cover image A Sand Book

A Sand Book

Ariana Reines. Tin House, $24.95 (424p) ISBN 978-1-947793-32-3

The fourth book from Reines (Mercury) is ambitious in its scope and artistic vision, offering a postmodern take on the epic poem. Like some of the major long-form poets who have preceded her, among them H.D., Lorine Niedecker, and Adrienne Rich, Reines inhabits and renegotiates the space of the long poem. This sprawling book in 12 parts considers Hurricane Sandy, the mountains of Haiti, and Twitter, offering conceptually interesting passages and a wholly original response. Despite these strengths, the poems in this volume occasionally traffic in abstraction, failing to ground vague concepts in sensory detail: “Many of us had succumbed to quivering/ Idiocy while others drew vitality from careers.” Throughout the book, Reines’s enjambments heighten the sense of irony that characterizes her approach to the feminist epic. She writes, for example: “Nothing she meant to make a big/ Deal of, only some tiny budging/ Of memory.” The poems operate primarily on the level of ideas, rather than through lyrical language, though the speaker’s deadpan tone does not always succeed in creating the sense of momentum needed to propel the reader through this textual landscape. (June) Correction: A previous version of this review referred to the book as "a nine-part poem" when it is in fact a book in 12 parts.