Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access feature articles from our print edition. To view, subscribe or log in.
Site license users can log in here.

Get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to Publishers Weekly for only $15/month.

Instant access includes exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, he latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: PWHelp@omeda.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (outside US/Canada, call +1-847-513-6135) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday (Central).

What Water Knows

Jacqueline Jones LaMon. TriQuarterly, $17 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-8101-4384-5

Water is the central theme of LaMon’s meditative third collection (after Last Seen). Divided into three sections (“The Fragile Resilient Life”; “The Open, Empty Mouth”; “The Promise of Relief”), these poems show the extremes of the element, from its lack to its excess, as well as its many historical uses (“This world once survived on our rainwater, collected/ in buckets left outside our doors. Imagine,” she notes). Gender and race become implicated, as in “Travelogue,” when she writes “This is how a Black woman travels with herself./ Always with herself, and the trail of all her selves.// The possibility, the threat.” In “Niagara,” a poem about Annie Edson Taylor, who, on her 63rd birthday, became the first woman to travel over Niagara Falls in a barrel, LaMon instructs, “This is how you do it—you think of yourself/ as a part of the current. You, as creator of turbulent// diversion. You, the spark of white/ water crest in pursuit of all things blue and green.” This is an ambitious, stirring collection. (June)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Poetries

Georges Schehadé, trans. from the French by Austin Carder. Song Cave, $18.95 trade paper (138p) ISBN 978-1-73403-519-3

The thoughtfully curated first book-length translation of works by Egyptian-born, Lebanese-French poet Schehadé (1905–1989) acquaints readers with the core of his oeuvre. In his introduction, poet Adonis writes, “We do not see streets in Georges Schehadé’s poetry, nor factories. We see the sap of cities... He scrutinizes humankind with his piercing gaze, but he writes divinity. And each thing in his language is poetry.” Schehadé’s poems are often fragmentary but with a strong sense of atmosphere. These untitled poems, many of which are quite short, offer an impressionistic and nostalgic view of love, “O tearful beloved/ Crossing the plains and losing sight/ We’ll live in memory/ Your hands dry like roses.” Seasons serve as repeated motifs of change, along with childhood, as in the four-line poem “A blind violin mourned us/ A stone fountain/ Winter the faceless season/ When grapes are black.” The moon, too, makes frequent appearances in his poems, admired both for its beauty and its potential pain: “a diamond of delight/ And the child recalls a bright disaster.” These mysterious and delicate poems enchant. (July)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Somebody Else Sold the World

Adrian Matejka. Penguin Poets, $20 (80p) ISBN 978-0-14-313644-6

Matejka (Map to the Stars) delivers a cathartic ode to a tumultuous year of disease and unrest in his thoughtful latest. Vignettes of looming disease and nature’s indifference to human suffering are rendered in their full complexity, “the possibly contaminated// air moves like the cognate/ of a person: it has walking// shoes as scuffed as a music/ conductor’s. Its hands, needy// as a politician’s. The whole/ neighborhood pops with// unknowing while optimistic/ birds chirp & skip & chirp.” Matejka masterfully combines grief and hope, and one of his most salient insights is the pervasive end of ignorance and subsequent vulnerability in American life: “every/ thing sang its entropy. Almost/ everybody grew eventually. Not by/ revolution but realization: nostalgia made mnemonic.” Though humor is not his priority, he utilizes it well when he chooses to, as in “Coincidence/Accident”: “& now everybody is some kind/ of delicious fetish. A whole/ chorus of proclivities, full-throttled/ in the washbowl of next-door/ freaky.” With an epigraph that draws from David Bowie (“You’re face to face/ with the man who sold the world”), music serves as an impetus for these accomplished pages that subtly convey the whiplash of everyday life. (July)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
More Anon: Selected Poems

