Posts Tagged ‘Book Reviews’

While I’ve Been Packing…

…the world of writing still turns.  I received news that Harpur Palate will be publishing one of my poems in the summer issue!  Also, just in time for National Poetry Month, the newest issue of Poets’ Quarterly is now live.  My review of Timothy Green’s American Fractal is there, along with other reviews including Sarah J Sloat’s In the Voice of a Minor Saint, January O’Neil’s Underlife, and Karyna Mcglynn’s I Have to go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl.

Everyone is talking about AWP.  I was supposed to go to AWP this year — but with the move, I called off my plans a few weeks ago.  I just couldn’t see traveling right now — any plans would add to my stress level.  Maybe next year. 

Finally, congrats to both M.J. Iuppa and Suzanne Frischkorn.  Their books are on my shopping list…as soon as I can actually find my book shelves, I am going to order copies. 

At Poets’ Quarterly

The brand new Poets’ Quarterly is live!  Take a look at the debut issue which features a review (from yours truly) of Jehanne Dubrow’s From the Fever-World. (And if you haven’t read her first book, The Hardship Post, you are really missing out!)

In Borrowed Towns

If I was doing a formal review of Borrowed Towns  by Richard Newman, I would have to think long and hard about why a poet would choose to place Bigfoot and Mothra poems (even if they are rather charming Bigfoot and Mothra poems) in a collection of works that are otherwise explorations of the beautiful and the bizarre in small Midwestern towns.  But since I am just rambling a bit on my blog, I have to say that Borrowed Towns  is one of the best books of poetry I have read in a long time.  Richard Newman is one of the poets that I wish I would have discovered long before now.  Whether he is writing about old coins or a small outcast of a boy, Newman manages to aproach his subjects with both honesty and charm.  The people in this collection are funny and real, and the landscape is beautiful.  My personal favorite?  The concluding poem, “Slow Fires” where the poet describes a whole world burning, as a coal fire rages beneath the ground. 

It’s September 1st…

…and my review of Elegy for the Floater by Teresa Carson is up at Gently Read Literature.  Carson’s collection was one of my favorites from last year! You will have to scroll down; my review is at the very bottom.  But while you are scrolling, take a look at the other good reading material listed.

Slipstream & Other Notes

I got my contributor’s copy of Slipstream on Thursday and I haven’t had time to look at the contents.  But I’m sitting here on a rainy Saturday morning, skimming the pages, pleased to see that I am joined by spectacular poets Brent Goodman, Katie Cappello, Jim Daniels and Sean Thomas Dougherty. As always, the guys at Slipstream did a beautiful job, and I can’t wait to go to the release party in Buffalo in September.

I’ve been trying to gather up my work for the summer in order to revise.  I have been browsing the blogging world noticing that many poets have already dived in to the “Big Fall Submission” period.  Not me.  I will be lucky if I have 3 packets sent out in September. 

Still behind on my book reviews.  Sigh.  Don’t worry — if you sent me a review copy, a review you shall have!

Entering The Doors of the Body

It’s hard not to instantly compare Mary Alexandra Agner ‘s new chapbook, The Doors of the Body (Mayapple Press, 2009) to  Transformations  by Anne Sexton.  Sexton’s book retold many popular fairy tales, while Agner’s collection dives much deeper, exploring the voices often silenced in women’s history, folklore and myth.

These voices are thoughtful, intelligent, and assertive.  Sometimes, they are sad, but they are always strong.  For instance, in “Ellen” we read the story of Helen of Troy says she “had to change my name and cut my hair.”  In “Minerva,” we see the goddess who “sprung fully formed, they say, the spitting image/with spear for stand in phallus and an owlet/to hold my wisdom, since my little female/noggin couldn’t hold the liquid measure”  face her father to say “You never asked if I had longings/exceeding your narrow-minded need for power.” 

It would be misleading, however, to say that Agner just uses classic mythology as a starting point of all her stories.  Fairy tales are present, as well as history.  My favorite poem, “The Harvest I Desire” makes references to the symbolism of apples (from various sources) where the persona says, “I know my ancestors/the wicked stepmother still plots, and Eve/has seen this fall before.”

What is the most amazing thing, however, about Agner’s collection, is the lyrical voice in each and everyone of her poems.  Her female characters are not just telling stories, they are singing.  When you are done reading this collection, you will know more than just stories.  You will have read a musical retelling of women’s history.

In Anthracite Country

I pride myself on knowing the poetry of Pennsylvania — that is the poets who take on the landscape and people of my homestate.  So I was a bit embarrassed when I found Anthracite Country by Jay Parini, a gem of a poetry book resting on the bookshelves of my local library.  I had read Parini’s  criticism, but not his poetry, and I really enjoyed this collection.  In this slim volume of poems, Parini tackles class issues, labor history, and even religion.  And of course, as the title of the book suggests, every poem is set in the Anthracite coal region of Eastern Pennsylvania.  In essence, Parini’s book is about the importance of memory, and the way that memory can play an important part in the literature of witness. 

On A Brief History of Time

A few years ago, I took a workshop under poet Margaret Gibson who talked about the importance of poetry giving  voice to those who cannot speak.  The whole time I was reading Shaindel Beers’ A Brief History of Time (Salt Publishing, 2009), I thought of Gibson’s words.  Beers’ first collection of poetry is a work that explores the lives of those (usually women) who are usually not heard.   In “HA!” we learn the story of a woman “dying of ovarian cancer” who has to work at the local Dollar General.  In “Why It Almost Never Ends with Stripping” we see the contemplations of a young woman exploring a new career.  And in “Weekend Rain Ghazal” we see a woman thinking of her past in the vast rural landscapes of farming, proclaiming “My English teacher told me not marry a farmer; my whole life would depend on rain.”  (This last poem, by the way, is my personal favorite).  You don’t believe me?  Well, take a look at this review here and this interview here, and then, add A Brief History of Time to your reading list.

Around the Web Updates

It’s July 1st — and you know what that means.  Many online journals are updating their sites with new material.  Take a look — Gently Read Literature’s July edition offers some exciting reviews including book reviews about two collections I just have to read: Usher by B.H. Fairchild and A Brief History of Time by Shaindel Beer. Also,  Broadsided Press offers a poem by Benjamin Grossberg and artwork by Jennifer Bevill.  Check it out!

Book Review Blues

I just read Matthew Thorburn’s post on book reviews, and I can relate to so many points he has mentioned, especially the allure of free poetry books!  I am relatively new to the world of writing book reviews.  I started simply because I wanted to be a bigger part of the poetry world and to be honest, I’m a great reader and a pretty good writer, so I thought I could contribute by writing poetry book reviews.  And last year, I did pretty well.  But this year, I am behind, and I’m not sure why. 

Well….actually I know one good reason.  I am now tackling many collections where the form and style of the poems included are not familiar to me.   Let me make this clearer.  In the past, I’ve written book reviews where I could put the poems in some kind of context.  For example, if I reviewed a book that contained a lot of poems about nature, then I could talk about that book in the context of other poets who use nature images as central motifs and metaphors in their work.  Or, if I reviewed a newest collection of a poet whose work I already knew, then I could talk about that newest book in the context of what the poet had already published.  

But now, I have a pile of books by my computer where most of the work is really new to me.  New styles, new themes, new poets. No contexts.  So the reviews I am writing are coming out like awful five-paragraph theme papers.  Yuck. 

But it’s back to work.  No matter what I say, those reviews are not going to get written when I am busy writing on my blog.