Book Reviews

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
Reviewed by:
Jeremy Griffin
I confess that when I sat down to read Christopher Linforth’s debut story collection When You Find Us We Will Be Gone (Lamar UP, 2014), my expectations were low. This was no fault of the author’s; rather, I had recently been through a spate of bad story collections that had left me jaded. This isn’t uncommon, as any reviewer will tell you, though he will also tell you that it’s... more

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Reviewed by:
Erika Jo Brown
Let us, for a moment, judge a book by its cover. The title of Jennifer Karmin’s debut poetry collection, aaaaaaaaaaalice, stretches across the span of the book in hollow, clean, orange typeface. Several blue keywords wrap around laterally. The front cover, mostly white space, is modestly embellished with three inky bunnies in the bottommost corner. The astute typography and layout design reflect the accomplishments of the book, which... more
Reviewed by:
Tim Wood
Not invent—just answer—all That verse attempts. That we can somehow add each to each other? —George Oppen, “Blood from the Stone”May 28, 2011 is the anniversary of Leslie Scalapino’s passing. Last summer, I read Lyn Hejinian’s eulogy “Leslie Scalapino Remembered” and, with many, mourned the loss of an original and radical poet. In her eulogy, Hejinian talks about Scalapino’s deep connection to Buddhism and their collaborative work; together,... more
Reviewed by:
Tod Marshall
“A book of poems is a damn serious affair,” says Wallace Stevens. If so, a book of one hundred seventy-seven pages is mighty serious. That’s the length of Richard Kenney’s newest book, a sprawling yet coherent collection in which he harmonizes serious chords with playful notes to make a metrically brilliant, tonally various, emotionally resonant, sometimes scathing, sometimes silly book that impresses as much with its technical virtuosity as... more
Reviewed by:
Matt Miller
“What need for purists when the demotic is built to last, To outlast us, and no dialect hears us?"—John Ashbery, “Purists Will Object”Perhaps it would have been too obvious, too neat of a summary or gloss, but a part of me wishes Mark Tursi had introduced his book, The Impossible Picnic, with John Ashbery’s epigrammatic closing couplet from his 1984 poem “Purists Will Object.” It would have been instructive, perhaps too pointedly so for... more

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