Ray McDaniel

Horror Vacui

Thomas Heise

The lexicon of music, wedded to ritual and occasion, cannot always accurately describe the effect of poetry, which finds its origins therein. Too bad, because what I really want to do is describe Horror Vacui as a monotonous dirge, which I cannot say without making…

Erosion’s Pull

Maureen Owen

The Hebrew word selah, which turns up like a bad penny throughout the Psalms, means (maybe) pause, and implies that what you ought to do while you pause is consider. Take the shot, let the rhetorically-enhanced solution of thought hit the vein, savor and move…

A Little White Shadow

Mary Ruefle

The fourth title from the freshly-minted (and minty fresh!) Wave Books, A Little White Shadow is simultaneously the name of Mary Ruefle’s collection of poems, the means by which she collects them, and the title of the original text from which she’s done her collecting….

Born to Slow Horses

Kamau Brathwaite

I’m one bad coverjudger. A shiny, shiny shell. Deep aquamarine gleam, beetle-backed, locked between slivers of the spectrum, blue and green. What kind of aquamarine? Color of the hard menthol mints that were the last to disappear from your grandmother’s store of sweets. Tastes like…

No Planets Strike

Josh Bell

(Apologies for hopping in the way-back machine, y’all, but I just got around to reading this book and, uh, here it is.) The cumulative effect of a whole mess of Josh Bell is akin to visiting a national park in which the laws of physics…

Migration: New and Selected Poems

W.S. Merwin

Does poetry require poets? If we narrow that question to allow only the most functional definition of poets as those who manufacture the language considered poetry, then yes, of course, poets are necessary—if poetry is. But what about poets as discrete persons, agents of personality,…

Coming After: Essays on Poetry

Alice Notley

There’s an interesting moment in the essay “American Poetic Music at the Moment,” one of several topical essays that comprise the latter half of Alice Notley’s Coming After: Essays on Poetry. In the context of her larger question of how “a girl can have a…

The Return Message

Tessa Rumsey

Easier to damn than praise: that’s my complaint du jour, that insufficiency begets a surplus of critical analysis, and true achievement begets only silence. So Rumsey’s done it right, and there’s less for me to say about that fact than there would be had she…

Wedding Day

Dana Levin

What good is possessing the courage of your convictions if your convictions are deranged? I ask because Dana Levin’s Wedding Day takes an admirable approach to the question of confidence, and asks to what extent the poet requires certainty (about her subject, about poetry itself)…

Dancing in Odessa

Ilya Kaminsky

One of the difficulties of reviewing is the unhappy balance between the urge to review a title as if the reviewer’s attention focused solely on the work at hand—one reader, one writer, a world complete—and the compulsion to directly address the context in which the…