Reviews - August 2011

We have a choice

A review of 'To See the Earth Before the End of the World'

Ed Roberson’s newest collection, To See the Earth Before the End of the World, exudes an immediacy, an unmistakable sense of urgency in its simultaneous lament of and call to arms for the contradictory world we inhabit. In this, Roberson’s ninth collection, the Earth and the world are held up as rings of a Venn diagram, overlapping but not interchangeable, together representative of humanity’s existence: both shared and experienced very much individually, a communal phenomenology, a physical, public place in which the private dramas of our lives play out.

Against elegy: Michael Palmer's Book of the Dead

A review of 'Thread'

“Thread — Stanzas in Counterlight” is Michael Palmer’s Book of the Dead. The title series of his ninth full-length collection, these eighteen interlinked poems are not elegies in the traditional sense. Neither songs of lament, nor, strictly speaking, commemorations for the departed, they reconfigure the genre. In these extraordinary poems, among the most moving and powerful of his career, the dead appear as companions on the way, intimately joined to the enterprise of living.

This other thing the kids are doing

A review of 'Museum of the Weird'

“A student recommended Mary Miller’s Big World to me the other day; we were at a bar and she brandished it like a pack of the best cigarettes anyone has ever smoked.”

So begins a post (“This new thing the kids are doing”) by J. Robert Lennon on the now-defunct blog Ward Six (curated by Lennon and his wife, Rhian Ellis, for just under four and a half years).

A practitioner's commitment to principle in art

A review of 'An Art of Limina'

Perhaps astonishingly, I had never watched a video by Gary Hill before reading this book. Luckily, the book is designed to keep the work of Gary Hill open, so that when I finally did encounter the videos (all the single-channel work is now online at, I was not burdened by the outer husk of a reified interpretation.

The poet's novel

A review of 'Leaving the Atocha Station'

Some poets transition from poetry to novels rather in the spirit of an enlisted man joining the officer corps. Denis Johnson comes to mind as someone who turned from poems to novels without looking back; even more prominent is the case of Michael Ondaatje, whose best fiction, I think, still has a foot in poetry (Coming Through Slaughter, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid). Others, like Stuart Dybek and Charlie Smith, may continue to write poetry but nevertheless have passed on, have risen or fallen to the identity of the fiction writer.