“None of the books has ever got it right”: A Review of LOVE UNKNOWN: The Life and Worlds of Elizabeth Bishop by Thomas Travisano
During my first semester at New York University, I was excited to take a survey course in American Poetry. When the old, male professor passed out the syllabus I wasn’t at all shocked to see that it contained just two women: Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop. This was the early 1990s. A time when no one batted an eye to see a canon that was still almost 100 % white and male. The fact that these two women had crossed the line, had somehow been accepted was extraordinary to me. I tried to love Marianne Moore, but got tangled in her long lines. It was Bishop who spoke to me.
Poetry That Invites Gratefulness in the Midst of Darkness and Blood: A Review of LOUDER BIRDS by Angela Voras-Hills
From the first moment I stepped into Angela Voras-Hills’ collection, Louder Birds, I knew I was in the presence of something vital.
“I search Craiglist for sadness: a white couch the only result.” begins “Weeks After My Brother Overdoses,” the final poem in Kerrin McCadden’s chapbook, Keep This to Yourself (Button Poetry 2020). McCadden’s latest collection is a strikingly blunt yet beautifully lyrical meditation on what it means to lose a loved one to America’s current opioid crisis.
Turn It Up! Music in Poetry from Jazz to Hip-Hop, edited by Stephen Cramer, is a vibrant and hip anthology of 400 pages, including poems by everyone from Langston Hughes, Allen Ginsberg, and Rita Dove to Yusef Komunyakaa, Kim Addonizio, Kevin Young, and Danez Smith. The book contains 88 poets in all (the number of keys on a piano), and is split up into three sections: poems about jazz, poems about blues and rock, and poems about hip-hop.
To read Bodega by Su Hwang is to immerse oneself in a world, but to read this debut poetry collection in tandem with Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong is to deepen one’s understanding of what it means to be raised in the United States as a Korean daughter of immigrants. Both offer prismatic sides of living in a racialized nation where “Asian American” is a box to check off on official census documents, and another way to categorize human experience.
My mother was a beautiful bird who fluttered around people in a state of constant agitation. Terrified of being trapped, she was always opening windows, even in the middle of January, and rushing out of doors “to catch a breath of fresh air.” Once outside, she would disappear in an instant, only to return hours later, the wind and leaves and twigs in her hair.
To read a Bridget Lowe poem is to observe a gradual transformation, a transmutation of the ordinary into progressively more extraordinary metaphysical states. Anyone who read Lowe’s first book At the Autopsy of Vaslav Nijinsky will be excited to see, in her new collection My Second Work, a return of the same immense imagination, which she utilizes with surgical precision to prod at what makes us human.
Anna is pregnant again, and with a girl. I can feel my daughter through Anna’s skin—the future pressing into the present—squirms and kicks that protrude across her distended belly. It feels like last time, she tells me. Similar sensations.
Lime Green “Picnic Set”...
In her latest collection, Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod, Traci Brimhall takes on the impossible task of all mothers: she tries to sing us to sleep. But even sleep can’t save us from the violence and chaos of the world. Even in sleep, there is a haunting, a symbolic language which speaks to us of the world we will return to upon waking.