A few years ago, the poet D.A. (Doug) Powell and I, in a fit of industry, embarked upon a project called The One Sentence Review. This was our call for submissions:
“Have you ever wanted to review a new book of poetry, but you felt like you might not have enough to say? The One Sentence Review doesn’t need you to blather on and on about how life-affirming or ground-breaking or challenging or redemptive each book is. On the contrary, we want the true essence of the book, cooked down into one encapsulating, qualitative, complete thought. Or less.”
I think we had both grown weary of the blowsy logrolling, and blogrolling, and wanted a little concision. Something along the lines of Weldon Kees’s infamous snippy bit on Muriel Rukeyser’s Wake Island: “There’s one thing you can say about Muriel: she’s not lazy.”
Then I got busy and lazy, and Doug got busy and famous, and we never pulled it together into a publication. But since it would be a damn shame to let these go to waste, I want to share a few bright, sometimes grumpy, sometimes fake, almost always thoughtful, always blissfully short pieces of poetry criticism by Craig Morgan Teicher, Matthew Yaeger, David Trinidad, Michael Harris Crowder, Sean Singer, Matthew Zapruder & Joshua Beckman, Geoffrey Brock, Joyelle McSweeney, Eric LeMay, Carol Ciavonne, Elizabeth Robinson, D.A. Powell, and me. And stay tuned: Doug and I are going to roll out a new version of The One Sentence Review. On Twitter. Where else.
The Lichtenberg Figures by Ben Lerner
Clever, fragmented, bloggish, contemporary, brilliant, sloppy, sonnets?
—Craig Morgan Teicher
Where Shall I Wander by John Ashbery
Where Shall I Wander is a 96-page victory lap.
The Cloud of Knowable Things by Elaine Equi
Every poem in this intoxicating collection makes the knowable knowable—halos of saints “intrigue like jewelry / that can never be removed”; “This lemon tart more beautiful than a Matisse. / It’s the way paintings (and heaven) taste”—expertly and (seemingly) effortlessly pinning a perfect tail on that titular cloud.
Black Maria by Kevin Young
Kevin Young in Black Maria proves that even in a graphic novel with no graphics, there still can be caricatures.
—Michael Harris Crowder
Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-1991, Edited by William Corbett
A founding member of the New York School, this 1991 Pulitzer winner wrote more letters than poems, which are, by turns, uproarious, self-deprecating, pathetic, intelligent, and brilliant gems of logophilia, and with his sonatas, elephant hair bracelet stocking stuffers, Fauré piano quartets, Raymond Roussel, and the sparkling, glazed muses of his sober moments, Schuyler’s letters are an open window for poets who try to live widely, observe sharply, and fix their pens on the wavelengths of friends, lovers, and friends of lovers.
Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965-2003 by Jean Valentine
Valentine’s poems are not necessarily spare, and this desert island collection covers her new work, wherein she is “carrying a dead deer / tied to my neck and shoulders” or sees “how hungrily life like an o / goes after life” to her first poems from her Yale prize-winning Dream Barker, from 1965, which describes with lyrical intensity rarely witnessed in a cynical world, the terrible beauties of psychological monsters who provide little distance between the meek artisan and her doorways opening into rooms of demons, as they offer more poems on topics as discrete and trembling as sweeping the castle dry, interracial sex, Matthew Shepard, Coltrane, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the scattered milkweed of the love letters of her own last name.
The Snows of Summer by L. Rodriguez Bernstein
The Snows of Summer, the new collection by L. Rodriguez Bernstein, is a tragic romp through the consequences of thinking.
—Matthew Zapruder & Joshua Beckman
Hip Pocket Lexicon: An Anthology of New Older Poets
Hip Pocket Lexicon: An Anthology of New Older Poets will be a welcome addition to the shelf of your local used book store.
—Matthew Zapruder & Joshua Beckman
Trembling Air by Michelle Boisseau
When Michelle Boisseau, who speaks with some authority here, says that “it takes time to appreciate” a thing, she means Time the greedy shopkeeper, he who marks up the prices when we walk into the store of the past, knowing that we’ll pay, and in the currency of his choice, and that we’ll make our peace with such inflation, because these are just the items we cannot live without, and because tomorrow (when we shop for them again) they will have been appreciated further.
Red Gaze by Barbara Guest
“Destiny peers upward into a next stanza, / resting in the nearest hayrick, / adding up, taking away”; just so the coltish lines of Red Gaze skip gaily to the vanishing point then through it into supple, abstract space.
The Orchard by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
In poems thick with snakeroot, statuary, and carcasses, Kelly seeks “the smoldering center of some medieval dream,” and so her poems occasionally cloy like someone telling you a dream, but like a dream, they can also capture and transform you.
Fallen from a Chariot by Kevin Prufer
Urbis et orbis; also suburbis, where mother says it’s beautiful, clapping her hands from the living room; falling through time and Rome’s fall; fallen chariots/car crashes—there’s a grief here beyond comparisons, spoken in the vernacular and in empathy; beautiful, and not easy.
Matter by Bin Ramke
Reaching past, and through the palpable to the more truly consequential—”desperate to reach its other self”—Matter unfolds an uneasy significance in which “a darkening delivers us” to truest substance, where we “hold in trust a shape until it returns.”
Drawing of a Swan Before Memory by Laynie Browne
Browne concocts memory from movement, light, and color in her tranquil study of the evanescent, in which she observes, “the present/occurs anywherebut roams a different conversation than the one/which may befall a ready spectrum.”
Ocean by Neil Azevedo
A stunningly tin ear and a gift for making the obvious seem even more obvious combines in this debut collection of undramatic monologues and assorted lyrics dedicated to folks like Richard Howard, the man who chose the book for publication and whose name is therefore spelled correctly (not so the case for Jonathan Galassi, who must have passed on the manuscript of this ambitious book); it’s a verbal blow job to be sure, but one squirms repeatedly as the teeth in the poems scrape against the most sensitive parts.
—D. A. Powell
Aggregate of Disturbances by Michele Glazer
If elegy remembers the dead by announcing the space they’ve left in the world: “the hole’s flanks the haphazard scrape-marks of the shovel,” then these disappearing fairy shrimp and the bitterns hiding amongst the reeds remind us of how loss compounds itself in nature—this deft poet let’s the world answer, Echo to Narcissus, in language both direct and intensely beautiful.
—D. A. Powell
Refusing Heaven by Jack Gilbert
A conquest of Mr. Gilbert’s rips into some bar-be-que and, because in Gilbert’s book such things are done in the buff—and preferably in the woods—wipes her saucy hands on her breasts, which, allegedly, are delicious.