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NewPages Book Reviews

Posted March 14, 2011

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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Jennifer S. Cheng
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-934832-27-1
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 56pp
  • Price $9.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
One great idea. One beautiful little book. Ander Monson of New Michigan Press creates fantastic chapbooks with a preference, and special contest for, innovative hybrid manuscripts. The full-length chapbook essay form is especially appealing, and Cheng’s work is perfect for this structure. Her chapbook is a personal memoir-photo-cultural exploration-essay in one compact, smartly designed package (publisher/editor Monson is also the designer).
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Timothy McBride
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8101-2675-6
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $15.95
  • Review by Renee Emerson
The Manageable Cold, Timothy McBride’s first poetry collection, is perfect to read in the midst of a hard winter. I was surprised to see that this was only his first book, since McBride writes with a confidence and skill that one would not expect from a new poet. McBride is not afraid to experiment with form, and the book includes forms ranging from free verse to villanelle to sonnet. He explores the theme of “manageable cold” through the physical coldness of winter, country life, relationships, and the bleak hardships of his father’s favorite sport, boxing.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Susan Terris
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9725384-11
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $16.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
“I make and remake myself,” the poet writes in “No Stork,” the collection’s opening poem. The whole of the book is similarly smart, composed of economic lines that contain more than seems possible, given their deceptive simplicity and plain diction. Terris reminds us that poetry need not be arch and “high brow,” down and dirty (edgy, rough, street-wise), or impossibly inventive (structurally or syntactically over-ambitious) to be artful (“If I / told you what I know, you’d question / my solutions”).
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Matt Mauch
  • Date Published December 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0982955307
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 100pp
  • Price $13.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
In Prayer Book, Matt Mauch’s poems are prayers for the simple, everyday things. They are “Prayers to be prayed over French fries, green beans, sausages, the rest,” and “Prayers for those flying solo on jet plans ascending and descending through turbulence reminded of the ghost on a bicycle ghost-riding stairs.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Caroline Bergvall
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9822645-8-4
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 164pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Bergvall’s bio is worth reading before engaging with Meddle English, and I say engaging (rather than reading) because this isn’t a book one reads in a traditional sense, but more like a book to be considered. Here’s the first paragraph of the poet’s page-long bio:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Ed Madden
  • Date Published April 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-59021-340-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 86pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
I love Ed Madden’s poetry best when he is talking about the landscape of his childhood. “Forsythia, early spring,” begins with the vivid description:
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Simmons B. Buntin
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1907056499
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 98pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Bloom, Simmons B. Buntin’s second poetry collection, is a book that immediately draws the reader in. Buntin’s comforting tone invites the reader to pull up a chair and listen to his stories—stories about his family, the desert landscape of Arizona, and light and darkness. The book is divided into three sections—“Shine,” “Flare,” and “Inflorescence,” further developing the subtle thread of light versus darkness that can be found in the undercurrent of his poems.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Brian McGettrick
  • Date Published February 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-1-934513-29-3
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 52pp
  • Price $13.00
  • Review by Renee Emerson
Everything Else We Must Endure is the first collection of poetry by Irish poet Brian McGettrick. The book, published by sunnyoutside, a small independent press, is beautifully designed—a slim gold-colored volume with artwork by Jonathan Barcan on the cover.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Katie Phillips
  • Date Published 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9820626-3-0
  • Format Chapbook
  • Pages 41pp
  • Price $12.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
There are only 500 copies of this priceless little postcard book and I am the proud owner of #161. Reminiscent of the linked postcard books available on those little turning stands in shops and drugstores and souvenir outlets in tourist towns, the top-bound spiral book of photos (all but the title page by Ron Rapp were taken by the poet) and poems was the winner of the press’s 2010 chapbook competition. The poems are stark little stories that match the landscapes depicted. They reflect the same sense of poetic sensitivity and originality the poet demonstrates in her title’s punctuation (that extraordinary comma).
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  • Book Type Fiction
  • by Ryan Stone
  • Date Published September 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-935708-08-7
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 190pp
  • Price $14.95
  • Review by Elena Spagnolie
Ryan Stone’s writing absolutely shines in his collection of twelve short stories entitled Best Road Yet. In particular, Stone is able to create realistic, multilayered characters who have distinct personalities—the way they speak, talk, eat, and even snore is engrossing, largely because Stone takes the time to develop the details and complexities of each individual. He writes: “He was only a sliver, a slip of the tongue they sometimes let out, and that’s how they mentioned him. Eddie’s coming, too, they’d say.” It is clear that Stone writes with intention, aware of how each element of writing contributes to the development of the story, and he has great control in his work.
