Reviews

'Between appearance and character'

On Vallejo's 'Selected Writings'

Photo of César Vallejo (right) by Juan Domingo Córdoba, 1929.

Peruvian poet César Vallejo (1892–1938) has long been recognized as a defining early twentieth-century experimentalist, but the full expanse of his writing — which extends well beyond poetry alone — has never been fully revealed to Anglophone readers until now. The diverse range of material in Selected Writings will surprise any reader familiar with Vallejo only in English translation. Editor Joseph Mulligan presents hearty selections from each of Vallejo’s collections of poetry along with excerpts from Vallejo’s fiction, plays, critical essays, and journalism.

Defiant lightness

A review of Miles Champion's 'How to Laugh'

Photo of Miles Champion (left) courtesy of The Poetry Project, copyright Star Black.

A wonderful moment occurs toward the close of How I Became a Painter, Miles Champion’s recently published book of conversations with the painter Trevor Winkfield, in which Winkfield switches roles on his erstwhile interviewer to ask candidly, “Why do you like my paintings?”

Something like flowers

A review of Angel Dominguez's 'Black Lavender Milk'

Photo by Gabriel Ojeda-Sague.

I am taking a flight home to Miami today. I’ve already read a PDF of Angel Dominguez’s Black Lavender Milk while at school in Philadelphia, but now I’ve got the physical thing in my hand, printed in blue letters, and I have a chance to read it the way it was written: on a plane home.

In his element

A review of 'The Astonishment Tapes'

Photo of Robin Blaser (left) courtesy of the Electronic Poetry Center.

Robin Blaser is in his element in these monologues in interview format — personable, pedagogic, and himself a “high-energy construct,” to not-quite-cite Charles Olson. By virtue of this book, the reader experiences Blaser as a unique force field of magnetic knowledge and charismatic charm. He is at home among the poets, themselves practitioners and friends, meeting in 1974 at someone’s house in Vancouver.

Necessary companionship

A review of Laynie Browne's 'Scorpyn Odes'

Laynie Browne is one of our finest poets working in the mode I am calling contemplative poetry. By which I mean not necessarily a poetry that is contemplative in the religious sense (though yes, inescapably there is also that in Laynie’s work) but rather in the compositional sense, that is, writing itself, language itself, composition itself.

A sense of community is everywhere apparent in the poetry world — the desire to share and promote what is offered widely, and to make of poetry a means to transform minds, hearts, and social practice. Fortunately or unfortunately, it can be difficult in all this to find a space quiet enough for a contemplative spirit, an exploratory sense, in the poem, of working through what’s real in how to respond to a world in and through language. For me the value of this is much more than personal, more than the pleasure it affords.