Reviews

Cathy Wagner's 'Nervous Device'

From commodity fetish to form

Poetry’s capital is cultural: this “state of being / text,” for the polyvocal speaker of Cathy Wagner’s fourth full-length collection, Nervous Device, is the state of being “cave-droppings” whose center is a “stone-hole soup.” The valuelessness (as evacuated site, or shit) of poetic “unmoney,” however, is for the speaker no less valuable than economic capital (also symbolic), which, like language, conditions value: “The unmoney is structured like a / Money is structured like a language. / Give that thought some currency” (55).

'Perfect losses we can't mourn'

On Rob Halpern's 'Music for Porn'

Rob Halpern’s latest book, Music for Porn, is a thick intensity of writing, a cordage of verse and prose wrapped up in a plain brown paper dust jacket and pressed behind a frontispiece of half-frontal male nudes and metal fences (“untitled porn collage,” by Halpern and Tanya Hollis).

A review of Amaranth Borsuk's 'Handiwork'

When my first book was about to come out, I remember coming to understand there was some puffy critical notion out there of “the first book” against which I would have to contend. I don’t think it’s a codified thing, but it felt like it was something known by people who fashioned themselves as in the know.

'All my lies are honest'

A review of Chad Sweeney's 'Wolf's Milk'

Wolf’s Milk: The Lost Notebooks of Juan Sweeney, translated by Chad Sweeney, begins with an epigraph by the mythic Juan Sweeney himself: “The letter before A is silence.” This epigraph is having pure fun with form while it issues a grave statement about the nature of creation — like the poems of this collection.

Investigations in absentia

On Paige Ackerson-Kiely

Paige Ackerson-Kiely’s poetry resides in no one’s land, in the heartland of John Keats’s negative capability.[1] In Book About a Candle Burning in a Shed, Ackerson-Kiely makes a bittersweet home there.

This chapbook — a collection of twenty-two prose poems that follow the case of a drowned girl through the eyes of an aloof detective — is filled with lyric possibility, crime fiction, love, loss, solar tetherball, identity questioning, heavy doses of negation, and bleak-as-hell small-city-America depictions.