Requeening by Amanda moore (ecco press 2021)
Reviewed by Leonora Simonovis
When members of a beehive are diseased—when their temperament changes or the queen is unable to lay eggs–– beekeepers use a practice called requeening, in which one queen is substituted for another to disrupt the current patterns in the hive and create new healthy patterns that will allow its members to grow and thrive. It is impossible not to notice the irony: the queen has an important role in keeping the hive actively developing and yet, once her “usefulness” has passed, she is discarded.
The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos (Carolrhoda Lab 2019)
Reviewed by Kathryn Leonard-Peck
In this hybrid review, Leonard-Peck combines poetry and critical reading to map the emotional landscape of this stunning YA novel, which as a 2019 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection and a 2018 New York Public Library Best Book for Teens. For more reviews that challenge the form, click here.
Gardens that breathe: an interview with laura donnelly
Written by Jillian Smith
In Midwest Gothic, her second collection of poetry, Laura Donnelly channels a speaker alternatively fascinated and fearful, youthful and wise, steadfast and skeptical. Through a rough yet rich expanse of memory and history, she seeks to both recover and reframe her past, a process as ominous as it is life-affirming. In doing so, Donnelly honors the resilience, creativity and legacy of her female ancestors, especially their ability to nourish a place into being, to maintain a home that not only withstands what is wild but welcomes it. As a revision to the ubiquitous patriarchal narratives the young speaker was exposed to, Donnelly posits women not just as the keepers and growers of an eternal garden, but also, subverting many Gothic tales, as the heroines of their own stories.Throughout the collection, we feel a complexity of emotions that is as unsettling as it is alluring, each poem a musical note that resounds into the vastness of history, building on previous notes, and both haunting and uplifting what’s to come.
DM Me, Mother Darling by Alexa Doran (Bauhan Publishing 2021)
Reviewed by Audrey Gidman
“We’ve all turned the knob down on God.”
Erotic, synesthetic, nebulous, rebellious, sensual, haunting: these words continuously ran through my mind as I tried to integrate the radically clever and wild movement of Alexa Doran’s debut collection, DM Me, Mother Darling.
How do I say it other than this: the work is amalgamous and full of pain—effervescent, shifting shape, shedding over and over like a snake whose skin has never fit. Doran amorphously circles and strikes at the tensions of motherhood, sex, grief, drugs, God, judgement, resilience, sickness, instincts, and grit as she tries, repeatedly, to convince us “to believe [that] love is / obscene” (25).
A Review in Questions: Odes to Lithium by Shira Erlichman (Alice James Books, 2019)
Reviewed by Crystal Condakes
A note from the author on the form: One of the things I love about this collection of poems is the frequent questions it asks. At their core these poems say: It’s okay to have questions, to question. Reading these poems made me wonder, and the wondering became questions of my own.
Drizzling in Tongues: On Translating Myself
By Kiran Bhat
In this piece, multilingual poet Kiran Bhat reflects on the act of self-translation, and how the act and ambitions of a translation project can shift based on language, emotion, and sound.
To be lost in language, or languages. I don’t want to say I was born with this problem. Language is not a space, language is a trap. We are born into one, we are formed into one, and we never choose which one it is. My blessing was that I was raised in an environment in which I thought, felt, and conditioned myself in the world’s lingua franca, English. For my family who remained in India, particularly the older generation, the language was Kannada. In order to connect deeper with my grandparents or uncles and aunties, I would have to speak in Kannada. And then, when I studied abroad in Spain, and learned that there were people who did not speak English, who had chortled and gossiped and slandered in a completely different tongue, I learned I had to speak in Spanish, too.
Endlings by Joanna Lilley (Turnstone Press 2020)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
“How carefully we preserve the dead and eat the living” (109)
How to write an elegy for animals? Not the ones closest to us, our dogs and cats, chickens, rabbits, the domesticated fauna we use to name and sustain ourselves. How do we write an elegy for the animals we did not save in time; the “endlings,” the final link between past and present? How do we write an elegy for the victims of a murder we won’t even admit we’ve committed?
OBIT by Victoria Chang (Copper Canyon Press, 2020)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
I wrote my first and only obituary in 2018, for my uncle. His name was Thom. He died quite suddenly, at 48, after decade-old cancer cells appeared again in his colon, took over his liver, swallowed him up.
Which is to say that I am no expert in the articulation of existence. And anyway, how do you go about writing a single document that might convey the precious, imperfect, complicated, wonderful nuances of an entire life? For Victoria Chang, the obituary is not just a death notice, but a mode. In her latest collection, OBIT, she asks: What continues to live when someone we love dies? What dies with them?
“I used to think that a dead person’s words die with them. Now I know that they scatter, looking for meaning to attach to a scent” (18)
A Brief Disclaimer: Susan, author of Whiskey Letters (Arroyo Secco Press 2018) and I met in college while attending California State University of Long Beach. We had just about every class together, and so our friendship was sealed by fate. I have heard many stories from these pages firsthand and I have seen many of the pieces which appear in Whiskey Letters in their earliest drafts. I have also witnessed her personal growth and artistic development as a friend and fellow poet.