Reviews - January 2019

Poetry in crisis

Rob Halpern and Keston Sutherland

Stuart Hall, Brian Roberts, John Clarke, et al. write in Policing the Crisis (1978) that during the slow unfolding of crisis there is “a stripping away of the masks of neutrality.”[1] With the masks slipping off in our respective post-Trump and Brexit horizons, liberal commentators on both sides of the Atlantic stammer about how to put all this excess hatred back in the box, as if we could just return to business as usual.

On Kaveh Akbar's 'Calling a Wolf a Wolf'

Photo of Kaveh Akbar (right) by Hieu Minh Nguyen.

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man James Joyce writes, “When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.”[1] Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf offers various artist portraits of its own, exploring this ground with candor and lyricism, traversing time, culture, and language to create a poetic topography that is both familiar and unexpected. 

Suffering into shape

A review of 'Atonement' by Vaughan Rapatahana

Atonement is the latest collection of poems by the New Zealand Māori poet Vaughan Rapatahana. It follows his 2011 collection, Home, Away, Elsewhere (Proverse, Hong Kong), and like its two predecessors mirrors his peripatetic lifestyle. Rapatahana has worked in Nauru, Brunei Darussalam, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, the UAE, and Australia, and had a varied career before becoming a writer: he worked as a secondary teacher, a special education adviser, a house painter, and a storeman.

Examples of

On Barrett Watten's questions

Photo of Barrett Watten (right) by Jonathan Stalling.

It is no accident that the title of Barrett Watten’s second twenty-first-century critical book analyzing Language writing as an ongoing “presence” within the avant-garde continuum and literary history echoes Roman Jakobson’s 1977 collection of essays, Questions de poetique. Just as Jakobson’s essays interrogate the precarious position of poetry in an age saturated with analog media (e.g., how poetry is and is not different from the newspaper, the radio, television, etc.), so too Watten’s essays address the position of poetry in relationship to other modes of innovative cultural production (avant-garde art and techno music in particular).

It is no accident that the title of Barrett Watten’s second twenty-first-century critical book analyzing Language writing as an ongoing “presence” within the avant-garde continuum and literary history echoes Roman Jakobson’s 1977 collection of essays, Questions de poetique.[1] Just as Jakobson’s essays interrogate the precarious position of poetry in an age saturated with analog media (e.g., how poetry is and is not different from the newspaper, the radio, television, etc.), so too Watten’s essays address the position of poetry in relationship to other modes of in

New sentimentalism

A review of Julie Carr's 'Someone Shot My Book'

When viewed as acts of intimacy, reading and writing put “one on the edge of an outside of whatever one figures oneself already to be” — a claim that prompts the poet-scholar Julie Carr to conclude, in the final line of Someone Shot My Book (2018), that “all writing is epistolary.” All poems, then, are as if written in the manner of Emily Dickinson, “on the paper she used to wrap flowers in, or sent in letters.” All poems are addressed to a dear. Indeed, for Carr, “writing is almost always grounded in intimacy, and when it’s not, it begins to lose energy.”

When viewed as acts of intimacy, reading and writing put “one on the edge of an outside of whatever one figures oneself already to be” — a claim that prompts the poet-scholar Julie Carr to conclude, in the final line of Someone Shot My Book (2018), that “all writing is epistolary.” All poems, then, are as if written in the manner of Emily Dickinson, “on the paper she used to wrap flowers in, or sent in letters.” All poems are addressed to a dear. Indeed, for Carr, “writing is almost always grounded in intimacy, and when it’s not, it begins to lose energy.”[1]