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:
Julie Marie Wade
Denise Duhamel is one of my favorite poets and one of the most captivating, comforting, challenging writers I have ever read.  But because she is “established” in the genre and I am only “emerging,” I realized with some chagrin as I was reading Blowout, her newest and best poetry collection to date, that I will never have a chance to blurb one of Duhamel’s books.  We are poets of two generations. I belong to the one that comes after—and... more
Reviewed by:
Rebecca Morgan Frank
The opening section of Tanya Larkin’s debut collection, My Scarlet Ways, selected by judge Denise Duhamel for the 2011 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize, sweeps us into the world of girls, but these are timeless, hell-raising girls with a kick and bite. The second poem could be read as an ars poetica of sorts: “Sisters, don’t let sisters / ride the chandelier. It’s just a Turkish tea set / with a drunken seductive chime / like the... more
Reviewed by:
Virginia Konchan
The landscape of Rusty Morrison's newest poetry collection, After Urgency, is one rid not only of music but the hope of its return.From “Verdancies of repetition”:Struck again and again, destiny might never chime.Toss consonants against the vowels for luck of true correspondence.Rhyme-fellows remain distinct even at a distance, like two wings frame the jay’s flight.Harbor the hidden accentual in the beautiful repose after vowelling.... more
Reviewed by:
Micah Bateman
“... And Lord the sound of their wings / is the sound of the leaves...”—Shane McCrae, from “Crows,” Mule THE WAY THINGS WORKis by admitting or opening away. This is the simplest form of current [...] The way things work is by solution, resistance lessened or increased and taken advantage of. The way things work is that finally we believe they are there, common and able to illustrate themselves. Wheel, kinetic flow, rising and falling... more
Reviewed by:
Rebecca van Laer
If you’ve read the back of a poetry book recently, you’ve probably learned that many contemporary poets are “reimagining the possibilities of lyric poetry,” “challenging the conventional boundaries of poetic form,” or otherwise transgressing and subverting the supposedly rigid limits of the lyric poem. This sort of rhetoric has been applied to prose poetry, to narrative poetry, and to professedly political poetry. The language of subversion has... more

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