Book Reviews

Reviewed by:
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 sightall parts of youdrop into the glare.  "A Yard at Daybreak" ends:The shop is shutteredand the yard so quietyou can hear the noiseof shadows vanishing.The poems offer faint images in... more
Reviewed by:
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... more
Reviewed by:
Zach Savich
Broc Rossell’s debut book of poetry, Festival, starts with an Oppenesque pronouncement that could be read as an ars poetica: It becomes necessary to liveIn waysWhich if impossibleAre predicated on that definitionAnd therefore openThe same way I open to what’sNested in the white treeThese lines offer an opening in several senses. There’s Rossell’s refreshingly measured phrasing; in... more
Reviewed by:
Alanna Hickey
Tributaries, the first book-length collection by Shawnee poet Laura Da’, begins with a scene of childbirth by Caesarean section. With an “abrasion that draws the past glistening into the present,” this commanding debut opens with a reflection on openings—the ruptures in our histories, geographies, and bodies that, following Da’s attentive gaze, demand we take a closer look. In poems that... more
Reviewed by:
Davy Knittle
If Jennifer Moxley is the speaker of the poems in her new collection The Open Secret (Flood Editions, 2014), she is a number of people. If she is “the poet” and also the “I” of the poems, and I, as the reader, am the “you,” because the “I” is also sometimes the “you,” we might be each other. Personhood is fluid, as she writes in “Evacuations... 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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