncertainty and masterfully show the reader that, if we would trust an author to write their own poem, we should absolutely trust someone with reordering, preserving, mangling, and or perfecting the syllables of their own humanity. If you are a person and or a body, Flower Wars is relevant and vital reading ...
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PLAINSPEAK, WY, poems by Joanna Doxey, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck

PLAINSPEAK, WY, poems by Joanna Doxey, reviewed by Brandon Stanwyck

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Plainspeak, WY is impressive in its attention to detail and draws clear connections from matters of the earth to matters of the soul—and back again, repeatedly. The poet’s central obsession is depicted, in fact, somewhat subtly, on the cover of the book as a topographical map. Atop a cool, arctic blue, several thin black contour lines unevenly work their way around one another and connect to make shaky targets that reveal the gradual shifts in Wyoming’s terrain, formed largely, of course, by the glaciers that have so ensnared Doxey’s imagination. Plainspeak, WY, ultimately, is about the inevitable erosion of the ...
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DNA Hymn, poems by Annah Anti-Palindrome, reviewed by Johnny Payne

DNA Hymn, poems by Annah Anti-Palindrome, reviewed by Johnny Payne

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The disturbing cover art of DNA Hymn features a woman whose bloody mouth discharges what appear to be balloons, intestines, or giant molecules. The image seems apt for a collection of poems that freely disgorges both intelligence and emotional wisdom. This book by the semi-pseudonymous Annah Anti-Palindrome waxes conceptual to be sure, but not to the point where each individual poem is negated by an overarching Big Idea. In the introduction, the author explains that “resisting palindromes” derives from her mother’s morphine overdose and her desire as a daughter, both linguistic and existential, to break out of a legacy of ...
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HEMMING FLAMES, poems by Patricia Colleen Murphy, reviewed by Claire Oleson

HEMMING FLAMES, poems by Patricia Colleen Murphy, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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On the peripheries of almost constant domestic emergency and conflict, Patricia Colleen Murphy’s poetry collection Hemming Flames lights up disaster and familial antipathy with humor and endurance. Many of the pieces in this collection share threads of the same story, featuring reoccurring family figures and familiar, though often growing, conflicts. There is an undeniable amount of devastation and trauma inside these family stories, but Murphy’s true skill lies not in showing what’s often the obvious and expected pain of it all, but in bringing a humor and an odd sense of the mundane to seemingly shocking moments ...
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MOTHER-MAILBOX, poems by Emilie Lindemann, reviewed by Rachel Summerfield

MOTHER-MAILBOX, poems by Emilie Lindemann, reviewed by Rachel Summerfield

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mother-mailbox is a private life, the private mode of womanhood, made public for all of us who have ever felt empty, questioned if there was more (or made new subs out of Subway sandwich wrappings to feel such a thing) and questioned how we should be feeling, but also those of us who have found beauty and humor in the “fade-proof plum lip-root mess” of it all, for those of us who seek a home within ourselves and those we make of ourselves; for those of us whose mothers or children have made spiraling, fairytale messes in our lives, flitting ...
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IN LIEU OF FLOWERS, poems by Rachel Slotnick, reviewed by Carlo Matos

IN LIEU OF FLOWERS, poems by Rachel Slotnick, reviewed by Carlo Matos

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IN LIEU OF FLOWERS by Rachel Slotnick Tortoise Books, 48 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos Rachel Slotnick’s debut collection, In Lieu of Flowers—an eclectic combination of lyric poems, flash prose, and mixed-media paintings by the author, who is also an accomplished painter and muralist—is part in memoriam and part Ovid’s Metamorphosis. The paintings are of particular interest because they play an essential role in how we understand the poems rather than being simply decorative or extraneous as can sometimes happen when paintings and poems are paired up together in such a context. Most are essentially portraits, though not purely mimetic ones ...
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THE LOVERS' PHRASEBOOK, poems by Jordi Alonso, reviewed by Claire Oleson

