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Giving Tradition a Facelift: An Exploration of Richie Hofmann’s SECOND EMPIRE

Peter LaBerge

“Standing at the water’s edge, I watch myself / loosen into a brief, exquisite blur.” Though we begin our journey through Richie Hofmann’s stunning debut poetry collection Second Empire with the freedom to move and self-express, it is a destination of sorts for Hofmann himself. The collection functions as a deeply personal glimpse into the immediate and long-term effects of the tension Hofmann experienced growing up as a queer man in Western society: tension between security and connection, beauty and fragility, tradition and identity. The collection as a whole is far from sole introspection, however.

Geoffrey O'Brien's IN A MIST

John Tamplin

Geoffrey O'Brien's poems are full of things vanishing. The first three poems in his new book, In a Mist, appear to be elegies for vanished people. "For S." concludes:

A wisp is too harsh.
At mere hint of sight
all parts of you
drop into the glare. 

 "A Yard at Daybreak" ends:

The shop is shuttered
and the yard so quiet
you can hear the noise
of shadows vanishing.

Mark Bibbins's THEY DON'T KILL YOU BECAUSE THEY'RE HUNGRY, THEY KILL YOU BECAUSE THEY'RE FULL

Adam Day

One of the most engaging poems in Mark Bibbins’s smart and enjoyable third book of poetry, They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full, is “Pat Robertson Transubstantiation Engine No.1,” the first of a series of six such poems, and which opens with these lines: “First I was fellating an African despot / for his diamonds, next I was paying / a hooker to give me back / my teeth.” When first encountering lines like these, you can’t necessarily be blamed for wondering who still cares about irony and “soft surrealism” (a phenomenon in which strange events occur that seem to invoke surrealism or the absurd, but with little to no substantive socio-political or ontological substance), particularly given the overabundance and the poor h

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