I review Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds @ The Rumpus

“Sharon Olds has consistently served as a sense-making machine. For 30 years and over ten volumes of poetry, she’s documented both her family of origin and the family she helped to create, exploring the tension between the two to great effect. Where relationships become complicated by violence she has transcended the victim/perpetrator binary, humanizing her subjects, and negotiating the dim territory where ideas about right and wrong conflict with lived experience. This ability to speak from a conflicted perspective has become a trademark, established in her first book, Satan Says, “I love him too, / you know… I love them but / I’m trying to say what happened to us”.”

More here:



I Review Lew Welch @ The Rumpus

Lew Welch, Ring of Bone, Collected Poems.

“Lew Welch was many things; a scholar, a father, a drunk, a laborer, an adman, a madman, a friend, and an ascetic— no better description of him exists than that which came in his own vision, deep in the wilds of the Klamath Mountains, the poem after which the collection is titled:

I saw myself
a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it

and vowed
always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through

and then heard
“ring of bone” where
ring is what a

bell does

A bell, we might add, also resonates. These 40 years later, Lew, you are missed.”

More Here:


I review “Madness, Rack, and Honey” by Mary Ruefle @ The Rumpus

“The hybrid/fragmented essay has gained popularity in recent years. Once the domain of experimental authors and small press publishing, they now appear in major periodicals and have even acquired a manifesto (Reality Hunger, released in 2010 by Knopf, David Shields’ attempt to gather and gain perspective on the proliferation of nonfiction, in all its iterations.) In other words, what could have been described as fringe in the not so distant past, has become almost common, has articulated a tradition …Madness, Rack, and Honey is a gift from a rigorous intellect, unflinching critic, and a big old sloppy heart. Ruefle has created a work of poetry from the daunting task of writing about it. Don’t be surprised if this book is remembered as a classic of its genre.”

Read the whole review here:


I review Jill Magi’s SLOT @ The Rumpus

“If understanding a poem requires I first read Saussure in the primary, it’s over before it begins. And while books with the words “intertextual investigation” on the jacket may be of some interest, I rarely find myself moved by them. Call me pedestrian, call me lazy, just give me a book of poems with a pulse and I’ll be happy. At first glance, Jill Magi’s Slot appears to be another academy production starched with theory, and the description, “An experiential investigation of how we move through cultural landmarks” doesn’t exactly rev one’s engines. But don’t be fooled, the poems inside are very much alive, and far more radical than their marketing suggests.”



Books for Literate and Dysfunctional Families @ NW Booklovers

“During the holidays we fixate on family, on our ability to be near them, by literal distance or by temperament. Of course, 20 years ago, if you were short on cheer, you need only endure a few weeks of “Jingle Bells,” but these days? They’re playing “O Holy Night” at the mall in early November. Sure, it’s a jazzy, subliminal, less explicit “O Holy Night,” but all the same. The tyranny of the Folgers commercials, where frighteningly chipper people in flannel robes pretend to be a family, is that they establish an ideal real life fails to achieve. Functional, happy families are the exception, not the rule.”


On Carl Adamshick’s Curses and Wishes @ Gently Read Literature

“It’s winter in Harvard, Illinois, where the only toy the children have is their mother’s hair and snow. Snow falling in a barrel of rusted engine parts. The speaker, like someone delivered from long illness, has one foot in this world, one in the next. As in snow, there’s something ghostly at work in these poems. Remarkably, the effect is not of detachment but of flux, of hallucinogenic fever.”