The Constant Critic

Timely poetry reviews

Theory of Mind

Bin Ramke

“Theory of mind,” as a concept, is ontologically and epistemologically concerned with both the ability of the mind to observe itself, as well as to analogize the existence of other minds. It seems fitting, then, that a book of poems would invoke a discourse primarily…

Missing Her

Claudia Keelan

A few years ago, in an interview with Poets and Writers Magazine, Claudia Keelan recounts teaching Whitman’s Leaves of Grass as the first plane hit the Twin Towers on September 11th. She writes, “…the insistence of self being other—it was the only word for the…

A Mouth in California

Graham Foust

This book performs one of my favorite miracles, a classic because it’s a repeater, a novelty that never fades: it demonstrates that the impossible (poetry) is also inevitable (poems). Though it seems as if the latter must inevitably result from the former, this isn’t quite…

Credit

Mathew Timmons

Credit is a conceptual work. It is a book, but, as the name implies, it is also an abstraction, something more promised than produced. Credit is Mathew Timmons’ 800-page curation of his financial situation circa 2007 to 2009, when credit flowed, and then, naturally and…

Lost Alphabet

Lisa Olstein

In his 1939 lecture, “Poetry and Abstract Thought,” Paul Valéry famously fleshes out the analogy between walking and prose, dancing and poetry. Prose is like walking in that it has “a definite aim. It is an act directed at something we wish to reach.” Poetry,…

With Deer

Aase Berg, tr. Johannes Gorannson

I tend to prefer poetry when it holds its head up, taking in the world and responding, alert to beauty and change and able to talk about it in a more or less recognizably adult way. Since almost everything in the universe conspires against these…

Interpretive Work

Elizabeth Bradfield

Beyond the unfamiliar word and the statistically-improbable phrase, sonorous line and shapely stanza, endearing argument, compelling personality and all the other ideology-soggy but nevertheless real markers of competence, there is another order of pleasures of poetry: Taking stock of the writer’s project, how they understand…

Lane Changes

David Lawrence

You can read David Lawrence’s Lane Changes through in half an hour, starting with the remarkable content of the flat first lines, “I remember getting hit so hard in the head / That the gray canvas turned into / An albino snowstorm,” or instead working…

Totem

Gregory Pardlo

The movies that illustrate the great soundtracks — Fame, Footloose, Flashdance, Car Wash — put the audience’s feelings on a slow forward-moving track, get them wet, soap them up, hose the undercarriage, and blow hot air on them. No offense to anyone who’s seen them…