Book Review, “Lowly,” by Alan Felsenthal

 

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The opening poems of Alan Felsenthal’s Lowly suggest a collection that will fall squarely within a familiar subgenre of contemporary poetry: newly crafted myths, fables, and parables. Taking up classic modes of speech and story-telling, many poems of this subgenre operate according to a fairly defined mechanic, developing tight, logical sequences that utilize inversion, tautology, and other structural maneuvers to arrive at illuminating surprises—often with a bit of jesting. . . . But as we progress we begin to see quickly that Felsenthal is interested in something more complex than the mere crafting of postmodern parables. By the fifth poem, “If You Need a Ride,” it’s clear that we are in a much broader project. . .

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Book Review, “The End of Pink,” by Kathryn Nuernberger

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There is an abiding anguish that swells like a tidal water through Kathryn Nuernberger’s new book, The End of Pink. It’s an emotional force that takes a little while to establish, not yet fully evident while reading through the table of contents or perusing the first few poems, which seem at first like relatively straightforward engagements with historic books of science and pseudoscience, poems that are the result of the purposeful taking of a subject of study.

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Book Review, “Because,” by Nina Lindsay

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There is an easy-going quality to the poems in Nina Lindsay’s Because that make this one of the friendliest books this reviewer has read in some time. Lush but clean, emotional but evenly wrought, engaging a diversity of styles over its five sections but with a voice that feels continuous and familiar, these are the sorts of poems one can fall into a deep absorption with. That is not to say that these are intellectually easy—indeed, it is the subtle peculiarities and soft surprises we find throughout that really propel us forward through these pages, and I can’t help but think that this would be an interesting book to teach in advanced courses, precisely because it is so unassuming.

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Book Review: “Come In Alone,” by Anslem Berrigan

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I hate to focus so much on form, but in this review of Anselm Berrigan’s Come In Alone, form will take center stage. Or more accurately: form will frame the way we encounter Berrigan’s electric and vocally driven sensibilities. Because the very first thing you will notice when you open this book is the simple but profoundly innovative design, which runs all of the text as a border around an otherwise empty page. (You can look at sample pages here at the publisher’s website.)

This format might initially strike readers as gimmicky, but for as much as we talk about the space between the lines, about emptiness as a conditioning feature of poetics, I’m surprised I’ve never really encountered (even in the worlds of concrete or visual poetry) this simply conceived but radically reorienting layout, which does so much to give emptiness its primacy. Berrigan’s poems immediately force the reader to confront this emptiness as a powerful aesthetic force, and that alone is worth attention.

What the poems do after that, though, is even richer. . .

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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.

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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?”

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Book Review: “My Multiverse,” by Kathleen Halme

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Kathleen Halme’s My Multiverse opens with a marvelous set-piece, a multi-part cycle (that comprises the entirety of the first section of the six-sectioned book) titled “City of Roses” that begins with that tender invitational, “Dear,” and from there pans its camera over the big and small, visiting with different characters and embracing the ambience of different scenes all within the same city, Halme’s own Portland, Oregon. It’s a gesture in line with the great urban works, likeUlysses, which endeavor to sketch the cultural, emotional, and physical anatomy of a city: “Blocks and blocks of ornate iron-front buildings. / Shanghai traps and tunnels. / Iron horse rings to which someone / has hitched tiny plastic palominos.”. . .

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