Mystery and Surprise: Two Chinese Poets; reviewed by Alexander Dickow
The contemporary Chinese poet Mang Ke and the Tang dynasty poet Li Shangyin (9th century) could hardly be more different. The former, particularly in the later poems of the chronologically arranged collection, seems fresh and spontaneous, capricious; the latter hermetic and mysterious.
I Remember Nightfall: Marosa Di Giorgio, reviewed by Johannes GöranssonUntil recently, the great Uruguayan poet Marosa Di Giorgio (1932-2000) was largely untranslated.
Immanent Foundation: Norman Finkelstein, reviewed by Joshua Corey
“Decision,” the first poem in Norman Finkelstein’s new book, announces an end to preliminaries and prolegomena: you must decide for the sake of whatever you love, whatever it is you still would cherish. Here is the formula. Here is the program. Here is the talisman. Here is the code.
Crawlspace: Nikki Wallschlaeger, reviewed by Timothy Otte
Poetic forms are constraints. A constraint gives form and body, and also creates space. A body is a constraint. A sonnet is a constraint. A body is a sonnet and a room is a sonnet. And like bodies and rooms, sonnets take different shapes, variations on a theme: limbs, torso, head; walls, window, door; fourteen lines, argument, volta.
Cruel Futures: Carmen Giménez Smith, reviewed by Sarah Huener
From its first pages, Cruel Futures is a book of intense assuredness. Carmen Giménez Smith’s latest book is richly lyrical, and dense with honesty. Her writing combines momentum with variety to keep the book lively.
CAConrad: While Standing in Line for Death
Best known for the “(soma)tic” rituals that serve as the source materials for his verse and prose poems, poet, critic, and editor CAConrad is the embodiment of that old Whitman saw, a materialization of self-contradiction. In other words, he accepts, and thus enacts, the charge of the historical avant-garde: inaugurate the impossible as the negation (as if) of the world (as such).
Martha Collins: “Night Unto Night” and “Day Unto Day”
What are the heavens, and what is the firmament—what, a house, and for how long? How do we live, die, survive? Such existential questions, great and small, animate the devotional poetics of Martha Collins, translator and poet. With the recent publication of Night Unto Night (Milkweed, 2018), Collins completes a diptych twelve years in the making, which she first began with her collection, Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014).
Karla Kelsey: Of Sphere and Hermaphropoetics & Rochelle Owens: Drifting Geometries
In very different ways these two collections—Kelsey’s book-length “proem” (her Prelude) of prose ruminations interspersed with lyric poems, Owens’ book-length poem organized around mathematical objects and concepts—ponder the problem of perception in relation to the presumptions that underpin the “obvious,” the superficial, the prison-house of routine, all targets, historically, of both “bookish” religions and philosophical phenomenology.
John Matthias & Jean Dibble & Robert Archambeau: Revolutions: a Collaboration
Revolutions, the title of this collaboration among a Notre Dame-affiliated poet (John Mathias), a printmaker (Jean Dibble), and a literary critic (Robert Archambeau), is mildly deceptive; the book is less concerned with creating insurgencies than carrying out a more playful, syncretic practice within our revolutionary present.
Adeena Karasick: A New Salomè
The most recent performance of Richard Strauss’s Salomè I saw was staged by Palm Beach Opera in a shiny new auditorium named after a noted philanthropist, yacht designer, and inventor of the color laser printer. South Florida audiences are notable more for their money than their cultural sophistication, but I was still taken aback when the well-dressed elderly gentleman to my right, at the moment when Salomè kisses Jokanaan’s severed head, let out an audible snort of mingled surprise and disgust.
Krystal Languell: Gray Market:
“Look at / what passes for the new.” What are poetry reviews for? Today’s readers find poems more often than not via social media platforms, individual and bare, rendered stark and two-dimensional by the Adderall light of the Internet. It takes another kind of attention to find and read a book and then go on to tell those others who
Cameron Barnett & Maggie Smith: Two Reviews in Brief
Serving as reviews editor for Plume for the past two years has been a singular honor in my writing life. Long suspicious of reviews that stray into personal essay or academic treatise, I sought to embody a journalistic clarity, pace, and timeliness during my tenure as resident critic, while still acknowledging the serious questions of poetic craft and the limits of my own subjectivity. Though our wider culture is awash with incivility, ignorance, and intolerance, the poetry of America remains as inviting, vibrant, and diverse as her people. I hope the 38 titles I’ve reviewed over the course of 24 consecutive issues reflect that bountiful vitality.