Monday, March 18, 2019

Rage Hezekiah's "Unslakable"




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"How can we say what was once unsayable and then learn to see beyond it? And beyond that seeing, can we dare to move beyond it—and live on our own terms? Rage Hezekiah’s Unslakable takes up this challenge with fierce compassion and a vital, human grace born of having lived and witnessed—and then gone farther. In that way, we can read the title, Unslakable, at once as description, challenge, and difficult desire. “First/you teach the child/what it is to drown/so she’ll know/to save herself” writes Hezekiah. These poems embody the process of walking with the strange weight of history – both personal and cultural – but these poems also carry us through the process of opening ourselves to self-love. Hezekiah’s courageous and thoughtful voice invites us all to rethink those big yet intimate issues: family legacy, sexuality, identity, and power. More than just response, reaction, or counterpoise, Unslakable claims and creates new space for the strength of one woman of color’s body – and vision – and spirit – in our world."

-Aaron Coleman, author of St. Trigger, and Threat Come Close

"Startling and brutal in its clarity, Unslakable takes on multiple violences lived in an individual body – the trauma of a childhood with an alcoholic parent, the intergenerational inheritance of slavery and racism, the echo of every heartbreak. This is a collection brimming with quiet, the kind of raucous quiet full of unspoken things. Hezekiah's poems don't look away from painful memories, instead facing them head-on with unremitting tenderness. No detail is spared, these concise poems shake with emotion, insisting on naming the past and thereby carving a future, “punishing the silence of no one to blame.” In her poems, sharp-angled pain and hard-won human wisdom are held alongside the barbed beauty of the natural world: gardens of memory, birth and decay, the ocean as ever-present witness of a life lived by the water. In these poems are friendship, lovers, science, anatomy, longing, resilience, and “history's/ detritus.” And, above all, desire, the unslakable, liberatory desire of a poet laying claim to the agony and beauty of a life, and telling us “I want it all for as long as it will last."

-Mónica Gomery, author of Of Darkness and Tumbling and Here is the Night and the Night on the Road


Rage Hezekiah
is a New England based poet and educator, who earned her MFA from Emerson College. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The MacDowell Colony, and The Ragdale Foundation, and is a recipient of the Saint Botolph Foundation's Emerging Artists Award. Her debut full-length collection, Stray Harbor (Finishing Line Press) is forthcoming in 2019.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Geoff Anderson's "Humming Dirges"




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"Anderson possesses a sniper’s eye for detail, filling his poems with taut, after-the-shot tension, which is not a feeling one expects in the parade of neighborhood tales through which he explores the ubiquitous political nature of families or the constantly morphing lessons of loss. Which is not to say this is a collection of haunting dread. There is a joy that moors the reader throughout, making Humming Dirges a collection of art that sorely wants to pick up the pieces it breaks off of you. In Anderson’s world the challenge isn’t simply that nothing is as it at appears, but that there is a lesson in every inch of each tale, even the puzzles missing pieces. Each of the poems presented in Humming Dirges bends to Anderson’s effortless strength at making any seemingly innocent moment turn on a dramatic, sometimes horrible dime. Simply put, Anderson possesses one of the surest, most steady hands I’ve seen commit an act of modern poetry."
- Scott Woods, author of Urban Contemporary History Month and We Over Here Now

"Geoff Anderson makes perfect poems. Emotionally-complicated and precisely-wrought, with images so sharp they might cut you open with their textures, the poems in Anderson’s Humming Dirges gift readers with an inside view of a family as it functions with the outside world and within itself. That is to say, Anderson uses the complexities of family to create a sometimes-uncomfortably accurate portrait of the society in which that family exists. And he’ll draw you in and make you one of his own for as long as the book lasts."
- Louise Robertson, author of The Naming Of and Teaching My Daughter My Language


"These poems view the world with a keen reflective eye. They challenge us to rethink what we've assumed about ethnicity, about loss, about history--the histories we're taught and the histories we live. With artful subtlety, Geoff leaves something distinctly other in the reader's view: Other than common, other than black, than white, than pretense. Frank and delicious."
- Rose M. Smith, Senior Editor, Pudding Magazine

Friday, April 20, 2018

Shankar Narayan's "Postcards from the New World"




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"These poems are wholly original and loaded with compassion, intellect, and lyric interrogation. Shankar Narayan’s Postcards from the New World explores proximity, intimacy, identity, violence, and diaspora with a knowing, prophetic allure. I love these poems for their epistemological underpinnings and their graceful invention. Gorgeous surprises fuel this wonderful debut. Fiercely talented and equally humane, Narayan is one of my favorite new poets."

