A Speech Imperfectly Her Own: Camille Rankine’s Incorrect Merciful Impulses

Let’s say the lyric poet, among many definitions, is also a kind of translator, at least that she faces a similar challenge: the task of rendering in one tongue some experience beforehand first articulated, first heard, in another. But where the translator pivots between at least two culturally recognized languages, the lyric poet moves noContinue reading “A Speech Imperfectly Her Own: Camille Rankine’s Incorrect Merciful Impulses”

Review: The Darkening Trapeze by Larry Levis

David St. John chose a fitting title for Larry Levis’ posthumous collection: The Darkening Trapeze. Most of these terrifying yet dazzling poems were written in the last two years before his unexpected death in 1996, at the age of forty-nine. The title phrase is pulled from “Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze inside it” which isContinue reading “Review: The Darkening Trapeze by Larry Levis”

Blunt memos and elliptical effacements: Collier Nogues’s “The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground”

In these erasure poems, Collier Nogues presents oblique, redolent lines that contain and complicate the ghostlike traces left behind from original historical documents. Nogues has created a beautiful, haunting piece of work with The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground, winner of the inaugural Drunken Boat Poetry Book Contest. You can read Nogues’sContinue reading “Blunt memos and elliptical effacements: Collier Nogues’s “The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground””

Pretzels, Performers, and Property: Louis Greenstein’s Mr. Boardwalk

Before Donald Trump began his march to the White House, before he had his own line of clothing, and before he had his own television show, he was simply a real- estate mogul, setting up casino after casino in Atlantic City. Before Trump dug his grubby paws into the sand, though, Atlantic City was aContinue reading “Pretzels, Performers, and Property: Louis Greenstein’s Mr. Boardwalk”

Memoir, Travelogue, and Lyric: Raymond M. Wong’s “I’m Not Chinese”

 The first thing you need to know is that I’m not Chinese. My name is Raymond Wong and I stopped being Chinese at the age of five. And so begins Raymond Wong’s touching account of his own coming of age as a Chinese American. I’m Not Chinese is part memoir, part travelogue, part lyric essay, andContinue reading “Memoir, Travelogue, and Lyric: Raymond M. Wong’s “I’m Not Chinese””

Lush, Humid, and Lost: The Characters of Vanessa Blakeslee

Vanessa Blakeslee’s short story collection, Train Shots (Burrow Press, 2014), gives you a little pause. True to the title, the breaths between stories are like the pauses in between downing shots. Blakeslee is not afraid to end things on a suspenseful note, and I still find myself wondering about the fates of some of the characters.Continue reading “Lush, Humid, and Lost: The Characters of Vanessa Blakeslee”

Dickinsonian, Delphic, and Dreamlike: Kathryn Levy’s “Reports”

In her collection of poems, Reports (New Rivers Press, 2013), Kathryn Levy presents a distillation of hurt, regret, and wonder. This is verse that eschews sentiment. These poems toss aside pat notions of speaker and story, offering up instead imperative, Delphic pronouncements in clipped, syncopated lines that exhibit a charged urgency. Reports reads like telegraphic shorthand: IContinue reading “Dickinsonian, Delphic, and Dreamlike: Kathryn Levy’s “Reports””

Humor amidst chaos: Moshing it up with Mindela Ruby

In her debut novel Mosh It Up, Mindela Ruby proves that she’s done her time in mosh pits. She knows what it means to be loud, fast, and punk and Ruby’s characters are alive with this same energy. Mosh It Up is about Boop, a San Francisco punk of the punk-revival 1990s, when “real” punks actedContinue reading “Humor amidst chaos: Moshing it up with Mindela Ruby”

Grey-Suited and Bitter with Gary Beck’s “Clerk”

For the first few months of a job—maybe a year—you feel you have a great thing, until the boredom, the stagnation, the frustration, the repetitiveness sets in. You want out, but it is also your livelihood. You feel hinged between two places, and the powerlessness of it all, until you make that big decision to let itContinue reading “Grey-Suited and Bitter with Gary Beck’s “Clerk””

Myths, Mementos, and Mummies: Reading Noel Sloboda’s “Our Rarer Monsters”

Noel Sloboda’s collection, Our Rarer Monsters (Sunnyoutside, 2013), gives voice to the monsters, misfits, outcasts, and bit players of literature in poems that are funny, insightful, and sometimes, a bit heartbreaking at the core. Our Rarer Monsters appeals to fans of fairy tales, mythology, Shakespeare, and of course, monsters. The book is a slim volumeContinue reading “Myths, Mementos, and Mummies: Reading Noel Sloboda’s “Our Rarer Monsters””