Reviews

Suffering into shape

A review of 'Atonement' by Vaughan Rapatahana

Atonement is the latest collection of poems by the New Zealand Māori poet Vaughan Rapatahana. It follows his 2011 collection, Home, Away, Elsewhere (Proverse, Hong Kong), and like its two predecessors mirrors his peripatetic lifestyle. Rapatahana has worked in Nauru, Brunei Darussalam, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, the UAE, and Australia, and had a varied career before becoming a writer: he worked as a secondary teacher, a special education adviser, a house painter, and a storeman.

Examples of

On Barrett Watten's questions

Photo of Barrett Watten (right) by Jonathan Stalling.

It is no accident that the title of Barrett Watten’s second twenty-first-century critical book analyzing Language writing as an ongoing “presence” within the avant-garde continuum and literary history echoes Roman Jakobson’s 1977 collection of essays, Questions de poetique. Just as Jakobson’s essays interrogate the precarious position of poetry in an age saturated with analog media (e.g., how poetry is and is not different from the newspaper, the radio, television, etc.), so too Watten’s essays address the position of poetry in relationship to other modes of innovative cultural production (avant-garde art and techno music in particular).

It is no accident that the title of Barrett Watten’s second twenty-first-century critical book analyzing Language writing as an ongoing “presence” within the avant-garde continuum and literary history echoes Roman Jakobson’s 1977 collection of essays, Questions de poetique.[1] Just as Jakobson’s essays interrogate the precarious position of poetry in an age saturated with analog media (e.g., how poetry is and is not different from the newspaper, the radio, television, etc.), so too Watten’s essays address the position of poetry in relationship to other modes of in

New sentimentalism

A review of Julie Carr's 'Someone Shot My Book'

When viewed as acts of intimacy, reading and writing put “one on the edge of an outside of whatever one figures oneself already to be” — a claim that prompts the poet-scholar Julie Carr to conclude, in the final line of Someone Shot My Book (2018), that “all writing is epistolary.” All poems, then, are as if written in the manner of Emily Dickinson, “on the paper she used to wrap flowers in, or sent in letters.” All poems are addressed to a dear. Indeed, for Carr, “writing is almost always grounded in intimacy, and when it’s not, it begins to lose energy.”

When viewed as acts of intimacy, reading and writing put “one on the edge of an outside of whatever one figures oneself already to be” — a claim that prompts the poet-scholar Julie Carr to conclude, in the final line of Someone Shot My Book (2018), that “all writing is epistolary.” All poems, then, are as if written in the manner of Emily Dickinson, “on the paper she used to wrap flowers in, or sent in letters.” All poems are addressed to a dear. Indeed, for Carr, “writing is almost always grounded in intimacy, and when it’s not, it begins to lose energy.”[1]

The spectral resistance

A review of 'The OBU Manifestos'

Right: IWW ‘One Big Union’ sticker from the 1910s. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A few weeks ago I went into the city to see a revival of Tom Stoppard’s 1974 play Travesties, in which Henry Carr, an elderly English civil servant, looks back on his time as a diplomat in Zurich in 1917, where he was witness to the various antics of James Joyce (composing Ulysses), Tristan Tzara (fomenting Dada), and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (plotting communist revolution).

An archive of feeling

A review of 'The Bigness of Things'

Left: The second issue of Steve Abbott’s ‘Soup’ (1981), where the phrase ‘New Narrative’ was first coined.

On a Friday night in October, a fine collection of people I do and do not know assembles in the ballroom of the Omni Commons for a marathon reading organized in conjunction with the New Narrative conference at Berkeley. The conference is titled Communal Presence: New Narrative Writing Today and feels aptly named.

On a Friday night in October, a fine collection of people I do and do not know assembles in the ballroom of the Omni Commons for a marathon reading organized in conjunction with the New Narrative conference at Berkeley. The conference is titled Communal Presence: New Narrative Writing Today and feels aptly named. In this grand room, we convene together as a ragtag and motley crew, an intergenerational community built around shared desires to connect with one another, to experience the body and its emotions together, to throw our queer longings into the fray as one.