Capsule reviews

Aliens, Jesuses, bacteria

Kenna O'Rourke

Kenna O’Rourke reviews three poetry collections from the past two years: Proof Something Happened by Tony Trigilio, Spooks by Stella Wong, and Palm-Lined with Potience by Basie Allen. About Palm-Lined with Patience: Small round symbols and sweeping dotted lines appear throughout Basie Allen’s debut collection, tracing out palm readings or perhaps just guiding the eye to the poems’ juiciest inscrutable moments. Allen indicates that some pages should be torn out or flipped to be read fully, mirroring an activist’s disruption tactics: “I am not ashamed of inconvenience / and I promise to ruin everything,” he writes in one of several poems condemning NYC gentrifiers’ destruction of neighborhoods.

Worldly belongings

Orchid Tierney

Reviews editor Orchid Tierney returns with capsule reviews of Bamboophobia by Ko Ko Thett, Air Raid by Polina Barskova, and Togetherness by Wo Chan. From the Ko Ko Thett review: “The collection includes thirteen poems Ko Ko Thett had written and translated himself from the Burmese, but arguably this is entirely a work of translation. The poet compellingly demonstrates the fuzziness of language to convey its atmospheric social and political nuances: ‘Come morning, we say, “Have you eaten?” to / celebrate the day, for we are still here.’”

Reviews editor Orchid Tierney returns with capsule reviews of Bamboophobia by Ko Ko Thett, Air Raid by Polina Barskova, and Togetherness by Wo Chan.

Complex futures

Knar Gavin

Knar Gavin, our current Fellow in Poetic Practice, reviews Woodrat Flat by Albert Saijo, A Tale of Magicians Who Puffed Up Money That Lost Its Puff by Kaia Sand, and A Complex Sentence by Marjorie Welish. From the Sand review: 'The money-puffing magician-financiers who, in “waving wands around” bits of mortgage, engineered the 2008 financial collapse, provide the backdrop for Sand’s deft depiction of this “difficult ecology of now,” which bleats for help — from the “public citizen,” the “citizen intervenor.”' 

Translation as shared experience

Quinn Gruber

Quinn Gruber reviews three Ugly Duckling titles on or in translation: Except for This Unseen Thread by Ra’ad Abdulqadir; Say Translation Is Art by Sawako Nakayasu; and A Mano / By Hand by Nicole Cecilia Delgado. From the review of Abdulqadir: “Abdulqadir shows how the trauma of unending war weaves itself throughout everyday life: ‘we are exiled at home / blindfolded with lights.’ In Kareem’s translation, each word contributes to a strikingly tangible network of images that reveal the unseen thread of violence that undergirds these ordinary scenes: ‘the schools have gone to war’ and shopowners carry ‘their rifles on their knees.’ When ongoing trauma infuses all parts of life, we ask: ‘Even in this safe place / the strange clamor doesn’t stop?’”

Quinn Gruber reviews three Ugly Duckling titles on or in translation.

Vulnerabilities at the end of the world

Orchid Tierney

Orchid Tierney reviews three 2021 titles that explore survival in periods of crisis: Poem That Never Ends by Silvina López Medin (Essay Press, 2021); A Feeling Called Heaven by Joey Yearous-Algozin (Nightboat Books, 2021); and Curb by Divya Victor (Nightboat Books, 2021).