Reviews - February 2019

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.

A life lived in pause

Lynley Edmeades's 'As the Verb Tenses'

Photo of Lynley Edmeades (right) by Rory Mearns.

As the Verb Tenses is interested in varieties of distance — physical, temporal, emotional. As a collection, it seems not always certain whether to embrace or to overcome these distances. There is insight to be gained in the cultivation of detachment, it suggests; but might there be something lost in moments of hesitation?

The Duncan/Olson dichotomy

A review of two volumes

Photos of Robert Duncan (left) and Charles Olson (right) by Jonathan Williams, from the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection. Used with permission of Thomas Meyer.

Here are two elusive pieces of the context of midcentury American poetics. The Robert Duncan/Charles Olson letters have been available, until now, only in the brief reviews of each other that the poets extracted from them (“near-far Mister Olson” and “Against Wisdom as Such”), passages quoted by scholars who have been able to visit the archive at Storrs, and handfuls in Sulfur, Poetry, and Olson’s Selected Letters.