Reviews - April 2011

Contagious poetry

A review of 'Mommy Must Be a Fountain of Feathers'

The body implies mortality, vulnerability, agency: the skin and the flesh expose us to the gaze of others but also to touch and to violence. The body can be the agency and instrument of all these as well, or the site where “doing” and “being done to” become equivocal.

Exiting the sacred wood

A review of 'On Mount Vision: Forms of the Sacred in Contemporary American Poetry'

One of the abiding legacies of modernist poetry is the figure of the poet as rebellious intellectual, eager to dissolve pieties that typify the status quo. Another legacy, carried over from Romanticism, is that of the poet as force of counterenlightenment, vesting poetry with the task of binding and reenchanting communal life in the face of scientific materialism and economic liberalism. The manifestation of these tendencies spanned left to right on the political spectrum.

There is a war. There is a Neighbor.

A review of 'Neighbor'

In Rachel Levitsky’s Neighbor, there is a baby born and being born, there is an apartment, there is a fire escape, there is a creaking floor, there are levels, there is a nation. There is a war. There are lovers, and there is the neighbor, who is sometimes a lover, sometimes noisy, sometimes screaming, and always intimate.

'What kind of poem would you make out of that?'

A review of 'Coal Mountain Elementary'

“What do you think are some of the costs associated with mining coal?” This quote from the American Coal Foundation appears in Mark Nowak’s Coal Mountain Elementary, which I happened to read in the days following the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010. Reading the book during the worst environmental disaster in US history, I couldn’t help but also ask: What are some of the costs associated with offshore oil drilling? For that matter, what are the costs associated with any industry?

A sense interfused

Refiguring the work of ecopoetics

Maybe it’s time for poets to come to terms with the fact that when it comes to the environment, poetry is part of the problem. Poetry may even be the root of the problem: it’s a Romantic rhetoric of the sublime that makes nature into something eternal, infinite, divine, and separate from humans. For a famous example — and I’ll come back to it later — a few lines from Wordsworth’s 1798 “Tintern Abbey”: