The Constant Critic

Timely poetry reviews

Music and Suicide

Jeff Clark

In the poem “Cama,” which appears early in Jeff Clark’s Music and Suicide, the poet writes the line wellings and smells embellish the bed and then immediately asks Do you hear the music in that line? Why not remove it? Why remove it? Only to…

Walking to Martha’s Vineyard

Franz Wright

There aren’t too many writers—never mind poets!—you could see having their books moved back behind the counter with the Kerouacs, Bukowskis, Burroughses, Ballards, and Denis Johnsons, out of the reach of impulse kleptomaniacs. It could happen to Franz Wright. “The only animal that commits suicide/…

Up to Speed: Poems

Rae Armantrout

Accidents whose prerequisite is fast movement provide a peculiar kind of fun, one that both requires and neutralizes the possibility of harm. The sheer in-betweenness of acceleration intoxicates, not least because when we are flung or thrust or dropped we savor in those moments the…

Unfathoms

Kirsten Kaschock

The nondescript title of Kirsten Kaschock’s first collection attends to some of the most gratifyingly weird poems in recent memory. Identifying Calvino’s Invisible Cities as its aesthetic matrix, the poems of Unfathoms avoid the breeziness of literary surrealism by saturating their fantastic images with allegorical…

Trouble in Mind

Lucie Brock-Broido

The abuse of one’s talent: To whatever degree such a thing is possible, we judge the act harshly. Whenever I hear tell of an Artist Who Has Abused His or Her Talent, I picture one of those little Keebler elves, bent over a cauldron, manipulating…

The Clerk’s Tale

Spencer Reece

The poems of The Clerk’s Tale strive after fineness, but the heft of these cathedral tunes is unfortunately the sort that oppresses. While Reece’s project is interesting and laudable—to train the vines of life in Florida and other American confines on a graceful filigree of…

Chances Are Few

Lorenzo Thomas

Of all the impossible rules by which poets have lived—no ideas but in things, form is never more than an extension of content, show don’t tell—the sternest has always been the koan: say it without saying it. Lorenzo Thomas has remained associated with two significant…

Altazor, or A Voyage in a Parachute

Vicente HuidobroTranslated by Eliot Weinberger

Reading Vicente Huidobro’s Altazor is a jarring experience in false simultaneity: You can easily get the impression that Huidobro lives to this very day, that each of the seven cantos of the book-length poem represent the poet’s experience of the modernist impulse as it rippled…

SOUND/ (system)

Stephen Ratcliffe

Two systems are made immediately available as conceptual frames through which to read the elegant, glittery fragments of Stephen Ratcliffe’s SOUND/ (system). One frame is the letters of Henry James, which the back cover identifies as “a source” of the poems, and the other is…

Equivalence

Shin Yu Pai

Those professional mourners busy lamenting the current state of the poetry union—too many MFAs, too many first book prizes, too many first books, too many books—will be delighted (or perhaps vexed) to discover poet Shin Yu Pai. Though Equivalence was published by the perspicacious La…