Review: Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica AU (New Directions 2022)

Reviewed by Hannah Wyatt

I recently read Jessica Au’s Cold Enough for Snow—a meditation-style novella that blurs the line between interior monologue and impressionism. As the narrator travels through Tokyo with her mother, she contemplates her love for art and Greek drama, the reality of her memories, and the distance between parent and child. Separation is explored in the resentment and shame the narrator feels towards her own cultural duality, as well as the ways in which she imagines her mother’s own cultural experience following her move away from Hong Kong. Themes of place, art, and literature are explored, and so is the concept of taking up space (and a lack thereof). By the end of the story, I was left with a great sense of dreaminess and wonder, questions about the transferral of parental identity, and a fondness for Au’s storytelling.

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Review: Not Flowers by Noreen Ocampo

NOt Flowers by Noreen Ocampo (Variant Literature 2022)

Reviewed by Jillian A. Fantin

Very infrequently does a poet arrest their reader in so few pages and with such a delicate touch as does Noreen Ocampo. Following her debut micro collection Teaspoons, Ocampo’s Not Flowers continues her exploration of the soft, the familial, and the power of memory. The poetry of Not Flowers reads with the serenity of a Studio Ghibli meadow combined with the timeless Victorian illustrations by Kate Greenaway, curating a fantasy-adjacent field of poetry combining memory and the senses. Nonetheless, Ocampo’s Not Flowers remains deeply rooted in the present, utilizing the power of sensorial memory to curate the speaker’s soft, loving contemporary moment. Ultimately, Ocampo disrupts the seemingly dichotomous relationship between being a flower versus a “not-flower” and finds tenderness and nostalgia to be elements of strength, rather than of weakness.

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Review: handiwork by Sara Baume

handiwork by Sara Baume (Tramp Press, 2020)

Reviewed by Allison McCausland

There is an artist inside all of us. The art we create can be subjective, but that does not diminish the time, care, and functionality someone puts into the act of creating. That is just one of the lessons gleamed from Irish author Sara Baume’s nonfiction debut, handiwork. In this short narrative, Baume combines her mediums of sculpting, carving, writing, and photography to illustrate the trials and joys of being an artist. handiwork chronicles her thoughts on the universality of art and its struggles while working on a woodworking series about her fascination with birds. She even treats her readers with the fruits of her carving labors with interspersed photographs of her avian subjects.

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Review of Shahr-e-Jaanaan: The City of the Beloved by Adeeba Shahid Talukder

Shahr-e-Jaanaan: The City of the Beloved by Adeeba Shahid Talukder (Tupelo Press 2020)

Reviewed by Leonora Simonovis

Winner of the Kundiman Prize Honoring Exceptional Work by Asian American Poets, this collection is a multilayered imaginary where the author converses with Urdu poetic tradition and poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mirza Ghalib, and Ibn-e-Insha, among others. Talukder is also a translator, which, as she explains in the preface, allows for transcreation “Based on the way the particular verses converse with the themes of my poems.” The interplay is not only between two languages, but also between two –or more– different ways of perception and experience.

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Review: The White Card by Claudia Rankine

The White Card by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf 2019)

Reviewed by Olivia Cyr

There is perhaps no better political climate in which to revel in a book that explores race in America than the one the country is in now. As both a self-proclaimed feminist with a background in black women’s studies, and a white woman, I find that I am both well-versed on current conversations about race and women and where those intertwine, and also, admittedly, still terribly conditioned to accept and lean on my own white privilege. While I do follow much of the debate on abortion, women’s rights in the workplace, intersectionality, police brutality, immigration, and the unfair treatment of black people, there is still so much I do not know. I wonder often if my own whiteness does not allow for me to see the whole picture. I think many white folks in this country try, as Claudia Rankine’s characters Virginia and Charles appear to do, and think we are doing as much as we can with the resources available. But Rankine makes it apparent that we aren’t, simply because we are white.

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Review: Moon: Maps, Letters, Poems by Jennifer S. Cheng

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Moon: Maps, Letters, Poems by Jennifer S. Cheng (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2018)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

At a poetry reading in September at a planetarium on the Amherst College campus, Dorothea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov talked about astrology – in particular, they talked about moons. Our individual moons: closer to us than other planets and yet too far to ever touch, milky and always changing their shape to match the rhythm of months,. Moons in Scorpio, Aries, Leo, Capricorn. Our moons, they told us, are where our poetry comes from. They were sure of this. Continue reading

Review: The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

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The Grip of It by Jac Jemc (FSG Originals, 2017)

Reviewed by Michelle Mitchell-Foust

An old chain spools around a metal pulley next to a swinging kitchen door. The silver chain comes up from somewhere under the wooden living room floor and returns to the same place. When I pull it, it gives a little. On the pulley, three words circle, raised in the brown metal: Closed, Open, and Check. And there is a dial, a hefty metal switch that only moves a centimeter. Other than the give, nothing happens. It’s neat and old and mysteriously low to the ground next to the built-in hutch. An examination of the basement where the chain ends and begins again reveals nothing.

This chain is just one of those objects humans wonder about when they find them after they have moved houses, as I have just done. Continue reading

Review: Royals by Cedar Sigo

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Royals by Cedar Sigo (Wave Books, 2017)

Reviewed by Kim Jacobs-Beck

Cedar Sigo exemplifies a poet who is deeply read and constantly aware of the poetic influences upon him. In Royals, published by Wave Books in late summer 2017, Sigo’s topic is largely the poetic world he inhabits. In fact, the book goes so far as to be meta-poetic—the poems are about creating poetry, conversations with other poets, written to and for poets, and contain allusions to the works of other poets. Poetry as subject is infused into virtually every poem in this book. Continue reading

Review: They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

They-Can_t-Kill-Us-Until-They-Kill-Us_2048x2048They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib (Two Dollar Radio, 2017)

Reviewed by Carl Lavigne

I have heard it said that the best writers are the best listeners, and I believe it because of Hanif Abdurraqib. They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is a collection of essays ostensibly about music, but Abdurraqib hears what lies beneath the singing and instrumentation. He writes lyrically, elegiacally, about Prince, My Chemical Romance, Migos, and many more, revealing truths no run-of-the-mill magazine music-critic could conjure up in an album review. The essays unearth deep personal connections and experiences that are intertwined with the music they analyze. There’s a soundtrack to every essay in this collection that often takes center stage, trading places at times with recurring themes of growing up, racism, and grief. Continue reading