Reviews

A very serious joke beneath the (relatively soon to be) exploding sun

Review of Joseph Harrington's 'Of Some Sky'

“Lastly, there are birds — that other traditional poetic symbol of hope. ... Birds replace religious prophets. A group of crows is a murder; and, truth be told, crows are smart birds that work well in groups. (In crows, we trust.)” Image: Vincent Van Gogh, ‘Wheatfield with Crows’ (1890), via Wikimedia Commons.

Joseph Harrington’s first book of poetry, Things Come On, was both a memoir about his mother and a documentary of a time in American history. It was documentary in nature, if the document of history were subjected to aesthetic manipulations and personal refashioning. Of Some Sky, his new book, has a differently indeterminate generic structure: it asks the question of whether humor is possible in poetry whose subject is ecological collapse.

Joseph Harrington’s first book of poetry, Things Come On, was both a memoir about his mother and a documentary of a time in American history. It was documentary in nature, if the document of history were subjected to aesthetic manipulations and personal refashioning. Of Some Sky, his new book, has a differently indeterminate generic structure: it asks the question of whether humor is possible in poetry whose subject is ecological collapse.

Continuing a body

A review of Bhanu Kapil's 'entre-Ban'

Bhanu Kapil (right) with Lucas de Lima at Kelly Writers House, September 27, 2016. Photo by Writers House staff.

What is Ban?” The poet imagines an answer, asserting (among other things) that Ban “is a warp of smoke.”

Bhanu Kapil’s 2015 book Ban en Banlieue is a novel of meandering lists. The second (and largest) section of the book, titled “Auto-sacrifice (Notes),” is one such list, and it includes other lists within itself. The notes are less notes than collapsed vignettes offering insight into historical trauma and the creative process of articulating harm both physical and emotional. The notes work together to create a ragged narrative, one that seems contingent on a certain character — “Ban” — but also independent in itself.

A child's history of conflict

A review of 'Hardly War' by Don Mee Choi

Photo of Don Mee Choi (left) by Jay Weaver, courtesy of Don Mee Choi.

Before we reach the table of contents of Hardly War, Don Mee Choi’s concerns are clear. The epigraphs set three boundaries. Choi sets up Gertrude Stein as a foremother, whose style she will adapt and whose words she will intersperse with the other voices of the text — “It is funny about wars, they ought to be different but they are not.” 

Before we reach the table of contents of Hardly War, Don Mee Choi’s concerns are clear. The epigraphs set three boundaries. Choi sets up Gertrude Stein as a foremother, whose style she will adapt and whose words she will intersperse with the other voices of the text — “It is funny about wars, they ought to be different but they are not.” Roland Barthes’s discourse on photography as “a shared hallucination […] a mad image” prefigures the text’s discourse on photography, its interweaving of treatises on photography, and the reality/unreality of war. Lastly, C. D.

'A non-sequitur is a song of experience'

A review of Lyn Hejinian's 'The Unfollowing'

“Many lines function self-descriptively, even synecdochally. […] And yet each line is a discrete instance, a resistance to that impulse to conjoin, maintaining the granularity of the parts in relation to the whole.” Photo by Julia Bloch.

The commonplace that the disorientations and ruptures of contemporary life require an equally disjunctive poetics has led many poets writing today to court the non sequitur as determinedly as a debater might avoid it. In traditional logic and rhetoric, a non sequitur — Latin for “it does not follow” — is a mistake, a fallacy, an inference that does not follow from the premises or evidence.

Elsewhere is here

A review of 'The Camel's Pedestal' by Anne Tardos

Photo of Anne Tardos (right) at the Kelly Writers House, March 15, 2016, taken by Writers House staff.

It’s exhilarating to say things. Giddy and strange to put things in the air nobody has heard. Exultant and juicy to make proposals at the interphase between language and reality. I feel these things keenly reading Anne Tardos. “It must be crisp not cryptic, if you want to write,” reads the first line of “Gentle Deer On 10th Avenue,” “There is this come-and-go of ideas, impressions, fears, uncertainties.”[1]