The Constant Critic

Timely poetry reviews


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The Book of the Angel

Medbh McGuckian

There’s no way to prepare you, Reader. And so the short sharp shock, via these three introductory stanzas. We will have to understand some such word as ‘today’, a luminous Word for the ‘until’ verse of the god- making, brief Messianic stir air-kissing the harmony…

Blackboards

Tomaz Salamun and Metka Krasovec

Over the past two decades, Tomaz Salamun has won an American following of a size and warmth rarely enjoyed by contemporary poets not writing in English and hailing from a country few U.S. readers could reliably locate on a map. It was not luck (alone)…

The Babies

Sabrina Orah Mark

Imagine you’ve just moved into a new home. Choose a home the details of which invite isolation: your farmhouse, your walk-up in a city peopled with speakers of a tongue not your own. Now further imagine the previous residents of this space, persons about whom…

Shut Up Shut Down

Mark Nowak

Shut Up Shut Down is a book of powerful unities, in which academic methods and materials are put to passionate political use. These five documentary poems harness the energies of photography, narrative and dramatic form, syntactic fragmentation, anecdote and testimony, intertextuality, chronology and journalistic fact…

The Dark Months of May

Tom Pickard

[Incidental, but not irrelevant] #1 Great God, Flood Editions makes some fine contributions to the universe—The Dark Months of May looks good, and I will indeed judge this book by its cover (slate-blue misted into a dimmed hay—a homestead as seen through what Pickard notes…

OXO

Pierre Alferi with photographs by Suzanne Doppelt, trans. by Cole Swensen

Three cheers for Cole Swensen and her consistent effort to bring contemporary French poetry to an English-reading audience. Her latest labor, OXO (the French title is the more pungent Kub Or), is the second Pierre Alferi title Swensen has translated, and it renovates the space-…

The Cuckoo

Peter Streckfus

Admission, acquiescence, acknowledgement: I bought my copy of The Cuckoo not because of any familiarity with Peter Streckfus, but because Louise Gluck selected his manuscript for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. There. It’s out, I’ve said it. But having done, let me insist that…

Born Two

Allison Cobb

Whereas most bildungsroman and autobiographies begin “I was born” and proceed to rattle off the date, the place, and the whole damn story, Allison Cobb’s Born Two won’t even take that much on faith. Its title, which is rendered born2 on its cover and Born…

Tremble and Shine

Todd Colby

New York in the early 90s was filthy with poetry-loving musicians. Before Jeff Buckley disappeared under the surface, before M. Doughty’s Soul Coughing lost the bad band name contest to Limp Bizkit, before Beck let Satan eat his taco, as John S. Hall was noticing…

Zoo Music

William D. Waltz

Sometimes I pause while reading poetry, just to thank God it isn’t prose. Bless you, prose, for your great wellsprings of unconsciousness, your ubiquity, your chambray utility. Don’t know where we’d be without you and all, but in any book of poetry—regardless of its ‘type’—I…

the false sun recordings

James Wagner

James Wagner is a traditionalist, and, unlike a New Formalist, he improves on tradition, and, unlike most of his peers out here in Po-Mo-land, he is not content to just dazzle us with some complicated formal rhumba or lurid me-first T-shirt. In his first volume,…

Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems

Alice Fulton

In the central essay in her prose collection Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry, Alice Fulton argues for the influence of Emily Dickinson, or rather, she protests critics’ failure to see Dickinson as the creator of a literary dynasty. And in…