The intimacy of reading a book can be likened to the experience of a confessional, be it in a church, at the bar with friends, or in bed with a lover. The telling is directed, often hushed, shared in implied confidence. The act of confessing creates a feeling of being chosen. And in essence, it is. In the moment you are reading them, the words in a book create this same sense—though hundreds, thousands, millions of people may be reading it, or have read it, or will read it. With reading, however, it is you who have done the choosing, of whose confession to receive.Read More
I’m drinking a glass of wine in a gallery and nothing means anything. There is work from 100 different artists up on the walls. The gallery is selling a recently published book of influential artists from North Brooklyn in full color. It’s going for $60 and it’s worth it. I’m in it. I don’t care. I’m getting another glass of wine now and scanning the room just to feel something. Just to make sure there’s nobody I missed saying hello to.Read More
The essays in Some Versions of the Ice are erudite, intertextual, and jarring—they combine the complexities of the natural world with those of the perceptions of it made by minds prone to error. With topics ranging from touchable language (Braille) to the history of the collar, this work was one I could not stop reading, circling, returning to. Weinstein begins the essay “Graveyard Shoes” with a Yeats quote so appropriate, it could easily be used to describe his own work as well, “This organism is now acknowledged by naturalists as belonging to the animal world.”Read More
At an Adamic level, humans have always, it seems, been destined to destruct or self-destruct. On an atomic level, the world once seemed scientifically determined to remain in certain composite, certain constitution, certain form or energy. Today, however, we know that to be untrue. Staying Alive, the most recent collection of bare(ing) poems by Laura Sims, is a documentation of sorts, a reckoning with the end as we may think it, predict it, and already begin to feel it.Read More
Gelineau’s Crave does not require metaphor—reality is enough. This work is rooted in the clear, precise, deadpan truth of everyday life, be it marriage, death, crime, illness, love, birth, children, nature, beauty, passion, intimacy, or surrender—an entire spectrum of issues, none of which are glamorized or glossed over. These pages of memories and stories are also revivals of love, tenderness, pain, loss, closeness, devotion—things people desperately need, not only to feel alive, but to feel the point of it. This piece is as much a memoir as it is poetry. And yet at once it is astonishingly fresh, current, and relevant. These are stories that our high-speed, technological world needs to understand if it is to stay in balance.Read More
Much has been written in recent years about the exploitative labor practices inherent to globalization, especially those pertaining to vulnerable migrant workers from the developing states. The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor, edited by Andrew Ross and featuring a deep bench of contributors from the social sciences, labor advocacy groups, and protest artists from around the world, provides a distinct voice and a highly specific contribution to the conversation. Focusing on the labor systems and practices of Persian Gulf states and the massive investments those states have recently made in cultural institutions–landmark museums, Western university satellite campuses—The Gulf makes a compelling case for opportunities to shine light on both egregious conditions ongoing from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Riyadh, as well as opportunities to confront and dismantle these oppressive systems.Read More
I first encountered Lucia Perillo when I was an in-house poetry intern at Copper Canyon Press, in January of 2012. I’d been in the small, wooden archives, dusting new shipments of books, cutting satisfyingly thick paper for mail orders, and breathing in the heady air of dust and ink. Suddenly, I saw a cover with an erratic jumble of color across the front, Inseminating the Elephant across the spine. It became my lunchtime book that day, and the day after, and the day after. And now, it’s old enough to become a hard-time book, a bath-time book, a friend-time book. “The cover looks that way because it is actually a painting done by an elephant,” the managing editor had told me. “And welcome to the press.”Read More
In a literary world already graced by the likes of D.H. Lawrence, one might wonder if we really need another book about the passions and anxieties surrounding Sex and Death's titular themes. The answer may well be yes, if that book is written by Ben Tanzer. With prose free of poetic frill and all the more dense in meaning for its formal compactness, Sex and Death is proof that Tanzer has his finger on the pulse of the still vibrant humanity underscoring the impacts of modern gender roles, familial relations, and technology on our experiences of intimacy.Read More
Anachronies and displacements. Mismeanings or misunderstandings. Historical fictions or fictional histories. Aprocryphalism is at the heart of Rachel Levy’s A Book So Red.
