Brown casts a wide net of poetic intersubjectivity, catching up echoes of Stein, Woolf, Niedecker, mystic nature writer Opal Whiteley, bluegrass singers, and samplings from a common domestic lingual trove: weeding instructions, weaving incantations, the tangle talk of childhood which, as a mother, she’s absorbed unapologetically.—MOLLY BENDALL
Inter Arma is a complex combination of classic form, contemporary schism, homophobic militarism, and ancient texts. Its range is wide and deep in the sense that, while it circles around the same images and themes, it invents different linguistic ways to come at these things. The classical references act as a guiding spine for the contemporary political critique in a really difficult and interesting way.—DREW KALBACH
In Prageeta Sharma’s Undergloom, the poet takes on ideas of self, family, and community within the narrow confines of the English language and literary history that she also must speak from within. These poems are sharp, and many are out to shake up institutions, poets, and other intellectuals for perpetuating a group mindedness that injures those who contradict and challenge established discourses. This is not to say she rejects groups or community, but Sharma raises important criticisms that often go unnoticed or denied in America.—DAVID GIBBS
What I find fascinating about these books, read as a whole, is in part through just how spread out around a subject Wagner can actually write, pushing as far and further around, making the reader have to almost decode where the poems are going, or coming from.—ROB MCLENNAN
Always audacious and dark, Gamble’s poems may be understood as elliptical fables of selfhood that combine lively characterizations, a giddy tonal muscularity, and the sense that a delightful, zany wonder resides around every household corner and that within every cranny of the imagination lies a supreme, holistic weirdness.—ANNA JOURNEY
I can’t recall a book where the voice is so peculiar, idiosyncratic, so interestingly three-dimensional it made me care for the speaker. This book reads with the familiarity, warmth, and sometimes cutting insight of a trusted friend (albeit a rather odd one at times).—MICHAEL SCHMELTZER
Framed by the clinical language of a livestock manual, Ariana Reines’s first book runs language, culture and sex through a meat grinder, and the results are not pretty. Perhaps those who like poetry or sausage should not watch it being made. But as the Koran points out, “Do you then believe in a part of the book and disbelieve the other?” Reines insists on showing us “the other side of the animal.”—MIKE MCDONOUGH
Legault is an exciting poet working on fascinating projects, and The Other Poems displays the strength of his poetic muscle. After reimagining the sonnet, Legault could have called it a day, but he chose to keep going, reinventing his own form again and again. Including his first collection of poems, The Madeline Poems (Omnidawn, 2009), Legault has published three books in four years. If his pace holds, we’re in for a wild ride in the coming years.—TIMOTHY @ Hazel & Wren
In his self-titled debut, Nick Demske enters the experimental realm through the sonnet, the most orthodox of forms. Though the poems throughout his book all feature fourteen lines, their meters, line endings, and rhymes (or lack thereof) rarely resemble anything Miltonic or Petrarchan.—EVAN MCGARVEY
Once Hannah Gamble’s purpose is made clear, the variety of tools she can bring to bear, and the reach she has with them, is impressive. Gamble delves deep into romantic cliché to reveal how truly alien these familiar, comforting symbols are to human emotionality in the raw. —ANTHONY RINTALA
Spending time with Gamble at breakfast is like a living in a Bruegel version of contemporary Chicago: workers, children, folklore, snow, dentists, Teflon pans. Gamble’s poems express origin stories, births, various apparitions of mothers and fathers; they are fairy-tales for slightly off-kilter little boys and girls. In them you will be handed onions and potatoes, houseplants, cats, “egg after egg after egg.” I haven’t had many better meals this year.—AMANDA SMELTZ
Through Brown’s study, the words, phrases and references she weaves throughout her poems speak to the culture and the population of the area, from the sing-song lilt of casual speech and laid back conversation to the rougher ends of such a folk-collection of country music.—ROB MCLENNAN
The terrain of Lee Ann Brown’s poetic obsession is greater and more eclectic than local color, norm, tool, parcel. In the Laurels, Caught is a collection which is thistle ‘n petal and intellectual engagement. Yet it is grounded in, if not given over to, the Carolinas, where Brown lived as a girl and which she revisits yearly.—SARAH SARAI
In these pages you will find a poet totally at ease in his skin, totally not fucking around. You will find moments of spontaneous language and insight and beauty that are all the more amazing because they don’t feel like manufactured spontaneity. You will find language charged with sex and ugliness—“in those moments that feel inexact”—and all the hilarity that makes being a human such a gross and glorious endeavor. You will find letters to God and “hundreds of thousands of small confetti explosions.”—DAVID PEAK
The poetry in Undergloom is topical in the sense that it is of its moment whilst not being defined by that moment. On the bus, in your bed, at the park, in the bathroom, Sharma’s poetry and Undergloom in particular is worth reading and studying. Your orders are clear. Go forth.—JEFF ALESSANDRELLI
In her fourth collection, Sharma writes from a place of disillusionment regarding the systems of exclusion, particularly racial systems of exclusion, at work in language, poetry, and especially academic life. She investigates the insidious ways that identity is anticipated and enforced, resisting “the tyranny of arrogance and the troubling of the tiny.”