THE LOVERS’ PHRASEBOOK, poems by Jordi Alonso, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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Jordi Alonso’s collection The Lovers' Phrasebook shelves itself precisely in the lexical gap between languages, working with absence to depict presence and utilizing singular words to display relationships. These poems are able to gesture at miscommunication and a lack of sufficient vocabulary while also creating space for new conversation. The Lovers' Phrasebook excels in its bravery and conceptual construction, working to translate without obscuring or whiting-out the original word in favor of an English counterpart. It’s a book that hails the multiplicity of loves and languages, largely favoring an experiential approach to definition rather than a literal one. The Lovers' ...
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WHIPSTITCHES, poems by Randi Ward reviewed by Hannah Wendlandt

WHIPSTITCHES, poems by Randi Ward reviewed by Hannah Wendlandt

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Whipstitches is, at its core, an examination of all the many aspects of a rural home, especially a rural childhood home. The pastoral is tinged with loss and decay because the world is, it is colored by the lives drawing strength from it just as is the earth, and so this small somewhere becomes a whole and complete universe. Randi Ward’s poems are neat and well-edited impressionistic snapshots that interact in a novel way to create depth despite their length. Ward is triumphant in her presentation of a rural childhood; you know this girl. You’ve seen her at a diner ...
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Only More So, poems by Millicent Borges Accardi, reviewed by paulA neves

Only More So, poems by Millicent Borges Accardi, reviewed by paulA neves

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Only More So is a read for troubled times. War, climate change, cancer—it’s all here in forty-six poems of mid-life contemplation that simultaneously remind us that forgetting the past condemns us to repeat it and that celebrating the remembering is a necessary act of resistance and transcendence. Appropriately, the former sentiment originates not from Churchill, the statesman who appropriated it in wartime, but George Santayana, the poet who believed “only the dead have seen the end of war.” ...
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BLINDSIGHT, poems by Greg Hewett, reviewed by Brent Matheny

BLINDSIGHT, poems by Greg Hewett, reviewed by Brent Matheny

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Throughout Blindsight, the reader is presented with the voice of a poet whose urges to feel and desires to know reflect those universal to humanity. Through his plainspoken language which is, at times, conversational and, at times, confessional we are reminded of our own desires, those things for which we do still burn. We are also reminded of our own blindness, literal and otherwise which obstruct our view, reflecting the world through a glass darkly. But even in the dim light, in the uncertainty, even when, after finally getting what you want, you’re not sure if you’re left “maybe more/ ...
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YOU ASK ME TO TALK ABOUT THE INTERIOR, poems by Carolina Ebeid, reviewed by Claire Oleson

YOU ASK ME TO TALK ABOUT THE INTERIOR, poems by Carolina Ebeid, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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Poetry is often in danger of being understood as purely conceptual material in need of processing and interpretation in order to become meaningful or real. It can be easy, after wading through stanzas, to lose a grip on time and place and the sensation of occupying a body. However, despite the ethereality and distance from reality poetry often possesses, Caroline Ebeid has proven that it can also be used to ground and remind us of the physical rather than simply blur or distract from it. In her collection You Ask Me to Talk About The Interior, Ebeid employs a sort ...
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no-more-milk

NO MORE MILK, poems by Karen Craigo, reviewed by Shaun Turner

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In this collection, Karen Craigo continues to question the sanctity of the body in an imperfect world. Studying relationships, motherhood, the body, and the garden, No More Milk blends the sublime with the everyday in a raw and honest sense of awe, baring truths in considered lines and controlled imagery ...
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DISINHERITANCE, poems by John Sibley Williams, reviewed by Claire Oleson

DISINHERITANCE, poems by John Sibley Williams, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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Language is almost intuitively understood as a tool for possession—a form of communication which allow us to hold and deliver ideas between minds. However, John Sibley Williams’s latest poetry collection, Disinheritance, demonstrates how language itself is anything but concrete or possessable. By employing themes of abstraction, fictionalization, and absence, Disinheritance depicts a reality that is only accessible through distortion. Williams’ poems hone in on the moments where language breaks off, proves insufficient, or only serves to describe a situation rather than explain it. In this way, Disinheritance investigates how poetry can both be made out of language and escape it ...
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A SLEEPLESS MAN SITS UP IN BED, poems by Anthony Seidman reviewed by Johnny Payne

