Notes toward Jane Gregory’s “Yeah No”


I want to think about distance and Jane Gregory’s new book of poems, Yeah No (The Song Cave, 2018). Or something more like gapping. A space between concepts charged with those concepts’ distance, what holds discourse together (and molecules, and planets). I think, reading these poems, that the poems express the space between the world and the thought, that between the thought and the person, the person and the feeling.

I think the poems enact a beginning, one that is already foreclosed in an end, and within that circularity or polarity, we find a self enfolding in articulation. But I can only think toward these thoughts, and that feels about right, that the poems themselves can only think toward them. I hope you will receive this as notes toward that thinking, that thinking toward these thoughts.

Read the full notes at Michigan Quarterly Review


Here is the Room I Want to Fill with Birds: An Interview with Caitlin Bailey



The story of Georg and Grete Trakl is a haunting one — a brother and sister living in the shadow of horrific war, sharing a life in poetry and music, but also sharing disastrous drug and alcohol addictions. They had an extremely close relationship, the extent of which no one firmly knows, but they no doubt cared for and protected each other until their untimely deaths — Georg by overdose and Grete, three years later, by suicide — before either had turned thirty.

It’s a story that Caitlin Bailey powerfully imagines in her debut collection, Solve for Desire (Milkweed Editions, 2017), which she dedicates to Grete. Assuming Grete’s voice through a series of richly textured lyric poems, Bailey explores an all-consuming desire that forever holds its subject captive. In the cold but safe interiors of these poems, persona and the personal are blurred, and history finds expression between individuals seeking each other across unimaginable distances.

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review.

To Describe Our World: An Interview with Kevin O’Rourke


“One could only begin simply by looking,” Kevin O’Rourke writes to welcome us into his new memoir: As If Seen at an Angle (Tinderbox Editions, 2017). Comprised of tightly woven essays on art, medicine, death, and grief, his new book is at once funny but heartbreaking, lyric but precise. It explores a fascinating range of topics — from Clyfford Still’s famously acerbic personality to the YouTube channel for the Benson Family Funeral Home in Chicago; from the untimely death of The Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch to the history of German wunderkammer; from “The Pink House” where the author used to party in college to his father’s suicide and his mother’s subsequent grief and lost battle with cancer. Parsing the fogs of distant memories, flying over landscapes, zooming in on the details of artworks, and scouring all kinds of dictionaries and databases, O’Rourke weaves together a rich web of artistic, scientific, and personal inquiries.

Read the interview at Michigan Quarterly Review.

An Autobiography of Captivity: On Shane McRae’s “In the Language of My Captor” in the Boston Review


Shane McCrae is one of the hardest working poets in America. Not only has his output been prodigious over the past few years, but all of his books have worked, separately and together, to articulate richly nuanced understandings of race and racism as they operate at the crucial intersection of public history and personal experience. His fifth collection, In the Language of My Captor, a finalist for the National Book Award, takes this ongoing project into a new, dramatically realized mode, employing the constituent dramatic elements of scene, voice, and audience.

Read the review at the Boston Review.

Sweetmeats to Cure: Lionel Ziprin’s “Songs for Schizoid Siblings”


Written in 1958 but given due packaging in a new book from Song Cave, Lionel Ziprin’s Songs for Schizoid Siblings are, at the simplest assessment, a historical oddity. They were even at the time of their composition. But their rhythms and psychological shape should be deeply familiar to most of us. Here is one example:

i had a friend.
i had a friend.
his name was pembrooke pete.

i had a friend.
i had a friend.
till he moved down the street.

Limericks! And songs, nursery rhymes, funny little catalogs, most of which roll out in the meters and rhyme schemes of our childhood. We might think the conceit is ironic, that these are excruciatingly hip — and hip they certainly are — but indulging oneself in these for more than a few minutes and one begins to perceive two distinct qualities to the poems of this three hundred page volume that bring them beyond mere curiosity. First, for as whimsical and wry as these pieces can be, they are also extraordinarily genuine. Second, they evince — both across and within the poems — a sophisticated layering of mystical pursuit, existential inquiry, and historical anxiety. These are, in short, real poems — more real than many.

Read the review at Michigan Quarterly Review