Christopher William Purdom
Philadelphia poet, heretic, and graphic artist
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Poetry Book Reviews

Lucifer at the Starlite
Kim Addonizio

W. W. Norton and Company
2009
ISBN: 978-0-393-06852-8

Some poetry books are Christmas presents from your daughter read to the unsteady beat of rain and melting snow.
Some poetry books have tables of contents set with the gold-rimmed China and the polished silverware to raise your expectations.
Some poetry books run a straight and narrow path cut with a razor through the plains.
Some poetry books have a natural rise and fall like empires, Afghani foothills, or the side of a sleeping kitten.
Some poetry books are a poet’s spearhand aimed fast for the soft spot at the base of your neck to rip through flesh and stop your breathing.

There Was So Much Beautiful Left
Raul Alvarez

boosthouse
2015
ISBN: 978-0-9960691-3-7
Thematically disjointed across four numbered sections, I found best the more paranoid-schizophrenic and/or brutal. The first part of "4", the "For God so loved the world" series, is brilliant. The "notes on joy" that follows and concludes the book did little for me. The long rambling bits about parents are interesting. "Make Me A Hootowl, Sweetheart" at the end of "3" is especially powerful.

Versed
Rae Armantrout

Wesleyan University Press
2009
ISBN: 978-0-8195-7041-8
1

Words unintentionally remind
the Atlantic

against the Eastern seaboard

2

relentless sun sparkling on small
random Wildwood waves broken
by invisible rocks and visible people

3

or a certain someone diving
repeatedly

naked as a brown dolphin while
you watch huddled
under your Miami Beach umbrella

Jelly
Samantha Barrow

monkey/tiger alliance ltd.
2005
My ancestor Judge Word would surely be appalled by the material in this very short book, but I would like to think that at some deep unspoken level he would admit a grudging admiration for a strangely kindred spirit of a poet forging a new truth across the wide open spaces of America. As for me, I bear no grudge, and am compelled to stand in silent awe before my slow rhythmic then raggedly faster clapping followed by deafening shouts of "Testify!" Yeah. Freaking incredible. Word indeed.

Derivative of the Moving Image
Jennifer Bartlett

University of New Mexico Press
2007
ISBN: 978-0-8263-4133-4

Normally in the absence of a bookmark I will turn down the corner of the page, but for this book, even a bookmark seems like an imposition. It is not the beauty of the book itself, though there is something remarkably pristine about its manufacture, or that the words are spectacularly elegant. I think it is that the book is the manifestation of poems rooted in and completely aware of every day, ordinary physical reality, sitting at a specific outdoor cafe, on particular library steps, walking the edge of that lake so that the implied can all the more by contrast fly. It both contains and represents the art of an artist living in the limits of the physical and the unlimits of the soul, grappling with the corporeal lines that divide the universal spirit into individuals, the painful fuzzy boundaries of where each of us begins and ends. I sit on the 125 typing this review on the tiny Blackberry keyboard, in deeply respectful reverence.

Red Sugar
Jan Beatty

University of Pittsburgh Press
2008
ISBN: 978-0-8229-5987-8

That was Dispossessed Combat Sex America drugged up and slapping you around with an electric guitar while wearing a neatly tailored poetry costume.

Shy Green Fields
Hugh Behm-Steinberg

No Tell Books
2007
ISBN: 978-0-6151-6133-4

I wear tribal emblems and private
humors. Carry a small mirrored

rectangular affinity for these seven
line but differently structured poems.

Untitled, gentle, natural allusions
to body parts. Tightly coupled

life, imagined for me "the risky light"

Readings in Ordinary Time
Robert Bense

The Backwaters Press
2007
ISBN: 978-0-9785782-8-2
Instantly I lose myself in torn parchments of memory, fear, melancholy, individuality, loneliness, failure, the brief phrases of connected joy and random musings on the nature of existence. That I cannot always identify each referenced experience, or have not lived those I can identify is immaterial. The simple words are material enough, well constructed, comfortable to live in. It is not exactly my life, nor exactly how I express my life poetically, but close enough, in the reading, that it could be.

New & Selected Poems
Stephen Berg

Copper Canyon Press
1992
ISBN: 1-55659-043-1
Something must have happened off screen between pages 121 and 122, or perhaps the visit to "the shrink" on page 120 caused a delayed breakthrough, because a book that had previously presented itself as watered-down James Dickey (the same obsessions with place, family, violence, death, weather and the recurring characters of sun and moon, but without any of the joyful exuberance or linguistic flair, and with no obvious trace of the author - the most personal poems being those written in the first person as someone else) suddenly made itself Real and persisted enjoyably as such until page 197 and the poem about the poet going to a Halloween party as an effeminate cross-dressing Hitler in what may have been intended as self-deprecation/anti-Hitler but which struck me in its use of image, language (one violent but hardly isolated slur in particular) and simile (which are, after all, tools of a poet, and not to be dismissed in a poem as incidental) as both anti-gay and denigrating women who socialize without underwear, leaving me with the highly unusual thought that while this really could be high art social commentary with deeper irony that I’m completely missing (in which case I’m sorry, but even if it is, it runs the risk of being turtles all the way down) perhaps a little less real emotion would have been more than adequate, and while the text poems that followed weren't bad and the run-on-text poems were technically interesting, by then I'd just stopped caring.

actual air
David Berman

Open City Books
1999
ISBN: 978-1-890447-04-5
I thought I was eating unadvertised flarf. But it's more cohesive than flarf. Not lumpy, but not constructed exactly either, unless the random details, sudden changes of subject, bizarre metaphors, stunning observations, and out of nowhere vocabulary choices in the midst of what might be stories are Gothic architectural references. Then there's the "froms" (Cantos for James Michener: Part II, and Guide to the Graves of British Actors) with their non-contiguous Roman Numeraled stanzas. Are these actual excerpts? Were the originals really that long? Is there a Part I? It's all questions, confusions, inversions, and if you come out the other side in doubt about the nature of reality, I suspect that was intentional, "confessing our devotion to resemblances on the yellowed breakdance charts that we studied by candlelight, like toys caught reading their own directions."

The Mouths of Grazing Things
Jennifer Boyden

The University of Wisconsin Press
2010
ISBN: 978-029923514-7
Such very pretty poems, constructed from fruit, and flatware, and the mad urgent rushing onward of clouds and critters, and sometimes scattered humans who seem insignificant and rooted by comparison. This is a book of unexpected verbs and startling adverbs of poems starting always, significantly, on the right hand page, over, and again, pulling me through from cover to cover, reading the world drift quickly by.

Garments Against Women
Anne Boyer

Ahsahta Press
2015
ISBN: 978-1-934103-59-3
If these are not facts stated plainly, such that individual meanings rotate counter-clockwise, illogically separating surface from substance, then I am conclusive with meta-examples: “the story went on, for the most part, with a kind of lovely unease, spending days in bed, claiming I was a nun, painting abstract farm scenes.” My capacity abruptly inferred, “it only appears to be nothing.”

Love is a Dog from Hell
Charles Bukowski

HarperCollins
1977
ISBN: 9780876853627

lines from the life

I dreamed when I was 13

and he was past 50

now I am past 50

and

dreaming again

but

I have memories now

from back in the days

when I lived there too

with my second brain

Glass, Irony and God
Anne Carson

New Directions Publishing Corp.
1995
ISBN: 978-0-8112-1302-8
This book is wildly uneven. The four page Introduction seemed much longer (can’t the poetry speak for itself? Does it really need this much explanation?). The first poem, The Glass Essay is one of the most incredible, richly layered, highly personal pieces of writing I’ve ever read in any genre. The Truth About God is a series of smaller poems, at worst good and interesting, at best astounding. Even having read the introduction I could not make any sense or find much art in the next two sections: TV Men, also a series of smaller poems, and The Fall of Rome: A Traveller’s Guide. The Book of Isaiah is weird and wonderful, intoxicating in its imagery, makes sense, doesn’t make sense, creates its own sense. And then finally The Gender of Sound which is really more essay than poetry, and as identity in general, and gender identity in particular are personal issues for me, both fascinating and riveting cultural anthropological analysis. But her assessment near the end of Playboy as an agent of ancient cultural oppression misses the subversive power of chaos bottled for male consumption, and the complexity of moving a male-dominated culture beyond repression and self-control into Universal Consciousness.

