An Introduction to John Reed by Laura Cronk

What is it about the sonnet that makes it such a portal? Readers of contemporary poetry have marveled at what Diane Seuss and Terrance Hayes have accomplished with the serial form. To illuminate another brilliant practitioner, I give you John Reed. I’ve been a fan of Reed’s sonnets since I first encountered them. He compiled a decade of them in 2016 with Free Boat: Collected Lies and Love Poems, and the sonnet machine is still steadily running, as he shares poems-in-progress via instagram @easyreeder. Reed is maybe more well-known for writing novels, satirical and otherwise, as well as essays, plays, art criticism, and very recently an academic book that just happens to be an entertaining take-down of George Orwell, but it’s his unspooling of sonnets that can hook anyone in need of a binge. These sonnets follow the misadventures of lovers who slip in and out of identities, variously becoming puppets, magicians, gamblers, witches, skeletons. It’s the speaker in these sonnets who anchors the project. Part id and part love-lorn ghost, we follow a voice into Luna Park and keep going, back into the very real experience of wanting what we want. I’m reminded that a poem is the perfect place to be lost, in danger, and full of feeling. Join me in experiencing the shocking elegance of John Reed’s sonnets. 

John Reed is the author of A Still Small Voice (Delacorte), The Whole (Simon & Schuster / MTV Books), the SPD bestseller, Snowball’s Chance (Roof / Melville House), All The World’s A Grave: A New Play By William Shakespeare (Penguin / Plume), Tales of Woe (MTV Press), Free Boat: Collected Lies and Love Poems (C&R Press), A Drama In Time: The New School Century (Profile), and The Family Dolls: A Manson Paper + Play Book (Outpost19); MFA in Creative Writing, Columbia University (fellowship); published in (selected) ElectricLit, the Brooklyn Rail, Tin House, Paper Magazine, Artforum, Hyperallergic, Bomb Magazine, Art in America, the Los Angeles Times, the Believer, the Rumpus, Observer, the PEN Poetry Series, the Daily Beast, Gawker, Slate, the Paris Review, the Times Literary Supplement, the Wall Street Journal, Vice, The New York Times, Harpers, Rolling Stone; anthologized in (selected) Best American Essays (Houghton Mifflin); works translated and performed worldwide; films distinguished at festivals internationally; two-term board member of the National Book Critics Circle; he is an Associate Professor and the Director of the MFA in Creative Writing at The New School University. His work, The Never End: The Other Orwell, the Cold War, the CIA, MI6, and the origin of Animal Farm, is forthcoming from Palgrave Macmillan.