Reviews

The Ways People Live

The Ways People Live

Long ago, I took a workshop with a moderately well-known American poet. When we met in the student union for the half-hour conference I ’d paid extra for, he was visibly annoyed because he couldn’t smoke. For several minutes he shuffled silently through my poems, which were mostly slightly arcane explorations of living in a small Midwestern town and raising children, . . .

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on A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety by Donald Hall

on A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety by Donald Hall

“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” These words, delightful in their oxymoronic truth, were reportedly spoken by the English actor Edmund Kean (1789–1833) on his deathbed. Though variously attributed to comedians and Hollywood actors over many years, this adage could easily have been spoken by Donald Hall. When he died on 23 June 2018, . . .

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on Brass by Xhenet Aliu

on Brass by Xhenet Aliu

When I described Xhenet Aliu’s Brass to a friend as a story about a teenage girl’s complicated relationship with her single mother, she said, “I’m not really a fan of mother-daughter stories.” We parted ways soon after, and I walked the three blocks to my apartment reflecting on my friend’s quick dismissal, . . .

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on Cherokee Road Kill by Celia Bland

on Cherokee Road Kill by Celia Bland

Cherokee Road Kill is an important book written by a poet in command of her craft. I first met Celia Bland some years ago in a workshop with the marvelous Jean Valentine, and she shares a few of Valentine’s great virtues, perhaps foremost her commitment to getting the truth down on the page. . . .

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Naming the Absence

Naming the Absence

As I am writing this in the summer of 2018, more than two thousand migrant children are being kept at the U.S.-Mexico border and around the United States, separated from their families, as pawns in a cruel political agenda. Doctors and healthcare professionals have spoken publicly about the long-term, irreversible physical and psychological effects of the “toxic stress” detainees experience. . . .

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Southerners, Snakes, and Me 

Southerners, Snakes, and Me 

[an excerpt]

 

Men and women are not only themselves, Somerset Maugham writes in The Razor’s Edge (1944), “they are also the region in which they were born, the city or apartment or the farm in which they learnt to walk, the games they played as children, . . .

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on Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

on Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

In Oceanic, her luminous fourth collection of poems, Aimee Nezhukumatathil concludes with the image of “a child stepping / out of a fire, shoes / still shiny and clean.” 

I encountered this mysterious image on a day in mid-February, 2018. As the temperature hovered at a record-smashing seventy degrees, . . .

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