Maureen N. McLane. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-60198-0

This strong collection assembles poems from McLane’s first five books, presenting the work of a poet who locates the past in the present and revels in language’s power to transgress limitations. In “Letter from Paris,” McLane playfully deconstructs the Enlightenment: “I am drawing up an indictment/ of the French/ & Reason/ & Human Rights/ which begins by unlinking these concepts/ and concludes in weeping.” McLane delights in collapsing high and low linguistic registers, as in her abecedarian poem “Poem”: “As a man may go to Costco,/ Buy the jumbo pak of diapers, double liters of/ Coke and Diet Coke and a sixpack and stock up on/ Doritos and Cheetos and/ Eveready batteries, so I perhaps/ Formless in the vast republic/ Grasp the metaphysical thing, commodity, crucially desired/ Hologram of national intent.” Yet underlying McLane’s poems is a sense that society’s relationship to the world around it is permeable and fantastically spontaneous: “Every time/ I collide with your mind/ I give off—/ something happens—/ we don’t know what/ Particles, articles/ this bit, a bit/ digital, simple/ fission, fusion/ —a great vowel shift.” This collection shines with a wonderful mix of irreverence and profundity. (July)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
What to Miss When

Leigh Stein. Soft Skull, $15.95 trade paper (124p) ISBN 978-1-59376-697-9

In this occasionally humorous second collection, Stein (Dispatch from the Future) reflects on her time in lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic. The collection draws loosely from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, written when the plague hit Italy in the 14th century. Her modern take finds the Florentine characters planning to ride out the pandemic “playing queen and bingeing prestige TV,” then noting, for some reason, that “when you put women together in a dormitory or, say, an online yarn community, they tend to destroy one another psychologically.” Decameron is an intriguing parallel, but unfortunately, Stein’s use of it doesn’t amount to more than a few quips. Comparing herself to Anne Frank, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson, Stein seems intent on provoking the reader to the point of exasperation, which is unfortunate, as her experimentation with disastrous skin-care regimens and musing on the corporate appropriation of protest movements (“Dior’s Defund the Po-po”) might otherwise be funny. When Stein sets aside the persona of the online millennial to express something real—as in the solemn, grief-stricken poem “Memorial Day”: “Readers of the future, my apologies, / we were incapable of holding the whole catastrophe / in our heads”—the poems feel more developed. There’s a lot of unrealized potential here. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Blue in Green

Chiyuma Elliott. Univ. of Chicago, $18 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-226-78388-8

Elliott (California Winter League) gorgeously personifies nature and everyday things in her atmospheric latest. In “When I Was a Wave,” she writes: “I was willing to drink anything./ I found myself out gazing at stars./ The fishnets—/ I played them like harps”—that poem ends with “Let me tell you a story: I loved./ The days passed./ I sang the same old songs./ I left. I came back.” Elsewhere, as in “The Winter Mirror,” the objects are more mundane (“One day, we watch the laundry: a neon frock/ sings itself an aria in the flood”) and abstract presences are given concrete forms (“the angels/ are blue glass bottles.”) Some poems are shadowed by cancer and loss, which doesn’t prevent them from glittering with life. Ekphrastic poems in the collection describe modern jazz songs, such as “Composition No. 311” (“I am the bluest/ blue, I am the coat,/ I am the shoe./ Do you often/ know what to do?/ Maybe this is a test for you”) and “Composition No. 152” (“Maybe the song is a fluke,/ or maybe it means a dramatic view,/ or it drinks from the lake and tells something/ truetrue”). Elliott offers beauty and surprise at every turn. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Pilgrim Bell

Kaveh Akbar. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-64445-059-8

In this rich and moving collection, Akbar (Calling a Wolf a Wolf) writes poems of contradiction and ambivalence centered on religious belief and ethnic and national identity. Evocative and polyphonic, surprising but never artificially shocking, Akbar’s poems flit from the divine to the corporeal in the same breath. In “Vines”: “when I saw God/ I trembled like a man”—and a few lines later, “I live like a widow// every day a heave of knitting patterns and sex toys.” In “The Miracle,” the poet confesses to himself: “Gabriel isn’t coming for you. If he did/ would you call him Jibril, or Gabriel like you/ are here? Who is this even for?” Within that question lies a tension between cultures, religions, loyalties, and ways of being in and looking at the world. As an Iranian-born American, Akbar does not feel that either of these nationalities can fully encompass his identity. “Some nights I force/ my brain to dream me/ Persian by listening/ to old home movies/ as I fall asleep,” he explains. This impressive, thoughtful work shimmers with inventive syntax and spiritual profundity. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Complete Poems of San Juan de la Cruz

