Ariana Reines, the Goddess of putting it all out there is a supercharged, magical she-wolf. The sweet beast’s soft underbelly and sharp black claws reside happily in her poetry. She brings to light the twists and churns of our page-surfing information obsessed sex-craved whims and deepest most petrifying wishes.—LIZ AXELROD
Berry asserts, “Only the dead can drink what they want from the slipstream of a sentence,” and like the spirit guides mentioned in his poems, Berry allows the reader to drink in abundance from his epic and psychically charged bildungsroman memoir.—CARLEEN TIBBETS
In his beautifully broken sixth collection, British poet and painter Corless-Smith (English Fragments) finds new language for the lyric's oldest subjects: love and death. Beginning with the end of a marriage and ending with the death of a mother, Corless-Smith explores grief through brief, often untitled poems that are steeped in poetic history.
... the prospect of writing about Reines’ volatile first book is not so much an intellectual challenge as a digestive one. It is the meatiest book you might ever read: soiled with the muck of slaughterhouses, digestive tracts, inherited cultural trauma, diseased mammalian bodies, and that most scatological of substances; the first person narrative.—DAISY LAFARGE
As if blown through Coltrane’s sax, Ed Pavlic’s words offer hope for a consciousness that will repair the world. Like Coltrane, Pavlic makes the deed “intimate and soulful,” which is how Adrienne Rich described his first book, “Paraph of Bone and Other Kinds of Blue,” in 2001.—BENJAMIN HOLLANDER
Yet Pavlić's political eye never turns into an objectifying gaze—instead it returns to the self as a site of investigation, and in particular to his family's homeland of Croatia. Pavlić's wife and son are never far either, and it is the willingness to question his own life that makes Pavlić's gestures outward feel so powerful for the reader: "and I hate that feeling of already knowing in myself which is why I write—to replace the lie of the already known."
Cold Genius’s content is a bizarre congeries, to be sure; it is a book, to quote Samuel Johnson on the metaphysicals, in which “the most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together.” But “metaphysical” difficulty is exactly the point—not the least because love and the soul are staple topics of metaphysical lyricism.—MICHAEL LEONG
Cold Genius is more concerned with questioning meaning than making it--examining each word of an incantation while unable to speak, unable to conjure; this is the book’s prime frustration, as many poems convey a desire for warmth despite the speaker’s inability.—PAUL FRENCH
The work begun with the Open Letter project is continued in The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. We, who read and discuss this book, who think about it and struggle to articulate our thoughts, are participating in the continuation of the project. It is necessary work. The goal is not to move “beyond race,” out of messy bodies and cultures and differences. The work must incorporate these things, embrace the complexity and conflict and error, without fear or the violence it brings. Can we do this? Let’s try—hard.—JAY BESEMER
Sexual exploits, LSD trips, divorce, teen anxiety, and mind-bending peers at boarding school provide the raw material for this haunting, charming, unpredictable reinvention of the confessional mode ...
Here’s a book that pulls readers into the ambivalent experience of identity. We share the self-doubt, the freaked-out adolescent tightrope walk between peer-group approval and ostracism, all the dysfunctional make-do social solutions. The only way to get this stuff onto the page is to make a devil’s bargain with inadequate language (more on that later). The results of this bargain carry us through whatever frustrations we feel moving through this text as readers with our own subjectivities, and into multiple engagements with this book. At least, that’s what happened to this reader.—JAY BESEMER
By the end of The Lost Novel I feel that I have learned to suffer better, and what I mean by that is what I believe James Shea means by it—that absence is all around us, and so is loss—but by that reasoning there is an inverse of something right.—JUSTIN GROGAN
If you’re a fan of Anne Carson’s Glass, Irony, and God or Lyn Hejinian’s experimental My Life (which I haven’t read since college, but was viscerally brought to mind here), I recommend reading Ampersand Revisited.—CAROLYN O
The Racial Imaginary embraces its origins as a virtual town hall meeting, setting side by side testimonies and essays with various—and even discordant—voices, themes, and structures. If this makes for a hodgepodge of a reading experience, it is a necessary one, serving to hint at the pervasiveness of the issues at hand, instead of proposing any spurious solutions to them. To quote the editors: “It’s messy, and it’s going to stay messy.”—TIMOTHY DONNELLY
The novel exists in the tension of the scar that holds our narrator’s skull together, its lips in constant danger of opening and spitting havoc. As McGlue worries at its edges—slamming his head against a cot in search of blackness’s relief, touching the crack with his fingers, trying to fill it with anything in the world but what’s already in there—the story spills out. The bound and shackled McGlue has left Johnson, his best (and only) friend, dead in his wake: what happened?
