Reviews


To Make, Unmake, and Make Again: A Review of Anna Lena Phillip Bell’s Ornament

Anna Lena Phillips Bell’s skilled employment of repetition, which is the foundation of all poetic forms, creates a sometimes subtle, sometimes gaudy beauty in her debut collection, Ornament, winner of the 2016 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry. Whether the poems’ occasions are a lace pattern, a garden, a melody, or […]


“I’m not talking about my heart”–A Review of Melissa Stein’s Terrible Blooms

Melissa Stein’s title, Terrible Blooms, is good on its promise to weld the grotesque and the lovely so tightly and repeatedly that they transcend simple paradox and make of pain a single luminous skein. The poem “blessings,” for example, takes the form of a prayer comprised of repeated “may you […]


In Glitter Or In Ash: A Review of Heather June Gibbons’ Her Mouth As Souvenir

Heather June Gibbons’ debut collection is the literary equivalent of a carnival ride: it jolts, thrills, dizzies: you’ll step off windblown, with a little midway grit in your eye. The voice here feels relentlessly hectic, overwhelmed, a caffeinated oracle taking in and reporting on the signs and wonders of contemporary […]


Shape-shifting and the Subversive Sonnet: A Review of Angela Veronica Wong’s Elsa: An Unauthorized Autobiography

The title page layout of Angela Veronica Wong’s Elsa: An Unauthorized Autobiography breaks its subtitle down the right-hand margin: “an un- / authorized auto- / biography,” an apt design move to introduce a project that fragments the self across time and space. The speaker’s I is and is not a […]


Ringing the Changes Right: A Review of Geoffrey Gatza’s A Dog Lost in the Brick City of Outlawed Trees

Procedural poetry + music: this combination might put you in mind of John Cage. And Geoffrey Gatza’s fascinating new book is definitely in the tradition of Cage, Jackson MacLow, or Jean Lescure. But there’s a twist: these procedural poems are based on a form of traditional church-bell ringing – namely, […]


“Like a Mollusk Dissolved in a Cancer of Pearls”: A Review of Marosa di Giorgio’s I Remember Nightfall

These days we often read the news to find out what is important and worth devoting our time and attention to. Serious moral, ethical and life-defining dilemmas arise and must be given due consideration; however, in spite of this, our daily lives with their private ecstasies and agonies continue, and […]


“Singing, stones fill with music”: A Review of Meena Alexander’s Atmospheric Embroidery by Anu Mahadev

What is home? Is it a place, a person, a feeling, a sense of belonging? Or all of these? Or none perhaps. Home–its absence, its overwhelming presence–is the central theme in Meena Alexander’s Atmospheric Embroidery, a collection that surrounds the reader with its constant sense of displacement, an evolving journey […]