Forgiveness Forgiveness by Shane McCrae (Factory Hollow Press 2014)
Reviewed by Rebecca Valley
In the past few months, I have read two books by Shane McCrae. First, I read his latest collection In the Language of My Captor – a series of persona poems and loosely autobiographical musings which focus on the complicated nature of race and racism in American history. I fell in love with the way McCrae refuses to bow down to stereotypical narratives of what it means to be black. As a mixed-race man raised by white grandparents, McCrae explores is own nuanced identity beside the identities and imagined experiences of African Americans kept in cages by white museum curators, all the while refusing to preference once experience of blackness in America over another. In In the Language of My Captors, McCrae acknowledges the complicated nature of communicating this spectrum of black experience in the language of white Europeans – this is particularly true when thinking about poetry as a genre whose canon is made up almost entirely of white, male faces.
The Owl was a Baker’s Daughter by Gillian Cummings (Center for Literary Publishing 2018)
Reviewed by Bianca Glinskas
“The speech of rain: it was only a matter
of something asking to be let in” 23
Landscape of The Wait by Jami Macarty (Finishing Line Press, 2017)
Derived from the ancient word for “watching,” waiting seems especially relegated to the human animal. Waiting implies the existence of a thought process as well as biology–a stasis, a trance. The state implies a wish, as a reaction to time and action. It makes sense that the literature of waiting has ancient origins, and that the sub-genre thrives during war. The world’s most important epics are also part of the body of the literature of waiting. The Odyssey and Penelope’s wait, and The Aeneid and Dido’s wait are two of our most essential examples. Naturally, the literature of waiting thrived during World War II, when Yehuda Amichai wrote the marvelous poem I heard him read in Hebrew and in English at the Hillel Center at UCLA in the 1990’s, where he said, in essence, that the war was not worth the poems made by the light of warfare. It begins
Out of three or four in a room,
One is always standing at the window.
Forced to see the injustice among the thorns,
The fires on the hills.
Moon: Maps, Letters, Poems by Jennifer S. Cheng (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2018)
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
Contributing editor Leonora Simonovis interviews poet Victoria Chang about her fourth collection of poems, BARBIE CHANG, out from Copper Canyon Press in 2017. They discuss resistance, the idea of being and representing otherness, the playfulness of poetry, and Chang’s forthcoming collection, which features short obituary poems written after the death of her mother. Continue reading
Royals by Cedar Sigo (Wave Books, 2017)
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
For our second special issue on writing from rural America, I talked with Catie Rosemurgy, a poet who understands and writes intimately about the realities of small-town American life. I fell in love with Rosemurgy’s winding narrative collections and shape-shifting characters nearly ten years ago now, and in our conversation I asked her some difficult questions about writing rural in this political climate, the stories behind her characters, and how she constructs the cozy, strange worlds that shape her collections.
SPECIAL FEATURE #2: STICKS
Writing from rural America
Lately, I have been thinking about the idea of many Americas. I mean, I have been thinking about the America I know and the one I live in now, and all the Americas I’ve never experienced, and how they fit together under this umbrella, under one leader, under one name. Continue reading
by Rebecca Valley
In 2017, the U.S. spent more than ever before on natural disaster relief — an astonishing $306 billion. In September and October, as I sat through the first few weeks of my graduate writing program in a peaceful (though unseasonably warm) Massachusetts, three record-breaking hurricanes ravaged the Caribbean and Gulf Coast. Continue reading