The Constant Critic

Timely poetry reviews


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…

Steal Away

C.D. Wright

C. D. Wright once declared the stripe of her ambitions, peeled the bark from the limb: In her “Our Dust,” from 1991’s String Light she “agreed to be the poet one life, / one death alone”; in so saying Wright made it seem as if…


Reginald Shepherd

Reginald Shepherd’s Otherhood is a departure, a whole fleet of departures. More word-centric than his previous volume, these poems proceed by confident brief lines that steer the poems ever further from known shores. In the initial poem, “Reasons for Living,” an account of a lovers’…

Apparition Hill

Mary Ruefle

Mary Ruefle’s poetry has always preferred to be read at twilight, when what appears at first to be a tissue of wryly-observed but loosely related details can become in an instant as solid as a gravestone (or as weird as an illness). Generally her poems…


Susan Stewart

* Dear Bill Bailey, Dear Jimmy Dean: I think we need to talk about our relationship. I think it’s time we all admit the truth: whether ya’ll are coming or going, you’re still there. “Yesterday upon the stair I saw a man who wasn’t there…

The Masses Are Asses

Pedro Pietri

Little books: at the bookstores they get pride of impulse-purchase place and sit by the cash register, only to get lost in a jacket pocket or stashed in the bathroom. But pick up a Hanuman edition of John Wieners, Willem de Kooning, or Cookie Mueller,…

The Body’s Question

Tracy K. Smith

Just as I was beginning to have my doubts about ‘negative capability’—maybe it really is just a prank played on posterity by Keats’s sorry MD-style penmanship—along comes a new poet with neg. cap. to spare. Wisely chosen by Kevin Young to receive the 2002 Cave…

The Best American Poetry 2003

Guest Editor Yusef Komunyakaa, Series Editor David Lehman

Set aside any reservations about the superlative in the title; the copyright page advises, “This book is a work of fiction.” Resist the urge to skip from the table of contents to the poets you feel safe with; the editors honor only 75 poems, one…

My Mojave

Donald Revell

Injured hymns came issuing from the vicinity of Donald Revell’s previous volume, the elegiac Arcady; his new book, My Mojave, stands the respective ground of its title. It would be difficult to select two regions that pose a greater contrast than Arcady and the Mojave….

A Handmade Museum

Brenda Coultas

I had a hell of a good time with A Handmade Museum, in which Brenda Coultas commits the fairly uncommon trick of going to both country and town. And even though landscapes rural and urban enjoy equal attention here, the collection altogether has the feeling…