Cleaning the Mirror: Selected And New Poems
Joel Chace

BlazeVox
2007
ISBN: 978-1-934289-58-7

BlazeVox proclaims / poetry
books come in many forms / Last night's mare waiting for
***
themselves a publisher of weird / poetry books
come
in many forms / her at a different train station delayed
***
little / poetry books come
in
many forms / delayed and then there ignoring boarding a
****
books and I cannot / poetry books come in
many
forms / helicopter previously unnoticed parked
***
argue, / poetry books come in many
forms, / inside the station leaving me shouting,
***
disparate threads conspiring to push me back in to
whirred blades of desperate sleep.

House A
Jennifer S. Cheng

Omnidawn
2016
ISBN: 978-1-63423-023-6
Three long multi-part works written around the elusive definition of house and home, both in word and structure including fragments scattered throughout that resemble partial dictionary entries. I appreciate it more for experience related by the multi-layered complexity than for the familiarity I find only in the first section, "Letters to Mao", in which each page begins "Dear Mao" and some repeat that phrase internally, describing life in the architecture of Texas. In the second section, "House A; Geometry B" I am lost despite or because of the 26 lettered subsection headings and interspersed technicalities. The third section, "How to Build an American Home" begins each page with a picture or diagram not obviously related to the words. The architecture and craftsmanship of House A are admirable, but I feel intentionally unwelcome.

the flood
Chiwan Choi

Tia Chucha Press
2010
ISBN: 978-1-882688-39-5

right boot propped on
the bare metal seat support
late afternoon december
28 eyelids heavy
as the bus slides clockwise
around conshohocken curve's black
boulder wall blizzard already

forgotten into tiny rivulets
half way down the 124th
page of meticulous depression
close and are jolted
wide again by the woman
in the annoyingly cheerful
hat yelling about christmas
and her idiot brother past
and across me to a
nameless faceless friend

in the back who will die some day
at the foot of the wissahickon
where my savior walks on warmer
days and i used to bike the gravel
drive with both my parents my mother
is gone and my father no longer
rides but the kid on the left
side of the aisle has possibly 3
2 mothers with random facial
piercings, one blonde, one
puerto rican, and a tall thin ethnically
ambiguous father in blue and white
north carolina swag i worked

9 years in north carolina my wife
visited the outer banks with her brother
watched the wild horses and bought us home
obx hoodies for christmas. my daughter
gave me this book to read and it is
exhaustingly linguistically impressive
even with all the numbers and the latin
and the senseless death

Sailing Around the Room
Billy Collins

Random House
2001
ISBN: 0-375-75519-5
It's formulaic story telling with a twist (metaphor becomes reality, reality becomes metaphor, the most abstract concepts are anthropomorphized to humorous conclusion, the poet shifts perspective and/or person at the end, the ambiguities clearly marked as to be completely unambiguous) but so very pleasant, and it makes me smile.

Letters to Guns
Brendan Constantine

Red Hen Press
2009
ISBN: 978-1-59709-138-1
The introduction and the actual letters to guns, of which there are 8, achieve a level of artistic dementia that makes me proud to be the kind of person who would receive this book as a belated birthday gift. The rest are generally very good, but give the strong impression that they would be more comfortable in a magazine, representing the poet on their own, and not crammed together in the pages of a book, displaying wildly divergent styles and speech patterns, and generally failing to live up to the unrealistic expectations set by their thematically consistent, firearm-toting siblings.

gone sane
Christal Rice Cooper

River King Press
2011
ISBN: 978-0-9650764-4-9
I don't know what to make of this book. At first I was afraid the entire thing was going to be illustrated free verse celebrity bio poetry, a genre whose existence I had not previously contemplated. I am not a fan of free verse in large doses unless it really sings, and the references to the lives of celebrities, especially when accompanied by what look to me like pencil drawings from photographs, is a cheat against the words. The Kennedy family poems were at least poignant, but it's already a poignant story, and hard to tell whether my reaction is to the words on the page or images I already have based on the names alone. The literary reference poems were interesting, but also derivative. The Enola Gay poem was an improvement but, again, I have my own mental images of Hiroshima. The Hitler poem was good, also a little more creative, though I'd just watched Inglorious Basterds the night before. The Holocaust poems were OK, the contrast between the two girls at the concentration camp a fine execution of poetic split-screen technique. But the spiritual heart, possibly the point of the book, are the domestic violence poems: the viewpoints of men who hate women, the women they hate, and the children who grow up in violence, with the Ted Bundy, Sharon Tate, Jim Jones, and both oddly similar Nicole Simpson poems wandering back to celebrity territory. So to recap, I'm not wild about the subject matter, not particularly impressed by the poetic use of English, and actively annoyed by the whole support system of illustrations, introductions, footnotes and quotes. But even as a body of wounded parts, the book speaks with a clean strong voice, refusing not to be heard.

Slow lightning
Eduardo C. Corral

Yale University Press
2012
ISBN: 978-0-300-17893-7
In San Diego, the work done, we
argued immigration law and orientation vs.
attraction, identity, and behavior while drinking
or driving somewhere to drink I read
this book sitting on the plane with one
air conditioner broken, the pilot warning
of thunderstorms and heat waves back
home, this book of border crossing gay
Mexican sex poems shimmering
haphazardly in the heat; I know
not whether it would have snuck me
here without help or left me buried in
the desert, the exhuming coyotes fighting
over my Rockports and well-worn Union cap.

Glass Is Really a Liquid
Bruce Covey

No Tell Books
2010
ISBN: 978-0-9826000-1-6
san-serif, 1.5 line spacing, alphabetic
section numbers, & digital section
notes self-contain a typographic
universe clear & in sections One
& Two impenetrable, alien,
science-math-vocabularied, could
the poems survive outside breathing
our air? Section Three liquidifies
expands or drowns with still dense but less
academic erotic physicality, food & by
section Six relational melancholy even
landscape grid & circle poems become
natural to inside particle participant
citizen what follows
the final wondrous notes?

Enthusiasm: odes & otium
Jean Day

Adventures In Poetry
2006
ISBN: 0-9761612-3-0
I'd like to buy a context please? Beautifully composed words leap effortlessly from the tongue. It's definitely a poetry book, as opposed to a book of poetry; I love how in Romantic Fragments the titles of the individual poems both start the poem and finish the one before, or at least appear to. But I don't fundamentally get it. Which may be what she's alluding to in the opening "The mania for explanation..." or maybe not. The source notes at the back are mostly to other art, so perhaps the point is art for art's sake, though others do not seem to share my difficulty of understanding; it may make perfect sense to you and even if it doesn't, you will have had the pleasure of reading it to yourself.

The Whole Motion: Collected Poems, 1945-1992
James Dickey

Wesleyan University Press
1994
ISBN: 0-8195-1218-4
And yet it works, intoxicatedly arranged and later accented words meaning precisely something else jaunted at the encircled subject like Dr. Yadav's chalk marks until the image, a half recovered memory of some stranger's trauma, is almost with you and you realize too late that the poem has already risen from the deck of the page, the falling gunner carefully adjusting you with violent clarity in his sights.

