Reviews

The hymn of journals, poetic and public

Right: East Village, NYC, via Seaotterpup on Wikimedia Commons.

With today’s ubiquitous social media and all that sharing entails, the idea of poetry that delves into the personal and utilizes actual journals would command an especially astute and unique precision — one that Stacy Szymaszek’s Journal of Ugly Sites & Other Journals deftly delivers, reminding us of the raw power of the poetic personal / personal poetic, and how uncommon poetry with this kind of depth is nowadays.

With today’s ubiquitous social media and all that sharing entails, the idea of poetry that delves into the personal and utilizes actual journals would command an especially astute and unique precision — one that Stacy Szymaszek’s Journal of Ugly Sites & Other Journals deftly delivers, reminding us of the raw power of the poetic personal / personal poetic, and how uncommon poetry with this kind of depth is nowadays.

'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.

In I Love It Though Warren thinks about how we manage to live without finding it necessary to lie to ourselves or each other about how we’re living, even after hedges enclosed the commons, even as our bosses email us all the time. She thinks about how we manage to love and care for our friends, have desires, and sometimes see to their satisfaction, how we find pleasure in resisting the scenes and actions where we’ve been told all pleasure waits; in working for and spending money.

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. They 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. 

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.