Poetry Reviews

CALIGULAN by Ernest Hilbert reviewed by J.G. McClure

CALIGULAN by Ernest Hilbert reviewed by J.G. McClure

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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

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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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SUPPLICATION: Selected Poems by John Wieners reviewed by J.G. McClure

SUPPLICATION: Selected Poems by John Wieners reviewed by J.G. McClure

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SUPPLICATION: Selected Poems by John Wieners Wave Books, 216 pages reviewed by J.G. McClure I’ll admit upfront that, prior to receiving Supplication, Selected Poems of John Wieners, I knew very little about Wieners or his work. Biographically, I knew he was a Beat Poet and member of the San Francisco Renaissance. The only poem I knew was the titular poem of this selected, “Supplication”: O poetry, visit this house often, imbue my life with success, leave me not alone, give me a wife and home. Take this curse off of early death and drugs, make me a friend among peers, ...
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HOW TO BE ANOTHER by Susan Lewis reviewed by Carlo Matos

HOW TO BE ANOTHER by Susan Lewis reviewed by Carlo Matos

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HOW TO BE ANOTHER by Susan Lewis Červená Barva Press, 81 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos In How to be Another, Susan Lewis explores the full range of the prose poem form. These poems read like short speculative essays in the tradition of Montaigne, which is to say they have a metaphysical or epistemological bent to them. “Most knowing goes unlicensed,” says the speaker archly in “Introduction to Appreciation.” We are not dealing in this book with the esoteric details of autobiography or memoir but with the broader experiences of humanity as a species. How to be Another isn’t concerned ...
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TOUCHÉ by Rod Smith reviewed by Brandon Lafving

TOUCHÉ by Rod Smith reviewed by Brandon Lafving

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TOUCHÉ by Rod Smith Wave Books, 112 pages reviewed by Brandon Lafving Poetry these days is unglamorous, but at least it’s fun. At most, it’s fun. Rod Smith’s Touché plays, but you would have to call it mischievous because it hits you with über grit, and not one punch is held back. “Everything I have written is trash. I have not / even the strength to love. Let it go.” The blunt emotion of these lines is the impulse of “Buoyancy”—the cathartic moment of a tormented artist who is filled with self-hatred and guilt over his inability to love a ...
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SUPERIOR PACKETS  by Susie Timmons reviewed by Clare Paniccia

SUPERIOR PACKETS by Susie Timmons reviewed by Clare Paniccia

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SUPERIOR PACKETS by Susie Timmons Wave Books, 181 pages reviewed by Clare Paniccia So often we find a characterization and romanticization of New York City within literature and film—the city forming a metaphor for struggle and loss and surrounding a scene with an obvious reminder that time (or taxis) waits for no one. If we close our eyes and imagine “New York,” we might see towering skyscrapers, new-age coffee shops serving only one type of organic bean, streets marred with the remnants of garbage and posters… This is the city that we know—the one that pulses continuously in our veins ...
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TOMBO by W.S. Di Piero reviewed by Johnny Payne

TOMBO by W.S. Di Piero reviewed by Johnny Payne

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TOMBO by W.S. Di Piero McSweeney’s, 63 pages reviewed by Johnny Payne Giacomo Leopardi speaks of two essential kinds of imagination: strong and promiscuous. The first is “weighty, impassioned, melancholic, with deep emotion and passion, all fraught with life hugely suffered.” The second is “playful, light, fleet, inconstant in love, high spirited.” The W.S. Di Piero of The Dog Star, the one I first encountered as a reader, is of the strong variety, as in his depiction of a somber Whitman attending injured soldiers and offering introspection on a Civil War battlefield in “Walt, the Wounded.” A small fire still ...
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BETWEEN GRAMMARS by Danielle Vogel reviewed by Amanda Hickok

BETWEEN GRAMMARS by Danielle Vogel reviewed by Amanda Hickok

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BETWEEN GRAMMARS by Danielle Vogel Noemi Press, 78 pages reviewed by Amanda Hickok It’s so often that a book of poetry can be thought of as a static object, a collection of disembodied words that are supposed to transcend the body and voice of their author on the page. And it’s so often that poets are bodiless, as poetry—no matter how much it is about bodies—must be divorced from its corporeal source and recipient; that a poet writes for an anonymous reader who in turn reads nobody behind their words. However, and perhaps ironically, poetry’s meaning comes at least in ...
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THE REFUSAL OF SUITORS by Ryo Yamaguchi reviewed by Johnny Payne