Mayakovsky’s Revolver
Matthew Dickman

W.W. Norton
2012
ISBN: 978-0-393-0819-0
I did not like this book. Technically, it’s not bad. The poems are a little long for my taste, the word choices running from uninspired and repetitive to sometimes brilliant, but they get a rhythm up and keep it going, driving you through the poet’s psyche-damaged Northwest contemporary landscape with enough flair that you can recognize the art of his driving. But here’s The Thing: I understand writing poetry out of loss. It’s a great motivator. It was my original motivator to write poetry regularly. I could have taken 92 pages of poems motivated by an older brother’s suicide, even 92 pages of speculation on where did he die, how did he die, what was he thinking when he died, who was with him when he died, what did they think when he died… What I couldn’t take was “Elegy to a Goldfish.” There is no excuse for poetry glorifying the psychological torture of a young girl, even if she is your sister, even if you dedicate the poem to her at the back, and even if you dress it up in some Weird Christian Substitutionary Atonement metaphor.

Flies
Michael Dickman

Copper Canyon Press
2011
ISBN: 978-1-55659-377-2
Flies is a sparse scatological matrix of loneliness and loss, snapshots of random details ("a bag of piano keys", "The cigarette ash falling into the sink") and memories of childhood, dream interactions with dead family members, an obsessive confusion with body parts, and flies, recurring incessant flies, the white space reinforcing isolation even better than the words. But I am haunted by the words, "staring out the window as if the playground were on fire."

The Water Bulls
Ray DiZazzo

Granite-Collen Communications
2011
ISBN: 978-1452863733
This book has a strong sense of self, from the Poetry as Art introduction to the interspersing of Poems and Art. I appreciate the effort to see the book as its own construct, but it didn't work as well for me as the poetry alone. The small non-poetry grey-scale semi-abstract art doesn't seem like an equal citizen, though I can understand the portraits and self-portraits as social context and in that role they pull the rest of the art along with them. The poems are technically incredibly impressive, especially when DiZazzo is capturing moments of transition chaos: Summer Storms (El Paso, 1967) (not rain to rain) or Kestrel (stationary to flight to killing dive). The birth/death/decay/food imagery is powerful - so many packed so tightly in one volume borders on Monty Python. But all of the poems succeed individually in what they were trying to do. I experienced them.

i'm alive / it hurts / i love it
joshua jennifer espinoza

boosthouse
2014
ISBN: 978-0-990691-1-3
fifty pages of lowercase untitled confessional poems written with words "i don't have to go back to college to understand" that perfectly capture the universality of gay human angst-ridden joyful erotic interactive experience, phrase after phrase after memorable phrase: "the way gloves live / is how i feel about this", "my muscles are forgetting things", "it's quiet in my heart / i'm taking better care of my teeth now", "pools of light come apart between us / all queer and laughter / all gay and uproar / all insane and growth". if you don't read contemporary poetry or relate to queer anything, start here. no matter who you are or how you identify, or what you normally read, this book will supplement your personhood.

Harlot
Jill Alexander Essbaum

No Tell Books
2007
ISBN: 978-0-6151-6131-0
She dares speak truth and I who have known several like and wondered at many more feel closer for the reading. Beauty out of pain (a phrase here and there perhaps a little too forced to be clever and at times unintentionally repetitious for a poet who has seduced English to her whims) and I was sorry when it ended feeling self-referentially used and abandoned and having enjoyed almost every second of our explicit spiritual experience.

Jazz
Jeanpaul Ferro

Honest Publishing
2011
ISBN: 9780956665867
This book didn’t excite me. These are the kind of poems I would write if I were less formal, longer winded and more death obsessed, in that most are addressed to the absent second person, that familiar i/you/we construct of relationship poetry. The individual words are nothing to write about, except for some sudden changes in tense that I mostly found jarring. But in the collective words of ideas, there is a strongly implied underlying rhythm of brushed snare drums, random piano notes and minor sax riffs half-heard as you sit at the dimly lit table in the back corner, alone, of course, snapping your fingers unconsciously.

The First Flag
Sarah Fox

Coffee House Press
2013
ISBN: 978-1-56689-326-8
I think somebody must have drilled a hole in my head and pulled out my structuralpoetry analysiscenter y'know? I mean I get that it's like a whole book (with illustrations, including black and white photos of deer parts and human placenta and one chapter with grey-scale lithographs as background, which is visually way hard to read) which seems to be an obsession with the realities of human female physiological existence in a male-dominated world, selfimage as a collection of holes (entrance, egress, containment) and the carrierproducer of placenta (the first flag) alternating between the slangy conversational and the heavily footnoted found language seasoned with Germanic word invention, I cannot tell if this is confessional or accusational in its second person reaching unresolved for clarity. Is she a DES baby? Is the fathersurgeon figure fact, and what is his maybeimplied protected secret?

Quaternity
Scott Glassman and Sheila E. Murphy

Otoliths
2009
ISBN: 978-0-9806025-1-7
Grammar-cloud stanzas rain words to dance the streetlight meteorologist-reviewer (shaman) fretting to forecast wind passage, density, spirit explosion debris distribution lines in reference book warehouse, sidestepping twisted yellow forklift remains, failingly sussing the rum-drunk thumbprints of creation. Stand heavenward, move as moved by the gleeful left behind wreckage of English, meaning and purpose until you collapse with exhaustion (276 pages [approximate] of a single[?] flarf[?] poem being way too much of a good thing), only to awake, dazed and confused, in a jungle that may or may not be whispering to itself in a conversation you will never understand.

Deja Vu Diner
Leonard Gontarek

Autumn Press House
2006
ISBN: 1-932870-07-5
Early evening geese speak without emotion of ethereal concrete fragments spun together half awake, my mother, the banks of the Schuylkill after a flood, this book. Fugue state overtakes me as I read, carries me in its cool embrace - nothing is completely here but I cannot quite nuance what is missing just around the bend of reality, nor do I matter, surrounded by the flowing broken lines and branches.

Bodily Course
Deborah Gorlin

White Pine Press
1997
ISBN: 1-877727-71-7
To the sinewy, tall, possibly bearded young man headed home from Hampshire College who inquired prematurely across the Vermonter aisle what I thought of this book by one of his professors as it waited patiently in turn on the white plastic tray table before me: I love this many-poemed ode to corporeal identity and Rae, who presented it, wrapped in newspaper, before her graduation.

The Man With Night Sweats
Thom Gunn

The Noonday Press
1992
ISBN: 0-374-52381-9
I finished this book in one morning commute, the first few poems read on the first bus annoying me with their rigid rhyming such that I kept looking at the back cover hoping that the glowing reviewers quoted there had actually read the same poetry. But by the third vehicle of the morning, the Norristown Trolley, I found myself too easily, painfully, dreadfully relating the rich dark Agnes Irwin girls making non-uniform use of orthodox plaid in the interest of new social conventions with 1980's San Francisco and realized how a beautifully understated communication of something new and alive and lost in the later poems had worked their way into my head.

Never Cry Woof
Shafer Hall

No Tell Books
2007
ISBN: 978-0-6151-4140-4
I’ve spent enough time in Texas and New York City without actually living in either that I can see how moving from the one to the other might do this to your brain. The poems, like New York City, barely order chaos; each divided in to stanzas within the confines of a single page, but with no consistency of size or structure within or across those boundaries. The language moves like New York City, with a unique sense of ambiguity, juxtaposition, reuse, recycling, invention and compounding of words and ideas and references to events and people unseen (Who is Amanda, and why is her briefcase not with her?). And yet I have this nagging sense, reinforced by the graphic-novel-like illustrations and title fonts that it is all a massive joke of disproportionate scale, that the land is supposed to be flat and empty.

