DEAF REPUBLIC by ILYA KAMINSKY swiftly vacillates between death/violence to sex/love and back again. This is jarring both in a good way and a bad way: the love poems save us from the war in the streets; the war poems devastate us more on account of understanding the love that’s being stolen/interrupted. It continues. The brutality accumulates.
EVERY LOVE STORY IS AN APOCALYPSE STORY by DONNA VORREYER / These poems feel absolutely primal, and I believe it’s intentional. In the world at risk of ending (in this collection and, I’d argue, in our daily lives), love and sex fulfill basic needs, just like air, shelter, food, water. The language these poems speak reinforces that. It is both reassuring and unnerving.
AUTOPLAY by JULIE BABCOCK / Based on how Babcock uses it in the poems, Ohio seems like a character, and when it comes to actual characters (people), the poems focus on their mythology/archetype without losing their specificity.
BY MY PRECISE HAIRCUT by CHERYL CLARKE / The poems make clear the pain inflicted by a number of atrocities (the slave trade, the assassination of Medgar Evers and Hurricane Katrina, for example) and also the humanity of those lost. Clarke’s work begs the question: if *this* America is the nation experienced by so many, isn’t it the America experienced by all?
GROUNDSPEED by EMILIA PHILLIPS / Our suffering truly is ordinary, and in treating it as such, Groundspeed mimics for us what life is actually like: one long road trip, hotel overnights and stops at home, all interspersed with encounters we have, dramas large and small, our own and everyone else’s.
HALF-HAZARD by KRISTEN TRACY / As likely as we are to fall down, break up, stumble or choose wrong — or, when the stakes are even higher, to die — we can’t despair about it all the time. Quite simply, these poems exist in a very familiar space: Being Human, Planet Earth.
THE SECOND O OF SORROW by SEAN THOMAS DOUGHERTY / As a huge fan of the prose poem, I found a lot in this collection to admire. The prose poems in The Second O of Sorrow both contain narratives within their margins and fail to contain them, which I mean as a compliment. The sentences and fragments in this book’s prose poems take us on wild rides and cover incredible distances.