THE REFUSAL OF SUITORS by Ryo Yamaguchi reviewed by Johnny Payne

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THE REFUSAL OF SUITORS Ryo Yamaguchi Noemi Press, 97 pages reviewed by Johnny Payne This chaste book could be titled The Story of O. Ryo Yamaguchi rhapsodizes, if more quietly, in the mood of Keats when he exclaims “O for a Life of Sensations rather than of Thoughts!”: O machine, O accord, I no longer ask the things I need not ask . . . the slow atmosphere of story has refused too long to seat my rhythms, and I have refused to elaborate myself through its lines. His drama of sensate consciousness is based on the refusal (ergo the ...
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MENDELEEV’S MANDALA by Jessica Goodfellow reviewed by Camille E. Davis

MENDELEEV’S MANDALA by Jessica Goodfellow reviewed by Camille E. Davis

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MENDELEEV’S MANDALA by Jessica Goodfellow Mayapple Press, 102 pages reviewed by Camille E. Davis Jessica Goodfellow was trained as a poet and a mathematician. In an interview with The Japan Times, she admits that as a child she would “recite poems, usually rewritten nursery rhymes, where [she] would change the words to what [she] wanted…but with the rhythm of the rhyme behind it.” However, her family, though never precisely dampening her poetic spirit, pushed her to explore her natural ability in mathematics instead. She came to reconsider her career choice when she found herself deeply unhappy while pursuing a Ph.D ...
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RUNAWAY GOAT CART by Thomas Devaney reviewed by Anna Strong

RUNAWAY GOAT CART by Thomas Devaney reviewed by Anna Strong

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RUNAWAY GOAT CART by Thomas Devaney Hanging Loose Press, 80 pages reviewed by Anna Strong Early in Runaway Goat Cart, the latest from Thomas Devaney, readers get a found poem of language that has come from a diary found in a darkroom at Moore Women’s College of Art, dated 1972. The writer of the diary is unidentified, though she records the speech of a few of her friends. One of these, Susan, from the haze of cigarette smoke and darkroom chemicals, offers two startlingly clear statements about photography and art that also serve as a guide to reading Devaney’s text ...
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I FOLLOW IN THE DUST SHE RAISES by Linda Martin & PLASH AND LEVITATION by Adam Tavel reviewed by Johnny Payne

I FOLLOW IN THE DUST SHE RAISES by Linda Martin & PLASH AND LEVITATION by Adam Tavel reviewed by Johnny Payne

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I FOLLOW IN THE DUST SHE RAISES by Linda Martin University of Alaska Press, 63 pages PLASH AND LEVITATION by Adam Tavel University of Alaska Press, 85 pages reviewed by Johnny Payne On finishing these two books of poetry recently published by the University of Alaska Press, I felt like a smug bigamist who can’t decide between two pretenders for his love, so chooses them both. I don’t regret this lack of choice, for each has its charms, and they can’t be reconciled. Linda Martin’s I Follow in the Dust She Raises is the kind of poetry that invites the ...
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BANNED FOR LIFE by Arlene Ang reviewed by Carlo Matos

BANNED FOR LIFE by Arlene Ang reviewed by Carlo Matos

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BANNED FOR LIFE by Arlene Ang Misty Publications, 81 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos Arlene Ang’s Banned for Life is obsessed with bodies, especially dead bodies. In fact, there is a reference to a corpse in nearly every poem in the first section and in many cases the corpses are literally present. And in the poems that do not have corpses, death is often not far or on hold. In “Mountains,” for example, the subject of the poem is referred to simply as “the body:” With both hands, the body touched itself where the physician lingered with the stethoscope ...
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THE 8TH HOUSE by Feng Sun Chen reviewed by Johnny Payne

THE 8TH HOUSE by Feng Sun Chen reviewed by Johnny Payne

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THE 8TH HOUSE by Feng Sun Chen Black Ocean Press, 93 pages reviewed by Johnny Payne Aphorism is the thought slot of our time. Philosophy has turned cuneiform. The ambitious poem-cycles that might once have been written through urgent, incessant movement, seeking enjambment as a fugitive does a street corner, with muscular metaphors in hot pursuit, now favor the end-stop. Feng Sun Chen, in The 8th House, practices this art of the succinct. No organism is ashamed under the knife. A woman’s body is an angel factory. When I pick up a book and open it, it is dead. Even ...
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THE SUGAR BOOK by Johannes Goransson reviewed by Johnny Payne

