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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted February 1, 2011

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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by L.S. Klatt
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-58729-971-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 84pp
  • Price $17.00
  • Review by C.J. Opperthauser
Fellow Michigander L.S. Klatt's newest collection of poems, Cloud of Ink, showcases his abilities with words and his enormous arsenal of them. Without a doubt, my favorite thing about this collection is the surprising diction that shows up in every poem. Given a poem's topic and Klatt's writing style, one can never know what string of exciting and beautiful words might come next. In “Nocturnal Movements of the Porcupine,” we see this in action:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Zachary Harris
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934832-28-8
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 41pp
  • Price $9.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Full disclosure: I am partial to New Michigan Press chapbooks (they published one of mine). More full disclosure: I am favorably inclined to Ander Monson’s (New Michigan publisher) designs (I worked with him on the design of my chapbook and he is an attentive and respectful designer, as well as publisher). Full disclosure: I still find it odd that “New Michigan” is now in Arizona! (But, that’s where Ander Monson has been for the last few years, teaching in Tucson) And, finally: one of the things I really admire about Monson’s work as a publisher (not to mention his stamina and persistence and his own very successful writing) is his generous editorial vision; he likes a lot of different work and he supports artists with very different tendencies, styles, and preoccupations.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Sarah Riggs
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933254-82-1
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 50pp
  • Price $14.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
An enticing not-quite chapbook, not-quite book, compact little poems in aqua blue ink on smooth ivory stock; lovely deep blue covers with reverse type silver print. When design matters, it matters. So it matters to have this lovely design.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Melissa Broder
  • Date Published February 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9841025-4-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 88pp
  • Price $13.95
  • Review by Michael Flatt
Melissa Broder’s When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother is a collection of narrative portraits, most of them less than flattering. The speaker in this collection is nothing if not critical. Of the woman with suburban ideals, who “should be left to rot in her / dream car with a frozen Jenny Craig / glazed salmon.” Of an aging camp counselor, a “hippie phenomenon / but she is more crow’s feet than feathers.” Of middle-aged men wearing unhip t-shirts, “age 35, attempt / one last punch at design-y-ness.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Trey Moody
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934832-26-4
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 27pp
  • Price $9.00
  • Review by Gina Myers
Trey Moody opens his chapbook Climate Reply with a quote from Francis Ponge’s “The Crate” (translated by Margaret Guiton): “Halfway between cage (cage) and cachot (prison cell) the French language has cageot, a simple openwork container for transporting fruits that sicken at the least hint of suffocation.” This idea of something in between, the slight removal or separation—but also the space for breath—pervades the poems that follow, as do the ideas of sickening and suffocation, in this collection that feels markedly Mid-Western, with its open land, its expansive and threatening skies, and its inability to shake its ghosts.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Madeline McDonnell
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9844889-2-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 79pp
  • Price $10.00
  • Review by Tessa Mellas
Most story collections pilfer their titles from a story within the book. But doesn’t that seem like favoritism, inaccurate representation, a sign that the stories are engaged in aggressive sibling rivalry rather than uniting in one cosmic birthing of art? Madeline McDonnell seems to think so. The title of her slim collection of three stories, There Is Something Inside, It Wants to Get Out, not only refuses to engage in thievery. The title voices the thing that holds these sister stories together, identifies the common emotional core between them, an undercurrent of desperation linked to inhabiting female skin. Each story’s protagonist struggles with a winged angst that flaps around inside her body, signaling a disturbance in her ability to enact her feminine self.
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Mary Hamilton
  • Date Published July 2010
  • ISBN-13 9780978984892
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 36pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Alex Myers
Winner of the Rose Metal Fourth Annual Short Short Chapbook Contest, We Know What We Are is packed full of thirteen micro-fictions. Sometimes stories, sometimes beautiful word play, this collection is a stunning amalgam of brevity and depth.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Charles Wright
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1932511864
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 64pp
  • Price $16.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Outtakes: Sestets is the second artist/poet collaboration published by Sarabande Books. This book pairs a collection of Charles Wright’s unpublished sestets with images by artist Eric Appleby. The first word that comes to mind when reading this book is texture—in both the texture of landscape in Wright’s sestets and the close-up, abstract textures in Appleby’s images. The artwork works perfectly with the poetry—each are focused, minute, observations of shadow and light, life and death.
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Haruo Shirane
  • Translated From Japanese
  • by Burton Watson
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-231-15245-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 160pp
  • Price $22.50
  • Review by Patricia Contino
The telling is in the writing. This is evident on every page of The Demon at Agi Bridge and Other Japanese Tales, a collection of early and medieval Japanese “spoken stories” known as setsuwa. The anonymous chroniclers of these tales not only succeed as The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Charles W. Chesnutt did in preserving narrative, but (thanks to translator Burton Watson) in capturing their entertainment value.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Timothy Donnelly
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933517-47-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 147pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Alissa Fleck
With impressively unconventional language, Timothy Donnelly’s The Cloud Corporation explores the inextricable conflict accompanying the acquisition of knowledge and the act of thinking. Many of the book’s poems read like the experience of peering into the mind of someone who spends extensive periods of time alone, musing on the philosophy of the everyday. Donnelly’s speaker often expresses a desire for passiveness—to be removed from the process of thought altogether—or demonstrates an attempt to rationalize spiritual thought and themes with his bleaker version of reality. The poet takes the language and ideas of the spiritual for a fresh spin, even rewriting certain biblical stories to fit with a more modern perspective of commerce and industry. In “Chapter for Breathing Air Among the Waters,” Donnelly epitomizes this prevailing uncertainty of knowledge:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Nick Flynn
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-55597-574-6
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 104pp
  • Price $22.00
  • Review by Caleb Tankersley
Well worth the wait his many fans have endured, Nick Flynn’s first collection since 2002—The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands—reasserts his reputation as a champion of contemporary American poetry. As the book tackles leading-edge themes such as torture, bodily release, and moral ambiguity by drawing from expansive media and world culture, you begin to realize that these are not your grandpa’s self-referential, literary canon poems. Flynn is influenced by poetry of the past (most notably with the repetition of Whitman’s “oh captain, my captain”), but he also draws from movies, music (I caught Arcade Fire and Britney Spears; I’m sure there’s more), and world events. The strong and subtle messages concerning the Iraq War and the torturing of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other instances lend an uncomfortably gritty realism to the collection; I doubt any reader will be able to finish “seven testimonies (redacted)” and the accompanying notes without shuddering; I couldn’t. I also couldn’t remember the last time a collection of poetry made me shudder.
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