The review is a sketch. It delighted me, as I was already curious about inventive ways to respond to the books we read. I had written a nontraditional review to an essay collection a couple years back, but I had no idea what else was out there. With this blog post, I attempt to correct that.
EVERY ROOM IN THE BODY by KERRI FRENCH / This book isn’t “just” about a high-risk pregnancy. It’s also about how we experience the world when we have something else that’s consuming us, the way time passes (or doesn’t) when we are preoccupied, the way we can be, as they say, of the world but not in it.
As Olds said, I need to confide in a reader who is myself. When I fail to do this, I have nothing to share with the world. And I’m not talking only about poems.
SOMETHING LIKE FORGIVENESS by REBECCA SCHUMEJDA / As a single long poem about a family tragedy, it’s a massive undertaking both emotionally and poetically, and she hits it out of the park. This book is engaging. It’s breathtaking. Her torment is palpable. I paused more than once to cry. I put the book down and sobbed.
LET’S NOT LIVE ON EARTH by SARAH BLAKE / It’s part science fiction, part domestic confessional. It contains so much: marriage, infidelity, weed and cookies, government, space exploration and pregnancy, for example. It rewards and questions our human restlessness as a driver of both happiness and discontent.
INMOST by JESSICA FISHER / As you can see from the reviews linked below, some of Inmost grapples with ideas of what it means to bring a child into a world at war. (And our world is always at war.) In Elegy, she writes, “I bore her in winter / The green returning Tongues of the dead / Licking the hillside I bore her in wartime / The radio pretuned News of destruction / Coming over the airwaves.”
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.