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Guest Critic

Reviews of relatively recent works of poetry and poetics, mostly by poets.

Illustrations by Drea Cofield.

Philippe Soupault, Lost Profiles: Memoirs of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism

As a glimpse into that time, these lost portraits are invaluable—and often deeply moving.

Andrew Dodds, I, Sparkie

In 1958, a budgie from Newcastle, U.K. named Sparkie received an award for having the largest vocabulary of any known bird.

Erín Moure, My Beloved Wager: Essays from a Writing Practice

Not that there is an easy collusion between politics and writing. Nor an easy translatability between texts and languages.

Daniil Kharms, Russian Absurd: Selected Writings

Kharms’s obliquely allegorical dark comedies are at once mystical and mythic, Daoist and Dadaist, daring and deranging, surrealist and satiric, metaphysical and metafictional.

Moez Surani, ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация

Surani examines the poetics of the military (whose protocols require that each violent mission receive a moniker, whose metaphorical connotations must convey both a dignity of purpose and an element of secrecy).

Tom Raworth, As When

Raworth’s movement through time is toward ever-greater compression—a restless homing-in on a perceived center he has described as “pure politics.”

David Antin, i never knew what time it was

I remember he was tall and bald and had an intensely serious expression on his face while he talked in a bobbing, weaving manner about Freud and other things.

Adam Fitzgerald, George Washington: Poems

If you bed someone and then learn more about them, is the truth a replacement for the first impressions, or were the impressions a replacement for the truth?

Gavin Selerie, Hariot Double

This is a double portrait in counterpoint tongues, musings, mutterings, riffs, and rants, reflections and peregrinations through lexical domains.

Tracie Morris, handholding: 5 kinds

Morris moves with loving attention and unflinching critical detail between the signature language of other artists—variously acoustic, filmic, documentary, poetic—and her own distinct idiom.

J. H. Prynne, The White Stones

These poems are faceted like crystal to daylight.

Tonya M. Foster, A Swarm of Bees in High Court

Tonya Foster tunes the language and brings out the I, the you, the us (the most underestimated words in my opinion in English) to spin the conjoined through pronominal association, to pulse, gather, and scatter. The swarm is a sustaining force.

Abdellatif Laâbi, In Praise of Defeat: Selected Poems

It is this struggle, what he calls his “solitary-solidary struggle,” deeply committed, deeply political, yet situated outside any ideological system, a struggle toward the construction of an ethics able to equal the complexities of our world, that has been his compass. The rest is poetry.

Simone White, Of Being Dispersed

“You and Me Are Not Friends, OK?” nitty-gritties like a choice fractalization of Millie Jackson.

Barbara Guest, The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest

Barbara Guest (1920 – 2006) remains a Guest, singularly and generously—her geist still edging up to and through you, like, right now.

Sawako Nakayasu, The Ants

What happens when a common human feeling, say love, envy, or the desire to organize your kitchen utensil drawer, gets inserted into the body of an ant?

Keith Waldrop, Selected Poems

The poems seem to come from a man with a taste for byways—theosophy, alchemy, fundamentalist theology in Kansas—in the syntax of “there is” and “it is present,” as brought before the speculative mind, and wondered about.

Édgar J. Ulloa Luján, Move that River to the Sea

Édgar J. Ulloa Luján’s début manuscript gives me that prickly feeling.

Will Alexander, “Live at the Roosevelt Room,” Detroit, August 24, 2016

“Do you want the door closed?”

Martin Mueller, The Iliad

Note, amid the difference, the continual suggestions of connectivity

Mia You, I, too, Dislike It

Near the end of the volume, her “History of Art” is one of the most beautiful poems I have read.

Cat Painters: An Anthology of Contemporary Serbian Poetry

But the sighting, once it occurs, will not soon be forgotten.

Alejandro Miguel Justino Crawford, Egress

The poem drops the user into a literal field of signs.

Renee Gladman, Calamities

It might be about that weird way that making art is the only steady thing that perseveres in our lives, although that is an interpretation I am implying on top of this.

Ted Greenwald, The Age of Reasons & Common Sense

You can’t hear Ted without wanting to hear more Ted.

M. NourbeSe Philip, She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks

slipping like an old machine between “anguish” and “English”

Susan Howe, Spontaneous Particulars: The Telepathy of the Archives

It is, in the artist’s own words, “a collaged swan song to the old ways.”


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2017

All Issues