from “True North: A Poet’s Test”: Let’s say you’re a horse. People place bets on you to win money is why you are here. Note that a small man is mounted on your back. He stows a leather crop in his boot and beats you with it when it’s time to outrun the others. The steel in which you are standing is called the starting gate. The man strokes your mane and whispers your name in your ear. Your name which is Drop Dead Gorgeous. When you hear your name you think you hear gunfire and storm through the gate. This is your life. But Gorgeous: the gun hasn’t fired yet. And what you’ve committed is what they call in the business a false start. Read more.
“This Machine Kills Machines”
—We Who Are About to Die, Spring 2012
But there is a greater threat to art contained in this word, this machine, that reaches beyond the dictionary. In the same way that a blender must blend or a plane must fly, or drop bombs, in order to fulfill the duties of a blender or plane, calling a guitar or poem a machine is to say that both guitars and poems, in order to earn their names, must fulfill not only a purpose, but a command. Read more.
The Art of the Sentence: Vladimir Mayakovsky
—Tin House, Fall 2011
While this sentence nails Mayakovsky’s romanticism in the single word beyond—and beautifully so for its suggestion that “the wall” is a natural feature of the young man’s landscape—it also captures the essence of Mayakovsky’s ferocity and flare for the incendiary.
On The Singing Knives
—Tin House, Fall 2009
If the mystique surrounding Stanford’s suicide disagrees with you, trust your guts. The cult worship of suicide in American poetry has passed its torch from generation to generation without much protest. But if we count Stanford among the likes of Plath and Sexton, among Berryman (for whom dreams and death were likewise no small matter), then I need to insist on a distinction. Read more.
I’ve failed at waste but I’ve died is that not a triumph. I loved a woman I’ve wasted another. Combing my lines tonight, will I waste in the engine and result in myself. Father he curses the waste floating past. Will I mouth the name of a woman, waste of a woman, tonight while she floats down the river. A raft and the suitors of waste on her arm. Foie gras smeared like waste on their teeth. Toy soldiers and dead cats and wedding rings in the river. Read More.
“You Weren’t Born by Yourself”: A Review of Henri Cole’s Touch
—The Rumpus, Winter 2011
Among his innovations with the sonnet and volta, Cole is unmatched in his willingness to confront and inhabit bereavement. What distinguishes Cole from his peers is not his vulnerability in the face of autobiographical detail, but his willingness to participate and collaborate in the writing of his own history. Read more.
“Disorientation, Disgust, and Killing Flies”: A Review of Michael Dickman’s Flies
—The Rumpus, Spring 2011
Dickman, by directing his disgust outward, toward another person, and by refusing to shy away from the ego’s sexual compulsion to consume that person, generates a disgust toward the self that lacks our sympathy, creating a self-loathing that is as terrifying as it is urgent. Read more.
“Until There is No Next Thing”: A Review of Craig Morgan Teicher’s Cradle Book
—The Rumpus, Winter 2011
Teicher’s is a speaker who, like a god, likes to dictate the terms of his universe, of his story, by speaking them into existence. In fact, Teicher’s speaker is not a speaker at all—he is a storyteller. With deictic authority, he tells us to whom the story belongs (this story) and to whom the telling of the story belongs (this is the first time). Read more.
“Your Emptiness has an Aqueduct in it”: A review of Deborah Landau’s The Last Usable Hour
—The Rumpus, Spring 2011
Landau appropriates the typical structure employed by heterosexual pornography: we watch a woman, who looks at us, speaks both to us and to a man, while she engages in an erotic act with this man—a construct that is altogether erotic for the viewer. But as steeped as Landau is in the pitch of her desire, she also confronts the absurdity of trying to lead a workaday life in the midst of this desire… Read more.
“A Gadabout Eye”: A review of Zach Savich’s The Firestorm
[Savich’s] frenetic turns of voice are bolstered by the intimacy he develops when crossing between thoughts, images, and ways of addressing himself to his audience.This is, in essence, the nature of the firestorm and of Savich’s imagination—this roiling cloud of ever-shifting images, forms, and deliveries is what brings both into being. Read more.
Nox, Anne Carson
—Publishers Weekly, Winter 2010
In order to discuss Carson’s latest work—a foldout, Jacob’s ladder collage of letters, photographs, and poetry, all housed in a beautiful box—one must first address its resistance to being addressed. Read More.
The Angel in the Dream of Our Hangover, Mark Leidner
—Publishers Weekly, Summer 2011
Critical as he is of poetry and acerbic as he is in his politics (“if the principles we purport to hold in art were applied to politics, we would be living in the world we are living in now”), Leidner disallows his work from proffering bumper-sticker wisdoms by underscoring the fatal and elliptical nature of our world. Read more.
More reviews written on behalf of Publishers Weekly are available upon request.