Reviews

Disambiguating rape culture

Lynn Melnick’s nouns

Photo of Lynn Melnick (left) by Timothy Donnelly.

Gertrude Stein never trusted nouns. She was wary of their tendency to fossilize meaning, even as she relished their potential to be magnetized: “Poetry is concerned with using with abusing, with losing with wanting, with denying with avoiding with adoring with replacing the noun.”[1] Lynn Melnick’s Landscape with Sex and Violence, eighty years later, takes up this ambivalent and vexed embrace of nouns in the space of rape culture, where adoring and wanting cross use and abuse as matters graver than grammatical concern.

What is poetry?

A review of 'What Is Poetry? (Just Kidding, I Know You Know)'

Left: illustration by George Schneeman on a 1974 booklet, via the Poetry Project.

Containing thirty-eight insightful and informative interviews with mostly innovative poets and a few non-poet fellow travelers, this big white book edited by Anselm Berrigan paints a clear picture of the Lower East Side avant-garde poetry scene. In these interviews, we are listening to the poets themselves, gaining an understanding of various avant-garde poetics straight from the horse’s mouth.

Containing thirty-eight insightful and informative interviews with mostly innovative poets and a few non-poet fellow travelers, this big white book edited by Anselm Berrigan paints a clear picture of the Lower East Side avant-garde poetry scene. In these interviews, we are listening to the poets themselves, gaining an understanding of various avant-garde poetics straight from the horse’s mouth.

'Sounds heard when the ear is pressed to the walls'

A review of Gaspar Orozco's 'Autocinema'

“Like the role Lynch plays in ‘Autocinema,’ this idea of projector and screen is refracted, complex, unanswerable. Whatever the projector is, the films land on unusual, intimate surfaces.” Image modified from a photo by WiNG on Wikimedia Commons.

The poem, like the air current in the diner, is “both precise and abstract.” It’s a physical space which we can relate to — the muggy air, the trembling page, the big window — but, as in much of Autocinema, it is also static: a mindspace where the reader herself is the “black ant imprisoned in a chunk of ice.” 

Know that all of Nature is but a magic theater, that the great Mother is the master magician, and that this whole world is peopled by her many parts. — Upanishads 

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.