Reviews

Curnow's reach

Allen Curnow's 'Collected Poems' and Terry Sturm's 'Simply by Sailing in a New Direction'

Allen Curnow (1911­–2001) was a dominant force in New Zealand letters and became an internationally acclaimed poet, anthologist, and critic.[1] Together, the 2017 Auckland University Press poems and biography provide a substantial (1120-page!) recognition of his achievement. Let me offer what follows as a kind of searching tribute.

Unfurling futurity

A review of 'Further Problems with Pleasure'

Photo of Sandra Simonds (right) by Kira Derryberry.

Perhaps the highest praise I can say about Sandra Simonds’s Further Problems With Pleasure is that it gains deeper resonance on rereading in ways that can seduce me off of Facebook, get me off an ideological high horse (an occupational hazard), and make me want to respond in kind rather than trying to write a review that will inevitably water down the book’s intensities.

Against erasure

The silent citizen remembers in Alejandro Zambra's 'Multiple Choice'

Photo of Alejandro Zambra (right) by the Instituto Cervantes de Tokio, via Wikimedia Commons.

In Multiple Choice, Alejandro Zambra asks us to remember a lot of things: 

A)   A lost love

B)   A dead friend

C)   A sixty-five-year-old woman who lost a breast to cancer, and never forgot she was missing a breast

D)   A curfew imposed in Santiago, Chile, under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship

Symptoms and sources

A review of Lauren Levin's 'Justice Piece // Transmission'

Lauren Levin’s second book, Justice Piece // Transmission, is comprised of two essayistic poems that continually untangle and reconstruct the web of contradictions that shape the speaker’s ever-complex, and always self-questioning, inner narrative. 

Lauren Levin’s second book, Justice Piece // Transmission, is comprised of two essayistic poems that continually untangle and reconstruct the web of contradictions that shape the speaker’s ever-complex, and always self-questioning, inner narrative. In both pieces, Levin traces anxiety back and forth from its source: the social, material fabric that challenges any “total” understanding of what it means to be a person — a queer person — and a queer gender-fluid person — in the world right now.

The best of all possible Audens

A review of 'Goodnight, Marie, May God Have Mercy on Your Soul'

Poetry makes nothing happen. Since 2008, it’s been pretty common for contemporary poetry and the discourse about it to swirl anxiously around this line from W. H. Auden. Nobody likes it; everybody quotes it.

Poetry makes nothing happen. Since 2008, it’s been pretty common for contemporary poetry and the discourse about it to swirl anxiously around this line from W. H. Auden. Nobody likes it; everybody quotes it. But in quoting it, nobody tries to argue for some distance between poetry and politics. It’s more like the question of whether poetry (and art more broadly) is or is not political has been answered by the movement of history ­— it is.