The Shadowless Gravedigger: On Victoria Chang’s “Obit”
The prose poems and tankas in Victoria Chang’s Obit are less traditional elegies than a series of verbal proofs through which Chang investigates those aspects of experience––grief, pain, love––that seem beyond our capacity to represent them. “Language fails us” more than once in this collection (it gets three obituaries of its own), and yet words are what the speaker of these poems must use both “to calculate my grief” and to convey it. These poems’ generous, meticulous record of grieving is inseparable from Chang’s retooling of poetic form and language.
The Heart’s Home is a Trojan Horse: On Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s “Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory”
A good writer drops readers miles from where they expected; great ones like Raphael Bob-Waksberg take readers just where they want to go, but when they arrive, the landscape doesn’t look how they remember.
Review: “The Anti-Grief” by Marianne Boruch
Choosing to remember the whole truth—with all of its unsavory details—is therefore not only a personal but also a political act, a rejection of the sort of selective, melodramatic remembering that is the lifeblood of nationalism.
The Seas: An Experience in Madness
The continual undercurrent of her inability to see properly, the sense that she believes it is love that is clouding her vision, brings me to understand more clearly the dissonance of the narration, that I only see what she can see, and what she sees is distorted by her own mental unstableness and by the reality which I know: that love and grief cloud my vision, that when I am swimming and open my eyes, my sight is blurry. What I think I see may be altogether different than what actually exists.
“Navigating an Inward World”: On Laura Villareal’s “The Cartography of Sleep”
The Cartography of Sleep is a visionary, cerebral chapbook. . . . Villareal is a master of making the strange seem beautiful with rich language and a hypnotic style.
“Elation and Hollowed-Out Sorrow”: On K.L. Cook’s Marrying Kind
The collection’s novelistic complexity stems primarily from its constant depictions of events, characters, themes, and obsessions from multiple angles. We savor repeated glimpses of characters like Laura, a small-town girl from the Texas Panhandle, or Hartley, a history professor turned dean. We witness these characters’ promising beginnings and violent, unfinished ends: wedding days and honeymoons, heart attacks and domestic violence.
Speaking With Severed Tongues: On “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado
Machado is so profoundly in control of silence that she has taught it its own language.
Boys Will Be Boys: On Ben Lerner’s “The Topeka School”
The Topeka School is both a culmination and departure for Lerner. While the novel expands on many familiar themes seen throughout his oeuvre—the limitations of language, the blurred line between fact and fiction—The Topeka School moves beyond Lerner’s singular consciousness and into other voices.