Book Reviews

Reviewed by:
Patrick Whitfill
Sean Bishop’s debut collection of poems is not, as the foreword states, for the faint of heart. These are poems of longing and loss, of wishing and wishes, of desire, and of the unequivocally true knowledge that wishes do not, and will not, come true. These poems unsettle the ground and call into question our own connections with our family and with language, as well as our religious and secular... more
Reviewed by:
Yunte Huang
“Why do I voyage so much? And write so little?” Lawrence Ferlinghetti asked himself as he sat on a bus in Mexico, traveling from Manzanillo to Guadalajara, surrounded by women with hands like hens’ feet, amused by the sound of a rooster onboard or a goat “crying in a stubble field behind some house.” As the ancient bus climbed even more ancient mountain roads, Ferlinghetti—poet, publisher,... more
Reviewed by:
Nick Ripatrazone
Novelist Thomas McGuane says there are cowboys who are as “deluded” about their trade as are workers in the “entrepreneurial class.” Romance about ranch work means “their hold is tenuous and they're always on the cusp of violence or rage about being in that situation, and they're naturally in conflict with their bosses.” Cowboys used to be in it for the long haul; they were “lifetime admired.”... more
Reviewed by:
Mitch Nakaue
“When but a child, I learned that our ancestors came out of the trees, stood upright on the savannahs, and became human.” So begins John Leland’s essay collection Readings in Wood. A nature writer, Leland makes his home in the southern Appalachian mountains of Rockbridge County, Virginia, a region known for its wilderness and as a repository of American history dating back to the... more
Reviewed by:
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... more

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Reviewed by:
Sara Jaffe
Like music, stories have dynamics. There are the louder and the softer moments, the crescendos and the rests, and the author achieves these expressive elements through a careful mix of tone, language, and plot elements. It’s difficult, in literature, to pull off an abrupt dynamic shift—unlike, say, in rock music, where it can be enough for the Pixies to launch from a whispered verse to a chorus’s... more
Reviewed by:
Jeremy B. Jones
In college—my first extended time away from home—I found myself suddenly caught up in the phrase, “in the mountains.” When I’d try to tell people where I was from, I’d finally offer an explanation: back in the mountains. It was the preposition that struck me. I wasn’t from on a mountain. I didn’t exist upon them or around them, behind or in front. I lived in—... more
Reviewed by:
Sarah Kosch
I picked up Barbara Henning's Thirty Miles to Rosebud because it was summer and a blurb on the back cover compared it to Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Perfect, I thought. Some adventures with the car window down and the feel of hot wind blowing the driver's hair is just what I want to read on a day like this. And I wasn't disappointed. Henning's independent and insightful... more

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Reviewed by:
Kristina Marie Darling
In Carlo Matos's stunning third book of poetry, Big Bad Asterisk, readers will find "science projects," Jeopardy matches, and "the blood of princes." It is Matos's ability to seamlessly weave together vastly different points of view that makes his work so compelling. Presented as an ongoing series of annotated prose pieces, much of the work in this formally inventive collection reads as a conversation between different characters, as... more
Reviewed by:
Sean Patrick Hill
From the outset of Graham Foust’s poetry career, his work has sought to answer the question posed in his first book, Leave the Room to Itself: “What is the poem.” Over the course of three intervening books, Foust has explored the function of language, attempting to map this faintly-Romantic notion of “the poem,” a slippery presence one finds embodied in consciousness. This consciousness—its origins, its signifiers, its longing for... more
Reviewed by:
Carrie Chappell
Certain topics are so heart-wrenching that we find them difficult to express in literal terms. Lauren Berry’s debut collection The Lifting Dress—winner of Penguin’s 2010 National Poetry Series, selected by Terrance Hayes—explores the possibilities of figuration in post-traumatic narrative by opening up a broader palate of symbolism to confront the violence of one of the most monstrous human transgressions: rape.Set in the humid-yawn of... more
Reviewed by:
John James
A significant contribution to the ongoing dialogue on translation, Mary Jo Bang’s new version of Dante’s Inferno will certainly turn a few heads. Not only does Bang abandon the author’s renowned terza rima, she uses allusion and colloquialism to render the epic’s esoteric political backdrop accessible to today’s readers.To most Dantists, this new "translation" may purport sacrilege, but translators of contemporary poetry will... more
Reviewed by:
Nick Ripatrazone
Rose McLarney’s debut collection feels born of the same world as Irene McKinney’s first book, The Girl with the Stone in Her Lap. Both collections mine the grain and coarse chaff of the American pastoral, where “golden apples / glow in sheer skin,” and yet “Their weight breaks branches . . . and you fall in fruit.” McKinney moved from direct representations of her dark pastoral in later collections, yet those poems still contained the... more

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