The Constant Critic

Timely poetry reviews

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A Little White Shadow

Mary Ruefle

The fourth title from the freshly-minted (and minty fresh!) Wave Books, A Little White Shadow is simultaneously the name of Mary Ruefle’s collection of poems, the means by which she collects them, and the title of the original text from which she’s done her collecting….

Native Guard

Natasha Tretheway

The poetry industry claims to put a premium on ambiguity, but with most poems (not to speak of poets!) lines are drawn, feelings are colored in, meaning is either nailed down or allowed to slip away. It takes poise to leave a metaphor unforced, balanced…

Strange Elegies

Mac Wellman

The title Strange Elegies both says it all and hardly enough about this indispensably disturbing volume. Indeed, Mac Wellman’s new book includes fourteen long, enjambed, frequently centered thingamajigs made out of words and orthographical markings that look like lyrics and are titled to recall elegies,…

Born to Slow Horses

Kamau Brathwaite

I’m one bad coverjudger. A shiny, shiny shell. Deep aquamarine gleam, beetle-backed, locked between slivers of the spectrum, blue and green. What kind of aquamarine? Color of the hard menthol mints that were the last to disappear from your grandmother’s store of sweets. Tastes like…

Petroleum Hat

Drew Gardner

Perhaps you have been following the recent folderol surrounding Flarf, its adherents and its discontents, in the blogs, list-servs and electronic journals. Those of you coming late to this party may view a cache of origin myths and working definitions on the EPC site. There,…

No Planets Strike

Josh Bell

(Apologies for hopping in the way-back machine, y’all, but I just got around to reading this book and, uh, here it is.) The cumulative effect of a whole mess of Josh Bell is akin to visiting a national park in which the laws of physics…

Assorted Chapbooks


In preparing my review of Yunte Huang’s Cribs last month, I went out of my way to consider the book’s layout and non-verbal textual markings in developing a reading of the book as a whole. I credited Huang-the-author for the distinctive irregular stripes running up…

Migration: New and Selected Poems

W.S. Merwin

Does poetry require poets? If we narrow that question to allow only the most functional definition of poets as those who manufacture the language considered poetry, then yes, of course, poets are necessary—if poetry is. But what about poets as discrete persons, agents of personality,…


Yunte Huang

Cribs spits tart pips of pithy, punny language, so it’s no surprise to find ecstatic blurbs glancing off the book’s back. Yet it is surprising that these blurbers fail to mention the one characteristic that separates this book from most others on the market—an insistent,…