Happy late summer (raspberries and plums are supposed to be at their best in August), and welcome to DB22’s review section. Though the books reviewed here aren’t intended to represent any one theme, I note an engagement with history, and a branching out from familiar confines crafted through a fluidity of genre.
Alexis Orgera interviews Cornelius Eady about his new compositions that combine music, song lyrics, and lyric poetry, as well as his relationship to these two mediums. As he talks about his creative process, which entails forays both into the known and unknown, he emphasizes the joy in different types of collaboration and improvisation: “The draft is what you know about writing a poem running up against what you don’t know about the subject. If you’re lucky, you get to surprise yourself.”
The familiar and the unknown are tropes that surface, too, in Kelly Lydick’s review of The Hope of Floating Has Carried Us This Far by Quintan Ana Wikswo. This novel is composed of both word and image, and Lydick describes its form as akin to a series of interconnected prose poems. While Lydick situates its narrative arc within the archetypal hero’s journey, she writes, “The descent into darkness is never a known process prior to the heroic experience. And even after the hero has reemerged, the integration of the layers of meaning the journey has revealed can be elusive.”
Aisha Sabatini Sloan focuses on the sustained interplay between ambiguity and solidity in her review of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. She opens with an excerpt from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse in which Woolf uses brackets as an unconventional yet impactful and resonant strategy, and Sabatini Sloan likens Woolf’s transformational grammar to Nelson’s work with the paradox of creating language (that doesn’t yet exist) with language, and her ongoing investigation of words versus silence.
Barbara Duffey observes in her review of O, Heart by Claudia Keelan that this book demonstrates how “one-sided, one-gendered, the “historical” discussions of the heart have been.” Keelan, she writes, encounters this unknown, or silence, or erasure, and expands on the pre-existing discussion of the heart through “a play formed by the accretion of lyric poem upon lyric poem.”
In Johanna Drucker’s review of Frédéric Forte’s Minute-Operas, she writes, “These are not puzzle-poems to be solved, but dynamic expressions making use of condensed encoding as part of their literary matter…His particular genre of found poetry collages absorbed the visual features of commercial and vernacular texts, making use of an extensive inventory of brackets, lists, layouts, and suggestive features with full appreciation of their semantic contribution to each poem.” Drucker’s energetic review suggests that if you, reader, enjoy a reading experience in which the familiar confines of your reading habits are challenged, this book is must to experience.
Finally, Judith Goldman reviews Jill Magi’s hybrid-genre work, LABOR. Goldman describes LABOR as “an engaging, sophisticated postmodern novella whose form grapples searchingly with its content and whose content is thus both revealed and occulted in dimensions that would not otherwise be available.” Goldman’s acrobatic review of this acrobatic book is like menthe for the mind.
I hope you enjoy DB’s late-summer reviews, and that they entice you to plumb these books along with raspberries, plums, and their particular slants of light.