Reviews

Building sex

Renee Gladman's 'Prose Architectures'

Images from 'Prose Architectures' courtesy of Renee Gladman and Wave Books.

One easily forgets that writing is an act of drawing. On this, Renee Gladman insists: “Drawing was a process of thought — that was true, and so, and especially, was writing.”[1] This notion can be grasped in two ways: on the one hand, inscription is visual. A letter is always a mark, something scrawled. It is only when the mark is given meaning that we come to know and understand it as writing, so that A is A. The architecture of shapes and lines become letters, words, writing. 

One easily forgets that writing is an act of drawing. On this, Renee Gladman insists: “Drawing was a process of thought — that was true, and so, and especially, was writing.”[1] This notion can be grasped in two ways: on the one hand, inscription is visual. A letter is always a mark, something scrawled. It is only when the mark is given meaning that we come to know and understand it as writing, so that A is A. The architecture of shapes and lines become letters, words, writing.

Writing trauma in silence and stillness

A review of 'Written in the Dark: Five Poets in the Siege of Leningrad'

This sign on a Leningrad blockade reads: “During air-raids this side of the street is more dangerous.” Photo by Ninaras, via Wikimedia Commons.

From September 1941 to January 1944, as Nazi forces brutally besieged the Russian city of Leningrad, five writers tried to make sense of the chaos swirling around them while they remained trapped in their own city. The works of these Russian writers — Gennady Gor, Dmitry Maksimov, Sergey Rudakov, Vladimir Sterligov, and Pavel Zaltsman — make up the collection Written in the Dark: Five Poets in the Siege of LeningradWritten in the Dark is, in its simplest form, a work of siege poetry: it grapples with the questions that forced stagnation demands.

From September 1941 to January 1944, as Nazi forces brutally besieged the Russian city of Leningrad, five writers tried to make sense of the chaos swirling around them while they remained trapped in their own city. The works of these Russian writers — Gennady Gor, Dmitry Maksimov, Sergey Rudakov, Vladimir Sterligov, and Pavel Zaltsman — make up the collection Written in the Dark: Five Poets in the Siege of Leningrad.

Medievalists and madmen

A review of Paul Blackburn’s ‘Proensa’

Image by Archie Rand, from a piece which appears on the cover of ‘Proensa: An Anthology of Troubadour Poetry.’ This image is part of Rand’s ‘Montale Motets’ series.

The surviving poetry of the Old Provençal troubadours ranges from magnificent epics and beautiful lyrics to wickedly scatological satire. Their homeland, in the region that became southern France, is the source of the word Proensa, the title of Paul Blackburn’s anthology of troubadour lyrics in translation. Thanks to a re-edition of Blackburn’s translations by New York Review Books, we twenty-first-century readers have a new opportunity to read truly dazzling English versions of the troubadours.[1]

'But most by numbers judge a poet’s song'

A review of Randall Couch's 'Peal'

Photo of bells in Uzbekistan (left) by Adam Jones, via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Couch (right) courtesy of Randall Couch.

Change ringing provides the model for Randall Couch’s remarkable book of poems, Peal

“Amongst other Diversions and Recreations practiced by, and delightful to, the Inhabitants of this Island; none is more diverting, ingenious, harmless and healthful, than the ART OF RINGING, used and practiced with Discretion,” writes Fabian Stedman in his 1677 book Campanalogia, or, The Art of Ringing Improved.[1] Stedman is widely considered to be the father of “change ringing,” a practice that emerged in sixteenth-century England when new methods of hanging sets of church bells on whole wheels enabled ringers to control the speed and order in which the bells we

'Walking out the right door'

A review of Richard Blevins's 'The Art of the Serial Poem'

Photo of Richard Blevins (right) by Martha Koehler.

For nearly forty years, the poet Richard Blevins has been a fortuitous and immensely productive figure in contemporary American poetry. Blevins’s project is one securely grounded in the work of his modernist forebears: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Charles Olson (whose compass is never far from Blevins’s map of “Amerika”). 

And, words, word, words
all over everything. 
— Charles Olson[1

What exactly are the demands of my art?
— Richard Blevins[2]