THE SUGAR BOOK by Johannes Goransson reviewed by Johnny Payne

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THE SUGAR BOOK by Johannes Goransson Tarpaulin Sky Press, 184 pages reviewed by Johnny Payne Antonin Artaud gave us the Theater of Cruelty. He “for whom delirium was/the only solution/to the strangulation/that life had prepared for him.” Now Johannes Garson, in the ironically named The Sugar Book, gives us a poetry of cruelty. It is the necessary car wreck that brings the Jaws of Life. The book is a whisky genre-bender in a haunted Los Angeles, where the “I” walks out on his son, fucks the homeless, reflects on scrotums, obsesses about tits, his hard-on, hot bitches, taxes, capitalism, the ...
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THE CAPTAIN’S DAUGHTER by Alexander Pushkin reviewed by Derek M. Brown

THE CAPTAIN’S DAUGHTER by Alexander Pushkin reviewed by Derek M. Brown

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THE CAPTAIN’S DAUGHTER by Alexander Pushkin translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler NYRB, 170 pages reviewed by Derek M. Brown Originally published in 1836, The Captain’s Daughter is a fictionalized account of a historical rebellion against the administration of Catherine II. The novel first appeared in English as Marie: A Story of Russian Love. In this edition, Robert and Elizabeth Chandler defy the sentiments of Robert Frost, who once declared that “poetry is what gets lost in translation.” In this edition, all the richness, humor, and poetry for which Pushkin is celebrated, is lovingly preserved. The Chandlers’ translation will ...
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THINK TANK by Julie Carr reviewed by Johnny Payne

THINK TANK by Julie Carr reviewed by Johnny Payne

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THINK TANK by Julie Carr Solid Objects, 82 pages reviewed by Johnny Payne The first order of a book of poetry, irrespective of its particular style, is to give pleasure. It’s that simple. Whatever releases the dopamine from the nucleus accumbens qualifies. This was my experience with Julie Carr’s Think Tank. I suspended immediate comprehension, simply following the text’s pulses and impulses. Pick a through line: trail the images from start to finish, or the sounds, until understanding accumulates like dewdrops on a Maine slicker. This is a volume of extraordinary discipline, cerebral yet appealing, loose and playful: Yeast minutes ...
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AND THE GIRLS WORRIED TERRIBLY by Dot Devota reviewed by Julia Paganelli

AND THE GIRLS WORRIED TERRIBLY by Dot Devota reviewed by Julia Paganelli

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AND THE GIRLS WORRIED TERRIBLY by Dot Devota Noemi Press, 80 pages Dot Devota, in her book, And the Girls Worried Terribly, puts aside marriage to man, woman, or God and marries self to self. Through bizarre and delightful celebration imagery, Devota leads us to conception through physical and mental violence. Devota’s title has been carefully selected from a caption in Oliver Statler’s The Black Ship Scroll. In this historical work, Statler writes of an instance when Japanese singing girls were to have their photographs taken by foreigners, “and the girls worried terribly,” that “the soul might leave to take ...
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RED JUICE: POEMS 1998–2008 by Hoa Nguyen reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke

RED JUICE: POEMS 1998–2008 by Hoa Nguyen reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke

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RED JUICE: POEMS 1998–2008 by Hoa Nguyen Wave Books, 245 pages reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke Hoa Nguyen is a poetic tease: her retrospective Red Juice is a decade’s-worth of poetry that tantalizes with glimpses of self-awareness and familiarity just as soon as the lines lose you in non sequitur and obscurity. The poet flutters between intense clarity and seeming nonsense (albeit eloquent nonsense), forcing the reader to dwell over her deceptively short poems, grappling with gut-reactions to the way the work appears on the page. Reading the book becomes an accomplishment, a brain teaser; steeping the simple language in one’s ...
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A QUESTION OF TRADITION: WOMEN POETS IN YIDDISH by Kathryn Hellerstein reviewed by Alyssa Quint

A QUESTION OF TRADITION: WOMEN POETS IN YIDDISH by Kathryn Hellerstein reviewed by Alyssa Quint