A SLEEPLESS MAN SITS UP IN BED, poems by Anthony Seidman reviewed by Johnny Payne

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When Oswald de Andrade, in his Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto), spoke of “Cannibalism. Absorption of the sacred enemy. To transform him into a totem. The human adventure. Earthly finality,” he might have been speaking of Anthony Seidman’s delighfully profligate A Sleepless Man Sits Up in Bed. The sheer exuberance and sense of endless imagistic invention is exhaustive and vivifying. Each word is a firecracker thrown at your head, as you run through a maze—both mystic and vulgar, blissful and grotesque, enjoying a scary magic that leaves you rapt ...
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THE DEAD IN DAYLIGHT, poems by Melody S. Gee, reviewed by Claire Oleson

THE DEAD IN DAYLIGHT, poems by Melody S. Gee, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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Communicating soreness, strength, weariness, and victory by tapping a reader’s own muscles for empathy, Melody S. Gee’s latest poetry collection, The Dead in Daylight, uses language to both construct and dismantle bodies and lives. As if preparing an animal for the table, Gee’s poems divide “body” from “life” and “muscle” from “meat.” Divided into two halves, “Separate Blood” and “Bone,” this book reaches out to its reader with both life and decay, fingers extended from the pages to read the pulse of its audience. In what can be understood as taxonomies, eulogies, butchering instructions, and ways to heal a nerve, ...
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SAINT PAUL LIVES HERE (IN MINNESOTA), poems by Zach Czaia, reviewed by Hannah Kroonblawd

SAINT PAUL LIVES HERE (IN MINNESOTA), poems by Zach Czaia, reviewed by Hannah Kroonblawd

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Zach Czaia’s debut poetry collection Saint Paul Lives Here (In Minnesota) is a poet’s response to revelations of sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. When the profane is unearthed beneath the divine, long-laid foundations begin to crumble. Perhaps no more clearly has this been observed than within the Catholic Church, where investigations of sexual abuse have spanned decades ...
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EDIBLE FLOWERS, poems by Lucia Chericiu, reviewed by Claire Oleson

EDIBLE FLOWERS, poems by Lucia Chericiu, reviewed by Claire Oleson

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It’s easy to forget, in the middle of reading a stanza or a paragraph or a recipe for sauerkraut, that language is something constantly occupied with its author’s intention and its reader’s reception — it is not still nor discreet nor impersonal, no matter how inhumane the result may taste. Lucia Chericiu’s poetry collection Edible Flowers, through its personal and intimate depictions of history, home, fruit, bodies, and language, communicates how language is constantly in translation, moving between nerve-endings and letters, and irrevocably infused with the humanity that authored it and the humanity that receives it ...
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TONGUE SCREW, poems Heather Derr-Smith, reviewed by Johnny Payne

TONGUE SCREW, poems Heather Derr-Smith, reviewed by Johnny Payne

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There is Sylvia Plath’s Ariel. There is Ted Hughes’ Animal Poems. And then there is Tongue Screw. May we justly call it confessional? Not without complications. What gave Plath and Hughes, that broken set of matching china, their staying power is not the impulse to tell all, but the containment of raw human experience within a careful structure of implacable imagery. Whether they influenced her, or whether she found her independent way through a haunted yet familiar landscape, Heather Derr-Smith uses the wound of image in each of her indelible poems ...
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EDIE (WHISPERING): POEMS FROM GREY GARDENS by Sarah Nichols reviewed by Allison Noelle Conner

EDIE (WHISPERING): POEMS FROM GREY GARDENS by Sarah Nichols reviewed by Allison Noelle Conner

