Reviews

Partial objects

Jennifer K. Dick's 'Lilith: A Novel in Fragments'

Author photo (left) courtesy of Jennifer K. Dick.

Artifact, from the Latin arte, “by or using art,” + factum, “something made.” But an “artefact,” in French, is also something accidental, a residual effect created by human beings that distorts observation of a natural phenomenon, like footsteps distorting a seismic measurement. Jennifer K. Dick’s Lilith revolves in part around this ambiguous status between the accidental and the deliberately formed: the reader encounters a series of enigmatic textual objects that seem alternately laden with meaning.

Mourning worlds

A review of Prageeta Sharma's 'Grief Sequence'

Photo of Prageeta Sharma by Mike Stussy.

Prageeta Sharma’s Grief Sequence opens in the long aftermath of a loss, in grief’s viscosity, which seems to choke out every poem it encounters. The grieving process — looking, not looking, feeling, not feeling, hearing, not hearing — has become a string of aesthetic encounters, together with refusals to encounter, that risks exhausting itself. 

Prageeta Sharma’s Grief Sequence opens in the long aftermath of a loss, in grief’s viscosity, which seems to choke out every poem it encounters. The grieving process — looking, not looking, feeling, not feeling, hearing, not hearing — has become a string of aesthetic encounters, together with refusals to encounter, that risks exhausting itself. At the hospice, where her husband will soon die from esophageal cancer, Sharma recalls wanting to know “the tools and methods poets and artists had to say goodbye.”[1] It doesn’t matter, she decides.

Victoria Chang's negative elegy

A review of 'Obit'

Photo of Victoria Chang by Margaret Malloy.

Victoria Chang’s Obit is a book of grief. Yet cutting across its overt autobiographical subject matter, the death of Chang’s mother, the book joins a tradition of apophatic lyricism that runs through Keats, Dickinson, and Ashbery, as well as Chang’s own prior books. (Here’s how she defined love in her previous book, Barbie Chang: “a slow drip without a puddle a faded / paddle on the beach // that the eye cannot see.”) Death is the ultimate object for a secularized apophatic poetics, and Obit anatomizes the unsayability of loss. “Similes — died on August 3, 2015. There was nothing like death, just death. Nothing like grief, just grief.”

Victoria Chang’s Obit is a book of grief. Yet cutting across its overt autobiographical subject matter, the death of Chang’s mother, the book joins a tradition of apophatic lyricism that runs through Keats, Dickinson, and Ashbery, as well as Chang’s own prior books. (Here’s how she defined love in her previous book, Barbie Chang: “a slow drip without a puddle a faded / paddle on the beach // that the eye cannot see.”[1]) Death is the ultimate object for a secularized apophatic poetics, and Obit anatomizes the unsayability of loss.

'I am the hydra of I / and soon I will be the next thing'

A review of 'The Malevolent Volume' by Justin Phillip Reed

Photo of Justin Phillip Reed by Aysia Berlynn (@aysiaberlynn).

The questions Reed asks are as ambitious as the ways in which he explores them. Do myths obfuscate reality? How does society demonize what it fears and what might topple its configuration?

Justin Phillip Reed’s second collection of poetry — following his 2018 National Book Award for Poetry–winning debut Indecency — is a tour-de-force featuring a striking voice and artistry that will dazzle the vision, stun the ear, and demand attention. 

Walking through speech to speaking

A review of Jill Magi’s ‘SPEECH’

Photo of Jill Magi by Jennifer Firestone.

As someone interested in mapping the stop-and-start iterations of experimental American poetry, I cannot help but situate the self-interrogations and cultural/political analyses of Jill Magi’s SPEECH in relation to Robert Grenier’s infamous provocation “I HATE SPEECH.”

As someone interested in mapping the stop-and-start iterations of experimental American poetry, I cannot help but situate the self-interrogations and cultural/political analyses of Jill Magi’s SPEECH in relation to Robert Grenier’s infamous provocation “I HATE SPEECH.”[1] Though sometimes cited as a rallying call for Language writing, the declaration’s context (e.g., the Berkeley Free Speech Movement) and afterlife (Grenier would go on to compose, among other things, drawing poems), however much a “breach,” as Ron Silliman called it, with the voice-centered p