The Constant Critic

Timely poetry reviews

A Timeshare

Margaret Ross

My favorite thought experiment, run by analytic philosophers, is called “The Brain in a Vat Argument.” Imagine that instead of being the living, breathing body that you think you are, you are actually just a brain in a vat in a lab hooked up to…

Garments Against Women

Anne Boyer

It’s hard to figure out exactly how to praise Anne Boyer, not because she doesn’t leave copious evidence of brilliance, diligence, wit, and ethical rigor, but because I can think of no poet who has less interest in or greater distrust of the ideas of…

Lazy Suzie

Suzanne Doppelt (trans. Cole Swensen)

Lazy Suzie is an ecstatic, often surreal exploration of the eye’s ability to turn about, to travel out the window, into a painting, through the telescope, over the hills, through the images of a magic lantern or camera obsura, and off mirrors. Not only the…

A Swarm of Bees in High Court

Tonya M. Foster

“black performance has always been the ongoing improvisation of a kind of lyricism of the surplus-, rupture, collision, augmentation.” —Fred Moten, In the Break A long nocturne, Tonya Foster’s long-awaited debut collection A Swarm of Bees in High Court roves in and out of the…

Playtime

William Fuller

It is not a habit I would endorse, but sometimes I read poems as if they were records of actual proceedings, events provoked by circumstances other than those the poet occasioned simply for the sake of writing a poem. In other words, I choose to…

The Great Medieval Yellows

Emily Wilson

The contemporary moment of critique manifests, among other ways, in a pressing call for artwork that overtly raises consciousness of the racism, classism, sexism, and environment-gutting anthropocentrism permeating our culture. Answering this call, many poetic projects such as Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and Brenda Hillman’s Seasonal…

Ban en Banlieue

Bhanu Kapil

Trying to offer a clear critical comment on Bhanu Kapil’s Ban en Banlieue is particularly challenging because it so stridently seeks to side-step the rational, hierarchical, closed-system imaginations which generate race riots, which churn women’s bodies into sexual fodder and carcasses tossed out of vans,…

Model City

Donna Stonecipher

The experience of reading Donna Stonecipher’s Model City is to be incrementally encompassed by a world built from repeated structures and phrases, a world that fosters our own growing attentiveness as the poet responds to the urban world. The phrase that opens the book and…

Citizen: An American Lyric

Claudia Rankine

Therapy is exhausting. Bringing everything that is uppermost out for someone you pay to respond makes you doubly vulnerable — you relive traumas instead of repressing them, and you rely on a guide for empathy and reason as they support your attempt to make sense…

Performative Criticism and Against Conceptual Poetry

Ron Silliman

I recently participated in a panel discussion on the topic of performative criticism at REVERSE, the Copenhagen International Poetry Festival held at their LiteraturHaus. My co-panelists were Danish-Norwegian critic Susanne Christensen, Swedish critic and poet Magnus William-Olsson, and Danish writer Kamilla Löftström. The conversation was…