Reviews

The shape of the vigil

Cassandra Cleghorn's 'Four Weathercocks'

Photo by Kevin Bubriski.

The shapes in “Macondo,” which open the first section of Cassandra Cleghorn’s first collection Four Weathercocks, are obscure and drenched in oil. As they wash onto shore “flayed and stifled,”[1] they are pushed and pulled by the tide, but never named. We are given wings, feathers, pouches, and “a black eye bright in a face of black sheen,” but never the species. Even their heartbeat goes undefined, appearing as a “small throb” pinned to the speaker’s lap. Meanwhile, “lost farmers” spread straw along the shoreline, trying to soak up the oil.

At the surface of days

A review of Rebecca Wolff's 'One Morning—'

One Morning— is a book about surfaces, about their complexity, inescapability, transience. Here, there may be no other art but the ekphrastic. In the famous Platonic scheme, where eternal forms are represented imperfectly in the world, nothing could be intellectually lower than ekphrasis. But maybe no other sort of knowledge exists. This is the suspicion of One Morning—, that there might be no other truth than the perception of surface, one surface indicating another, and the translation from one kind of surface into another kind:

Wonky structures

On Alice Burdick's 'Book of Short Sentences'

Photo by Zane Murdoch.

There is no private life which has not been determined by a wider public life. — George Eliot[1]

Between the Devil and God

Li Zhimin’s 'Zhongalish'

Photo of Li Zhimin (right) courtesy of the Kelly Writers House.

Best known in China for his translations of J. H. Prynne into Chinese, poet and scholar Li Zhimin is known in the US primarily as a fixture at Chinese American Association of Poetry and Poetics conferences and as an editor of the poetics journal Espians. In his English-language book of poems, Zhongalish: Think and Feel Globally, Li continues his cross-cultural work by exploring the lyric subject as a linguistic construct, as well as examining the mutual influence of Chinese and American “avant” poetry practices generally.

'The government of love'

A review of Elizabeth Willis's 'Alive'

Image of Elizabeth Willis (left) courtesy of Kelly Writers House.

The speaker of “Survey,” a long poem among the “New and Uncollected” of Elizabeth Willis’s Alive: New and Selected Poems, illustrates public interest and personal exposure combining to make an American lyric. As the title suggests, the poem responds to an easily imagined questionnaire ranking priorities and concerns with a list of wishes and worries, two of perhaps the most private and maligned categories of our Just Do It culture in which both wishes and worries are judged as failures of will.