All posts tagged: Book Reviews

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 …

Rochelle Hurt: “Bright star of disaster”

Yearling Lo Kwa Mei-en Alice James Books, 2015 Lo Kwa Mei-en’s debut collection of poems reads like a manual for self-destruction. There are a variety of personal and global apocalypses in Yearling, and most of them are rooted in what Freud might have described as a death drive. The book’s epigraph from Dickinson, suggests, however, that these apocalypses should not be read simply as endings, nor should this drive toward death be read as a form of despair. The epigraph reads: “The World is not Conclusion. / A Species stands beyond—”. In this world, catastrophe is a means of becoming a species beyond. Consider, for example, “Arrow,” a poem that positions the speaker as both predator and prey. Aptly, the poem strikes a tonal balance between divulgence and declaration, beginning: “Drawn, uninvited, I’m an animal with a price on her head, / wrecking a bed of wet pine: I steal through the field twice.” The hunted is also the criminal here. Audacious in her trespassing, she is both vulnerable and cheeky. She implores her addressee: “as …

John Duvernoy: “all of this is magic / against death”

What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford Frank Stanford Copper Canyon, 2015 I haven’t the space here or quite the foolishness to fully recount the legend of a poet who could out self-mythologize Bob Dylan, who tucked Lorca’s penknife in his bootleg and Breton’s throwing starfish in his belt of hemp. Suffice to say that Frank Stanford was no abject nihilist but an utterly unreconstructed romantic. A serious young man who would die before he ever grew old, he was prodigiously gifted and impossibly prolific. Beyond the sanction of any literary establishment Stanford wrote without surcease, leaving behind a vastly original body of work that is sepulchral, erotic, unabashedly violent, doomed, in love, and in a perpetual dance with death. His poetry is so drenched in mud that squeamish readers may do best to avoid it altogether. Indeed, the poet CD Wright once wrote about Stanford’s work that “if you’re not young and crazy, it may be too late.” I would ask who among us, sometime, somewhere, or hidden within, is not still young …

Katy Ellis: “Fires of the Past Meet the Blue Balm of Now”

Cloud Pharmacy Susan Rich White Pine Press, 2014 — In Susan Rich’s Cloud Pharmacy, we are at a mid-point, a reflective moment in a sincere and eventful life. We drift and we hover, but not passively. Cloud Pharmacy determinedly asks: Why chose to live this one life reluctantly? Though it is not the opening poem, “Clouds, Begin Here”, launches us into the undulating theme of burning away the past in order to heal in the present: It’s so hard to say what the dead really want. In the lost fires of the notebook, words stumble down the columns of green and white paper. In the notebook of the unknown index, blank descriptions, we lose our blue hours. Rich reaches into her childhood school days where she read books made of paper, … drank milk from small cartons (“American History”) but never with cloying nostalgia. To move forward necessitates a look into the past and whatever memories reside there. “Childhood Study: First Late August” shows us the fleeting bonds of young friendships:

Notable Books (NW) – Reviews of Mary Szybist, Robert Wrigley, Nance Van Winckel, and more

NOTABLE BOOKS (NW) – Fall-Winter 2014 The reviews included in this feature section were first published in our fall-winter 2014 print issue. Incarnadine, Mary Szybist (Graywolf Press, 2013) Readers have waited a long while for Mary Szybist’s second book, Incarnadine, and that seems right. In an age of gush and glut, Szybist works patiently; her poems exude painstaking care, every line fleshed out (or broken), every word placed (or erased), just so. I mean this quite literally: titles like “How (Not) to Speak of God” and “On Wanting to Tell [       ] about a Girl Eating Fish Eyes” demonstrate how in Szybist’s hands words both fill and empty out the spaces they occupy (in the breath, on the page). The effect is helped by the lovely, large-format book design, which amplifies the white space around each poem. And concrete instances, like the sentence diagram “It Is Pretty to Think” or the aforementioned star-shaped “How (Not) to Speak of God,” embody the lyrical impulse to make the felt world visible with persuasive tact. But this is …

Review // Sierra Nelson’s I Take Back the Sponge Cake

  Reviewed By Kristen Steenbeeke, Contributing Writer I grew up on choose-your-own-adventure books, and now that I’m older, it seems poetry has always been a choose-your-own-adventure lying in wait. You know: the wordplay inviting one to interpret the work how they wish, then that interpretation branching off into some other dimly-lit pathway, which branches to another, and sooner or later one ends up out of the forest altogether and at some dark-blue lake, teeming with fish. This is why Sierra Nelson and Loren Erdrich’s poetry/art collaboration book “I Take Back the Sponge Cake” is so enticing: The poems are like tiny jigsaws in themselves, connected by choose-your-own-adventure snippets, such as “____ the night from day, O dreamers,” with the option to choose “Rest: to repose” or “Wrest: to take by force.” Depending on the reader’s choice of homonym, they are led to another page, another poem, another of Erdrich’s whimsically sad watercolors. The poems are small and concise but chock-full of their own wordplay and tricks. One highlight was “Pseudomorph,” a word which means “a cloud …