All posts tagged: Book Reviews

Zach Savich: “Forms that Change”

Iteration Nets Karla Kelsey Ahsahta Press, 2010 In the second movement of her sophomore collection, Iteration Nets, Karla Kelsey details the process of echo and alteration by which she remixes lines from authors including John Clare, Graham Greene, and Lyn Hejinian: what was said? Parison? Comparison uttered after a silence dampening off the corn? Pair a son. Pear in sun. Pare the sun so that the roses glow forth. Bad this son. Pad a song. Sad too long in higher red asking to thank, to atone, to bask the centuries away. This associative stammer pops delightfully, like letters in a Boggle board, as it hotwires a misheard phrase. But Kelsey’s sonic playfulness is hardly free play. She anchors meaning as each iteration shoots forth, not refreshing the slate but adding to it: the pared sun circles back to bask us; the roses’ red returns after sadness. Because language lives in time, Kelsey’s playfulness thanks and atones for each move it makes, whatever freewheeling half-prattle forged it. Although our speech may be fragmented, such “speaking / …

Robert McNamara: “Thwarting the Barbarian”

Dreamless and Possible: Poems New and Selected Christopher Howell University of Washington Press, 2010 The Red Tower: New and Selected Poems David Rigsbee NewSouth Books, 2010 For more than twenty years I have been reading the poems of Christopher Howell and David Rigsbee, so the appearance of their handsomely produced and thoughtfully edited volumes of new and selected poems – Dreamless and Possible, by Christopher Howell, and The Red Tower, by David Rigsbee – has been more delight than revelation. They are very different poets, with very different gifts and ways of engaging both language and the world – the one lyrical, metaphorical, intense, heir to the poets of the deep image; the other more meditative, allegorical, philosophical, whose ancestry one would most likely trace back to Stevens, among others. There is also much they share, and at the moment my reading is shaped by a recent collection of essays by Alessandro Baricco, I Barbari, originally published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. The barbarians of his title are not invading others, but are us, …

David Biespiel: “Old Masters, Neglected Masters, Non-Masters, and Gems”

For Dust Thou Art by Timothy Liu Southern Illinois University Press, 2005. $14.95 No bland heterosexist suburban poems of backyard sparrows here, Timothy Liu’s latest book, For Dust Thou Art, offers a smorgasbord of impudent isms: onanism, terrorism, “jism,” and solipsism. Titillating perhaps, but stick to the salad bar. The book’s title from Genesis 3:19 misleadingly window dresses a store of randy words, from “good head easier to get than a vintage Merlot” from the first section of the book to “linen falling off our laps as boytoys bathe” from the last section of the book. They sandwich some unsurprising poems in the middle that fetishize 9/11—“A fireman’s boot / exhumed at last—strange trophy / from rubble still too hot to touch” or “Every possible pleasure to be indulged for the world was at an end.” The middle section’s mediocrity begs the question: what of the failure of any poet so far to achieve a “Wasteland” from 9/11? While these poems may stimulate, they fail to surprise, much less catalyze new understanding of people and …