Lee Herrick, Poet Laureate of Fresno, 2015-17



"These poems meditate on connection and dissolution, construction and deconstruction, selves and societies. In a violent historical moment, when rupture and brokenness (the breaking of bodies and the breaking of the word) are so evident, these poems announce a belief that there is (there has to be) some good, some light from a new sun. Narayan writes that “Entanglement means/what happens to you happens/to me,” not just as cosmic fact but as an ethical binding of various selves—the constructed energies of the speaker (abused by the world, consumed by idealism), the inherited and problematic threads of the world (traditions as tethers to a faraway land, the violent and virulent racism of America). In a song driven by words from our moment, Narayan has given us a compelling series of poems that will be worthy of rereading."

Tod Marshall, Poet Laureate of Washington State, 2016-18

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Victoria Moore's "Like Drowning"




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Like Drowning walks the line between things said and not said. Moore’s language is sensual and honest, bittersweet, and as good as ‘sorghum on biscuits.’ Moore is an exciting new voice in poetry.”
J. Bruce Fuller, Wallace Stegner Fellow and Author of The Dissenter's Ground


“Subtle, earnest, moving, and profound, Like Drowning is the portrait of a relationship that has already ended. The book reads like one poem, one finely sustained moment of reflection, so once I started, I could not put it down.”
Blas Falconer, author of The Foundling Wheel

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Melissa Fite Johnson's "A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky"



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"A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky is shot through with loss, with the ways our bodies fail us, and with what we can’t—or don’t say. The speakers are daughters, wives, not-mothers, and they occupy domestic spaces in which “nothing is missing.” Indeed, everything is present in Melissa Fite Johnson’s elegiac collection, even the empty spaces: a remembered father, the children not to be born, the past that is at once long-gone and not gone at all."

—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones

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“Melissa Fite Johnson’s A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky is like a poetry photo album where poems appear like perfect snapshots of a life being lived. Johnson’s poems question “what it means to be human”—what we hold onto and what we let go. The narrative beauty of these poems lead us into a garden where  branches “quilt patterns into the sky”—the possibility of becoming a parent and the experience of losing one. This chapbook grounds us in the past and present and connects the two worlds—leaving me thankful for this poet who opens the door for us to walk into her poems and join her.

—Kelli Russell Agodon, author of Hourglass Museum

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Jessica Kim's "These, Our Bodies"


"—like a god of small creatures, like

a god of locked spaces, like a something
i used to know, and yet,

you are so new. say yes, say please,
say i’m still here, say it again."


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

John Miller's "Heat Lightning"



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"At the crux of John Miller’s poetry is a search for heat as a way “to know the origin of desire.” This yearning is rooted in the physical world and complicated by empathy for even the most unpleasant places (the site of a bridge demolition) and most unlikable fellow-travelers (late-night partiers singing karaoke). This is the voice of a poet searching for what he knows he won't find, who “lean[s] into the stinging rain / straining to glimpse / what would teach us to die.” These are beautiful, beautiful poems."

Lauren Goodwin Slaughter, author of a lesson in smallness, recipient of the 2012 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, Editor-in-Chief at PoemMemoirStory.

"John Miller's debut collection is deft, adroit--downright beautiful. The wise old cormorant Coleridge teaches that poetic genius unleashes via the balance or reconciliation of opposition. Around every corner in these elegantly crafted poems, Miller's balance beam brain beckons, reconciles, gets shook, stays lit up. Tenacity; desire and hope in equipoise; deific baritone! From haunting to jaunty to moving, what's clever rams into what's wise again and again. These days so many poems dance us and demand that we are impressed with their sway. Miller's debut steps a full fathom farther: these are the generous, subtle musics that linger in your ear."

Abraham Smith, author of Ashagalomancy; Only Jesus Could Icefish in Summer; Hank; and Whim Man Mammon.