A QUESTION OF TRADITION: WOMEN POETS IN YIDDISH, 1586-1987 by Kathryn Hellerstein Stanford University Press, 496 pages reviewed by Alyssa Quint Poetry by female Yiddish writers has become the tree that falls in the empty forest of Jewish literature. As a discrete body of work it resonated only faintly with the same Yiddish critics and scholars who gushed over male Yiddish authors. English translations have become an important repository of the dying vernacular of East European Jews but, again, not so much for its female poets. Women's Yiddish poetry finally gets its scholarly due from Kathryn Hellerstein, long-time champion of ...
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THE GHOST IN US WAS MULTIPLYING by Brent Armendinger reviewed by Johnny Payne

THE GHOST IN US WAS MULTIPLYING by Brent Armendinger reviewed by Johnny Payne

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THE GHOST IN US WAS MULTIPLYING by Brent Armendinger Noemi Press, 94 pages reviewed by Johnny Payne It has been thirty years since Bernstein, Hejinian, McCaffery, et alii stormed the gates of poesy—twenty since some of them hitch-hiked up to Buffalo. Depending on where you sat, they were either a palliative or a wound—in either case, necessary. They ran over the daisy with a lawnmower, the better to see the fibers of its petals. In a preface some time back to a re-issue of The Sophist, Ron Silliman mourns that “seventeen years later . . .[it] doesn’t look as radical ...
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IN THE EVENT OF FULL DISCLOSURE by Cynthia Atkins reviewed by Arya F. Jenkins

IN THE EVENT OF FULL DISCLOSURE by Cynthia Atkins reviewed by Arya F. Jenkins

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IN THE EVENT OF FULL DISCLOSURE by Cynthia Atkins CW Books, 95 pages reviewed by Arya F. Jenkins Questions about the past, memory and legacy interlink with everyday images that haunt the reader in Cynthia Atkins’s second volume of poetry, In the Event of Full Disclosure. Atkins’s poems arch into a tree extending way beyond herself, into family, society, and community, while inviting the reader to share in her concerns. If there is wholeness and power to be achieved, the poet seems to be saying, it is recognizing one’s humanness and interconnectedness ...
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HOW WE CAME UPON THE COLONY by Ross White reviewed by J.G. McClure

HOW WE CAME UPON THE COLONY by Ross White reviewed by J.G. McClure

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HOW WE CAME UPON THE COLONY by Ross White Unicorn Press, 24 pages reviewed by J.G. McClure Ross White’s first chapbook, How We Came Upon the Colony, transports us to a strange world where the contemporary and the ancient commingle, and where nothing is ever quite what we first expect. Take “Downturn,” which opens: What’s gone remains gone. When the Library at Alexandria burned, scroll lit scroll. Whole languages died there. The Colossus at Rhodes, felled by earthquake, was eventually disassembled under the orders of the caliph, carted off by camel, and smelted like scrap.... ...
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THING MUSIC by Anthony McCann reviewed by Matthew Girolami

THING MUSIC by Anthony McCann reviewed by Matthew Girolami

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THING MUSIC by Anthony McCann Wave Books, 113 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami Anthony McCann’s newest collection, Thing Music, is not unlike a player piano, only instead of standards it plays John Cage or even Merzbow. That is to say, that while the reader recognizes McCann’s Thing Music to be poetry as one recognizes Cage’s compositions to be music, the common associations with either art—melody and harmony, form and line—are rearranged, actively dissonant, and yet nonetheless beautiful. Unlike familiar emotional confirmations found in melodrama or more confessional lyric poetry, Thing Music’s reward is one of discovery: of new pleasures ...
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The Search for Heinrich Schlögel

THE SEARCH FOR HEINRICH SCHLÖGEL by Martha Baillie reviewed by Jamie Fisher

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THE SEARCH FOR HEINRICH SCHLÖGEL by Martha Baillie Tin House Books, 352 pages reviewed by Jamie Fisher "ERRATICA" Think fast! ____’s fourth novel navigates the tension between fact and fiction, readership and voyeurism, the impersonality of the archive, and the personal voice of the archivist. If you guessed W.G. Sebald, you’re not far off. He was known for writing in luminous ellipses around historical catastrophe, particularly the Holocaust, with an intellectual restlessness mirrored by his travels. But the author in question is Martha Baillie, and the book not Rings of Saturn but The Search for Heinrich Schlögel. Baillie ...
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TWO FAINT LINES IN THE VIOLET by Lissa Kiernan reviewed by Carlo Matos

