Capsule reviews

Vulnerabilities at the end of the world

Orchid Tierney

Orchid Tierney reviews three 2021 titles that explore survival in periods of crisis: Poem That Never Ends by Silvina López Medin (Essay Press, 2021); A Feeling Called Heaven by Joey Yearous-Algozin (Nightboat Books, 2021); and Curb by Divya Victor (Nightboat Books, 2021).

The human universe

Kendall Owens

Editorial assistant Kendall Owens reviews three strange, experimental poetry titles in this set of capsule reviews: Medusa Beach and Other Poems by Melissa Monroe, Daybreak by William Fuller, and Cosmic Diaspora by Jake Marmer. On Marmer’s book, Kendall writes: Reading Cosmic Diaspora is reading music, as it takes on all of the qualities of improvisational jazz found in its accompanying album, Purple Tentacles of Thought and Desire. Speaking from experience as an immigrant from “the outskirts of the universe — provincial Ukrainian steppes,” Marmer describes how immigrants are stripped of their culture and molded into less “alien” beings: “they lawyered me out of my alien appearance / though couldn’t fix the accent.” 

Repetitions and arrangements

Quinn Gruber

Editorial assistant Quinn Gruber reviews three multitudinous poetry titles: Ringing the Changes by Stephanie Strickland; Repetition Nineteen by Monica de la Torre; and Illusory Borders by Heidi Reszies. Of Strickland's book, Quinn writes: Ringing the Changes sounds through the highly precise patterns of English bell ringing, producing a “work that transgresses the boundary between thought as act and thought as content.” A series of twenty-three “bells” of text resonate in “many different interlocking dimensions” of climate change, racial justice, art, and performance; in the unique changes, “each of these pocket universes of social and economic reality has its own structure and forms, its own space and geometry.” In the overwhelming crises of the present, Strickland reminds us what the body can do: “It can reach out. It can look up.”

Remembrance texts

Kelly Liu

Editorial assistant Kelly Liu reviews three 2020 titles from Wesleyan University Press, each touching on memory and loss: Now It’s Dark by Peter Gizzi, Un-American by Hafizah Geter, and A Forest of Names by Ian Boyden. Of Gizzi's book, Kelly writes: Now It’s Dark begins with a dedication: “for my brother Tom // also gone.” In the face of unrelenting, constantly encroaching threat of mortality, Gizzi pens a collection of poetry that mourns those who passed and those who will continue to. In a dark world inhabited by ghosts, simultaneously aftermath and augury, Gizzi wades through physicality with an acute sense of its already-absence. Perhaps its most haunting line, “Say what’s a grammar when you is no longer you,” questions the limits of language: how can language work when the object of reference no longer exists materially, when the ‘you’ who was once alive and breathing becomes the abstract ‘you’ left behind in thought? As it seeks to preserve some semblance of life, to write the phenomenological world into the world of poetry, Gizzi’s work is a continuous attempt to inscribe: “I want to tell you this isn’t just all song. // I want to say this scrap of paper had sky in it.”

'America are you listening'

Gabriela Portillo Alvarado

Gabriela Portillo Alvarado reviews three poetry titles on immigration, trauma, racism, and America: The Book of Dirt by Nicole Santalucia, Adelante by Jessica Guzman, and Every Day We Get More Illegal by Juan Felipe Herrera. The Book of Dirt is a guttural, expositional collection of poems rooted in central Pennsylvania, with jarring wordplay, intricate metaphor, and vivid, sometimes-fantastical imagery: “the apples have triggers, / the avocados, bullets, / the extra, large barrel-bananas / are discounted on Tuesday / when you buy two bunches.”