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The cover of Sarah Nichols’ latest chapbook is evocative. How do its images prepare us for what’s inside? We are presented with an oversized sun hat and mirror. At first I thought the mirror was a magnifying glass. A beginning note informs us that the text is sourced from Grey Gardens, the documentary directed by Albert and David Maysles. The 1976 cult film profiles Edith “Big Edie” Bouvier Beale and Edith “Little Edie” Beale, two eccentric former socialites who are noted for being Jackie Onassis’ aunt and cousin, respectively. Together they live in relative isolation amongst raccoons, cats, and fleas ...
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VOICELESS LOVE, poems by Katherine Brueck reviewed by Johnny Payne

VOICELESS LOVE, poems by Katherine Brueck reviewed by Johnny Payne

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In her collection Voiceless Love, Katherine Brueck takes to heart her idol Wroth’s enjoinder, finding a personal path to “abusing the sight” with dexterous sleights. Her preface lays out nakedly the autobiographical aims of the book, as something of a manual of solace, rooted in her contemplation of a stark and painful family life, softened somewhat by marriage, an adopted child, and God. There is a pilgrim’s progress explicit in the structure of the book as it moves from friends and lovers through spouse and child and finally to God the crucified. Yet in this age of over-explaining in all ...
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DEAD MAN’S FLOAT, poems by Jim Harrison, reviewed by Clare Paniccia

DEAD MAN’S FLOAT, poems by Jim Harrison, reviewed by Clare Paniccia

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I have read Jim Harrison’s 18th volume of poetry twice: once at the end of winter and then again on the day following the poet’s death. Harrison’s themes of mortality, a lust for living, the pleasures of the body in nature, and a fascination with the violence of being remained constant between both of these readings, pulled along by a consistent flow of lush imagery and language that attaches itself to the dialect of the everyday. What changed, however, was Harrison’s almost elegiac, almost premonitory tone: these are poems that have erupted forth from their speaker to mark the very ...
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KALEIDOSCOPE, poems by Tina Barr, reviewed by Jeff Klebauskas

KALEIDOSCOPE, poems by Tina Barr, reviewed by Jeff Klebauskas

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With the slightest rotation of its cylinder, a kaleidoscope provides altered views of the loose bits of glass that make up its interior. Tina Barr’s latest collection, the aptly titled Kaleidoscope, applies these slight rotations to the entire world, focusing on human experience—beauty marks, blemishes, and all. From the first line, “As I turn the chambered end,” the reader is sucked into a realm of time and tone-shifting fantasy that manages to stay grounded by direct, no-nonsense accounts of the author’s surroundings. Barr constantly changes directions, as the nominal theme suggests. She takes us to a jewelry shop on the ...
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Louder Than Everything You Love, poems by Nicole Rollender

Louder Than Everything You Love, poems by Nicole Rollender

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Nicole Rollender ELJ Publications, 120 pages reviewed by Camille E. Davis In her debut book of poetry, Louder Than Everything You Love, Nicole Rollender introduces herself as a voice that is polyphonic, startling, and necessary for the modern audience. When a contemporary woman is bombarded with messages that she cannot control her body, Rollender reaches through time to remind women of their own fierce strength. Rollender does this by considering prominent Biblical women, Rollender’s female ancestors, and her own daughter. She achieves this by deeply inquiring into her own faith, heritage, and even her mortality. The true elegance of Louder ...
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BLOOD HYPHEN, poems by Kenny Williams, reviewed by J.G. McClure

BLOOD HYPHEN, poems by Kenny Williams, reviewed by J.G. McClure

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Frost said that, like an ice cube on a hot stove, a poem must ride on its own melting. It’s an apt description of the poems in Kenny Williams’ Blood Hyphen, winner of the 2015 FIELD Poetry Prize. Take the book’s opening poem, “About the Author,” which begins: The genius of Diogenes: all his books are lost. But really that’s the genius of the books and not the man. If I can speak for the man, his diet of worms and onions makes me feel like a pig when I go to the store and it’s midnight and the store ...
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ENIGMAS, poems by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, reviewed by Justin Goodman

ENIGMAS, poems by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, reviewed by Justin Goodman