She Had Some Horses
Joy Harjo

Thunder's Mouth Press
1983
ISBN: 0-938410-06-7
Deceptively simple vocabulary songs of a poet people trapped in superimposed place names, woven in to the voices from the neighbor’s backyard randomly climbing through my study window, dreaming of their own Earth, referencing their own memory of personal and cultural violence, body and spirit, beneath a sky that refused to rain today.

Lighthead
Terrance Hayes

Penguin Books
2010
ISBN: 9780143116967
Thrillingly original in both form and content. Formal, confessional, meta, black male cultural experience reference, the very best of it structured as Japanese business presentations. "My night is careless with itself, troublesome as a woman wearing no bra in winter."

Words for Empty and Words for Full
Bob Hicok

University of Pittsburgh Press
2010
ISBN: 978-0-8229-6077-5
Amazingly intricate, intimate treatments of largely larger issues: unemployment, cancer, climate change, coal mining, the Holocaust, war, serial killers, spree killers, Noam Chomsky… interrupted by the Virginia Tech shootings by a one-time student of the poet, and somewhat random more personal less intricate poems about the shootings… the poems after the shooting poems a peculiar mix of war, economics, the environment, religious conflict, and human interaction, more experimental, direct, first-personal, emphatic of connections and the need to share. All (except, maybe, for Backward) quite good and worth reading.

On Love
Edward Hirsch

Alfred A. Knopf
1998
ISBN: 0-375-40253-5
I suppose this is an intellectually ambitious if somewhat disjointed book. Divided in to two chapters, the first, simply "1", 15 poems being more about nature, some portraits, mostly autobiographical with a couple of references to music of the late sixties, the last, Husband and Wife, intense. "2. On Love" is a series of poetic essays on love written from the viewpoints of 25 philosophers and writers. Without reading the works and biographies of all 25 (and I did at least look up those I didn't know on Wikipedia), the references don't make much sense, and given that the title of each poem is the name of the person being emulated, I suspect that we are supposed to get them. The poetry itself is OK, a little longer than necessary in most cases, with heavy reliance on repetition and reversed word order, e.g. Pulling hats out of a rabbit. Good work, but I found it a struggle to get through.

Parts of the Mass
Catherine Imbriglio

Burning Deck Press
2007
ISBN: 978-1-886224-81-0
I realized around page 12 that I was going to have to read the rest of the book out loud. Which would make reading it on the bus impossible. Even though I think the people on the bus with me should hear it. Everyone should hear it. Obscure names of birds: Obscure names of plants: Obscure names of human body parts: Some misuse of English parts: Some Invented English (wwwdot): intentional confusion with Latin (the Mare Ibrium, the mare’s nest): The abuse of punctuation: made recitation difficult. Automatic points are given to reimaged rewritten Christian texts, especially including the opening of the Gospel of John and the salting of unrelated sources. Above all, the celebratory nature.

Prelude to Bruise
Saeed Jones

Coffee House Press
2014
ISBN: 978-1-56689-374-9
The imagery is strong with this one. On page 57 I am shocked by the relative banality of an anthropomorphic tree because every line until then has been a new adventure e.g. "strobe-lit and slick with music I set my hair on fire so you can find me on the dance floor", Structurally autobiographic, confessional, homoerotic and above all relationally TENSE, as in "I was a cross-legged boy in the third lifetime, empire of blocks in my lap while you walked through the door of your silence, hunting knife in one hand, flask in the other." Make it yours.

Kissing God Goodbye
June Jordan

Anchor Books
1997
ISBN: 0-385-49032-1
Wow. A little much angry here and there for my taste, the angry still entertaining and not to my mind misdirected (Operation Rescue, war mongers, supremacists, Clarence Thomas, not that I claim any authority over the legitimacy of anyone else's anger even when I am agreeing with them) just a little less personal and overwhelming the art where the other emotions seem more in tune with it, but perhaps that's the poet artfully illustrating discord, and the art in these sequences of mostly very short lines is in the contrast between lines, within lines, between poems leaping from the very personal to the international, even the international personal, focused on the people and their struggles so that I am in Baghdad, Belfast, Lebanon, as much as feeling the poet's loneliness and the poet's joy as though it were my own.

Raptus
Joanna Klink

Penguin Books
2010
ISBN: 9780143117728
She strings images like beads from a rocking chair bereft.

Drunk by Noon
Jennifer L. Knox

Bloof Books
2007
ISBN: 978-0-6151-6355-0
Remember flying down toward the bay hanging on to the outside of the cable car by the strap like in the commercial only much, much faster, so fast you can't parse the curves of Lombard Street on your right or the excited cries of tourists who've never seen a simile dangling from a metaphor, cars zipping by inches from your feet, the only thing standing between you and certain death the brakeman ready to drop that giant bolt through the hole in the floor if anything goes wrong, only he isn't really between you and death at all, he's way in the back and for all you know he isn't standing and possibly not even paying any attention and when it finally does come to a stop you're already figuring out how you can get back up to the top of the hill to do it all again? It's that good. Seriously. Go buy a copy. Now.

Even Before My Own Name
Tracy Koretsky

ragged bottom press
2009
ISBN: 978-0-9841242-0-6
I just want to sing these poems, or join in the singing, because I think they’re singing themselves already. Somebody is anyway. You know that film shorthand for ghosts, where they either never show you the whole ghost, just the flitting by, or they show you the whole ghost, but it’s never completely in focus, so you can tell it’s the image of somebody who was real? Angels are dead people too, right? And if you look at them directly in their natural form you’ll go blind, just like you’re not supposed to hear the actual voice of God. So either this is what it sounds like when ghosts sing out their relentless pain, or maybe what I’m hearing is the Metatron of the poem, and if I heard the actual voice of the poem my head would explode.

Folding Ruler Star
Aaron Kunin

Fence Books
2005
ISBN: 0-9740909-8-0

At what unit of
linguistic measure
is metaphor birthed

or boundaries blurred
into suggestions?
single words, precise

observations freed
from context outside
stanza, poem, book

(misled by?) preface
explanation, the
reading (written) life?

With Apologies to Mick Jagger, Other Gods, and All Women
Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Aldrich Press
2012
ISBN: 978-0615677002
I cannot lock my front door in the morning without testing it at least three times, because of my OCD, each time with a different hand position, incantation or dance. Otherwise, because of my senility, all the mornings of the last twenty plus years I have lived in this house merge together, and after walking a block and a half, arguing with myself, over whether I remember, I lose, and walk back to try again. Nor can I leave without a 226 Press or Philadelphia Union cap, because of my light sensitivity. And even with the hat, after all the handle rattlings, mumbled obscenities and shuffling jigs, I have to wait on the sidewalk, visually parsing the street because of my schizophrenia, until all the colored lines and polygons assert themselves as rowhouses, stores, trees, badly parked cars, and commuters waiting for the buses in various stages of age and distress. Reading this excellent book of poems constructed from grammatical sentences was like walking straight out of the house to the corner, my head bare, the front door probably open behind me. The structure is English, the route across and down the page simple and expected, but the words, the nouns especially, are twice removed from normal, the people are intemporal, I am uneasily convinced there is something between the words I have forgotten that needs checking, and I am squinting as I read. "It is youth that keeps you pale and concerned about the smaller buzzing parts, the soil and the pinecones there, and the grace between fists and teacups."

