The Second Sex (Michael Robbins)

Michael Robbins’s The Second Sex, like his previous collection, Alien vs. Predator, seems to have grown out of a compost heap in which popular culture and the poetic tradition have been tossed aside to rot. Robbins’s style combines a dense, Simpsons-like pace of allusions with extreme formal rigour and a casual, almost careless attitude. Robbins […]

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Designated Mourner (Catherine Owen)

Reading Catherine Owen’s Designated Mourner is uncomfortable and feels wrong. Elegies for a deceased spouse, Owen’s poems are discomforting in the truest sense. This raw, exposed emotion is doubly impressive due to the actual polish of the poems on the craft level. Owen oscillates between simple, stark expressiveness (“We were so perfect / at the […]

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Mockingbird (Derek Webster)

Derek Webster’s Mockingbird examines a death of another sort, with many of the poems tracing the aftermath of a failed marriage. Even vaguer poems, that don’t seem to address this issue, feel loaded against its backdrop: “Libraries burn. / What we thought would last is gone.” However, the best poems call up other poets — […]

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Hera Lindsay Bird (Hera Lindsay Bird)

Hera Lindsay Bird’s self-titled debut, Hera Lindsay Bird, is crammed with shocking and often hilarious imagery, nestled against bare sentiments: “I am falling in love and I don’t know what to do about it / Throw me in a haunted wheelbarrow and set me on fire.” Bird’s introductory poem captures the book’s tone: “I wrote […]

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The Demonologist (Andrew Pyper)

Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote that “Hell is other people,” but Andrew Pyper’s Hell is nothing so mundane. The Demonologist is populated by, well, demons, although Pyper remains focused on the earthly torments of his characters.  When literature professor David Ullman loses his daughter Tess after a demonic encounter, he embarks on a journey across countries […]

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Deep River Night (Patrick Lane)

Deep River Night, award-winning poet Patrick Lane’s second novel, feels like a cross between the early novels of Cormac McCarthy, which revolve around sudden eruptions of violence in rural areas where savagery otherwise thrums as an undercurrent, and Sheila Watson’s marrying of mysticism to similar themes.  Lane’s story revolves around Art Kenning, an alcoholic veteran […]

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Parlance (Suzanne Zelazo)

Parlance is an accomplished first book. Suzanne Zelazo crafts succinct prose poems which wear the influence of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E school, but owe more to Gertrude Stein. At its best, Zelazo’s prose is biting, possessed of a sharp, confident grace, but from time to time the poems are so cold and carefully wrought that they appear […]

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N0S4A2 (Joe Hill)

“What would you do for a lifetime pass to a place where every morning is Christmas and unhappiness is against the law?” Joe Hill’s N0S4A2 is, to some extent, a litany of horrible answers to this question. Christmasland is indeed a magical place, an otherworldly realm where Charlie Manx takes kidnapped children, leaving their parents […]

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Ilustrado (Miguel Syjuco)

‘No lyric has ever stopped a tank,’ so said Seamus Heaney. Auden said that ‘poetry makes nothing happen.’ Bullshit! I reject all that wholeheartedly! What do they know about the mechanics of tanks? How can anyone estimate the ballistic qualities of words? Invisible things happen in intangible moments. What should keep us writing is precisely […]

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