... Moshfegh’s words are knives, and as they cut they also sculpt this thin, powerful book. Be grateful for their diamond-honed edge—in that pain is magic.
Sleeper Hold draws upon the desires of a compliant populace to be distracted through entertainment, scandals, and various political actions perpetuated through the media, to keep distractions at the forefront instead of an awareness that might alter the condition that infects society.—CHRIS CARUSO
The vulnerability of the speaker; the risk of putting himself out there emotionally for us, risking sentiment, risking something real, something funny, something heartbreaking and bold; the attempt to find something new (and in that attempt, the risk of failure); that is why you should read The Lost Novel, over and over, until you begin to hear the quintessence rising up from the white space of the page.—PATRICK WHITFILL
My Not-My Soldier is gaping and demanding—a rigorous and essential lesson. After reading it, you may feel that you’ve been schooled—and touched—in the realest, most forgiving ways that poetry makes possible.—JEN FOSSENBELL
Loosely based on the author’s time in Damascus during the recent violence, Mackenzie uses various registers of confusion, desperation and defiance to execute an extremely tight inquisition into the boundaries of body, law and the fiction of history. The writing is superior–open and with a unified semantic field that shows an extremely deft mind and pen. It is current, it is urgent–both journalistic and fantastical–and leaves you a distinctly emotional-plus-intellectual resonance like few other books.—CRYSTAL CURRY
In a time when mostly no one seems to be writing about drunk death freaks on the ocean anymore, and for all its self-deceptions, its stop-start miseries, its sprawl, McGlue is as satisfying as anything you're likely to find appearing in your weird little hands this year.—BLAKE BUTLER
McGlue isn’t so much a historical novel as it is realia for the primal self, a reminder of the destructive powers of language.—THE BELIEVER EDITORS
Rawly written yet superbly controlled, this accomplished debut is the inaugural winner of the Fence Modern Prize in Prose; it would have been no surprise to see it coming from a major literary house, so look there for Moshfegh’s next.—LIBRARY JOURNAL
Marked by nonchalant humor and surreal imagery, James Shea’s refreshing collection The Lost Novel taps into the unspoken desires and angst of the modern man. Intellectual and provocative, Shea’s writing teases the imagination and exposes the instability of meanings, encouraging the reader to discover the hidden poetry between the lines.—JENNIFER WONG
It’s a bold authorial choice to write a novella to begin with, let alone a novella about a pair of drunken 19th century sailors and their not-so-latent homoerotic friendship. Gay shipmen on the open seas? When does McGlue the Musical come out?—LELAND CHEUK
Shea gets some of his best and most distinctive effects with like repetitions, which look like tautologies from one end, like Möbius strips from another, and which leave one with a certain defamiliarizing-the-familiar effect, a kind of ostranenie, by making you look at something right next to itself.—THEOBALD
For those of us who enjoy poems that display technical mastery while remaining accessible, Gamble’s work is a revelation.—RYAN MCCARL
The scope of voices across this collection showcase a brilliant eclecticism of views on race and art with each artist possessing shared determination to (1) speak thoughtfully and honestly on race and the creative imagination (2) challenge harmful reproductions of racism, sexism, classism, and other institutional forms of violence in writing and consequently in our lived experiences (3) shift the conversation on how we talk about race and art away from a set of prescriptive tactics and more towards openness and possibility that does not preclude the responsibility with which we regard each other’s humanness.—MURIEL LEUNG
James Shea takes us on a mysterious quest, by foot and by car, through rain and through fire, into our restless unknowing, where unreasonable questions that refer to a lost text of spiritual and material imperative—the missing bible of this spare universe—undermine and trouble our impossible pilgrim’s progress.—ZORAN ROSKO
If the poets of absence were on a sort of scale of formalistic experimentation, Wallace Stevens might be at one end and John Cage at the other. Strand and Lauterbach and Ashbery and Palmer would fall somewhere between them. And James Shea would have to be in that number, too. His brilliant new book, The Lost Novel, is haunted by absence in the way other collections are haunted by memory.—JAMES PATE