Radial Symmetry
Katherine Larson

Yale University Press
2011
ISBN: 978-0-300-16920-1
A constantly shifting metaphoric microscope revealing exquisitely beautiful details from seemingly unrelated events: cranes and earthworms, a bus ride through Ireland, mussels for dinner, snow, Saturn, caterpillars, magnolias, a doll factory, doves, the works of Gauguin and Rousseau, the ingredients of bouillabaisse, the Curie's laboratory, Galapagos tortoises, eels, sharks, squids, driving through the Arizona desert drinking tequila, astronomy, a leper colony, Perseus and Medusa, a market in Mali, a hospital in Belfast, Leningrad burning, monks and onions, Rachmaninov... Patterns emerge on the periphery of consciousness: the sea and food, cancer and death: It ends "In A Cemetery by the Sea: One Definition of a Circle." I did not read the introduction by Louise Gluck. I have learned that lesson.

Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows
Eugenia Leigh

Four Way Books
2014
ISBN: 978-1-935536-49-9
I want, and do not want, to quote every poem (“I want to know what my mother stuffed into her purse the night she left our father and forgot to take us”) unable to reconcile the picture of the smiling young poet with the depth of Christian parent-child language violence inside, so many ordinary words sequenced so “year after year after day afternoon;” places, body parts and inanimate objects arranged to form “family tradition” (“A friend watches me spoon a soggy chunk of my childhood and fling it somewhere between my Brooklyn sink and California”). It would be my one lifeline in this quiz show of poetry book reviews. But you must read for yourself, and survive into truth.

The Halo Rule
Teresa Leo

Elixir Press
2008
ISBN: 1-932418-25-3
The book was returned to the Post Office undelivered without any notice where it sat for two weeks alone in its box needing desperately to be read on the family room couch hands furtively grasping the pages each word even the slightly overused ones a new but well remembered song which ends in sleep among the cats in smiling dreams of intertwined and curled pasts of illicit midnight stalking and the peace of my catharsis. This is art, this is life, this is poetry, and I am still too blissed out to rave adequately.

More Radiant Signal
Juliana Leslie

Letter Machine Editions
2010
ISBN: 978-0-9815227-4-6
Still life imposed color geography and grammar reference word problems inconsistently structure light and wing myself gently pried near "Human beings are never as big as the water they carry" to briefly ingest without question the otherwise unfathomable "of the long-wave extreme in the visible spectrum".

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Tao Lin

Melville House Publishing
2008
ISBN: 978-1-933633-48-0
a creative table
of contents makes me laugh with
appreciation for a poet who understands
book as a pink and green
artifact of the creative process; and this one
made me laugh and read it and the poetry
that followed out loud (including “the line
with the tweezers”) to the annoyed family around me even if
it is a book whose primary protagonist-poet may or may
not be a frustrated depressed self-referential anti-capitalist vegan
hamster with a giant hallucinated floating head.

Three From Osage Street
Thomas Lisenbee, Kay Z. Myers and Bret Waller

AuthorHouse
2008
ISBN: 978-1-4343-8932-9
Of, from and about a different time. A three person memory of the three thousand person Girard, Kansas, mostly written in subtle variations of quiet, gently rolling Midwestern style that doesn't completely read poetry to me. Still it has its poetic moments of metaphor by placement, and I enjoyed it as historical/anthropological artifact in which the introductions, biographies and long captioned photographs seem more comfortably at home.

Your Ten Favorite Words
Reb Livingston

Coconut Books
2007
ISBN: 978-0-6151-6182-2
Read half way through the giant painful Jackson Mac Low's which isn't fair and I try not to do but necessity. Another thing I try not to do is compare similar but after Harlot and The Halo Rule it will be hard not to, especially with Livingston acknowledging Jill Alexander Essbaum's influence. This is an awesome erotic book, a little less personally in the poet's emotional reaction to the moment than those two other differently great but so well expressed of the intellectual reaction ("Never have I believed in polygamy more...") and more in the moment itself while never saying exactly in a way that I leave best unanalyzed what tricks she's playing with my language centers to recall besides the urgent most obvious in "What There Wasn't Time to Mention" and the sense of identity in crisis throughout both explicitly of the words themselves not quite normally used.

Pistol Whipped
Eric David Lough

Wasteland Press
2008
ISBN: 978-1-60047-241-1
consistently inconsistent
pluralization and tense distracts
me or the woman in the seat
before me
behind me
we are ridden backwards
on this trolley of relatives
tinted glasses clear
marking insanity
she excuses her
self suddenly to say
prayers finger left
to right a cross
down between
sharp breasts sharp face
bowed
up left return
to malfunctioning vindictive
consciousness stream

I like that word
malfunctioning.

It reads much better the second
time
at night
on the way home
another day on her knees
sympathetic
needing drunk
for alive

The cloud that contained the lightning
Cynthia Lowen

University of Georgia Press
2013
ISBN: 978-0-8203-4564-2
Inversion of order. Prying apart the resistant inviolate. Filling the vacuum of structure. Fused juxtaposition. Removal of hair. Domestic violence. Decision above reality. Choosing who will die. Almost without forethought. The book, the poems, the lines carefully arranging unassumed objectives in the path of the shockwave. You are the arranged, the arranger, the wave, and the Oppenheimer. "The self casts a shadow of the self moving in opposite directions.".

Thing of Beauty
Jackson Mac Low

University of California Press
2008
ISBN: 978-0-520-24936-3
The bagpipe is primarily a military instrument, used with the drum to strike fear into the enemy and bring courage to the clans. In North America in its traditional usage, the bagpipe is most played by small bands ranging in size from five to perhaps twenty pipers with from one to four drums, with the larger bands being led by spectacularly dressed majors. All bands play the same few well-known tunes but each, being its own small culture, plays them slightly differently. Imagine yourself as a small lad of vaguely Scottish descent, in the first days of the great warming before anyone realized that something had fundamentally changed, sitting in the stands at the Devon Horse Grounds after wandering the Games for the first hour browsing through the kilt shops and watching the women dance their precise steps and the burly men compete to see who can throw a claymore the furthest or flip a telephone poll in the straightest line, waiting with the crowd for the highlight of the day, if not the year, the massed pipe bands. Outside the gates there is the shuffling of feet, the soft odd bang of a randomly struck drum or the bleat of a piper tuning, then silence  a shout  a wailing  to make the blood  run cold as each band begins to pick up their own version of All the Blue Bonnets Over the Border and the drummers of each join in at their own pace almost coalescing as the gate swings open and five tall men in tall fur hats with long great sticks come strutting in with the mad screaming of over a hundred and fifty pipes and some twenty drums behind them. This book is a massed bagpipe band of poetry, a huge, unwieldy, strangely familiar, wildly unrhythmic mixture of fear and courage that should be experienced once in every lifetime, that ends suddenly with the same quiet dignity of a single piper playing Amazing Grace at a funeral.

Heredities
J. Michael Martinez

Louisiana State University Press
2010
ISBN: 976-0-8071-3643-0
This is the most self-aware poetry book I’ve read yet, from the opening untitled “Margin is the whiteness in our silence…” to the ending untitled two line poem after the notes: the references to parts of speech, foreshadowing, and embellished language, the Spanish snippets, the clever hyphenation, the “you said…I said”, the backwards references, the way the poems take over the page.

Sorry, Tree
Eileen Myles

Wave Books
2007
ISBN: 978-1-933517-20-9
This book has a pronounced element much like the dental floss, yogurt cup, coffee bottle and dirty spoons that sit between me and the monitor that appeals more to Rachel who loaned me this book and is thirty years younger and much smarter than me and makes me smile with her intellectual and emotional reality of randomness. Personally I like my poetic chaos slightly more organized and now with less vomiting but I must admit, cat meowing pitifully outside my study door, that the work works for what it does well.

Bluets
Maggie Nelson

Wave Books
2009
ISBN: 978-1-933517-40-7
A book about a woman not writing a book about the color blue in the form of 240 sequentially numbered short text poems, a project she describes in number 64 as having described as “heathen, hedonistic and horny”. I had myself by that point reached the phrase “spiritually raunchy” but however you choose to describe it this is a wonder filled memory trigger that is less as it darts about the metaphysics of color and more a series of questions about how a poet lives with the loss of profoundly erotic complex relationship. Easily one of the best for me.

