Reviews

Geoffrey G. O'Brien's subjunctive 'dividuals

'Experience in Groups'

Author photo (right) courtesy of Geoffrey G. O’Brien.

O’Brien’s “groups” are not Jonathan Edwards’s congregation or assembly. Nor are they the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie “crowds” of Gustave Le Bon, who argued there was no culture in social movements (only unconscious religious structures), though we do get “crowds” akin to the “clouds” of Charles Baudelaire, Constantin Guy, and Walter Benjamin. Nor are they Marxist “masses” or “unions,” or the twentieth-century “association” or “league” (Women’s, of Nations). 

Groups as period style

The scholar's blush

Shame as method in 'Lyric Shame'

Photo by Anthony Easton, via <a href= https://www.flickr.com/photos/pinkmoose/26
Photo by Anthony Easton, via flickr.

Lyric Shame (2014), a method-driven reappraisal of the mid- to late-twentieth-century “lyric” poem, looks to readers’ shame as an interpretive device. Shame: that blushing state that finds us thinking of what others must be thinking and/or self-caught in the act of wanting something (something others do not think we should be wanting); an awareness of exposure or of being seen by others; a social signpost; a readable heat.

Learning by doing

A review of 'Spellbound: The Art of Teaching Poetry'

Photo via <a href=https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Transon,_moldings,_and

I collect poetry handbooks — as if by simply possessing them I could conquer my teaching anxieties. I’ll also admit that I have rarely, if ever, used the exercises and prompts in these how-to’s — neither the ones in Robin Behn and Chase Twichell’s The Practice of Poetry or in Kenneth Koch’s classic Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, nor in any of the others. Pleasure lies in reading these books the way armchair cooks read recipes: intellectually savoring subtle combinations of flavors and forms while never tasting them in the kitchen.

I collect poetry handbooks — as if by simply possessing them I could conquer my teaching anxieties. I’ll also admit that I have rarely, if ever, used the exercises and prompts in these how-to’s — neither the ones in Robin Behn and Chase Twichell’s The Practice of Poetry or in Kenneth Koch’s classic Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, nor in any of the others. Pleasure lies in reading these books the way armchair cooks read recipes: intellectually savoring subtle combinations of flavors and forms while never tasting them in the kitchen.

Spelling for humanity

A review of 'Spells,' edited by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás

Image by Soraya Gilanni.
Image by Soraya Gilanni.

This is a book of poetry that does magic, that believes in the magic of word-casting and spell-ing. Spells introduces a variety of ways to spell in poems from a diverse cast of poets who echo the ideas of precursors like Ursula K. LeGuin: by naming something, magic is done and change is created.

Language work is a making and remaking of the world around us, a casting of spells: “To be a witch, then, is to know words.”[1Spells, an anthology edited by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás, attempts to show the magical side of poetry and “the moment before the word, when everything inside you is broken open” (ix).

Thus I am inwardly my police

A review of Daniel Poppick's 'The Police'

Photo of Daniel Poppick (left) by Charlotte McCurdy.
“Speech is the fourth wall made permanent,” Daniel Poppick writes in the title poem of his debut collection, The Police.[1] Speech is a performance, he suggests: a performance that cuts us off from others, making them, first, an audience, and then constructing a barrier between speaker and audience.