Book Reviews

2016

Review of Swimming Home. By Vincent Katz.

(Nightboat Books, 2015). $16.95, 122 pages, paper.

Swimming Home, by Vincent Kaz
Swimming Home, by Vincent Kaz

The craft of poetry, for Katz, involves observing otherwise unnoticed details which become the images around which his poems take shape. It includes giving weight to some moments rather than others, not extraordinary moments, but the ephemeral everydayness. It also includes the call of “stranded personalities, summoned cops, chewing walkers,” “buildings line up in light,” “pigeons flying in circles,” “coffee in a paper cup,” and the response of the poet who shapes images with language. These are the sensuous interactions that require being alone, the focus of Swimming Home. The aloneness of poetry, the aloneness that life imposes on us. Katz’s volume is a poetic exploration of the existential singularity with which we face the world.

Read the full review at S.Ph. Essays and Explorations.

Review of Anatomize. By Natasha Dennerstein.

(San Francisco: Norfolk Press, 2015). $15, 73 pages, paper.

Anatomize by Natasha Dennerstein

“Nothing is beautiful, only people are beautiful,” Friedrich Nietzsche observed in Twilight of the Idols. The German philosopher believed that beauty in nature was derived from the beauty we find in ourselves. Aesthetic judgments simply confirmed that people “themselves have given the world its beauty,” and that “Fundamentally, humanity is reflected in all things.” For Nietzsche, “the judgment ‘beautiful’ is the vanity of their species.”

In Anatomize, her first collection of poetry, Dennerstein responds to Nietzsche. The poem “Strawberry Blonde,” for example, points out inconsistencies in the human perceptions of beauty.

If the bloodyolk sun
to be found at the heart
of the variegated nasturtium
is beautiful;…

Read the full review in New Orleans Review.

2015

Review of Industrial Oz: Ecopoems. By Scott T. Starbuck.

(Burlington: Fomite Press, 2015). 128 pages, paper.

Reviewed at The Quarterly Conversation

The parables in Industrial Oz are rife with echoes of June Jordan, who says of activists “you do / something, rather than nothing.” Often in Starbuck’s poems, the powerful and the vulnerable trade places. Because they do something rather than nothing, “At the Nevada Nuclear Test Site”

grandmothers
are arrested
imprisoned
to make way
for the blast.

A sheriff explains
the old women
are dangerous.

Full review at The Quarterly Conversation

2013

Review of Diorama of a People, Burning by Bradley Harrison.

(Los Angeles: Gold Line Press, 2012). 21 pages, paper.

Diorama of a People, Burning by Bradley Harrison

Poetry and memory already have a tangled relationship, and reading through Harrison’s erasures I felt as though I was looking more directly at a representation of memory. The act of erasure as both a covering (with white-out) and uncovering (of other meanings) showed the layers of language in all of our acts of writing.