TWO FAINT LINES IN THE VIOLET by Lissa Kiernan reviewed by Carlo Matos

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TWO FAINT LINES IN THE VIOLET by Lissa Kiernan Negative Capability Press, 112 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos Lissa Kiernan’s debut collection radiates, burns, and fluoresces like uranium glass, like a “bed of plutonium nightlights.” Many of the poems, especially in the first half of the book, focus on her father (“My father, my leather fetish, my motorcycle papa”) and deal largely with the grief she experiences as he dies from cancer. But these more intimate revelations are not allowed to remain solely in the realm of the personal, set off as they are by poems of a more political, or ...
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NOTHING IN BETWEEN by Marybeth Rua-Larsen reviewed by Shinelle Espaillat

NOTHING IN BETWEEN by Marybeth Rua-Larsen reviewed by Shinelle Espaillat

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NOTHING IN BETWEEN by Marybeth Rua-Larsen Barefoot Muse Press, 58 Pages reviewed by Shinelle Espaillat Fairy tales often have at least two versions: the Disney translations, in which everyone signs and good guys have perfect teeth, and the Grimm incarnations, which feature visceral heart extractions and frequent attempted murder of young girls. We often study fairy tales to examine what messages they convey about gender and voice; in her collection, Nothing In-Between, Marybeth Rua-Larsen offers alternative interpretations, both of the tales themselves and our reasons for telling them. The theme of rescuing runs throughout most fairy tales, making it an ...
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PRAYER OF CONFESSION by Jen Karetnick reviewed by Amanda Hickok

PRAYER OF CONFESSION by Jen Karetnick reviewed by Amanda Hickok

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prayer-of-confessionPRAYER OF CONFESSION by Jen Karetnick Finishing Line Press, 28 pages reviewed by Amanda Hickok Jen Karetnick’s Prayer of Confession pulls the reader into an intimate, enclosed space—often either a private, domestic space or a suspended moment—that is alternately comforting and suffocating, at times a place of productivity and rebirth and at times a stifling, labyrinthine funhouse that consumes and destroys. In these spaces, identity is either recovered or lost—fragments of the self add up to a whole that is seemingly cohesive and meaningful, or become increasingly disjointed. Karetnick’s images of these spaces—homes, motels, coffins, temples, and the body—as ...
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ALL OF YOU ON THE GOOD EARTH

ALL OF YOU ON THE GOOD EARTH By Ernest Hilbert reviewed by J.G. McClure

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ALL OF YOU ON THE GOOD EARTH ALL OF YOU ON THE GOOD EARTH by Ernest Hilbert Red Hen Press, 96 pages reviewed by J.G. McClure In her classic “Some Notes on Organic Form,” Denise Levertov argues that “Rhyme, chime, echo, reiteration…not only serve to knit the elements of an experience but often are the very means, the sole means, by which the density of texture and the returning or circling of perception can be transmuted into language, ap­perceived.” When a formal poem is doing its job well, it couldn’t exist in any other way. In All of You on the Good Earth, Ernest Hilbert takes ...
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BILATERAL ASYMMETRY by Don Riggs reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat

BILATERAL ASYMMETRY by Don Riggs reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat

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BILATERAL ASYMMETRY by Don Riggs Texture Press, 120 pages reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat In his new collection, Bilateral Asymmetry, Don Riggs explores the balance—or the imbalance—between art and life, and the inevitable synergy between the two. His illustrations illuminate his poetic concepts, offering the reader a fuller texture through which to experience his work. In the manner of the old masters, Riggs offers provocation with deceptive simplicity. The first section, Gallery Opening, is an exercise in ekphrasis. Riggs entwines visual and literary art, reminding us how genres and mediums can and should inspire each other. Indeed, the opening poem, ...
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TALKATIVENESS by Michael Earl Craig reviewed by Anthony Blake

TALKATIVENESS by Michael Earl Craig reviewed by Anthony Blake

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TALKATIVENESS by Michael Earl Craig Wave Books, 104 pages reviewed by Anthony Blake In a recent column of The New York Times, leading poets were once again asked whether their genre could ever regain its relevancy. William Logan’s contribution “As for relevance, poetry does not need to be relevant. It needs to be good” and David Biespiel’s assertion “Does poetry matter? Yes. Can poetry be more relevant? No.” paint poetry as a rogue agent that doesn’t need the approval of its peers. For a bleaker view of things, throw in David Orr’s depiction of poetry as “the weak sister of ...
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BIRDS ON THE KISWAR TREE by Odi Gonzalez translated by Lynn Levin reviewed by J.G. McClure

