Reviews

Spelling for humanity

A review of 'Spells,' edited by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás

Image by Soraya Gilanni.
Image by Soraya Gilanni.

This is a book of poetry that does magic, that believes in the magic of word-casting and spell-ing. Spells introduces a variety of ways to spell in poems from a diverse cast of poets who echo the ideas of precursors like Ursula K. LeGuin: by naming something, magic is done and change is created.

Language work is a making and remaking of the world around us, a casting of spells: “To be a witch, then, is to know words.”[1Spells, an anthology edited by Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás, attempts to show the magical side of poetry and “the moment before the word, when everything inside you is broken open” (ix).

Thus I am inwardly my police

A review of Daniel Poppick's 'The Police'

Photo of Daniel Poppick (left) by Charlotte McCurdy.
“Speech is the fourth wall made permanent,” Daniel Poppick writes in the title poem of his debut collection, The Police.[1] Speech is a performance, he suggests: a performance that cuts us off from others, making them, first, an audience, and then constructing a barrier between speaker and audience.

Messing with your head

A review of 'Insolvency, Insolvency!' by Jeremy Hoevenaar

Photo of Jeremy Hoevenaar (left) courtesy of Alex Teschmacher.

Those who are familiars of the impetuous wonder of words will understand Jeremy’s poem. Those who read will not.

It’s only words that tell us what to do. If we listen. Insolvency, Insolvency! doesn’t tell us what to do / but it does tell us how to listen / and when. If we listen.

Elysian weather

A review of Joyelle McSweeney's 'The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults'

“I am a Futurist,” writes Joyelle McSweeney, describing the strange historical allegiances of her work: “But I am a Futurist of 1909 rather than a Futurist who believes or anticipates a Future as envisioned by, say, TED talk panelists or believers in the progressive motion of literature as a reinforcement of political/capitalist bona fides.” Above: ‘The City Rises,’ an early Futurist work by Umberto Boccioni, 1910.

“I am a Futurist,” writes Joyelle McSweeney, describing the strange historical allegiances of her work: “But I am a Futurist of 1909 rather than a Futurist who believes or anticipates a Future as envisioned by, say, TED talk panelists or believers in the progressive motion of literature as a reinforcement of political/capitalist bona fides.”[1] As declarations of avant-garde intent go, McSweeney’s is deliciously paradoxical: an anachronistic investment in a movement that militated against anachronism, that made war on the past and its pious preservation.

Against the modular mind

Jena Osman's 'Motion Studies'

Photo of Jena Osman (left) by Kelly Writers House staff.
Photo of Jena Osman (left) by Kelly Writers House staff.

Jena Osman’s sixth book, Motion Studies, is a hybrid work consisting of three essay-poems, reaching into the past and a hypothetical dystopian future to offer us urgent warnings about the present: the ubiquity of surveillance technologies, the reduction of the human being to a constellation of data points, and our often-unconscious participation in our own subjugation to these larger forces. True to its title, Motion Studies is a restless book, rarely content to exist in one mode for very long.