Eyelid Lick doesn’t want to be categorized. It wants to break things. Eyelid Lick wants to fuck you in your pee-hole. The amazing thing is that Eyelid Lick does this in a sincere, generous, and loving way; you will fall in love with the language in this book as it controls your mind, and fucks you.—ROBERT ALAN WENDEBORN
This book, part almanac, part linguistic scrapbook, “struggle[s] with the anti-essentialists who say we cannot identify Appalachia,” and seems to attempt to do for the contemporary South what Susan Howe’s Singularities did for the colonial North.
The Other Poems becomes a sort of inexplicably beautiful meditation on everything, particularly the way in which we as people, whether we know it or not, are constantly in conversation with the exciting and mundane objects around us.—NICK DEPASCAL
Steensen’s Method represents a new formalism that relies less on exacting rules, and more on how poetry can make the rules conform to a new and original purpose.—EMILY THOMAS
Steensen’s “method” most directly means a manuscript of theorems written by Archimedes in around 250 BC; its survival through several centuries owes to a complex web of unexpected uses, including being written over by a religious text. “Paper has [already] / its own history.” The manuscript “The Method” literally comes into contact with many hands and texts during its lifetime, and The Method explores an analogous, semi-imagined palimpsestual journey.—LYTTON SMITH
Steensen guides us through the long journey of this ancient manuscript and artfully demonstrates how a book is a record of power dynamics in this multifaceted exploration of the complicated relationship between an author and her creation.
Coolidge's dissociative leaps and cast of imaginary friends are an argument for allowing the imagination to roam freely and be followed.
Up close, Coolidge’s language may look as confettied as a pointillist canvas at an inch’s distance; draw back and forms are unmistakable. It is difficult to tease out a narrative spine, but stories are being told, history and influences staking claim.—WENDY LOTTERMAN
Weaving the reader in and out, from room to room and place to place, including an array of half-rhyme repetition and doubling of images, Dunbar works through a sometimes nightmarish scenery, some of it violent or at least malevolent, but also buoyed by a heroic sense of the possibility of regeneration.—JACOB A. BENNETT
It is in encountering the apparent hopelessness, violence and senselessness of our times and our way of living—as well as our own scrolled through and constantly re-uploading hyper-awareness of it all—that McSweeney’s Percussion Grenade sketches out a landscape between the trenches.—MARK GURARIE
“The title is a reference to the dual or multiple qualities of her work: complex, expressive, playful, funny, somber, obscure, and always sensuous.” Confession. This is part of a press release I wanted to steal outright.
But it’s true—A Map Predetermined and Chance fits the bill to a T. And as Laura Wetherington writes, “Memory becomes a tribute to stealing.” Let me add to her qualities—humble, folksy, romantic, tough, inventive, and not over-programmed. She takes chances.
Vaginas are summoned. Hymens too. Orgasms and “sound waves are reverberating in the chambers of our skin.” So is World War II in part three. (Taken from transcripts and rich in ghosts, this project could be separate.)
In the compelling title poem, Wetherington states the challenge and makes it a method. “We cannot get away from the way our minds solidify.” A semi-flush right-hand margin starts the fluidization. Things change. “Wood becomes lightning which turns back into wood.”
Following a provident conductor, Wetherington rolls key words back and forth until they rise into light. In this new phase, “everyone is hello and everyone a wave.” Brava.
—Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
Harmony Holiday’s debut collection of poetry responds to the influence of black American music, thinks through the idea of “the poem as archive,” and makes a space that addresses the poet’s relationship to her father, “his legacy and its impact.” After reading the poems it’s clear how replete they are with the various residues of music, but more importantly, how they engage readers to think about how historical placement actually happens.—COLLIN SCHUSTER
Poetry’s fundamental a-loudness and the accompanying interpretation that the process of reading aloud necessitates—reading-as-rendering—sets the stage and cranks up the volume for the pieces in Percussion Grenade. McSweeney continually returns to the interface between the sonic and the visual, the textual and the performative, as the site that questions as it constructs: “Is it ok to live inside this percussion grenade” the book’s title poem begins, and continues...—DIANA THOW