Book Review: “The Animal Too Big to Kill,” by Shane McCrae

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A new era of civil rights protest is here. #BlackLivesMatter announces a new racial consciousness locked on highly public injustices, police violence caught on dash cam videos and decried on Twitter, weeks-long street demonstrations helicoptered over and fed into living rooms via live streams. With the muscular momentum of wider discord, It stomps a foot in the dirt, showing us the hard truth that racism in America is as strong as ever, a brutally systemic force, at once blunt and complex.

It is into this outraged public consciousness that Shane McCrae’s prodigious output of poems (four collections in the past five years) occurs and must be received. Read some of the titles of the present collection, The Animal Too Big to Kill, and this protest is confirmed — titles such as “What it Takes to Get the Attention of White Liberals” and “I Know It’s Hard For You to Believe You Still Benefit from Slavery,” which evidence a deep awareness of the context in which these poems will be read and gesture a distinct stance — one of provocation and protest — toward that context.

So it is surprising that such a collection would begin like this:

I haven’t Lord I haven’t You I have-
n’t praised enough You Lord although I with or would
With every poem praise you

Read the review at Bookslut

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Small Press Snapshot: Timeless, Infinite Light

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Timeless, Infinite Light is a small poetry publisher based in Oakland, but to put it that way is to sap the force out of their astonishing vigor. They are a press of the dark matter of consciousness as a nexus between heritage and the glitter of possibility, of otherness as a radical force of nature blowing tenderly but insistently against the contemporary structures of power. Their “books are spells for unraveling capitalism,” as they put it themselves, and they “believe in the radical potential of collaborative, hybrid, and embodied writing.”

I have been in love with what has grown out of these ideas. . .

Read the feature at Michigan Quarterly Review

Book Review: “Of Things,” by Michael Donhauser

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Michael Donhauser is an accomplished Austrian poet, essayist, and critic whose books date back nearly thirty years, but he is not widely known to English readers. It makes him a great candidate for Dichten—Burning Deck’s translation series, which brings this rich and varied collection, Of Things (first published in German nearly twenty years ago), to a needed new audience. It’s a dizzyingly varied work, finely translated by Nick Hoff and Andrew Joron. It is philosophically poised but historically informed, personal, scientific, whimsical, and serious—showcasing a real rucksack of literary tools that Donhauser brings into the field with him to sketch, like the plein air painter, his subjects.

Read the review at NewPages.

 

Book Review: “Justice,” by TOMAŽ ŠALAMUN

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Tomaž Šalamun was one of those rare artists who got to live — at least a little bit — in his own legacy. When he died at the very end of 2014, poets — American poets, especially — were quick to gather in a circle around this legacy, writing words of praise and admiration that were not simply eulogies but reassertions of Šalamun’s crucial role in the experimentalist impulse that has so gripped American poetry in the past two decades.

But Šalamun didn’t just live in his own legacy — he worked in it. . .

Read the review at Bookslut

Literary Promises: A Look at Last Year’s Books as a List of New Year’s Resolutions

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My year was rich, and I hope yours was, too. It was full of joys and frustrations, thrombosis and the evenest sleeps, massive blizzards with fragmenting winds, rains that blurred the boundaries between body and air, and the exasperations of humidity rising off the tennis courts in the park near my home. I listened to the otherworldlygargling calls of ‘ua’u in the young but stelliferous dark of Haleakala, let the shutter out on my Nikon to see those same stars in the sapphire depth of Wisconsin’s skies, and I spent an inordinate amount of time staring out at the Chicago river from the exhibit hall in the Sheraton Grand Chicago, where I also learned how to sell books on the run. I learned how to make kimchi and that my brother-in-law knows how to replace rotors and brakes. I went to California twice.

Read the feature at Michigan Quarterly Review

Book Review: “The Father of the Arrow is the Thought,” by Christopher Deweese

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Don’t be confused by the title of Christopher Deweese’s The Father of the Arrow is the Thought—taken from a line by Paul Klee, it suggests poems that might be characterized by a singular trajectory, a martial swiftness that lands us with a wobbling after-strike in our target. And a cursory glance at the poems pretty much supports this—all of them take the form of relatively skinny columns that shoot with a severe straightness down the page. Indeed, we are going somewhere, and pretty fast. But a look at the rest of that Paul Klee quote gives us something which complicates this sense of motion: “How do I expand my reach? Over this river? This lake? That mountain?”

Read the review at NewPages

Book Review: “Tells of the Crackling,” by Hoa Nguyen

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I have always found Hoa Nguyen’s poems surprisingly comfortable to inhabit, considering the challenges they can offer, and Tells of the Crackling, a lovely little hand-stitched chapbook from Ugly Duckling Presse, is no different. Spare, elliptical—not exactly breezy, but roomy—these poems are a bit like walking over a brick path gone uneven from the undergrowth, fresh and tentative vegetal shoots sending trajectories of thought this way and that. Indeed, there is a dual “crackling” of both spring and autumn that characterize the poems, a light and almost sickly feel, a mind not quite right, the sound of tea being made in the background. . .

Read the review at NewPages