I Was There for your Somniloquy
Kelli Anne Noftle

Omnidawn Publishing
2012
ISBN: 9781890650599
This book is about sentences. Sometimes fragments. You will read about sea slugs with footnotes. And sex. You will read about sex, sex with people, and sex with sea slugs, and footnotes. But most of the words are sleep disorders. The sentences cut from the words look like they have mostly been molded in to ordinary paragraphs, discussing one single thing except they lose focus and wander off, or maybe they were really talking about that second subject, which is usually you, or relationships, or memories or paintings of memories. Also painting techniques, like poetry, like sleep disorders, the diffusion of light and parents. I have to like a book that uses Hypnagogia, because I used “Hypnagogic” in my last book. You, the second subject, may also, but possibly for different reasons.

The Network
Jena Osman

Fence Books
2011
ISBN: 978-1-934200-40-7
If for no more than the audacity of scope. The interview with Ron Silliman, the Mummer's parade, the brief biographies of comic book characters. The innate humanness of inhumanity, the lies of maps, selected timelines, and etymology charts. The blindness of tribal allegiance. Commercial and military history, chemistry, subjugation and religion, esp. slavery and the development of Manhattan. Lead poisoning, mercury poisoning, nuclear testing. What to make of the second person narrative at the end, or the italicized Gibsonesque story of the woman, the three boys and the guard? "you are surrounded by this mist, and it becomes denser, like a fog."

Personationskin
Karl Parker

No Tell Books
2009
ISBN: 978-0-578-01872-0
I never knew it was possible to chat
so congenially about God
only knows what the effect like children
with fireflies on long Summer evenings who
sometimes poke holes in the lid and othertimes
don't while casual Etceteras, and So Ons and Things
Like That cavort alongside darting in unexpected
to tack themselves to the ends of already
violent constructions like extra nails
in the cross of inverted Subject-object
relationships and reversed tense.
ALSO, I FEEL EXPERIMENTED.
DID I MENTION THAT BEFORE YET?

PeaceWalk
Laurie Pollack

PoemsNotBombs Press
2007
ISBN: 978-0-9796-8110-3
Most of these poems I hear in my head read aloud at rallies, the weather too cold and windy and the words whipping away so that it becomes necessary for a naturally quiet poet to shout. Scattered among them are the sadness of 9/11, the small warm observations, and my personal favorites, the not exactly off-topic humor thrown in for relief and perhaps context (I’m especially fond of Erica’s Exes and To Friends Who Want to Submit). The art and consistent voice are not so much in the language as in the observation, in the contrast of images, celebration of the different, the unique, the simple good diverse inclusive things in life, the art and the poet warmly visible through the shouting.

The Executive Director of the Fallen World
Liam Rector

The University of Chicago Press
2006
ISBN: 978-0-226-70604-7
The unpleasant larger elements of life: despair, loss, abandonment, addiction, prostitution, cancer, suicide, dance trippingly across the neatly ordered triplets of the page, pausing briefly on each to turn a phrase so startlingly daring and unexpected that you need at least to read it twice if not start over from the top.

The Memories I Keep
David Ritter

Lulu
2012
ISBN: 978-1-105-91932-9
The subtitle of this book is "Poems and Stories for Common Folk, “ though the four “stories” mixed in with the poems are closer to short autobiographical essays. The introduction decries "complex imagery with flowery words, metaphors, and similes that most people don't understand.” I guess "Common Folk" are people who believe poetry needs to be understood, and who like poems that are mostly 3/4 to a page long, mostly divided in to 4 line stanzas, mostly in the 7-12 syllables per line range, and mostly with an ABCB rhyming scheme. Common Folk may also be of a single particular religious bent, as at least five of the poems have references to Personal Friend and Savior brand Jesus including one in which Jesus speaks in italicized AABB rhyme. As there are more brain/language/reality-violencing poetry books being published than I or any other human, common or uncommon, can possibly consume, I fail to conceive the value add in conformant aspiration.

Crunk Juice
Steve Roggenbuck


2012
Steve Roggenbuck is an origamil froce of absurdist happy.
The first review i got of my Volume V was from stevenallenmay, who hates POD books and couldn't understand why I put on the back cover a quote from somebody who refused to review Volume IV.
So on Volume VI i wrote my own scathing blurb that ended "Not recommended."
Which has nothing to do with Crunk Juice expect I wonder what stevenallenmay would say about it's back cover which shouts THIS IS WHERE BEAUTY GOES TO DIE, and then goes worst.
Inside Rogenbuck folds tweets and Facebook comments in to happy little ungrammatical misspelled trees
(yes that is a Bob Ross refrence)
arranged on the page like flowers in a vase or rocks in sand for samurai contemplation:
"Eating shredded wheat and screaming while watching extreme couponing."
Buy this book even if it is public domain and today it is very hot and not raining.
Recommended.

Vertigo
Martha Ronk

Coffee House Press
2007
ISBN: 978-1-56689-205-6
I’m sorry to say that sitting down to write this review a day after I’d finished the book, I realized I was left with almost no direct memory of what I had read. Which is kind of what the poems are like. When the feeling of anticipatory anxiousness before the storm and the emptiness and possibility after the storm are the subject and the object of metaphor, the near-death lightning strikes of humanity or nature are assumed but never spoken of unless portrayed in a picture which is then itself, its very pictureness, exquisitely described, all of this indirection creating emotional distance through intellectualized and to her credit reasonably evocative word play.

four-legged girl
Diane Seuss

Graywolf Press
2015
ISBN: 978-1-55597-722-1
How does she write breeze-tossed nostalgia from squalor, addiction, and death (“Are you still mainlining amnesia, that downer, or nostalgia, double-downer?”) with varied structure, with rapid changes of subject, with details hollowed by the passage of time or the reader preferring not to acknowledge them solid (with many exceptions, e.g. “kissing each other so deep some might call it brain surgery”)? Strength, fine art, self-awareness, survival?

Crush
Richard Siken

Yale University Press
2005
ISBN: 978-0-300-10789-0

The overly long foreword by Louise Gluck (hey, I recognize this poem, I read it in the foreword) makes a strong case that this is a beautiful book, an important book, a book that walks the line between narrative and chaos. I have some favorite quotes too: “I’m not the dragon. I’m not the princess either. Who am I? I’m just a writer. I write things down. I walk through your dreams and invent the future”, “You see I take the parts that I remember and I stitch them back together to make a creature that will do what I say or love me back,” and “The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell. Unfortunately we don’t have that kind of time.” She’s right. It tells it plain and simple like it really is, if you live in a reality in which hearts have breakable bones, hands turn into birds, meaning is fixed to the landscape with pegs, cows fall out of the sky and land in the mud, and parentheses click shut behind you. But that’s the thing about this book, the thing she doesn’t say in the foreword, the thing that depresses all the beauty: it’s crazy sad, explicitly born out of the childhood trauma in which people you love try to kill you for loving them. Not only is the poet living out his trauma like me and so many people I’ve known who’ve experienced violent reactions to love and violence masquerading as love (and this, by far, is worse), he’s surrounded in the book by an entire population of men rebelling against and recreating that same violence like “a different room, another hallway, the kitchen painted over and over, another bowl of soup.”

The Age of Huts (compleat)
Ron Silliman

University of California Press
2007
ISBN: 978-0-520-25016-1

The first section kept knocking me unconscious because my brain couldn't take it. The second section made me laugh. The last section I related to the best. I don't know if those were the intended reactions.