What is natural?: “The people in the street asked, “’What are you?’” and “’Who the fuck made thee?’” (85) (to the lipsticked lamb in the street).Read More
What does it mean to be American? As a writer on the margins? Juan Felipe Herrera’s Notebooks of a Chile Verde Smuggler explores the question of writing in the embodied nation of an ethnic identity. Herrera illuminates the complexities and cargas of growing up Chicano in star-spangled soil and living to write about it in one’s own terms. Juan Felipe Herrera, former California and current U.S. Poet Laureate, has been a prolific writer, whose work spans at least four decades. In many ways, he is one of Chican@ / Latin@ literature’s seminal voices. This book seeks to give the reader and writer (especially the fledgling eagle-writer) a glimpse into the formative and explorative experiences that have shaped and endowed Herrera’s survival, introspection, and prominence in the field.Read More
Caroline Crew's poetry collection, Pink Museum, is compiled of five poetic sections, including one named with the book’s title. The Pink Museum possesses a singular, recurring theme, which encompasses the rest. Crew's poems reflect a certain kind of feminine mysticism influenced by Victorian sonnets, particularly those written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.Read More
In What Comes from a Thing, Phillip Barron reveals the essence that seeps from the mundane just beneath our attention. He dwells within the blurred borders between nature and the hollow shells of artifice that seem to develop not on the geographical edges of civilization, but on its perceptual edges.Read More
Reinhard Mehring’s Carl Schmitt: A Biography, dutifully translated by Daniel Steuer, is a difficult book for two reasons. At well over 500 pages, with complex jargon and a healthy dose of German-language legalese, it is an exceptionally dense biography by necessity; to truly appreciate Schmitt, the man and one of the leading legal minds of the Third Reich, understanding his juridic and philosophical development is a prerequisite for virtually all else. While his life’s broad personal and familial outlines are thoroughly rendered in the text, it is his ideas, his arguments, his contributions to Nazism which appropriately receive primary attention. Second, and related to the focus on Schmitt’s evolving political thought, this book is difficult for the reading experience it provides—a brilliant man’s steady descent from the traditions of realist international relations theories and debates over the role of the state toward justifying and rationalizing total state capacity for domination of civic life.Read More
Jan Zwicky’s new edition of Wittgenstein Elegies is a panoplied response to this, from Wittgensein ". . . philosophy ought really to be written as a poetic composition."
In order to create a complex choral conversation between philosophy and poetry, in general, and philosopher and poet, more specifically, Zwicky employed the risky art of appropriating others’ words for the purpose of more than homage, but for the repurpose of a different understanding.Read More
Victoria Chang’s The Boss serves up poems reminiscent of repetitious schoolyard rhymes. Her collection takes on large concepts: life, capitalism, ancestral memories, death, and examines how our daily interactions become the metaphysical. With most poems only taking up one page, and a few stretching to two, Chang’s writing utilizes each empathetic word. At it’s pinnacle, The Boss throws back the curtain and places us at the epicenter of a conversation stripped of niceties or answers; instead, Chang grants the opportunity to not only survive, but thrive in the unknown.Read More
A poet by trade, S. j. Cruz has given us a début novel at once original and familiar: while at first glance its structure and preoccupations seem reminiscent of the hip novelties found in other alternative literature, the author's voice distinguishes The Flowers Won't Die as an earnest literary exploration of contemporary subjects. Cruz's unique hybrid of poetic grace and comedic lunacy shine through a novel that, although it may only be enjoyed by other young writers and artists, nonetheless offers a fresh perspective on youth, art, and life.Read More
Despite the fact that this first line of the book could easily summarize, placate, defend, and define all the poems in this expository of structure-fucking, raw, and refreshingly crude social commentary, I was quite compelled to read on because I certainly understand and I wished to continue.
yes i understand and i wish to continue takes the reader down the rabbit hole and right back up to topsoil of our gnarled existence.Read More
Anne Boyer’s new book of poems, Garments Against Women, is a subtle feat of poetic mise en abyme. She conceptualizes the daily into the philosophical and, thankfully, collapses the philosophical into the quotidian. With her lyric prose, she does not spare words—there is no fear of that sort of economy here; and her language patterning is reflective of the template one might use for sewing: This is two-dimensional so that you may make of it something three-dimensional, something to walk away with, to cover you. These poems collapse her world perfectly onto the page, and in reading them, they become again the uncollapsed world—like a three-dimensional rendering of a mise en abyme painting, each frame falling into the next like an accordion: in and out, in and out (until it slips, beautifully); the music produced may not be perfectly in tune, but it is amazingly attuned.Read More
C. Dylan Bassett, a teaching fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and published poet, produces striking phantasmagoria in his work, The Invention of Monsters/Plays for the Theatre. The compilation openly invites the audience—performers, directors, and theatergoers alike—to interpret its performative texts. His bold wit structures his prose into four separate acts: The Invention of the Monster, Fantasies About Cowboys, Scenes of Heroism, and A Tent for the Night. The work conquers themes of gender and (at times, graphic) sexuality, written in first-person narrative.Read More
"This," writes historian James Loewen in his classic deprogramming text Lies My Teacher Told Me, referring to the murky use of "chaos" to describe complicated conflicts in foreign lands, "is standard textbook rhetoric: Chaos seems always to be breaking out or about to break out, and Americans intervene only 'reluctantly.'" "Chaos breaking out," as Loewen points out, is typically a means of exonerating the United States of its role in bringing about the very violence it then "reluctantly" decides to alleviate through military intervention.Read More