“Being both inside and outside”: A Review of Erik Anderson’s Estranger

In an interview with LitHub, Kazuo Ishiguro has advised writers to let go of genre boundaries, to start with relationships, and Erik Anderson has done likewise. Published by Rescue Press in 2016, Estranger examines an author’s relationships to the many aspects of his life: Family, writing, his conversations with his […]

“But not a word survives” —A review of Mario Montalbetti’s Language Is a Revolver for Two, translated from the Spanish by Clare Sullivan

In El más crudo invierno, his book-length meditation on seven lines by Peruvian poet Blanca Varela, Mario Montalbetti (Lima, Peru, 1953) cites and glosses Agamben’s definition of poetry as “the suspension and exhibition of language.” What is suspended in a poem, he explains, is primarily language’s referential function, its arrival […]

“The Exhilaration of Life Out of Place”: On Asiya Wadud’s Crosslight for Youngbird

In an interview from 2014, the American novelist Jumpa Lahiri is quoted as saying: “Language, identity, place, home: these are all of a piece—just different elements of belonging and not-belonging.” The feeling of belonging contained in these particular facets of experience is integral to our lives. It constitutes our basic […]

Flyover Country: As Mindset & Act of Colonization and Aggression

In Austin Smith’s sophomore collection, Flyover Country, there are bucolic echoes of what made Smith’s first collection, Almanac, so exceptional: abandoned barns, barbed wire fences, and haunted cornfields imbued and personified with the qualities of longing and the desire for redemption. While some of the poems contain that memorable, roughshod, […]

“Being made again”—Hyper-talk & Grace in David Tomas Martinez’ Post Traumatic Hood Disorder

Only, perhaps, in a poem by David Tomas Martinez is one likely to encounter, in the span of a few lines, the lyrics of Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” juxtaposed with references to Sisyphus, Che Guevara, William Carlos Williams, the Bechdel test, Cesar Chavez, and Moses. “My mind is made […]

Returning to the “shell”—on Analicia Sotelo’s Virgin

“It wasn’t her fault. She wasn’t the shell I was after.”   So ends Analicia Sotelo’s “I’m Trying to Write a Poem About a Virgin and It’s Awful,” selected by Tracy K. Smith for Best New Poets 2015. Sotelo’s first full-length collection, Virgin, pursues and rediscovers the “shell,” the heart […]

Metaphor & Traumatic Memory in Emilia Phillips’ Empty Clip

Harvard Psychologist Arnold Modell in “Metaphor—The Bridge Between Feelings and Knowledge,” argues that, “When traumatic memories are activated, metaphor recognizes only similarities.” Working from a definition of metaphor as “a pattern detector that recognizes similarities and differences across a nearly infinite variety of domains,” Modell points out that something different […]

You Know You Want to Read This: A Review of Kristen Roupenian’s Debut Story Collection You Know You Want This

Inarguably, Kristen Roupenian is best known for her short story “Cat Person,” which exploded the Internet last year when it went viral after being published in the December 2017 issue of The New Yorker. It trended on Twitter. People wrote think pieces. My undergrads, who have never heard of anyone […]

A Midcentury Reckoning: The Most Foreign Country by Alejandra Pizarnik

It’s possible to read Alejandra Pizarnik’s debut collection of poetry as a kind of midlife crisis. Published in 1955, when the poet was only 19 years old, La tierra más ajena, translated masterfully by Yvette Siegert into The Most Foreign Country, with its tiny cataclysms and brooding flashes of brilliance, […]