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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted May 1, 2011

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Sally Rosen Kindred
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-932412-98-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 65pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Kindred’s poems are carefully composed examples of the successful intersection of lyric and narrative impulses. No Eden opens with “Prayer for Mrs. Snead,” which is representative of the poet’s style and sets the tone for the collection:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Charles W. Pratt
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9801672-8-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 86pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
This volume contains poems from Pratt’s two previous published collections, from an unpublished earlier manuscript, and new poems. The collection is bookended by poems that consider the poet in the world: an early poem (1986) that situates the poet “In the Woods” (“What’s he doing, you’d wonder, here in the very / Middle of the woods, shouldering logs from a stack / Someone cut and left so long ago”) and a new poem, “Resolution” that is decidedly more global in scope and perspective (“When the tsunami draws back its fistful of waters / And crushes the city, let me for once be ready /…When the suicide bomber squeezes the trigger / And fierce flames spurt and wild the body parts fly, / Let me be holding my lover or drinking my coffee // Let us be drinking our coffee, unprepared”).
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Tina Egnoski
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0982636411
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 39pp
  • Price $9.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Perishables is the winner of the publisher’s fiction chapbook contest, and it’s certainly prize-worthy work. Egnoski’s a fine storyteller and the four stories in this handsomely produced little chapbook provide strong support for the recent interest and increase in chapbook fiction.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Rick Lott
  • Date Published 2010
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 33pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Lott’s chapbook of 16 poems, the majority of which appeared previously in a variety of journals (Texas Review, Mid-America Poetry Review, and Crazy Horse, among others), is the winner of The Ledge 2009 Chapbook Award. I happened to be reading Lott’s book while the debate over the “cleaning up”/“contemporizing” of Mark Twain’s language was being played out in the press (like most items in the “news,” any mention of it quickly disappeared), so I was particularly interested in the chapbook’s opening poem, “Passage,” with its description of a “Negro church”:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Djelloul Marbrook
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9828100-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 83pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
A lovely gallery of a book. The poet contextualizes his museum/art-inspired poems in a note at the end of the book. His mother, Juanita Rice Guecione and aunts, Dorothy and Irene Rice (Pereira) were visual artists and they, and museums, have long fueled his imagination. In fact, he cannot imagine his life, he says, without them. Poems in the collection were informed by artworks in The Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Chelsea Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Frick, art forgeries, artwork he has encountered in journals, and his mother’s paintings, among other works.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Suzanne Burns
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-66964-046-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 78pp
  • Price $16
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
BlazeVOX’s tagline is “publisher of weird little books,” and The Paris Poems qualifies, beginning with the dedication: “This book is equally dedicated to my husband and traveling partner, my parents, Victor Hugo, and the French macaron.” But, who isn’t captivated by the allure of Paris? (“Always arrive in Paris / on a Sunday afternoon / the skeleton of this fastened city / will become your bones”). Who can forget that Paris has given us some of the most memorable of artistic characters, stories we can never relive or truly adequately duplicate? (“Paris can never be our poem / it belongs to / Gertrude Stein and Alice B. / Henry and Anaïs / the filaments of a million lights / totemic in the tourists’ eyes”). Who doesn’t know that Paris is fashion central? (“Admit / it was a little sadistic / that 249 mile jaunt from / farm country / into history / the soles of your shoes / diffusing the gold medallions of dawn,” from the poem about Louis Vuitton). Who doesn’t long for the patisseries of Paris? (“Pledging my loyalty / like an immigrant seeking citizenship / I drank a cup of chocolate chaud / in a dessert house / steps from where Marie Antoinette / lost her head.”)Who doesn’t believe that Paris is about romance? (“Paris makes you want a man / who understands how to wear a scarf”). Who doesn’t realize that Paris is overrated? (“Most people fly to Paris to see the Louvre / between you and me / Mona Lisa isn’t that pretty / really”). Who doesn’t wish for (nationless) salvation?