BIRDS ON THE KISWAR TREE by Odi Gonzalez translated by Lynn Levin reviewed by J.G. McClure

BIRDS ON THE KISWAR TREE by Odi Gonzalez, trans. Lynn Levin 2Leaf Press, 140 pages reviewed by J.G. McClure It’s the Last Supper. The apostles pray earnestly as Christ radiates a heavenly light, bread-loaf in hand. It’s a scene we know well, with a key difference: dead-center of the canvas, surrounded by corn and chilies, a roasted guinea pig splays its feet in the air. This is a prime example of the Cusco School of painting, an artistic movement that developed during Peru’s colonial period and that forms the subject of Birds on the Kiswar Tree. As translator Lynn Levin ...
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DARK. SWEET.: NEW & SELECTED POEMS by Linda Hogan reviewed by Amanda Hickok

DARK. SWEET.: NEW & SELECTED POEMS by Linda Hogan reviewed by Amanda Hickok

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DARK. SWEET.: NEW & SELECTED POEMS by Linda Hogan Coffee House Press, 421 pages reviewed by Amanda Hickok Opening Linda Hogan’s Dark. Sweet. is like coming upon the entrance to a dark cave and striking a match to find the interior covered in Paleolithic paintings. Her imagery is primordial—simple, direct representations of the natural world that recur throughout her poetry to tell and retell the history and oral stories of the Chickasaw, her own personal history, and her concerns for the present. The same images are reused and recast with each poem, accumulating new layers of meaning as her writing progresses ...
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TITULADA by Elena Minor reviewed by Anna Strong

TITULADA by Elena Minor reviewed by Anna Strong

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TITULADA by Elena Minor Noemi Press, 75 pages reviewed by Anna Strong From its first pages, Elena Minor’s TITULADA announces its commitment to experimentation and resistance to easy characterization in a single poetic or linguistic category. English is invaded by Spanish, typical grammar and punctuation are dispossessed by mathematical symbols, poetry itself is invaded by prose and even drama. Readers enter these poems with trepidation, uncertain of where the floor will fall out from underneath them, but that not knowing, the discomfort with which we read these poems is a crucial part of the immense pleasure of reading ...
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SELECTED POEMS by Mark Ford reviewed by Matthew Girolami

SELECTED POEMS by Mark Ford reviewed by Matthew Girolami

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SELECTED POEMS by Mark Ford Coffee House Press, 146 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami Mark Ford’s Selected Poems is one loquacious houseguest. Appearing unexpectedly at your door one soaked evening, the speaker of these poems immediately pulls at the thread of your surprise as you prepare them some tea. Despite being visibly traveled the speaker is quite chipper, and as the details of their arrival unfold your home crowds with characters from British literature, mythic Roman gods, but also heirlooms—such is the cultural capital of this collection: both of the world and of the self. While this chronological sampling of ...
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VELVET RODEO  by Kelly McQuain reviewed by Matthew Girolami

VELVET RODEO by Kelly McQuain reviewed by Matthew Girolami

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VELVET RODEO by Kelly McQuain Bloom Books, 42 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami Between a single dawn and dusk, I shadowed a speaker through adolescence and into adulthood, from young summers in West Virginia to liquored confessions in Mexico. Kelly McQuain’s Velvet Rodeo is a rare chapbook that spans such lengths—though, that is one of poetry’s potentials: every verse paragraph a vignette. And yet while McQuain’s poems are distinctively narrative, they are rife with imagery; from nature to anatomy, McQuain’s imagery evokes experience, from discovering one’s body to discovering parental fallibility. It is fitting then that Velvet Rodeo’s ...
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Edison's Ghost Machine

EDISON’S GHOST MACHINE by Jennifer Faylor reviewed by Nodar Kipshidze

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EDISON’S GHOST MACHINE by Jennifer Faylor Aldrich Press, 86 pages reviewed by Nodar Kipshidze It may be useful to discuss the inevitable. The unavoidable. Ancient mythology has done this well. After all, it is the myth of Prometheus told time and time again of perpetual trauma—of the unavoidable eagle descending down upon him from the heavens, pecking at his liver, or heart (as scholars contest between the two organs). But perhaps it is important to distinguish between the morphologies of the inevitable. That discussing this sort of inevitable fate is no different from the dogma of the unavoidable, only complicated ...
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Imago

IMAGO by Lindsay Lusby dancing girl press & studio reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke

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IMAGO by Lindsay Lusby dancing girl press & studio (chapbook) reviewed by Kenna O'Rourke In many ways, Lindsay Lusby’s chapbook reiterates the themes of every poet—loss, recovery, the perplexity of navigating the adult world. But Imago, in the concisest of ways, defies a typically cliché approach to these matters through weird and compelling symbolism; on the surface level, the collection is about a girl and her pet eggplant. The reader enters Lusby’s work knowing, and taking as a given, that “The girl and her eggplant / would not be parted” (1), with only a brief epigraph on etymology and psychoanalysis ...
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CHANGE MACHINE by Bruce Covey reviewed by J.G. McClure

CHANGE MACHINE by Bruce Covey reviewed by J.G. McClure

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CHANGE MACHINE by Bruce Covey Noemi Press, 122 pages reviewed by J.G. McClure Think about the change machine outside your car wash: you put in a dollar, the machine spits out coins. Not a neat bundle, but a jangling tray-full. Now think of William Carlos Williams: “A poem is a machine made of words.”Now give William Carlos Williams superpowers and have him beat the hell out of the car wash while musing on Pokémon, Barthes, and metapoetics, and you’ve got a sense of Bruce Covey’s Change Machine. Covey knows the canon well, and treats it with a mix of comic ...
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HOUSE ON FIRE by Susan Yount reviewed by Carlo Matos

HOUSE ON FIRE by Susan Yount reviewed by Carlo Matos

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HOUSE ON FIRE by Susan Yount Blood Pudding Press, 30 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos Susan Yount’s House on Fire begins with a storm, more specifically with a lightening strike that splits the “sovereign catalpa”—an intriguing symbol for the fracturing of the narrator’s self, which makes us question every “she,” “her,” “I,” and “you” we encounter in the poems. The catalpa tree is mentioned four times: twice in the first poem, once in the third poem, and then again in the final poem. In “Growing Up on a Cattle Farm,” for example, the speaker says, “Cyclops drops splatter the concrete ...
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ZOONOSIS by Kelly Boyker reviewed by Carlo Matos

ZOONOSIS by Kelly Boyker reviewed by Carlo Matos

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ZOONOSIS by Kelly Boyker Hyacinth Girl Press, 39 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos Kelly Boyker’s chapbook, Zoonosis, is loaded from cover-to-cover with fantastical creatures, folktale monsters, and twentieth-century “freaks” drawn from the pages of Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not.” The Ripley’s characters are of particular interest because they are often postmodern updates of the original chthonic creatures of Greek myth. There is a child Cyclops, for example, a tribe of crab people, and Orthus—the less-famous, two-headed brother of Cerberus. The modern-day Orthus is the result of a macabre experiment by Russian scientist, Vladimir Demikhov, who “successfully grafted ...
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MANTIC by Maureen Alsop reviewed by Matthew Girolami

MANTIC by Maureen Alsop reviewed by Matthew Girolami

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MANTIC by Maureen Alsop Augury Books, 68 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami This is a book of annotations, a bibliography of divination. Like any bibliography, Maureen Alsop’s Mantic is carefully researched and curated. The collection’s title, Mantic, and periodic poems within the collection, are defined by the art of divining and the many ways to do so—“Gyromancy,” “Ouranomancy,” and “Ornithomancy” to name a few—but this is not an instruction manual: Alsop lays these terms bare and explicates them through human moments in verse. As the “-mancy” titles suggest, Mantic is as a much a lexical read (or listen—read aloud) as ...
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FOXES ON THE TRAMPOLINE by Charlotte Boulay reviewed by Matthew Girolami

FOXES ON THE TRAMPOLINE by Charlotte Boulay reviewed by Matthew Girolami

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FOXES ON THE TRAMPOLINE by Charlotte Boulay Ecco Press, 64 pages reviewed by Matthew Girolami You are in a field, a forest, or on a shore; you may have never been here before, but it brings forth some immense longing. Until last summer I had never been to the prairie, but it is strange how I miss it now—I miss its monolithic emptiness, and how it made me feel like a tiny monolith myself. We miss something or someone because we feel we belong there or with them. The speakers of Charlotte Boulay’s debut poetry collection, Foxes on the Trampoline, ...
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TwERK  by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat

TwERK by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat

poetry reviews, reviews /

TwERK by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs Belladonna, 110 pages

reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat

The challenge in reading sound poetry is to try to grasp the full depth of the work’s significance without having the performance as a guide. The challenge for the poet, then, is to craft work of equal aural, intellectual and emotional stimulation. In her first full-length collection, TwERK, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs creates seemingly infinite layers of meaning that meld to produce critical social statements on both a global and region-specific scale. Certainly, experiencing her interactive performance adds nuanced shades of perspective, but the poems themselves are wealth ...
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Apollo

APOLLO by Geoffrey Gatza reviewed by Carlo Matos

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APOLLO by Geoffrey Gatza BlazeVOX
, 168 pages reviewed by Carlo Matos Geoffrey Gatza’s Apollo is an all-out assault on the reader, like facing an opponent who senses you’re about to wilt and so presses the action. Every time we think we know what he’s doing, another surprise comes our way. And this is how good conceptual poetry should be—not just the simple execution of a clever conceit but a text that threatens at every turn to burst from the inside out and take the reader with it but never does. Taking the shape of a souvenir program for a one-night ...
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AMERICAN SONGBOOK by Michael Ruby reviewed by Ana Schwartz

AMERICAN SONGBOOK by Michael Ruby reviewed by Ana Schwartz

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american-songbook-michael-ruby-paperback-cover-art AMERICAN SONGBOOK by Michael Ruby Ugly Duckling Presse, 144 pages reviewed by Ana Schwartz Imagine a road trip across America, probably in the summer, “in the good old plastic gasoline / Pell-mell summertime.” Of course, music will be an essential part of the journey, probably radio hits. Headed East, perhaps, the lyrics of each song traverse both geography and time: a path paved in words. The lyrics to these songs linger in memory, but they’re also so ephemeral—though the words remain, their thrill often fades along with the little experiential details that make any such trip unique. Between the ...
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Dear Gravity

DEAR GRAVITY by Gregory Djanikian reviewed by Anna Strong

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DEAR GRAVITY by Gregory Djanikian Carnegie Mellon University Press, 104 pages  reviewed by Anna Strong At the beginning of the fourth section of Gregory Djanikian’s Dear Gravity, in a poem titled “Beginnings,” the speaker, one of two “giddy / amnesiacs of the present” under the ‘disapproving glance of history’ gestures outwards:

Here’s a new window to turn to, here’s a cloth to clean the mists (“Beginnings”)

Though the poem comes at the beginning of the penultimate section, it is in many ways a suggestion for how to read the entire collection: as one enormous room of infinite windows to turn ...
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BLOOM IN REVERSE by Teresa Leo reviewed by Anna Strong

BLOOM IN REVERSE by Teresa Leo reviewed by Anna Strong

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BLOOM IN REVERSE by Teresa Leo University of Pittsburgh Press (Pitt Poetry Series), 104 pages reviewed by Anna Strong From the dedication page, Teresa Leo’s Bloom in Reverse props itself against the fence between the living and the dead. Dedicated to the living but in memory of Leo’s friend Sarah, the poems carry the dual burden of trauma and memory. How do we process, how do we articulate trauma? If we’re at all like Teresa Leo, we recognize that in art, in poetry, we remember the the Sarah Hannahs of the world and bring them into a collective consciousness. She ...
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The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William Helmreich and Baghdad: The City in Verse edited by Reuven Snir  reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin

The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William Helmreich and Baghdad: The City in Verse edited by Reuven Snir reviewed by Nath...

THE NEW YORK NOBODY KNOWS: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William Helmreich Princeton University Press, 449 pages BAGHDAD: THE CITY IN VERSE edited by Reuven Snir Harvard University Press, 339 pages reviewed by Nathaniel Popkin  Writers, this one included, have long struggled to capture in words the dynamic and multi-layered ways that cities change. Cities themselves are powerful change agents in the wider world, but they are defined and redefined constantly by the evolving tastes and desires of their residents (who themselves are always changing), technology, culture and religion, structural political and economic shifts, and the feedback ...
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Here-Come-the-Warm-Jets

HERE COME THE WARM JETS by Alli Warren reviewed by Vanessa Martini

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HERE COME THE WARM JETS by Alli Warren City Lights, 104 pages reviewed by Vanessa Martini Diving into Alli Warren’s Here Come the Warm Jets is at once exhilarating and slightly overwhelming. Warren pulls no punches with this collection. The reader is at once plunged into Warren’s intricate linguistic code, and she does not wait for or expect us to get used to her from the start. The only comparable experience I can call to mind is seeing a Shakespeare play: the language is difficult to follow at first, being at a slight remove from our everyday speech, but ...
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