This book keeps asking, both explicitly and implicitly, whether or not it is poetry, plus the larger questions of the role of poetry in language and the role of language in reality. As an academic exercise it does a very good job of examining, if not exactly answering, the two larger questions.

But is it poetry? I can answer positively in the negative. It's literary, and it's not any obvious form of prose, so I don't know what else to call it. It certainly possesses a rigor and a beauty of language. But personally I think of poetry as finding exactly the right words and the right form to communicate the poet's insane experience (including, where appropriate, the doubt, uncertainty, and ambiguity) of a spontaneous moment in a way that touches the reader, reminding them at least vaguely of their own experience, and hopefully dragging them along even if they're not completely sure what it is they're experiencing.

The Age of Huts is almost the antithesis of all of that. It's the right words in search of a form, used again and again in many forms. The poem is the experience. It's very carefully thought out, not just in the communication, which I expect, but even the section I liked best is still the result of a planned exercise in writing. I don't feel dragged into the poet's insane experience so much as assaulted by the poet's insane worldview.

But that's what makes it good at examining the larger questions and for what I liked about it, I recommend buying a copy.

Dark Sparkler
Amber Tamblyn

HarperCollins
2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-234816-6
I feel like Diane di Prima’s foreword does a disservice both to this book in particular and poetry in general. There is, as Rae said when she gave it to me, “a lot going on", but it is still just a poetry book, a darn good poetry book that happens to have different colored pages and illustrations and starts out as celebrity biographies of tragic women and then morphs half way through into a book about writing the book with autobiographical commentary, all of which are elements of poetry books previously reviewed here, but they are all done well, it all hangs together, and I found myself repeatedly thinking “wow, this is a cool book” between looking up biographies on Wikipedia as suggested in the foreword.

return to the city of white donkeys
James Tate

ecco / Harper Collins
2004
ISBN: 978-0-06-075002-2
109 masterfully written pieces of surrealist sting fiction accidentally mislabeled as poems by a secret society of three and a half foot tall communist ferrets in pointy hats or in the drawer of the nightstand on the other side of the bed hidden under a stack of decade old tax returns, a single book-length poem about the absurdity of life and its classification systems structured to look like a series of unrelated stories. "I cannot tell which, George," I say to myself repeatedly while shaking my head sadly, even though my name isn't George, "I cannot tell which."

The Best Thing Ever
Laura Theobald

boosthouse
2015
ISBN: 978-0-9960691-4-4
i smiled almost all the way through and laughed a few times. it's a tiny book. with 16 poems written like this review on an iPhone. only she used autosuggest to help pick words and i think that would make for an even less accurate review than usual. anyway. it's funny. not only because of the poems but like the whole concept and the pages unaccounted in the contents that have excerpts in a much bigger font of best lines or something. hopefully when i tweet the url for this review she'll follow me back.

Little Boat
Jean Valentine

Wesleyan University Press
2007
ISBN: 978-0-8195-6850-2

Radioactive emotional subject
matter handled   with obvious care from
the spacing and punctuation: choices I may

  not understand but can process anyway to the non-obvious plays
  on concepts ("trade for" in "The Artist in
  Prison" for example) and the unexpected little details that solidify

a joy to read.

Night sky with exit wounds
Ocean Vuong

Copper Canyon Press
2016
ISBN: 978-155659-495-3
Reminded me strongly of Saeed Jones "Prelude to Bruise" (relationship with a violent father, finding and losing your self in another man) with added echoes of the Vietnam War, immigration and identification with his mother. The words are beautiful even when the subjects are not. Seventh Circle of Earth is appropriately structured entirely in footnotes. I especially liked Notebook Fragments, The Smallest Measure, and Someday I'll Love Ocean Vuong.

Driven to Abstraction
Rosemarie Waldrop

New Directions Publishing
2010
ISBN: 978-0-8112-1879-5
Death in Iraq is a constant in these poetic essays juxtaposing the history of empire and the development of abstraction in music, painting, mathematics, philosophy and economics. The reduction of language and war to classified information and alphabetized vocabulary, artistic construct and agent of destruct, the imagination of the body and the substitution for breathing living human touch, the power to name, rename, and make nothing: a, abstraction, agent, alphabetized, and, artistic, body, breathing, classified, constant, construct, death, destruct, development, economics, empire, essay, for, history, human, imagination, in, information, Iraq, is, juxtaposing, language, living, make, mathematics, music, name, nothing, of, painting, philosophy, poetic, power, reduction, rename, substitution, the, these, to, touch, vocabulary, war.

Saigon & other poems
Jack Walters

Spuyten Duyvil
2005
ISBN: 1-933132-03-5
With the nature of a man clearly long comfortable and versed in English Walters illustrates moments, mostly from his past, some from imagined others, in the thin places skillfully imbibing them with the swirling context of history and culture. Unfortunately to my reading while I both appreciate and relate, the poems never quite cross over from illustration to art, perhaps because the overwhelming single emotional note is bitterness with a faint supporting echo of melancholy. Still, well done, and better having read than not.

The Influence of Paintings Hung in Bedrooms
Phyllis Wat

United Artists
2007
ISBN: 0-935992-36-7

We must admire the polish on this many-legged
hyperbolically curved angle-planed existence
furniture admire the polish
reflecting what
exactly and focus on the tangible to
make some semblance resemblance
of the familiar dark of the cover
creamy white of the page numbers
centered large at the bottom
published in New York a few poems
in directed particulate: Report,
Fifth Column, Sophisticated Traveler,
Indian Rope Trick, Dear Dennis.

Hannah Weiner's Open House
Hannah Weiner

Kenning Editions
2007
ISBN: 978-0-9767364-1-7

Several poems in voices heard over right shoulder speaking words not on page - weapons-grade poetry, specifically designed to disrupt logical thought [1] forms to mind an imagined story of a poet putting out a general call for those interested in exploring new methods of communication [2] answered by some disgruntled Oppenheimer equivalent in a black budget psy-ops Manahattan project (paper cranes and candles float downstream memorializing those lost in the mass insanity of the deadly haikus unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki [3]). Poetry non-fashionable correctly applied is virus, understood, applauded, used to inject new socially changing disruptive ideas through natural order order structure order social construction order defenses no disagreement. Once past the defenses HIV attacks the actual defense mechanism itself, the entire logical structure of the immune system, rejecting the host as inconsequential, irrelevant, and too dangerous to be worth saving. Despite appearances of academic re-examination [4] and the use of found vocabularies [5] this is not Language poetry in the same vein as Ron Silliman [6] masterful intentionalfuckingwith the basic building blocks of the brainmind encoded schizophrenia you supply [7]


1. Fully acknowledged by the poet on page 161
2. Trans-space Communication, page 54
3. Originally a Monty Python skit with a deadly joke, Germans all die laughing, HA HA.
4. The Fashion Show Poetry Event Essay, "Theater is a fictional representation of something that supposedly happened...", p. 58
5. Code Poems, (Romeo and Juliet, Want Men) are by themselves worth the price of the book
6. See review of The Age of Huts (Compleat), referenced page 111 ("Ron Sillimannother letter") and quoted page 131.
7. ending/warning/moral
left
    to reader exercise, may wish to fill to the right margin, or not.

Failure and I Bury the Body
Sasha West

Harper Perennial
2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-227343-7
At first it showed me Coen Brothers movies: Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski. Out of the movies there emerged a reading of me, my Volume IX ["people of the screen, not people of the book"] and Volume X [punctuation, lists, "Redux", similarities to Chapter 25 I read into "I Tell Failure the True Story of the Corpse"]. But somewhere along the road, in or between the many motel rooms, either I lose my grasp, or the words, despite the preponderance of dead bodies, lose their corporeality. "Failure's Accounting of Influences" confounds me as much as "Failure's Accounting of Titles" amused me. So many influences in 108 pages of poems woven in to what almost works as a single accounting of plot. Slightly over much of a very good thing.

