The universe in Chris George’s The Occultation (Surveyor Books, 2021) is dark and nihilistic but also filled with morbid humor, and even redemption. A missing disabled mother leads her caretaker daughter on a barefoot late-night odyssey in “The Suicide,” an alcoholic finds solace and comfort in an abandoned flying-saucer house on a stormy night in “A Small Good Place;” these stories wind their way through human suffering and frailty.
Ayesha Asad’s Waveborne (Bottlecap Press, 2022) carries on its crest a blend of cultural identity, resettling, growth, striving. The poems present few breaks; they just keep moving, like determined waves destined for shore, full of radiance.
Matthew W. Baker’s debut chapbook Undoing the Hide’s Taut Musculature (Finishing Line Press, 2019) is a visceral and incisive exploration of what it means to have a body. Baker’s poems delve into mortality, illness, surgical interventions both elective and necessary, and radical changes both voluntary and beyond the speaker’s control. The speaker in these poems grapples with isolation and relationships, offering an unflinching portrayal of the mother/son dynamic.
In Better Ways to See, Alan Gann offers us a fresh pair of eyes to catch the details we are likely to miss in the natural world. Every poem seems to ask, “why not sing or bloom or fly?” (“spiral orb”). Part I of this collection, “Wanderings with birds,” literally gave me the sensation of having wings, of believing “We each sing our morning notes/ to remind the world/ I’m still here and no matter/ what happens before night descends/ all contribute/ to the golden-holy-resplendent song divergent” (“Chorus”)
An exploration of Iceland’s most idiosyncratic museums and collections, The Museum of Whales You Will Never See takes readers across a country shaped by geological forces as powerful as the stories told and collected there. The following is a conversation between author Kendra Greene and WD contributor Katy Dycus.
Loretta Diane Walker is treasure in the Texas poetry community. She is the author of many books, including a full-length collection, Day Begins When Darkness Is in Full Bloom (Blue Light Press, 2021) and the topic of this review, her most recent chapbook, From the Cow’s Eye & Other Poems, which won the 2021 William D. Barney Memorial Chapbook Prize from The Fort Worth Poetry Society. The poems in the collection show off Walker’s poetic range; the speaker weaves stunning Texas landscapes and offers deft observations about love, grief, music, dreams, superheroes, and much more.
Published by Black Lawrence Press in November 2020, Lindsay Illich’s poetry collection, Fingerspell, begins by presenting the images for spelling out the letters of the alphabet. After the birth of Illich’s daughter, who has Down syndrome, she “felt every emotion as if through a vivid filter, supersaturated”.
I was excited when I found out Lauren Berry’s second poetry collection, The Rented Altar (2020), would be published by C&R Press. Her debut collection, National Poetry Series winner The Lifting Dress (Penguin, 2010), is a book I’ve returned to many times over the years since I first picked it up. I was fascinated by the lush, dark, terrifying world of Berry’s young speaker in the first book, and I expected her second book to be just as compelling.
The Best Prey (Pleiades Press, 2021), Paige Quiñones’s debut poetry collection and winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, contain poems that pulse to a provocative beat. It’s a rhythm that edges on the powerful intersection of danger and desire.
Robin Myrick describes her debut poetry collection, I AM THIS STATE OF EMERGENCY (Surveyor Books, 2020), as “about us.” The result of an eight-year listening project, Myrick’s poems examine the ways political discourse permeates our lives, our relationships, and our imaginations.
Rebecca Balcárcel’s debut middle-grade novel, THE OTHER HALF OF HAPPY (Chronicle Books, 2019) stars Quijana, a bicultural girl who grappling with the tumult of being 12 years old. Why is your friendly neighborhood poet reviewing a novel written for children ages 8 to 12?
During the 2-month lockdown in Madrid, a picture book arrived for me in the mail: Carson Ellis’s Home. And while we are no longer in strict lockdown, I still spend much more time at home than I ever have before. I think about home much more than I ever have before.
Jazmina Barrera’s first book to be translated into English by Christina MacSweeney, On Lighthouses, is an exploration of many things—writing, collecting, travel, literary history—centered around various lighthouses and the stories they contain. The following is a conversation between author Jazmina Barrera, translator Christina MacSweeney, and WD contributor Katy Dycus.
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