Review: Look How Happy I’m Making You by Polly Rosenwaike

look how happy i’m making you BY POLLY ROSENWAIKE (DOUBLEDAY, 2019)   

Reviewed by Gregorio Tafoya

1. Lack of Interest in Your Baby

So starts the quietly explosive “Ten Warning Signs of Postpartum Depression, a thick middle piece to Polly Rosenwaike’s short story collection, Look How Happy I’m Making You—best said in a sleep-deprived, low, gravelly tone.

Much like the characters in Polly Rosenwaike’s debut, I feel wholly inadequate and ill prepared for the task at hand. They are entrusted with the nobler task, that of motherhood, and I, a male with no child rearing experience, am attempting to review their explorations. When I get sentimental about fatherhood aspirations, it is always the highlight reel of playing catch in the backyard and teaching the finer points of auto mechanics—a concept I hardly have any grasp on. The scenes in Rosenwaike’s book are far from the highlight reel of any parenthood.

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Review: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, trans. by Stephen Snyder (Pantheon 2019)

Reviewed by Rebecca Valley

“’Long ago, before you were born, there were many more things here,’ my mother used to tell me when I was still a child. ‘Transparent things, fragrant things… fluttery ones, bright ones…” (3)

In her essay “Fairy Tale is Form, Form is Fairy Tale,” author Kate Bernheimer defines the fairy tale for a contemporary audience – what fairy tales are made of, what doors they can open.

“With their flatness, abstraction, intuitive logic, and normalized magic, fairy tales hold a key to the door fiercely locked between so-called realism and nonrealism, convention and experimental-ism, psychology and abstraction. A key for those who see these as binaries, that is.”

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Review: The After Party by Jana Prikryl

The After Party by Jana Prikryl (Tim Duggan Books, 2016)

Reviewed by Hannah Wyatt

A couple of weekends ago, while wandering through the statuesque dinosaurs and food trucks of my new city, I picked up a $1 copy of Jana Prikryl’s The After Party (Tim Duggan Books, 2016) at a tent sale hosted by Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library. This being my first read of Prikryl’s work, I was delighted to find that, within the first few lines of the collection, I felt I was reading someone who cared about the world I care about.

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Review: How to Pull Apart the Earth by Karla Cordero

How to Pull Apart the Earth by Karla Cordero (Not A Cult, 2018)

Reviewed by Leonora Simonovis

Featured in Oprah Magazine under the title “17 of the Best Poetry Books, as Recommended by Acclaimed Writers for National Poetry Month” How to Pull Apart the Earth is described by writer Laura Villareal as a journey into “the collective memory found in [the author’s] personal history, reminding us that we are rooted in the same familial tenderness.” The beautifully written 71 poems speak to the author’s identity as a Chicanx/Latinx woman raised in the border town of Calexico and themes of family, migration, and awareness, as well as identity and belonging, are seamlessly weaved throughout.

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Review: The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks

The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness by Elyn R. Saks (Hachette Books 2007)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

Horrifying delusions and auditory hallucinations did not deter Elyn Saks from her Oxford University Master’s degree studies. Compassionate psychiatric care in England squired her through. But, later, as a law student at Yale University and in a psychotic state, Yale psychiatrists “bound both legs and both arms to a metal bed with thick leather straps” and forced medication down her throat. Multiple times. She plummeted into despair.

“A sound comes out of me that I’ve never heard before—half groan, half scream, marginally human, and all terror. Then the sound comes out of me again, forced from somewhere deep in my belly and scraping my throat raw. Moments later, I’m choking and gagging on some kind of bitter liquid that I try to lock my teeth against but cannot. They make me swallow it. They make me.” (4)

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Review: Nature Store by Mary Kasimor

Nature Store by Mary Kasimor (dancing girl press & studio, 2017)

Reviewed by Ann Tweedy

Mary Kasimor is an experimental poet who has published numerous books and chapbooks and who, more recently, has begun to establish herself as a visual artist.  Now retired, she served for many years as a professor at a technical college in Minnesota.  She describes her art as being like her poetry in that it is “very experimental and abstract.”  She uses thread, ink and paint (watercolor or acrylic).  Her paintings, reminiscent of Rothko’s early work, have soft shapes connected by wavy lines which are set against a colorful background.  Her poetry is imagistic and non-linear and often explores gender and other social justice issues, along with her own experiences. 

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Review: Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett (Tin House Books, 2019)

Reviewed by Emily Nelson

Florida has a pretty brutal reputation. Between the ghastly riches of the Florida Man meme to Marco Rubio, there’s definitely more than a few reasons that a decent portion of the U.S. sees it as the embarrassing Drunk Uncle of the states. But if Kristen Arnett has anything to say about it, Florida is on the come up — at least, as far as literature is concerned. Her debut novel, Mostly Dead Things, is as much a love letter to her state of residence as it is a darkly sweet story of grief and growth in a family of taxidermists. Arnett, a darling of Literary Twitter for her dispatches on working as a librarian and her dedication to convenience stores (her Twitter bio declares her a “7-Eleven Scholar”), creates in Mostly Dead Things a universe conjured from swamp magic and sweat, something gritty and wild and aggressively real that makes it instantly unforgettable.

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Review: Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going by Jessica Jacobs

Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going by Jessica Jacobs (Four Way Books, 2019)

Reviewed by Risa Denenberg

To read Jessica Jacobs’ newest poetry collection, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going (Four Way Books, 2019) is to start out where she began in her first collection, Pelvis with Distance (White Pine Press, 2015; winner of the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry) and left off in In Whatever Light Left to Us (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016). Each book in this trilogy performs an aria of lesbian love and lesbian sexuality that earns its encore.

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