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kim Roberts
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-888219-38-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 76pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Animal Magnetism was the winner of The 2009 Pearl Poetry Prize, selected by Debra Marquart, who describes the book as having “great buoyancy” and a “stubborn clinging to life, to love, to human connections.” I agree wholeheartedly with Marquart’s judgment about what makes Animal Magnetism especially worthwhile reading:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ronald Wardall
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0980221190
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 143pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Ronald Wardall’s collection of poems Lightning’s Dance Floor examines the ordinary, what surrounds us everyday, and finds the extraordinary in it. In “Necessity,” the author sets the poem in his “blue-bright child-memory.” Among the details of the train on “the Nebraska track like spaghetti,” “the star-struck window,” and “tell-tale neighbors,” he finds, as a child, that “like my father, my soul / was willing.” “Seeking the Minotaur” works as a type of thesis for the poems, setting the author in the detailed landscape of New York in “immutable / November.” The author “summon[s] up ambition enough to map / the waves” and to “practice prying apart / my ribs with a tuning fork,” a metaphor for his undertaking to pull meaning from the simple everyday actions and objects around him.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Bonnie Bolling
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0982488058
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 69pp
  • Price $10.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Bonnie Bolling’s collection In the Kingdom of the Sons, winner of the 2011 Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry selected by Tom Sleigh, is a sensual work from a distinctly female perspective, exploring topics of motherhood, sexuality and domesticity, and how these aspects of being a woman interplay.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Lana Hechtman Ayers
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-931247-82-5
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 129pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Once upon a time there was a poetry book that re-imagined the popular fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” in a modern context through more than 120 pages of Red Riding Hood poems divided into nine chapters. Most of the poems, with a few exceptions, were introduced by titles in the present tense announcing an act by Red Riding Hood or one of the other familiar characters from her story (“Red Riding Dreams of Another Winter,” “Red Riding Hood Ends Up with the Hunter”; “The Hunter Has His Say”).
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Mary Troy
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 9781886157743
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 365pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Alex Myers
Delicate, patient, and loving, Mary Troy’s novel Beauties offers what only good novels can: a world the reader can escape into. Set in the year 2000 in a seedy neighborhood in St. Louis, Beauties tells the story of two cousins who move in together. Bev, a woman born with severe physical disabilities (she is missing a leg and all but one of her fingers), has just opened a café and, in addition to cooking, is busy fending off a lawsuit from her previous job. Her cousin, Shelly, fresh from a divorce, moves in to help run the café. Soon, both women are handling all the drama life in an urban café can provide.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Matthew Ladd
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1904130437
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 80pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Matthew Ladd’s poetry collection, The Book of Emblems, reminded me of a modern take on Larkin’s Whitsun Weddings. Larkin, perhaps an influence on Ladd’s work, is referred to in his poem “Imitation,” which begins “When I read Philip Larkin / and picture him mugging to Kingsley about WATCHING SCHOOL-GIRLS” and goes on to say, admiringly, “Larkin is such an unrepentant asshole / and for all that, still beautiful, // like an aging circus performer.” The author admires and identifies with Larkin in the difficulty of writing poetry, concluding “how impossible the accurate naming of things: / cathedrals, children, the blank self-regard of the bachelor.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Claire Becker
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9801938-4-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 75pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Kristen Heine
We tend to have expectations for who people should be, what things we should do, how language should act... all of these ideas for what the world and our lives should be like. Everything has its place. Claire Becker, in her collection of poetry, Where We Think It Should Go, asks us to take a step back from those traditional (mis)conceptions. She uses language to play with boundaries, and moves us to see that we can perhaps better make sense of things when they’re less clear:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Rita Mae Reese
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9800407-3-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 79pp
  • Price $17.95
  • Review by Alissa Fleck
