Reviews

Learning by doing

A review of 'Spellbound: The Art of Teaching Poetry'

Photo via <a href=https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Transon,_moldings,_and

I collect poetry handbooks — as if by simply possessing them I could conquer my teaching anxieties. I’ll also admit that I have rarely, if ever, used the exercises and prompts in these how-to’s — neither the ones in Robin Behn and Chase Twichell’s The Practice of Poetry or in Kenneth Koch’s classic Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, nor in any of the others. Pleasure lies in reading these books the way armchair cooks read recipes: intellectually savoring subtle combinations of flavors and forms while never tasting them in the kitchen.

I collect poetry handbooks — as if by simply possessing them I could conquer my teaching anxieties. I’ll also admit that I have rarely, if ever, used the exercises and prompts in these how-to’s — neither the ones in Robin Behn and Chase Twichell’s The Practice of Poetry or in Kenneth Koch’s classic Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?, nor in any of the others. Pleasure lies in reading these books the way armchair cooks read recipes: intellectually savoring subtle combinations of flavors and forms while never tasting them in the kitchen.

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.