Book Reviews

Reviewed by:
Michael Magras
If you’re familiar with the lyrics of Jimmy Cliff’s 1972 reggae classic “The Harder They Come,” then you won’t be surprised to learn that T.C. Boyle’s new novel of the same name includes protagonists who, like the tune’s singer, would “rather be a free man in my grave / than living as a puppet or a slave.” And if you’ve ever seen the film The Harder They Come, in which the song appears,... more
Reviewed by:
Mary Buchinger
How does one begin to review an anthology of a century of poetry by over a hundred Armenian poets? Perhaps first by considering the translator—the one who selects the particular poems for translation from the pool of possibilities—which, in this case, is especially vast and deep given the richness of the Armenian poetry tradition. In a recent interview with Artsvi Bakhchinyan of the Armenian... more
Reviewed by:
Kristina Marie Darling
Helene Cardona's beautifully crafted collection, Dreaming My Animal Selves, drifts in and out of languages, presenting poems in both English and French translations. By doing so, the book raises several compelling questions about the relationship between language and human consciousness: Does language, with its complex grammatical rules, limit what is possible within conscious experience... more
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

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Reviewed by:
Robert McNamara
Carolyne Wright’s Mania Klepto: The Book of Eulene records the adventures of a doppelganger. Wright, who has published five books of poetry, including Seasons of Mangoes and Brainfire, winner of the Blue Lynx Prize and the American Book Award, as well as three volumes of translation from Bengali and Spanish, describes Eulene in the essay “Disquieting Muse: The Eulene Series” as having arrived as a “nameless, amorphous” figure “... more
Reviewed by:
Karen An-hwei Lee
Illuminating the inner life of a remarkable Bostonian woman of arts and letters, Norma Farber’s slender collection was gathered and published posthumously by her son, the Berkeley poet Thomas Farber. Married forty years to Sidney Farber, the oncologist pioneer of chemotherapy, Norma Farber (1909-1984) was a poet, concert vocalist, and translator. Year of Reversible Loss is the year-long journal composed in the months after her husband’s... more
Reviewed by:
Matt Miller
Published a little more than ten years ago, Peter Richard's first book, Oubliette, took on major themes concerning the nature of time, solitude, and mythmaking and responded to them with a dark, lyrical intensity that seemed completely unique. Richards arrived at a time when many young poets were looking for something new and surprising that was neither ideological and academic, like most Language Poetry, nor naively autobiographical,... more
Reviewed by:
Tim Wood
Duane Esposito’s new book of poems Declaration for Your Bones is a slim, elegant volume easily read in one sitting, but you probably should be sitting. The best poems in the volume meet the high bar that Emily Dickinson set for poetry: they knock the top of your head off. The volume begins:      We’re a skull that cannot close      Around a brain of light—The poems delve into the sedimented grief that one carries and brings into... more
Reviewed by:
Angela Veronica Wong
Karen An-Hwei Lee’s third collection of poems, Phyla of Joy on Tupelo Press, is, at its heart, a celebration, a request for us to see the beauty around us, and a reminder that even the most minute thing can become miraculous and expansive if we take the time to consider it. In Lee’s poems, we find community, spirituality, and philosophy; we are given exploration of legacy and language. Lee’s first poetry collection, In media res,... more

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