Reviews

Grief and compensation in Sophie Cabot Black’s 'The Exchange'

Photo of author (left) by Alexander Black, courtesy of Sophie Cabot Black.

The ordering myth of Sophie Cabot Black’s The Exchange is that of Abraham and Isaac, from Genesis 22. The Lord asks of Abraham a sacrifice, in return for the promise of chosenness, a future. God demands Abraham kill his son Isaac as an offering to be burnt; Abraham is prepared to obey. At the last moment, an angel stays Abraham’s hand. Having passed the Lord’s test, Abraham is permitted to offer a lamb, instead of Isaac, as blood sacrifice. The story is traditionally read as a model of righteous submission through substitution: exchanging the animal for the child, one body for another body, a richer abstract future for a painful particular sacrifice, the symbol for the instantiation, the word for the deed. 

The ordering myth of Sophie Cabot Black’s The Exchange is that of Abraham and Isaac, from Genesis 22. The Lord asks of Abraham a sacrifice, in return for the promise of chosenness, a future. God demands Abraham kill his son Isaac as an offering to be burnt; Abraham is prepared to obey. At the last moment, an angel stays Abraham’s hand. Having passed the Lord’s test, Abraham is permitted to offer a lamb, instead of Isaac, as blood sacrifice.

Existence plus alphabets

'Meaning to Go to the Origin in Some Way' and 'Participant'

How do poets make sense of landscape? Sense as in meaning, but also as in sensation, the lived experience of engaging with a particular tract of land at a particular time? The two books here, based on living around and walking through 46.7325ºN, 117.1717º: The Confluence, South Fork Palouse River and Paradise Creek, Pullman, WA, USA, are exemplary, in freshness and depth of engagement. 

Think in stitches. Think in settlements. Think in willows. — Gertrude Stein[1]

How do poets make sense of landscape? Sense as in meaning, but also as in sensation, the lived experience of engaging with a particular tract of land at a particular time (day, season/weather, human dateline)? The two books here, based on living around and walking through 46.7325ºN, 117.1717º: The Confluence, South Fork Palouse River and Paradise Creek, Pullman, WA, USA, are exemplary, in freshness, thoughtfulness, and depth of engagement. 

Behind the scenes of the city and the writer

Messy and fraught with flashes of beauty

Photo of Cometbus (left) by Chrissy Piper.

In Aaron Cometbus’s first poetry collection, Last Supper, flashes of the city and one of its writers carouse side-by-side in all their messiness and fragmented beauty like blurry snapshots that tell the truth in the fuzziness. Which is fitting, given the film stills by experimental film documentarian Jem Cohen that grace the book’s covers. Improbable seeming scenes present themselves in freeform stanzas, sometimes with gallows rhyme that often showcases pained or hard-won honesty. Cometbus, the author of the eponymous zine (since 1981), chronicles both a changing and fading city, and is also a writer ruminating on aging.

Mutual-aid amid 'ASoUND'

A review of Cheena Marie Lo's 'A Series of Un/Natural/Disasters'

Boat from the cover of ‘A Series of Un/Natural/Disasters’ laid over a visualization one of the book’s poems of tabulated numbers.

“[T]owards each other,” “towards our neighbors,” “towards the amalgamation of larger divisions of the species for purposes of mutual protection,”[1] to quote from a poem in Cheena Marie Lo’s new book of poems, their first. Lo, like me, is an Oakland-based poet, writing in (yet another) period of our neighbors’ violent deterritorialization and reterritorializing mutual-aid; this period is the subject of their book.

As a rule, the most general abstractions arise only in the midst of the richest possible concrete development, where one thing appears as common to many, to all. Then it ceases to be thinkable in a particular form alone. — Karl Marx, Grundrisse

‘the unspeakable, the unutterable’

Over the past two decades, poet and essayist Patrick Pritchett has been quietly building an impressive and altogether unique body of work, culminating in a recent (2014) new and selected poems, Song X, which is derived from previous collections Gnostic Frequencies (Spuyten Duyvil, 2011), Antiphonal (Pressed Wafer, 2008), Burn: Doxology for Joan of Arc (Chax Press, 2005), and Reside (Dead Metaphor Press, 1999).