San Juan de la Cruz, trans. from the Spanish by Maria Baranda and Paul Hoover. Milkweed, $18 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-1-57131-491-8

Barada and Hoover bring the work of a poet “consumed completely” to English readers in a satisfying collection that was inspired by the Bible’s Song of Songs and is full of figures given over to a love charged with a near-erotic and mystic constancy. In poems that remind the reader of John Donne’s fierce, unbridled devotion, mingled with John Keats’s romanticism, people “suffer, grieve, and die” at the various altars of love. “Love alone,” a wife in one poem says, “is my task.” That love is pitched toward the divine throughout. “This life,” de la Cruz writes of God, “is endless dying/ until I live with you.” The collection invites the acceptance of mystery ushered by the intoxicating work of devotion; as one poem attests: “Love does such work.” It allows a world where “not knowing is knowing.” While de la Cruz can verge on the sentimental, he does so to express an honest form of feeling. This is a satisfying book of extremes, where men “die because [they] don’t die” and risks are taken to capture complex feelings. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Collected Poems

Sonia Sanchez. Beacon, $29.95 (424p) ISBN 978-0-8070-2652-6

In a haiku that appears toward the end of this collected, Sanchez writes: “i am who i am./ nothing hidden.” It’s a small poem, tucked into a hefty collection that spans ages, loves, and histories, but it epitomizes Sanchez’s vulnerability and ability to translate daily life, Blackness, and passion into language. In her work, one notices the sadness of a woman “alone/ amid all this noise” but also joy, in, for instance, a poem dedicated to “dcs 8th graders—1966–67”: “look at us/ 8th grade/ we are black/ beautiful and our black/ ness sings out.” There is also an inherent playfulness; in a poem for a two-year-old child, Sanchez writes: “if i cud ever write a poem as beautiful/ as u, little 2/ yr/ old/ brotha,/ poetry wud go out of bizness.” Life is “like an echo of nostalgia,” she declares, and missing someone is “like/ spring standing still on a hill/ amid winter snow.” In another haiku, Sanchez mourns: “what is it about/ me that i claim all the wrong/ lives, the same endings?” Sanchez has lived a rich life, writing devoutly throughout. This collection serves as a testament to that life, inviting readers to learn to live more fully, and to protest, rage, and love. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World

Kendra DeColo. BOA, $17 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-950774-27-2

Deliciously ribald but tender at its core, the latest from Decolo (My Dinner with Ron Jeremy) reframes the female condition by dismantling cultural fallacies and reveling in the primitive, divine feminine. Avarice, exploitation, and entitlement serve as the catalysts for the book’s underlying theme of liberation, and its interest in vulnerability and equity. DeColo takes aim at holier-than-thou capitalists by suggesting their god is, in fact, money: “thou shalt fuck over thy neighbor if it makes a profit.” She reviles the predatory patriarchy by conjuring “the smirk of Kavanaugh/ which is the smirk of every man/ who’s been stockpiling/ alibis since he was 17.” Among her plethora of poems about motherhood, she celebrates the layered experience of postpartum surrender and sovereignty: “this is how I want to live, milk-stained, a little/ bit emptied,/ a little bit in love with the abundance of my body.” With valiant, refreshing gusto, she expresses the voracity of her libido, “the very thought/ that I am a sexual being/ and my desire is folded/ up inside of me like a wet/ envelope.” DeColo’s poems transfix with their unadulterated explorations of primal feelings. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

Parts of this site are only available to paying PW subscribers. Subscribers: to set up your digital access click here.

To subscribe, click here.

PW “All Access” site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. Simply close and relaunch your preferred browser to log-in. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options please email: PWHelp@omeda.com.

If you have questions or need assistance setting up your account please email PWHelp@omeda.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (outside US/Canada, call +1-847-513-6135) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday (Central).

Not Registered? Click here.