cover image MINT SNOWBALL


Naomi Shihab Nye, MINT SNOWBALLNaomi Shihab Nye. , $12 (75pp) ISBN 978-0-938078-68-5

Two new small-press titles rescue under- or unpublished work from well-known poets. Written over a decade ago but withheld from publication, Burkard's ninth book of poems is his second to arrive this year, his Unsleeping (Forecasts, Dec. 18, 2000) having just appeared in February. What emerges through these diaristic poems of the mid-'80s is a portrait of an alcoholic acquainted with violence but not quite on the road to recovery. We get glimpses of an unhappy childhood, of the internal compulsion to drink and of an adult who is both abandoned by loved ones and left to find consolation through poetry: "I ask the night to have a heart,/ a small word or two, a mouth/ to speak to you from and two lips to kiss you." The poems in this volume were mostly passed over when the selected Entire Dilemma (1998) was being assembled; that volume continues to represent Burkard at his best. A rolling repository of narrative incidentals, Nye's Mint Snowball, some of which was first published in 1991 as Mint, playfully documents Nye's chance encounters with friendly cab drivers, smalltown restaurateurs and fellow travelers from Texas to Nepal. The title, harkening back to her great-grandfather's recipe for shaved ice and mint syrup, points to the author's effort to retrieve the refreshing particulars of the everyday histories of common people: "Who are we now as opposed to all those earlier selves? I vow to find out. The life of poetry pins us to the minute. Do we fit?" Disjointed and sometimes cacophonous voices enter the fray, but Nye's own story as an American-born Palestinian locates the commonalities among the different groups of people that she writes about. Readers familiar with the economy of language that is characteristic of her previous seven collections of poetry may be disappointed by the limited lyric handiwork in this new book, but these 58 short narratives have a touching anecdotal quality perhaps more reflective of her technique as an author of children's books. (May 15)