The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen
Philip Whalen

Wesleyan University Press
2007
ISBN: 978-0-8195-6859-5

A cat appears
Barb: a cat appears
Chris: that sounds like stage direction
After finally finishing the book, being ready as I neared the end of the poetry to react to the content, I could only conclude that the poetic content had been overwhelmed by the structure, 800 pgs. of poems and works I am more inclined to characterize as random scribbles and/or drunken rants (found subject matter such as broken ashtrays and being unable to find anything worth eating in friends’ refrigerators, sometimes reproduced as originally written in longhand, with the words all over the page, sometimes typed but with doodles ) followed by appendices consisting mostly of autobiographical discussions on the why and how of writing written over an equally long time. There were bits I found brilliant, (the use of geometric vocabulary in the early works), chunks I empathized with greatly in technique and intent (the poems written in Japan, the later commentary), but mostly I found it a huge incoherent self-contradictory mess, and probably not in a good way. Some poetry belongs in books. Some poetry was written for books. This poetry, this book, not so much.

The Accidental Cynic
Gail White

Prospero’s World Press, Inc.
2009
ISBN: 978-0-9822028-0-7
The masses will identify and recognize this book,
this work (if they had not previously forsook
the art of reading poetry) as collected
poems, rhymed, versed, metered, on long neglected
literary and hormonal subjects written
with explicit Ogden-Nash-like wit in
emulated styles (I liked the Robert Frost
“traveling with cats on a snowy evening”) crossed
current and self-referential observations
about poetic life, the absurd relations
between poets and consumers, the economic
past and present, on post-Christian verse, tragicomic
tone throughout, a hint, I sense, of some resentment
towards more-my-kind-of-thing but still, a fine presentment.

The Flower of Anarchy
Meir Wieseltier

University of California Press
2003
ISBN: 0-520-23553-3
The translator, Shirley Kaufman, refers in her introduction to the poet's mastery of Hebrew and the difficulty of translating Hebrew poetry into English. I am left wondering in the English then how much is poet and how much is translator. But the imagery, the rhythm and the experience powerfully overcome the inherent cultural barriers of language while placing you in the streets and buses among the dogs, cats, and people of a very specific very conflicted place and time.

Our Grieving Eden
Marc Williams


2011
ISBN: 9781463553647
0n the back cover Marc Williams hopes readers will find his book "meaty." I find it large,raw,bleeding blocks of typographic/linguistic hamburger set in courier with spaceless commas and split line possessives,each and every single letter tapping out its own explicit Christian sex and violence grammar. With which I have two specific quibbles: a) as a confessional poet I am confused by the use of the fictional third person "I" in poetry and b) while I love invented English for effect, Williams uses "alembical" so often that I fear he believes it's a real word.

, said the shotgun to the head
Saul Williams

Pocket Books
2003
ISBN: 0-7434-7079-6
I am a yes to this theopoem's question in all its multifonted madness, have been consumed as described, how does this poet know me? How will this poem be you without reading? To whoever left the small blank piece of paper between pages 50 and 51, I agree completely.

The Kingdom of the Subjunctive
Suzanne Wise

Alice James Books
2000
ISBN: 1-882295-23-4
My father, on hearing that I was experimenting with German in my latest volume of poetry, asked me if I didn’t think my poetry was confusing enough already. A month or so later I got this book for Christmas, which includes three poems with lines appropriated from texts written for teaching German speakers English and vice versa. While I don’t doubt that Suzanne Wise’s work works well in anthologies and literary magazines, the book as a whole ended up reading to me like a series of disconnected grammar exercises. Which, to some degree, all poetry is, but I like a strong consistent voice, a sense of self, and a continuity and flow of experience in a single-author book. I’m OK with obvious meaning and purpose when artfully presented. I’m fonder of the absurd. My favorite poetry is absurdity based on some underlying structure of meaning and purpose that attacks the subconscious. This book falls in to none of those categories, and I am reminded of riding shotgun on a new section of the autobahn that the British accent GPS didn’t know existed.

Somewhere Over the Pachyderm Rainbow: Living in an Elephant-Controlled 2010 Election Diorama
Jennifer C. Wolfe

BlazeVox
2011
ISBN: 978-1-60964-057-6
If you’re an anti-fascist who equates fascism with the GOP you may find this book fun.
If you’re not obsessively anti-Republican you may find this book, at 123 pages, a little too much fun (I lost count of the Palin/Crosshair references).
If you’re picky about your poetic technicalities you may find yourself wondering at the difference between Political Poetry Musings and Political Commentary Formatted Kind of Like Poetry, though the poem not actually titled Take The Last Train to Kabul was strangely artistic.
If you’re picky about consistency in subject matter you may be confused by the Woodstock/Bob Marley/Aging/Reality Television/Amnesty International poems or the one that admits that US Foreign Policy has been consistently problematic.
It is what it is what it is, and I survived reading it.

TELLING THE FUTURE OFF
Stephanie Young

TOUGHER DISGUISES
2005
ISBN: 0-9740167-4-8
This book despite paperback
nature is hard
to describe: a glass ball suspended in mid
thought overflowing with CAPITALS, italics,
Cassandras and unexpected
page breaks "Blue as a piano truck
of anecdotal evidence" concentration is
complicated imagery triggers ( "I'm organizing my anxiety around the direction
our bed faces.") and distracts ("Half the house is solid
and the other is for talking on the phone")

Come On All You Ghosts
Matthew Zapruder

Copper Canyon Press
2010
ISBN: 978-1-55659-322-2
About half way through the book, already anticipating some imagined copy of my self writing a review, I realized I was running low on superlatives. I went to the corner store to see if they had any. Kate looked behind the counter through all the strange and wondrous free-associating meta-objects they keep back there, but none of them were quite what I was looking for. They did have diet coke, in the back, in the cooler, which I don’t drink, because I’m phenylketonuric, a word that Word does not recognize, but may in the future, but the diet coke reminded me of The Prelude, which is the poem near the front that convinced me this was the right book for me, and it also turned out was the poem that Rae opened to first when she decided this was the right book to buy for me, being as it was about (diet) Coke and chocolate, except when it was more about wandering around the city and something about Wordsworth. Chocolate is sold in the front of the store in a small rack until the summer when they put some of it in the cooler with the pineapple sorbet in front of the cash register so it won’t melt. Which I recommend as a personal practice, along with buying, and perhaps reading, Come On All You Ghosts, which is the book this review is about.

The Bad Wife Handbook
Rachel Zucker

Wesleyan University Press
2007
ISBN: 978-0-8195-6846-5

Looks like a children's book, hardcover, oblong, dustjacket a picture of the title in red ink on slightly crumpled paper.

Twenty-three poems of exquisitely obsessive metaphorical structured lists of anti-monogamous adjectives my hand pushing my hair around to expose my brain, wishing the world silent that these words be all.

On first reading the three twentyish page poems (Squirrel in a Palm Tree, Annunciation. The Rise and Fall of the Central Dogma) about motherhood that follow are a jarring transition, the second weaving in and out of ruminations on Mary's relationships with God, Gabriel and Jesus and the third with Darwin, biology, genetics, and religious practice. I long for the "oh my" moments (and there are many) of the first section. But on the second reading, my transitional difficulties and disappointment in seeming subject shift behind me, I can appreciate these as related, noun-focused works of beauty.

And then Autography, twenty poems about being a poet writing these poems as wife-mother. Not as exquisite, but very real dancing with angry, just a little.

Strange form book. Powerful quite. Will read again later.

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