Category: Poetry

  • Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

    I think my favorite poems tend to be about seeing/looking rather than feeling/being, whether the seeing is real or imagined. A lot of the poems in this collection are more on the feeling/being side of things; many of them are about moving through the world in a body that is Black, queer, and HIV-positive, and…

  • Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell by Charles Simic

    Continuing with the theme of “books I bought while traveling but hadn’t read yet”: when I opened my copy of Dime-Store Alchemy, I found the receipt and was reminded that I bought this at Dog Eared Books in San Francisco in December 2012. Nearly eight years after having bought it, I can say that I…

  • SoundMachine by Rachel Zucker

    The poems/prose pieces in SoundMachine are largely concerned with writing and parenting, and as a result I think I liked this book a bit less than I liked the other book of Zucker’s that I’ve read (The Pedestrians). But there’s still a lot of interesting stuff in SoundMachine, even if I find it less personally…

  • Sharp Teeth by Toby BarlowHarperCollins, 2008

    I didn’t necessarily expect to really really like an epic poem/novel in free verse about rival werewolf gangs/packs in Los Angeles, but I really really liked Sharp Teeth. It starts with a nod to a Homeric invocation of the muse, but modern, and slips in at least one nod to “rosy-fingered dawn” that I caught,…

  • The Pedestrians by Rachel ZuckerWave Books, 2014

    I picked this book up at the library several months after reading Dan Chiasson’s piece in the New Yorker about Zucker’s work. I think it was Chiasson’s characterization of Zucker as a city poet that made me want to read her: he compares her to Frank O’Hara, and says this: “A city poet is a…

  • Quick Question: New Poems by John Ashberyecco (HarperCollins), 2012

    I have a hard time with John Ashbery’s poems, but I keep trying anyway. I think the problem is that I like to read poems that are more recognizably set in this world; I like poems that are “about” everyday life but told in a way that focuses on luminous detail, or that somehow makes…

  • Transfer of Qualities by Martha RonkOmnidawn Publishing, 2013

    This book takes its title from a phrase from Henry James, which features as the book’s epigraph: James wrote, in The Sacred Fount, about “the liaison that betrays itself by the transfer of qualities” from one person to another. Ronk writes about this idea more broadly, applying it to things as well as people: what…

  • The Ground by Rowan Ricardo PhillipsFarrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012

    The 44 poems in this volume are a mixture of city-poems and myth-poems; characters and allusions (Orpheus and Eurydice, Dante) recur, along with images (two different poems include the image of “a tree half aflame” inside the speaker). Phillips’s language is one of gorgeous rhythms, whether the syntax is straightforward or more complicated: “Tonight I…

  • Elegy Owed by Bob HicokCopper Canyon Press, 2013

    I like the humor and matter-of-fact tone of a lot of the sixty-five poems in this book, like the great simile below, which comes from “How we came to live where we live”: as when you stand before a painting in a museum for as long as you hope says something good about you, even…

  • Sorting Facts; or, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker by Susan HoweNew Directions, 2013

    I. I’ve never seen any of Chris Marker’s films, but this book made me want to. (You can watch La Jetée online, or it’s available on DVD, along with Marker’s 1982 film, Sans Soleil.) (I’ve never read Moby-Dick, either, and this book made me want to do that as well.) II. Howe’s book is mostly…