Thursday, June 11, 2020

Conor McNamara's "When I Think of the Randolph Mountains"



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Conor McNamara has written a powerful portrait of West Virginia, mountain roads, pipeline work, cold nights, loss and enduring hope. Beautiful and understated, When I Think of the Randolph Mountains is a masterful collection of stories that stay with you long into the night.
 —Vincent Chu, author of Like a Champion

In aching bursts of spare, understated prose, Conor McNamara captures the loneliness of working as a pipeliner in wintry West Virginia. When I Think of the Randolph Mountains is at once a moving portrait of a young man—heartsick, far from home, deep in debt—and a searing look at the brutal emotional and physical toll that simply staying out of poverty takes on American workers. Though rooted in the particulars of small towns like Burnsville and Buckhannon, the story taps powerfully into the anxiety of placelessness, its narrator in every sense disoriented, always at risk of losing traction. Yet he never misses an opportunity to name the people he meets as he follows the pipeline—Ms. Amanda, the Exxon station clerk; Yogi, owner of the Motel 79; Mike Workman, a land inspector from the gas company—and we sense that no matter where the work takes him next, his alertness to human connection will come with him.
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Madeleine is Sleeping
and Ms. Hempel Chronicles

Conor McNamara is out there at work. He’s Studs Terkel and he’s the guy Studs Terkel is asking what the job is really like. He’s a poet and this is his American dream with a bloody nose. Come in close. He wants to tell you how to pass your drug test, how to swing a machete, how to be in love with the dirt and the grime and the rain and the unexpected sunshine bursting out from behind the dark clouds hanging over the piece of shit roadside motel that is tonight’s temporary home sweet home.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Maya Salameh's "rooh"




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"Maya Salameh’s rooh deftly works the familiar into the defamiliarized, in poems crackling with exuberant fluency. I read these poems and language feels boundless, looking feels boundless, form feels boundless. I read these poems and feel the possibilities of poetry stretching, evolving, breaking open to make room for the true refreshment that is Maya Salameh’s voice—its mischief, its enormous eyes.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Sarah Cooper's "Permanent Marker"




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Sarah Cooper’s Permanent Marker is a stunning elegiac sequence for a brother and the family he’s left behind. But the chapbook is also about living through tremendous pain with grace and generosity, honest anger, and empathy. The poems are elegant in their imagery, evocative in their details, and artistic in their narrative focus. Sarah Cooper is a superb poet of witness. -- Denise Duhamel
Put simply: Sarah Cooper’s Permanent Marker enchants us. In “Grandma’s House,” we find the young Cooper siblings playing Ouija in the basement, casting spells with pebbles and bird feathers, hypnotized by the "oranges and pinks and blues of the jams glistening on shelves.” Such youth can’t be preserved. And though Cooper’s poems make this gut-wrenchingly clear in narrating the loss of that brother from the cellar, all the mystery of youth — that strange potion of great joy and deep sadness — is carried into these poems like a talisman. Like the BB left in the sister’s chest, forgotten, until years later she steps from the shower, runs her wet fingers over the lump, "and remembered your face / in shock as you realized you had shot me.” -- D. Gilson
Sarah Cooper's Permanent Marker is about the ways we are marked by loss and all the forms that loss may take. The ephemeral smell of her brother's cologne. His number and birthday, which she refuses to remove from her phone. Her brother’s baby teeth, which her father keeps in an Aleve bottle, suggesting the links this book traces between memory and pain. This is not a book about PTSD or addiction or brothers and sisters. It is about the collateral damage, the reverberating impact of loss on those left behind.
--Ed Madden