Reviews

A provisional map of who/what/where we are

A review of 'Inciting Poetics: Thinking and Writing Poetry'

Photos courtesy of the authors.

On one level at least, Inciting Poetics would seem to be in dialogue with Donald Allen’s 1960 iconoclastic anthology of poetry and poetics, The New American Poetry. With the majority of this volume’s contributors having come of age in the 1960s and 1970s and now in their sixties and seventies, the essays collected here tell a particular narrative, one that seems acutely linked to the political upheavals and cultural shifts of those formative decades. 

When I first learned that the University of New Mexico Press was publishing Inciting Poetics, a collection of essays edited by Jeanne Heuving and Tyrone Williams, I was excited for a number of reasons.

Infrastructures of feeling

Fugitive fugues in the undying present

Photo by Jessie Eastland, via Wikimedia Commons

Syd Staiti’s novel The Undying Present opens with a somewhat startling brief scene wherein the narrator smashes their watch on their desk, ripping off its hands, before entering out into the world and its “present and continuous catastrophe” (11). What — outside of crisis — thrusts us into the pure present other than an escape from — or rebellion against — (modern, capitalist) time?

Time is the cousin of punishment Syd Staiti, The Undying Present[1]

The poet as symbiont

A review of Harry Gilonis's 'Rough Breathing: Selected Poems'

Image of 'Rough Breathing' cover and photo of Harry Gilonis.
Photo of Harry Gilonis courtesy of Carcanet Press.

Reading Rough Breathing, one is quickly struck by the extent to which Harry Gilonis’s poetic praxis is imbricated with antecedent poets and forms. Titles such as “Some Horatian Ingredients,” “Reading Hölderlin on Orkney,” and “Georg Trakl fails to write a Christmas poem” locate the poetry’s provenance in the praxis of reading (or experiencing by different means) the work of others. Gilonis also frequently favors already existing forms — sonnet, haiku, renga, ghazal, acrostic, to name just a handful.

Queer treatments

A review of 'Each Tree Could Hold a Noose or a House’

I first read Ru Puro’s poetry on a cold concrete bench in my hometown, holding in my elbows to leave room for those around me. At the time, Puro’s meditations on the severity and occasional beauty of the manufactured modern landscape seemed to mirror my crowded, colorless surroundings, while their more personal poems echoed my discomfort at taking up space on the bench. 

I first read Ru Puro’s poetry on a cold concrete bench in my hometown, holding in my elbows to leave room for those around me. At the time, Puro’s meditations on the severity and occasional beauty of the manufactured modern landscape seemed to mirror my crowded, colorless surroundings, while their more personal poems echoed my discomfort at taking up space on the bench.

Hers to elegize

Aria Aber's 'Hard Damage'

Photo of Aria Aber by Nadine Aber.

Aber is the child of Afghan refugees who was raised in Germany and educated, in part, in the United States. Her poems in Hard Damage wrestle with the challenge of writing of a place and a political crisis that she neither lived through nor witnessed, but whose presence remains central in her life through traumatized relatives, news of the seemingly perpetual war in Afghanistan, and her own longing for a home where she has never set foot. 

“Not yours to elegize,”[1] instructs a relative in Aria Aber’s debut volume of poems, Hard Damage. However, Aber’s Prairie Schooner Prize–winning book could be read as an attempt to mourn those losses from which the consoling voice seeks to redirect her. Aber is the child of Afghan refugees who was raised in Germany and educated, in part, in the United States.