Rita Mae Reese’s The Alphabet Conspiracy is a book replete with anecdotes and snapshots of memory, ranging in subject matter from the religious to the informatively historical to the contemporary, which thoroughly explore both the whimsy and restrictions of language. The first poem in the collection, “Intercession,” is a sort of loose, and strikingly clever abecedarian, which sets the stage for the unpredictable throughout Reese’s book, and, by the nature of its form, hints at the way children are introduced to and subsequently forever influenced by language. There is a huge emphasis on the exploration of language throughout the book’s poems, with particular pieces devoted entirely to the complexities and nuances of the subject. Language as theme also works itself into poems dealing with much heavier subject matter. Reese is clearly a lover of the strange in words and thought, and seeks every opportunity to highlight it for the reader. Reese writes in the collection’s title poem:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Maureen Thorson
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933254-85-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 59pp
  • Price $13.00
  • Review by Marcus Myers
The title of Maureen Thorson’s first full-length book Applies to Oranges announces the project’s aesthetic intentions with a sort of typographic pun. At first glance, your brain decodes the title as “Apples to Oranges” and, since you’re most likely an adult with years of experience reading and categorizing, the momentary discordance in discovering the intentional error likely pleases you as much as the first time you walked your stubborn, teenaged eyes up and down M.C. Escher’s infinite staircase to visit his impossible rooms. A sort of double sound pun (where one word sounds like another) for the page, the title readies us for the ways in which Thorson will break apart linguistic categories, subvert the order of things, and refashion the language of loss for her own uses.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Alexander MacLeod
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-897231-94-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 219pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Olive Mullet
Finalist for Canada’s Scotiabank Giller Prize, Alexander McLeod writes his first short story collection, Light Lifting, with intense physical details and mostly dark but realistic endings.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Paolo Mantegazza
  • Translated From Italian
  • by David Jacobson
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8032-3032-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 207pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Patricia Contino
Clean energy, universal healthcare, and stress-free air travel are reality. There is no crime or homelessness. The universal language is called Cosmic. Political parties are banished to desert islands. Hamlet is still performed. All this and more is the world Italian anthropologist Paolo Mantegazza creates in The Year 3000: A Dream. Translated into English for the first time as part of The University of Nebraska’s “Bison Frontiers of the Imagination Series,” this entertaining 1897 novel has been rescued from the black hole of book oblivion.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Adam Golaski
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 9780984616602
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 209pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Alex Myers
Composed of sixty-three petite fictions, Color Plates combines excellent prose with a unique organizing principle, making this a volume unlike any other. The stories are sorted into four books, each book containing prose relating to an artist: Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Mary Cassatt. Each of these books contains more than a dozen stories, which take their titles from the names of paintings by the artists – “Woman Fixing Her Stocking,” “The Boating Party,” or “The Dance Class,” for instance. Each title is accompanied by a brief description of the paintings while the stories that follow respond to, recreate, inhabit, and expand the world of these pictures.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Jeremy Halinen
  • Date Published 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9830448-0-2
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 74pp
  • Price $12.95
  • Review by Angela Veronica Wong
Jeremy Halinen’s debut book of poems, What Other Choice, is an urgent collection of poems, driven by acknowledging the physicality of being gay in spaces that do not always allow for it. Exploring bodies—“as if my body // had been the trap,” Halinen writes—through sex and through violence is a focus throughout the collection. Halinen writes the body as a thing understood and alien, as something presented and interpreted, as something that is not necessarily but also necessarily representative of the self: “If…this body / a magnet, // would you understand / why I was here?”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Emily Kendal Frey
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-880834-94-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 61pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Alissa Fleck
Emily Kendal Frey toys with the utmost minimalism in The Grief Performance. In the first section of the book, her poems strongly favor striking imagery over narrative with—at-times cryptic—snapshot poems consisting of very short lines and frequent line breaks. The images are nonetheless powerful, always expanding unconventionally on a telling title, including six pieces entitled “The End.” Death is, pertinently, the great equalizer in Frey’s poems: “Then you die / in the big wooden chest of glory / alone,” she writes in “Meditation on a Meditation of Frost” and “We’re all going / to the same place” in “The March.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Martha Silano
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 9780981859194
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 90pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Kristin Abraham
Although she has published two books prior, I’d never read Martha Silano’s work, but she’s earned a new fan in me after reading this, her latest volume. Chosen by Campbell McGrath for the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception definitely deserves such an honor. Buy it, and you’ll have a constantly surprising little treasure in your collection to return to often.
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