Reviews

Fanny Howe's revelation

A review of 'Emergence'

It is no secret that, in general, Christianity makes today’s experimental American poets nervous. Considering that genuine religious conversation in this country has been hijacked by the evangelical bloc and their teabag-toting allies on the Right whose thinly veiled homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, and militarism are accompanied by a WWJD bumper sticker, this generational rejection of the religious is unsurprising. And when we establish the philosophical foundations of a diverse American avant-garde — Marxism and subsequent theories of historical materialism, modern science, antiauthoritarianism, poststructuralism — we see not only an apparent incompatibility between religion and experimental poetry but a historical antagonism, a feud.

When even the good seems violent

A review of '100 Notes on Violence'

One reason to be celibate is this: you can die. When you are not bound by particular loves, you are freed to love whole peoples, or places. You are freed to become a tree-sitter, say, or Óscar Romero. The great sorrow when Norman Morrison lit himself on fire outside Robert S. MacNamara’s office wasn’t the war in Vietnam, it was that his fifteen-month-old daughter had just been in his arms.

Becoming a mother or father binds us more surely to the common good, even as it tears us away. We want clean and abundant water for our children, yes, and will work for it, but if there’s just one cup left, we’re likely to steal it, too.

Julie Carr’s 100 Notes On Violence is the book of a thinker bound by particular loves. There is Ben; there is Alice; there is the baby whom her sister calls “unavailable,” “By which she seems to mean / beloved” (109). The speaker is ringed with them, “Feet like little suns,” and breathing them, “wet sky: an infant mouth on mine” (1).

Reformulating precision as excess

A review of 'Portrait of Colon Dash Parenthesis'

“Tenterhooks,” the opening poem of Jeffrey Jullich’s 2010 collection Portrait of Colon Dash Parenthesis, begins:

The whole world broods upon one answer.
Every living being mulls over the response.
Resting his weight on one foot
By keeping that leg straight for now, while
Slightly bending the other knee (9)

To open a book of poetry by placing the “whole world” in a subject position would seem as the most unfortunate of all possible beginnings. And, to be sure, there are many beginnings out there from which to choose.

A memoir of exchange

Michael Gottlieb and the praxis of essay

Are there passages I have marked, underlined, annotated, or starred in Memoir and Essay to return to, to quote, to point out to others? Insofar as the narrative evidences personal knowledge and judgment regarding others whom I have known and cared about, I want to hold it and let go of it at the same time, I want to know and to forget.

Writing the nothing that is

A review of 'Visiting Wallace'

Visiting Wallace, edited by Dennis Barone and James Finnegan with a foreword by Alan Filreis, is presented as a collection of seventy-seven poems “inspired by the life and work of Wallace Stevens.” That’s problematic, because Stevens mostly hid his life in his work. An elegy by John Berryman included in the book puts the matter this way: “Ah ha & he crowed good. / That funny money-man. / Mutter we all must as well as we can. / He mutter spiffy. He make wonder Henry’s / wits, though, with an odd // … something … something … not there in his flourishing art” (10).