The Blog


Jack Smith

The founder of Ploughshares, DeWitt Henry recently published Sweet Marjoram, a book of essays following a series of nonfiction books and memoirs, as well as essays. This newest work consists of twenty-two meditations with two-word titles, each prefixed by “on.” One thing we are struck by is the author’s extensive range of knowledge, evidenced at a glance by notably diverse topics: “On Weather,” “On Time,” “On Empathy,” “On Conscience,” “On Falling,” “On Handshakes,” “On Silence,” “On Dignity,” “On Privilege,” On Dreams,” “On Cursing,” “On Voice.” And ten more. An encyclopedic work. This thought-provoking book is nearly exhaustive of human experience, human behavior, psychology—the fundamental nature of humans and their being in the world.

The Debut Collections of Fatimah Asghar and Faisal Mohyuddin

Bassam Sidiki

Partition. Migration. Trump’s America. These are among the themes of Faisal Mohyuddin’s and Fatimah Asghar’s respective debut full-length collections: The Displaced Children of Displaced Children and If They Come For Us. Mohyuddin is a teacher and writer based in Chicago, and Asghar is a performer known for writing the Emmy-nominated web series Brown Girls. Having descended from Pakistani immigrants to America, both poets—in lyrics at times melancholic and wistful, at others fiery and irreverent—reckon with violent, map-changing histories. The subcontinent’s 1947 Partition into independent Pakistan and India figures prominently, but so do questions about what it means to be Pakistani American, especially after 9/11 and the 2016 presidential election.

Cate Peebles's THICKET

Elizabeth Hoover

In his 1987 painting “While There Is Still Time Let’s Go Out and Feel Everything,” Paul Thek scrawls those words in looping light blue script over a darker blue punctuated by wavy lines. Because the words and the marks share an improvisational, finger-painted quality, they blend together and into the only slightly darker background. From a distance, the work looks like an abstract color-field of molted blue. Poet Cate Peebles uses the title of Thek’s painting as the epigraph to her debut collection, Thicket. It serves as a fitting introduction. Like the painting, these capacious poems are permeable, full of images of one self dissolving into another while immersing readers in a vibrant, sensual world.



Neil Roberts

Toward the end of Erik Martiny's The Pleasures of Queuing its narrator writes, “There should really be a literary prize for the best novel ever written by a writer afflicted with ADD who has radios broadcasting from every room in the house, every area of the brain, an exponential, incremental number of siblings, a hawk-watchful mother, and an increasingly eccentric and money-stinting father.” This sentence describes some of the most appealing qualities of the novel. It can hardly be said to have a sequential plot; nor can it, despite one chapter being devoted to each of its narrator’s first twenty-four years, exactly be described as a Bildungsroman.

Shira Dentz's HOW DO I NET THEE

Ralph Pennel

The essential idea behind string theory is this: all fundamental particles of the Standard Model (which describes both the building blocks out of which the world is made and the forces through which these blocks interact) are really just different vibrating, oscillating strings. And, in many ways, this is also the shape that any work of art’s meaning takes inside us. This meaning vibrates within us at such a frequency that we are provided with ways to see how consciousness is also a consistent and fundamental component of the structure of the universe. how do i net thee, the latest collection of poetry by Shira Dentz, works to attempt just that.


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