The Constant Critic

Timely poetry reviews

Spar

Karen Volkman

I am ambivalent about Karen Volkman’s poetry. I’m aware, as I read her second book, Spar, of a continuous subliminal excitement, the kind I trust in some writers from Mallarme on to lead me somehow to an undeniable ineffable experience. I also get a sense…

Deposition

Katie Ford

The divine: what a dilemma. Substantial credit is due to Katie Ford for her efforts to contend simultaneously with both the more gnostic aspects of her chosen Christian sets of reference, as well as their theologies and the affinities and constraints those theologies suggest. To…

The Captain Lands in Paradise

Sara Manguso

The Davis Test, as performed by the Department of Viticulture and Enology at University of California, Davis, has apparently proved that people can’t tell the difference between red and white wine without color and temperature clues. These clues form our expectations, which in turn form…

The Violence of the Morning

Cal Bedient

If this review hops around a bit, well, maybe it’s because I’m hopping mad. Or maybe Bedient has given me the hiccups. I’m just going to get the inconsistent praise out of the way for the benefit of those who have read the book and…

The Soldiers of Year II

Medbh McGuckian

About halfway through her new American collection, Irish poet Medbh McGuckian invokes the navel of the dream, the constant Freud used in The Interpretation of Dreams to balance his equation of waking life and the irrational: I have had cloud ravenous upon me as the…

Sleeping with the Dictionary

Harryette Mullen

Fun, in poetry, when it isn’t simply an attention-getting device, has been demoted to the position of Prelude to Sincerity: something to be brushed aside—under the rug, into the closet, quick before the company gets here—to allow warm feelings in. Often poetry’s playfulness serves to…

The Body

Jenny Boully

The new poem is an essay or a novel; at least it calls itself so. Invested in the kind of plasticity Bakhtin claimed for the novel, some of the most inventive poetry today plays in the nowheresville of multi-generic experimentalism. If poetry is in the…

A Defense of Poetry

Gabriel Gudding

I can hardly blame Gabriel Gudding for his apparent desire to fart in the paper cathedral of contemporary letters. And I think it’s fairly beyond doubt that such scatological whimsy is essential to his sentiments; A Defense of Poetry contains no fewer than twenty-two references…