Reviews

'But most by numbers judge a poet’s song'

A review of Randall Couch's 'Peal'

Photo of bells in Uzbekistan (left) by Adam Jones, via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Couch (right) courtesy of Randall Couch.

“Amongst other Diversions and Recreations practiced by, and delightful to, the Inhabitants of this Island; none is more diverting, ingenious, harmless and healthful, than the ART OF RINGING, used and practiced with Discretion,” writes Fabian Stedman in his 1677 book Campanalogia, or, The Art of Ringing Improved.

“Amongst other Diversions and Recreations practiced by, and delightful to, the Inhabitants of this Island; none is more diverting, ingenious, harmless and healthful, than the ART OF RINGING, used and practiced with Discretion,” writes Fabian Stedman in his 1677 book Campanalogia, or, The Art of Ringing Improved.[1] Stedman is widely considered to be the father of “change ringing,” a practice that emerged in sixteenth-century England when new methods of hanging sets of church bells on whole wheels enabled ringers to control the speed and order in which the bells we

'Walking out the right door'

A review of Richard Blevins's 'The Art of the Serial Poem'

Photo of Richard Blevins (right) by Martha Koehler.

For nearly forty years, the poet Richard Blevins has been a fortuitous and immensely productive figure in contemporary American poetry. Blevins’s project is one securely grounded in the work of his modernist forebears: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Charles Olson (whose compass is never far from Blevins’s map of “Amerika”). 

And, words, word, words
all over everything. 
— Charles Olson[1

What exactly are the demands of my art?
— Richard Blevins[2]

Lawrence Joseph's credo

In his last book of poems, Into It (2005), Lawrence Joseph describes his work as “A poetry of autonomies, / bound by a transcendent necessity,” which paradoxically produces “A continuity in which everything is transition.”[1] In his new collection, So Where Are We?, Joseph remains faithful to these notions, pushing them to a further extreme.

Cry criers

Jordan Scott's 'Night & Ox' and Andrew Joron's 'The Absolute Letter'

In his previous book, Blert, Jordan Scott gave us his autobiographical stutterer’s poetics. Casting the stutterer as “a threat to coherence,” as a rebel against standardized, disciplined, regulatory language, Blert challenges linguistic (and by easy extension, political) hegemony.

In his previous book, Blert, Jordan Scott gave us his autobiographical stutterer’s poetics. Casting the stutterer as “a threat to coherence,” as a rebel against standardized, disciplined, regulatory language, Blert challenges linguistic (and by easy extension, political) hegemony.[1] For Scott, this stuttering poetry is “an inchoate moan edging toward song,” the beginning of a redemptive lament.[2]

'The Emptiness You Seek Also Takes Time'

'Go On' by Ethel Rackin

Jueds: “[T]he emptiness you seek also takes time,”[1] the speaker of Ethel Rackin’s strange, magical, and luminous second book tells us at the end of the title poem. The poems in Go On are mostly small — the briefest a single line — and yet they do take time, deep, mysterious, and wide-ranging as they are, to truly enter: they are enormous within their brevity. And, following from Rackin’s Buddhist sensibility, the poems do seek some sort of “emptiness,” which could also be defined as spirit or holiness or divinity. Rooted in the tactile and quotidian, they leap from their contemplation of birds, trees, and tract houses to the deep interior world of the speaker which, at the same time, reaches through and beyond to an enormous otherness.

Jueds: “[T]he emptiness you seek also takes time,”[1] the speaker of Ethel Rackin’s strange, magical, and luminous second book tells us at the end of the title poem. The poems in Go On are mostly small — the briefest a single line — and yet they do take time, deep, mysterious, and wide-ranging as they are, to truly enter: they are enormous within their brevity. And, following from Rackin’s Buddhist sensibility, the poems do seek some sort of “emptiness,” which could also be defined as spirit or holiness or divinity.