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  • Book Type Nonfiction
  • by Sarah Royal
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1934620847
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 96pp
  • Price $5.00
  • Review by Tanya Angell Allen
Although it includes a glossary of bookbinding terms and a three-page photo-essay on “How To Bind A Book,” The Book Bindery is less about book binding than the function of creativity and negativity in a work environment. Sarah Royal, who worked briefly at a bindery in Chicago right after graduating from college, writes that “even if you’re in utter bliss over your job, you still need to feed off of negativity in some form or another. Bitching about what you’re doing or joining in on bitching about someone else’s predicament is what makes everything roll by day to day.” She and her colleagues spent hours gossiping about their transvestite boss, coworkers, and the naked neighbor who lived next door to the factory. They played Bingo with the most common quips made by the bindery’s secretary over the Intercom. During coffee hour they built a shrine out of “action figures, Hot Wheels, badminton rackets….whatever interesting and weird shit we could find.”
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  • Book Type Edited
  • by Kevin Haworth, Dinty W. Moore
  • Date Published March 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8214-1948-9
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 206pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
This anthology brings together presentations given over the last several years at Ohio University’s Spring Literary Festival, which is described by the editors in the book’s introduction as “a remarkable yearly gathering of some of the nation’s most talented and celebrated writers…in the most rural corner of Ohio.” Fifteen of these celebrated fiction writers and poets appear in the publication, to be released in March 2011: Ron Carlson, Robin Hemley, Francine Prose, Billy Collins, Peter Ho Davies, Charles Baxter, David Kirby, Claire Bateman, Stephen Dunn, Lee K. Abbott, Tony Hoagland, Maggie Nelson, Carl Dennis, Rick Bass, and Mary Ruefle. Each writer focuses on a clearly identified, often narrowly defined topic of interest to readers and writers, typically with the twin goals of helping readers understand the writer’s personal approach to composing his or her work and to an idea of some “universal” importance for reading/writing in general.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kathrin Schaeppi
  • Date Published January 2011
  • ISBN-13 978-0-9825731-5-0
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 155pp
  • Price $15.00
  • Review by Sima Rabinowitz
Sonja Sekula (1918-1963) was a Swiss “poète-peintre” (poet-painter) who lived for a time in New York, was a colleague and friend of better known artists of her time (Jackson Pollock, Frida Kahlo, John Cage, Leonora Carrington, Max Ernst), experimented with “blended poetic word combinations” in her visual work, and spent much time “in and out of clinics” because, Schaeppi explains in her book’s epilogue, “her many secret art books and diaries tell of her passion for women in a time when same-sex love was considered a pathology to be cured with extreme treatments.”
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Kate Daniels
  • Date Published November 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-0807137062
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 78pp
  • Price $19.95
  • Review by Larry O. Dean
I was fortunate to hear Kate Daniels read many of the poems from A Walk in Victoria's Secret when it was still a work-in-progress. I'm a firm believer in getting a poet's verbal take on their own work, and while I've been disappointed on some occasions (Wallace Stevens, anybody?), the experience is often revelatory. Daniels was not particularly intense or melismatic in her delivery, but she was involved in the poems well beyond the performance itself—connected might be a better word. The effect of that connection was that she-as-reader was a potent conductor not just of the words on the page, but the emotive power beneath them—she conveyed that sentiment without telegraphing it ahead, or lapsing into sentimentality; a distinct advantage when you are a narrative poet, which resulted in an audience that hung engrossedly on her every word.
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  • Book Type Poetry
  • by Marosa di Giorgio
  • Translated From Spanish
  • by Jeannine Marie Pitas
  • Date Published October 2010
  • ISBN-13 978-1-933254-70-8
  • Format Paperback
  • Pages 87pp
  • Review by Stephanie Burns
The History of Violets is a book to read at dusk, when the light changes, the room darkens and the boundaries between day and night, real and fantastic, seem permeable. First published in Spanish in 1965, Uruguayan poet Marosa di Giorgio's collection of short prose poems, as translated into English by Jeannine Marie Pitas, is a voyage into a garden world populated not only by exquisite flowers and hearty vegetables, but also angels, underground creatures and rabbits, figures both tragic and destructive. Throughout the book, we follow a family living by the garden, whose house is often invaded by its denizens, whether it is the insistent angels or the crazy gladioli. Di Giorgio's own particular brand of magical realism and gift for compelling description ease us into this world where the erotic pulse of creation in the garden is counterbalanced by an undercurrent of death and destruction.
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