Reviews

'A ceiling other than a sky'

A review of Ashraf Fayadh's 'Instructions Within'

Photo of Ashraf Fayadh (right) via Instagram.

The outlines of Ashraf Fayadh’s life are clear enough: born in 1980 in Saudi Arabia to a Palestinian family, Fayadh published his book of poetry Instructions Within in Lebanon in 2008, was arrested in Abha, Saudi Arabia in August 2013, and was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam in November 2015.

Becoming in transit

Sun Yung Shin's 'Unbearable Splendor'

Photo of Sun Yung Shin (right) by Uche Iroegbu.

The term “uncanny valley” refers to the relationship between objects that appear human and the emotional responses they elicit, the degree of likeness of the former being traditionally assigned to the x-axis, while the y-axis describes the spectrum between repulsion and endearment.

'Power in all its minor forms'

Two Takes on Alli Warren's 'I Love it Though'

Two Takes on Alli Warren's 'I Love it Though'
Photo at left courtesy of All Warren.

I.

I read this quote from a twelfth-century verse chronicle by Wace, Roman de Rou, wherein he paraphrases the displeasure expressed by some local serfs at the neighboring nobility’s incorporation of the noncultivated lands that for these serfs had previously been a collective resource, writing, “We can go to the woods and take what we want, take fish from the fish pond, and game from the forests; we’ll have our will in the woods, the waters, and the meadows.”

A quiver of chapbooks

A review of 'New-Generation African Poets'

This chapbook box set is the third in an annual series, first published in 2014 by Slapering Hol Press and taken on by Akashic Books as of 2015. The box sets are a project of the African Book Poetry Fund, which also supports an impressive constellation of poetry prizes, poetry libraries in African cities, and book publishing — full-length collections by new poets, as well as collected or new and selected works by such major African poets as Ama Ata Aidoo, the late Kofi Awoonor, and Gabriel Okara. Having titled the first two sets Seven New Generation African Poets and Eight New-Generation African Poets, coeditors Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani were forced by the fact that this third iteration also features eight poets to settle the issue of naming. As Dawes puts it, “By tagging on to our new title the word tatu, a Swahili word denoting the number three, we are codifying our faith and confidence that this is truly a series.”[1] Indeed, the most recent set — Nne or four — was released this past April with ten more chapbooks, although they will have to await a future review. Each chapbook in the Tatu set bears a preface by an established poet, and each bears cover art by Victor Ehikhamenor, a Nigerian artist and writer who is currently exhibiting at the Venice Biennale and is increasingly in demand as a cover artist. While the box set is thus a quiver of gorgeous physical objects, the poetry itself is just as arresting as Ehikhamenor’s designs.

This chapbook box set is the third in an annual series, first published in 2014 by Slapering Hol Press and taken on by Akashic Books as of 2015. The box sets are a project of the African Book Poetry Fund, which also supports an impressive constellation of poetry prizes, poetry libraries in African cities, and book publishing — full-length collections by new poets, as well as collected or new and selected works by such major African poets as Ama Ata Aidoo, the late Kofi Awoonor, and Gabriel Okara.

Gleam and darkness

A review of John Hollander's 'The Substance of Shadow'

Right: Ferdinand Olivier and Heinrich Olivier, 'The Invention of the Art of Drawing (the daughter of Butades of Sicyon and her Lover),' 1804, pen and ink, watercolor. Via Wikimedia Commons.

In Pliny’s Natural History,the original act of aesthetic representation is said to be the tracing of a lover’s shadow on a wall, an outline that would remain after that body takes its sorrowful leave.