All posts filed under: Book Reviews

Longform reviews of poetry books.

Michael McGriff: “Rehearsing All Our Names”—On Robert Hunter Jones’s Winter Garden

Winter Garden Robert Hunter Jones Silverfish Review Press, 2016 Feeling proximity to a work of art is seductive. For example, I’ve convinced myself that the paintings of Marc Chagall and the novels of Per Peterson are tailored-made just for me—an audience of one. Whatever words best describe this very particular, very greedy, sense of possession must be the definition for great art. I feel a similar possessive closeness to Robert Hunter Jones’s new book of poetry, Winter Garden. This sense of exclusive connectivity is a fallacy, of course, yet it speaks to the reach and depth—the spell—that Jones’s vision and craft cast over me. Here, in its entirety, is “Changing Names.” There is no sound of water. You’ve nailed the river to its stones. This dream is so real you can’t stop living it. The night opens like a lizard’s mouth and you slide down in. You wake to dark so deep it becomes someone else’s silence. Try out the name you feel on your tongue. It sounds almost right. Try again and it’s closer. The …

R.M. Haines: “The Moral Imagination on Dialysis”—On G.C. Waldrep’s Testament

Testament G.C. Waldrep BOA Editions, 2015 Testament is G.C. Waldrep’s fourth full length collection, not counting chapbooks and collaborations. Formally distinguishing itself from his previous work, Testament is presented as a single, long poem in sections whose nearly every line is left-justified and of equal measure. Provocatively, its most salient concern is with the possibility of “gender as a lyric form” (more about this in a moment). Alongside this stated ambition, the notes tell us that the poem was conceived as an “exploration and response” (146) to books by Lisa Robertson, Alice Notley, and Carla Harryman. Thus, a male poet, interrogating gender, responds to three female writers and calls this response Testament (read: bold). Intensifying this audacity and seriousness of intent, a prefatory note reveals that the book was originally drafted at Hawthornden Castle, during a three week stint in July 2009 while the poet was on a retreat. Given these facts, as well as the poem’s length—142 pages—a reader would not be faulted for expecting a grand statement, perhaps even a manifesto. After all, …