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review 2017-04-12 20:37
Magdalene, by Marie Howe [poetry]
Magdalene: Poems - Marie Howe

I began reading Marie Howe when I was an undergrad taking my first poetry workshops. At first, I wasn't sure I liked her style, which is deceptively simple or plain. This was a contrast to many other poets I was introduced to at the same time, such as Mark Doty and Yusef Komunyakaa. But somewhere along the line, I fell in love with her aesthetic, and that first book of hers I read, What the Living Do, remains a favorite and a touchstone.

 

I now recognize and admire the delicate straightforwardness of Howe's language, which packs as much power as any formal poem or one with more verbal jujitsu. Her lines can be long, with lots of room between them or stanzas. They feel quiet, contemplative, so when there's a turn or revelation coming, it heightens the impact. I'm trying to explain her appeal, but part of it is that I can't. Or I could if I analyzed it to death, and I prefer letting the magic linger.

 

The poems' subjects range from desire to mental health, self-perception, spirituality, and motherhood. Though I don't read the book like one overarching narrative, it does feel like there's an arc; there's a fullness to that arc that somehow replicates the sensation of completing a big, fat novel. You have an idea of a life.

 

Here's a favorite:

 

How the Story Started

 

I was driven toward desire by desire.

believing that the fulfillment of that desire was an end.

There was no end.

 

Others might have looked into the future and seen

a shape inside the coming years --

a house, a child, a man who might be a help.

 

I saw his back bent over what he was working on,

the back of his neck, how he stood in his sneakers,

and wanted to eat him.

 

How could I see another person, I mean who he was--apart from me--

apart from that?

 

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url 2016-07-18 18:04
"Smugmush in the Art Bar," by Mark Halliday

A hilarious takedown of a certain kind of poem published in a certain kind of literary venue. (Also a great exercise in tone.) This made me feel better about the fact that any given poet friend of mine writes more interesting stuff than what typically gets published in Big Name Magazines via "connections."

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review 2014-03-19 16:10
Daisy Fried, My Brother Is Getting Arrested Again
My Brother is Getting Arrested Again - Daisy Fried

"Sharp" is a word I'm afraid I've come to rely on perhaps too much when describing writing that is acerbic, flinty, caustic or has edges of any sort to it--typically by women. This collection by Daisy Fried isn't razor-sharp, but she does have a voice that I appreciate, one that feels no-bullshit but is also varied across the poems. I remember hearing her read at Bread Loaf and getting that same sense, and now that I'm in my mid-thirties, I'm also connecting with the subject matter of many poems, some of which focus on adulthood and relationships (romantic, familial, friendships), some of which capture girlhood.

 

As a reader I've grown to value associativeness, and most of the poems are largely narrative. However, I expect they'll continue to grow on me, and upon a first read most feel fresh and interest me enough. My favorite is "Doll Ritual."

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review 2012-11-26 00:00
A Path Between Houses (Brittingham Prize in Poetry)
A Path Between Houses (Brittingham Prize in Poetry) - Greg Rappleye

I can't believe it took me so long to get to this book; I bought it at a writer's conference where I met the writer (signed copy!) about ten years ago. He was a lovely guy. This is a lovely book, and it grew on me as it went on; I have the feeling it will grow on me further with multiple reads.

 

My reading tastes have changed substantially from when I first bought it, so it took a bit to get into, and not all the poems are for me, but some stunned me. When I finished the book, I also felt I'd taken quite a journey, but one that never tired me, which is impressive because I've become sensitive to books of poetry that near 100 pages or more, often indulgently. There's mythology, pop culture, crime, alcoholism, marriage, family, solitude, violence, beauty, aging, contentment. The craft is deft and weightless (as best I can describe it). I will re-read.

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