Book Reviews

Reviewed by:
Sarah Viren
When I saw Lacy Johnson read from her new memoir, she came right out with it. “No one says what this book is about,” she said. Then she told us.The Other Side (Tin House Books, 2014) is about the day that Lacy’s ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and took her to a soundproof room he had built for the sole purpose of raping and killing her. He raped her and then left briefly to create an alibi... more
Reviewed by:
Karen An-hwei Lee
The latest collection by Brenda Hillman, an exploration of living phenomena and their mysteries, ignites a fiery post-lyric grammar of existence. Hillman’s devotion to social justice—her unwavering belief in poetry’s capacity to address root causes of our political strife—ultimately purifies our fallen world in the languages of elemental fire.Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire is... more
Reviewed by:
Zach Savich
One might miss, in the exquisitely shapely poems of Brian Blanchfield’s second collection, A Several World, how frequently the poems’ brash dazzle gives way to wit. In the book’s second poem, “The City State,” for instance, one might still be reeling from the invocation of an expansive shopping list (“bone buttons, stronger cord or—what / more did you need?—hard rolls, then fish and... more
Reviewed by:
Michael S. Lewis-Beck
Midwest humorists can be pretty funny—sometimes very funny, like June Melby. Melby, an Iowa native who for years worked the stand-up comedy circuit in L.A., returns to her childhood serving up sno-cones and wisecracks in her debut memoir about growing up on a mini-golf course, My Family and Other Hazards (Henry Holt and Company, 2014).Year after year, June and her sisters crushed ice and... more
Reviewed by:
Micah Bateman
Shane McCrae’s second full-length collection of poems, Blood (Noemi Press, 2013), adapts the sliding and stuttering syntax of his first collection, Mule, to narrate and lyricize gruesome slave narratives from America’s past. Actually McCrae gives voices to the wounds themselves from such narratives, assembling an otherworldly chorus of haunting grotesqueries. Whereas nineteenth-... more

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Reviewed by:
Nick Ripatrazone
In 1902, W.B. Yeats—according to his unused preface for Ideas of Good and Evil—told James Joyce that he had based his recent plays “on emotions or stories that I had got out of folklore.”[i]  Yeats also imbued the folk tradition in his Red Hanrahan stories in The Secret Rose, and collected Sligo County oral tales in Celtic Twilight.  Joyce called Yeats’s practice “deteriorating” but borrowed and revised Irish myth... more
Reviewed by:
Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom
In her thirteenth collection of poems, The White Cypress, Judith Skillman takes up again the tools of naturalistic observation and mythical allusion to examine difficult truths about the interior life of the self and its drives toward intimacy and seclusion, eroticism and entropy, as well as the paradox and complexity inherent in familial relationships. Skillman's tone is occasionally lofty but most often direct, incisive, unflinching.... more
Reviewed by:
Micah Bateman
“...[W]hile in transit, // things glitter.” —James Grinwis, from “Inupiat,” Exhibit of Forking Paths Every time the bucks went clattering Over Oklahoma A firecat bristled in the way.Wherever they went, They went clattering, Until they swerved In a swift, circular line To the right, Because of the firecat.Or until they swerved In a swift, circular line To the left, Because of the firecat.The bucks clattered. The firecat went leaping, To... more
Reviewed by:
Erica Mena
False Friends by Uljana Wolf, translated by Susan Bernofsky, is a delightful foray into language and poetry. Even for someone who has no knowledge of German, the playful shifts between the English translation and the German hinted at behind it are enlightening: both Bernofsky and Wolf clearly delight in the slipperiness of language and sound.Cognates and homonyms suffuse the poem, toying with seemingly straightforward sentences and... more
Reviewed by:
Jane Lewty
In Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novella La Jalousie (1957), the unnamed narrator, whose presence is delineated only by the arrangement of exterior objects, relays his observations from behind a slatted window. Meticulous attention is paid to every nuance of gesture and tone in an intimate relationship, thus producing a composite portrait of an environment. No drastic event occurs but the robotic details of human behavior are revealed for their... more

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