Reviews

Whose hearts are a thousand chemicals

A review of Calvin Bedient's 'The Multiple'

Calvin Bedient’s fourth full-length volume of poetry, The Multiple, realizes the lines of multiplicity initiated by his previous three collections (Candy Necklace, 1997; The Violence of Morning, 2002; and Days of Unwilling, 2008). These earlier collections suggest the plurality of experience by gathering and juxtaposing snapshots of perspective to insinuate the whole. The Multiple takes this approach a step further by explicitly pointing its particular sampling of reality’s permutations toward the infinite outline of the unexcavated majority. The poems of The Multiple are as interested in communicating the negative space of what can’t be captured as they are in the positive space of what can. Bedient’s unwavering fix on the subjectivity of everything unleashes a “huffing accordion commotion” whose implied poetic production spreads well beyond the constraints of the physical book that delivers them. “Becoming’s a broken idea,” these poems insist (16).

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.