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Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz remains Mexico’s greatest mystery. Born in 1651 out of wedlock and between social classes, intensely devoted to knowledge—having had discussions with Isaac Newton—and to Catholicism, she died forty-four years later despised by the male authorities of the church, but canonized as part of the literary godhead of the Spanish Golden Age. The haziness of these seeming contradictions evoked in the glorious 20th century Mexican poet, Octavio Paz, a sensation of the enigmatic which he captured in “Wind, Water, Stone”: “Each is another and no other.” It’s appropriate, then, to see Enigmas publication; it is ...
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POENA DAMNI TRILOGY by Dimitris Lyacos reviewed by Justin Goodman

POENA DAMNI TRILOGY by Dimitris Lyacos reviewed by Justin Goodman

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POENA DAMNI TRILOGY Z213: EXIT, 95 pages WITH THE PEOPLE FROM THE BRIDGE, 61 pages THE FIRST DEATH, 35 pages by Dimitris Lyacos translated by Shorsha Sullivan Shoestring Press reviewed by Justin Goodman “What does the future, that half of time, matter to the man who is infatuated with eternity?” In France, in 1960, this question pressed itself upon the Romanian-born Emil Cioran. Histoire et Utopie was published, likely to the same acclaim (and rejection of acclaim) that marked all Cioran's career after 1950. Six years later and southeasterly, Dimitris Lyacos would be born in Athens. Despite the distance, Lyacos' ...
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Carey McHugh

AMERICAN GRAMOPHONE by Carey McHugh reviewed by Clare Paniccia

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AMERICAN GRAMOPHONE by Carey McHugh Augury Books, 72 pages reviewed by Clare Paniccia In approaching Carey McHugh’s American Gramophone, one might first consider this question: What is the song of America, or American culture? It’s easy to jump to the obvious conclusions—the United States has strongly defined itself through its velocity, whether in industry, technology, or commercial growth, and its music has become largely representative of these themes, with contemporary pop artists representing the almost-electric shine of the digital age, rock bands highlighting the working-class, and country groups crooning over the “loss” of an easy-going, slow-paced lifestyle. Beneath these surface ...
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Masks and Icons

MASKS AND ICONS by R. Daniel Evans reviewed by Shinelle Espaillat

poetry reviews, reviews /
MASKS AND ICONS by R. Daniel Evans Blurb, 82 pages reviewed by Shinelle Espaillat In his fourth poetry collection, Masks and Icons, R. Daniel Evans examines the complexity of love and desire, and exposes the ways in which these emotions both intersect with and deviate from each other. Evans brings a microscope to the multiple small evidences of love in the world, using the lens of art to view the beauty and pain of interpersonal connection, inviting readers to look through the mask of the self and perceive the extraordinary. Section I, “From The Land of Walt Whitman,” focuses on ...
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CALIGULAN by Ernest Hilbert reviewed by J.G. McClure

CALIGULAN by Ernest Hilbert reviewed by J.G. McClure

poetry reviews, reviews /
CALIGULAN by Ernest Hilbert Measure Press, 96 pages reviewed by J.G. McClure From his debut Sixty Sonnets to All of You On The Good Earth, Ernest Hilbert has made a name for himself as a dedicated formalist. His latest, Caligulan, is no exception: you’ll find no free verse here. Hilbert is at his best when the content of the poems plays against the formal constraints. Take “Barnegat Light,” for instance: The gull pulls bags from trash and drags them clear. He’s big as a cat, a blur of snow and soot. He pokes until debris spills down the pier. He’s ...
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DIORAMA by Rocío Cerón reviewed by Johnny Payne

DIORAMA by Rocío Cerón reviewed by Johnny Payne

poetry reviews, reviews /
DIORAMA by Rocío Cerón Phoneme Press, 145 pages reviewed by Johnny Payne Cerón’s creation can best be described thus: she summons words. Like iron filings to a magnet, they come into an order that feels inevitable. Pulsar body, delicate hibiscus flowers or mangrove Palm: residual beauty of misery/ In this penchant for naming, her exquisite and casual catalogues could pass as still life. But her poetry, technical yet drenched in sensation, scientific yet opulent in the manner of natural history, is propulsive, as she pushes herself, and us, to the far limit of the mind’s ken. In “Sonata Mandala to ...
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