Book Reviews

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
Reviewed by:
Phoebe Reeves
Best Bones, Sarah Rose Nordgren’s first book of poems, won the 2013 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize and was released from the University of Pittsburgh Press Pitt Poetry Series last year. Nordgren’s debut collection displays a Greek chorus of voices, ranging from the quiet tones of small children and ghosts to the sly or bitter tales of adults: wives, mistresses, slaves, and shepherds. “... more

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Reviewed by:
TaraShea Nesbit
The title of Jenny Boully’s new book—Not Merely Because of the Unknown That Was Stalking Towards Them—gets its name from a section of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy: “Of course she should have roused the children at once; not merely because of the unknown that was stalking towards them, but because it was no longer good for them to sleep on a rock grown chilly." This new book... more
Reviewed by:
Josh Cook
Lately, when I pick up a new title, the announced motif on the jacket sleeve makes me chafe. It’s the one that precedes all else and screams “Read Me!” like a child pining for attention. “A sprawling feminist debut...” it’ll say, or “Ordinary men and women confronting loneliness...” When I encounter this, I thrust down the book, guffawing loud enough for the store clerk to hear me.Bonnie Jo... more
Reviewed by:
Stiliana Milkova
Published in Italy in 1991, Elena Ferrante’s novel Troubling Love caused a literary sensation and earned its author the Elsa Morante prize—one of Italy’s most prestigious awards for literature. Thanks to translator Ann Goldstein, the book now affords us English-speakers the guilty pleasure of delving into dark and forbidden places—the insides of the mother-daughter body, the ins and outs... more
Reviewed by:
Vanessa Blakeslee
One often hears of a certain writer’s gift for rendering poetic prose, spellbinding in its precision and rhythm, but rarely have I picked up a short story collection and found nearly every sentence living up to such claims. Not so with In This Light by Melanie Rae Thon, the recipient of a Whiting Award, two NEA fellowships, and the author of four novels in addition to two story... more
Reviewed by:
Jennifer Bowen Hicks
God Bless America could almost be read as thirteen irreverent prayers: Dear [Whomever]: save us from our smallness. But no prayer will make you laugh the way Steve Almond does with his newest collection of stories, one of which was included in America’s Best, another in the Pushcart Prize Anthology. In Almond’s America, parents and children, TSA agents and smart-mouthed... more

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Reviewed by:
Nick Ripatrazone
In Liliana, the first section of Allison Seay's debut collection To See the Queen, the word “figment” appears enough to create a recursive rhythm. Typically appended to “of the imagination,” the word feels lost without the phrase, and is thus perfect fodder for poetry. Seay’s figment is malleable. It is first Liliana, but a ghost-self, something to be seen only if “I am still enough.” That figment “vanishes, / as God does,” but “returns... more
Reviewed by:
Beth Gilstrap
Last year was a tumultuous year for poetry. Two giants published articles lamenting poetry’s demise. Contemporary poets scratched their heads, banging out fiery responses. Yes, the literary world can be insular, particularly for poets, but it is staid only to those who willfully turn their attention to tired arguments of dying forms. One need only look to poets like John Gosslee and his recent book Blitzkrieg to find evidence of life.... more
Reviewed by:
Brent House
As a child growing up in South Mississippi, I was given the chore of plucking the fascicles of pine needles that had fallen into the zigzag of the chain-link fence surrounding our family home; so, on a Saturday morning after a week of late-summer storms, I would carry a small metal bucket to the edge of our yard, I would pluck the needles fallen from forest to the wire, and, before I placed the fascicles in the bucket, I would press each sharp... more
Reviewed by:
Karen An-hwei Lee
Under the editorial vision of Jeffrey Yang at New Directions, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s newest collection in seven years, Hello, the Roses, dazzles with her signature margin-to-margin lines on the physics of light, phenomenological structures of consciousness, botany, and human physiology. As her readerly fans would expect, a Berssenbrugge rose is strikingly radiant in a phenomenological, mathematical, or physiological sense rather than a... more
Reviewed by:
Erik Martiny
As prevalent as it has been in popular culture since Babylonian times, the zodiac has inspired but a dearth of recent visual art, and even fewer texts. Lord Byron is one of the few notable poets who paid it any attention at all. The vast bulk of alluringly story-bolstered mainstream myths is probably the reason why so few writers have turned to the wheel of the zodiac as a wellspring of poetry.There is nothing derivative in John Gosslee’s style... more

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Reviewed by:
Russell Scott Valentino
One of my traveling companions on my recent Eurasia passage (see my blog posts Crossing, Crossing 2, Crossing 3, and Crossed) was Ian Frazier’s Travels in Siberia, which I read cover to cover, or rather, pixel to pixel (on a Kindle—hey, I was traveling), and as I rarely get to do such an exotic thing as read a whole book these days, here’s a review.Any book written with this much love... more
Reviewed by:
Josh Garrett-Davis
1.Somewhere outside Tucson, there’s a Laguna Pueblo/Euro-American/Mexican-American woman living in a house with space blankets tacked inside the windows, with half a dozen mastiffs, a pit bull, a pet rattlesnake, a small flock of macaws (including a twenty-two-year-old named Sandino, with one leg—owl attack), an African gray parrot singing along to Sesame Street, and tables full of... more
Reviewed by:
Clare Sullivan
Of all the attributes that set Latin America apart from its northern neighbors, perhaps none captivates quite like the regional tendency to put community before the individual. Few visitors to Latin America fail to observe the way the lives of so many Latin Americans interweave, and the way that interweaving expresses itself socially. If you’ve ever shared an afternoon meal in a Latin American... more
Reviewed by:
Colin Fleming
The art of Jackson Pollock doesn’t polarize museum-goers as it once did, given his canonization as the patron saint of Abstract Expressionism. But when Pollock was tabbed a mid-century gallery god, there were plenty of people who wondered if his art—like that of Ornette Coleman’s in the late 1950s—wasn’t an outright piss-take. A case of “this isn’t really intended seriously, is it? Surely he’s... more
Reviewed by:
Amanda Dambrink
“A quick ear and eye, an ability to discern the infinite suggestiveness of common things, a brooding meditative spirit, are all that the essayist requires.” —Alexander Smith, “On the Writing of Essays”So begins the first of eleven personal essays in Patrick Madden’s premiere collection, Quotidiana, and the truth of this statement comes to bear on the entire book. Here the author brings... more

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