Reviews - January 2012

More vans arrive, all of them inert

A review of Rosmarie Waldrop's 'Driven to Abstraction'

When certain Samsas begin to clear the room, Gregor reacts: “then on the wall opposite, which was already otherwise cleared, he [Gregor] was struck by the picture of the lady muffled in so much fur and quickly crawled up to it and pressed himself to the glass … This picture at least, which was entirely hidden beneath him, was going to be removed by nobody.”[1Driven to Abstraction protects its pictures by asking us to sleep in the room that transformed it. Still, residual family relations (with holiday intention) lurk in a house we almost forget.

Community as culture

A review of 'Poetic Intention'

Édouard Glissant died on Thursday, February third, in Paris. Born in 1928 in the former French Caribbean colony of Martinique, he left for Paris in 1946 where he studied ethnography at the Musée de l’Homme and history and philosophy at the Sorbonne, introducing into critical discourse — in his dissertation on Aimé Césaire and the Negritude Movement — his idea of Creolization. He taught abroad and in America, both at LSU and then, from 1995 until his death, at the CUNY Graduate School.

Glissant began his publishing life in the 1950s, notably with his novel The Ripening in 1958, for which he won the Renaudot Prize, and this polymath’s literary and critical work numbered some forty volumes.

Trying to keep your voice clear (your voice will break)

A review of Joseph Lease's 'Testify'

A new volume by Joseph Lease is cause for celebration by the most discerning readers and writers of poetry. Testify emerges at a timely point in American history, in which verisimilitude has become the order of the day; rote mimicry retains the tinny sound of a better past; and reflex has been turned away from what collective inner feeling remains. Against this ominous backdrop emerges a book that simultaneously owns the cultural realities, while refusing their inevitability.

This collision of multiplicity and singularity

A review of Thomas Fink's 'Yinglish Strophes 1-19'

While this is a review of a particular title, I deliberately chose a title from Chris Alexander and Kristin Gallagher’s (quite) newly formed Truck Books. The press, based in Queens, has been publishing since 2009 and has published six titles to date. This Spring 2011 they have made three publications available: Robert Fitterman’s Now We Are Friends; as well as titles by the editors — Gallagher’s We Are Here (an expanded continuation of the latter half of her experimental essay “Some Limits of Ratio; or, Aesthetic Has No Goal” from Crayon 5, Roberto Harrison and Andrew Levy’s sincerely useful journal); and Alexander’s Panda.

A Marxian whelm of a pillowcase

A review of Timothy Donnelly's 'The Cloud Corporation'

Timothy Donnelly’s second full-length book of poetry, The Cloud Corporation, is chock-full of feverish strings of iambs and strictly measured stanzas that deftly lilt their way into the subconscious. Donnelly’s virtuosic aptitude for employing traditional poetic form to deliver delightfully idiosyncratic content will come as no surprise to any reader already familiar with the poet’s previous collection, Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit. As Richard Howard observes in the foreword to that volume, “every poem coils about its syntax like a sleek python of reticulated verbality” (ix). What moves The Cloud Corporation into distinctively new, and welcome territory, is Donnelley’s inspired decision to indenture this formal prowess into the structural backdrop for his text.