The Well-Wrought Void: Joan Houlihan on Christian Wiman

Reviewed: every riven thing by Christian Wiman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. 93 pages.

From its hardcover heft and granite-engraved dust jacket (remove the jacket and a black, bible-like, hardback cover is revealed), to its ivory paper stock and black section divider pages (complete with roman numerals blazoned in white), every riven thing announces the solemnity it aims to deliver and does: verses crafted as if with a chisel on stone, the weight of each line falling into the congregation of a hushed readership, organ sounding in the background—

There is no consolation in the thought of God,

he said, slamming another nail

in another house another havoc had half-taken.

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Meaningful Disorientations: Joanie Mackowski Reviews Books by Mary Jo Bang and Peter Campion

Reviewed:

The Bride of E by Mary Jo Bang, Graywolf, 2009

The Lions by Peter Campion, University of Chicago Press, 2009

One common dictum about poetry, often heard in creative writing classrooms, goes like this: “You can’t write about senseless experience with senseless poems,” or substitute any undesirable adjective for “senseless”—say “meaningless” or “disorderly” or “boring”: a boring poem doesn’t productively make the reader feel an interesting kind of boredom.… continue reading...

A Polish Poet You Should Know

Reviewed: Peregrinary by Eugeniusz Tkaczszyn-Dycki, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston, Zephyr Press, 2008, $14.95

Translator Bill Johnston observes that Eugeniusz Tkaczszyn-Dycki’s hyphenated last name is a bit much even for Poles, and I follow their (and Johnston’s) custom in referring to the poet henceforth as Dycki—pronounced Dits-kee.… continue reading...

A Formal Party

Reviewed:

After the Revival by Carrie Jerrell. Waywiser Press, 2009.

Domestic Fugues by Richard Newman. Steel Toe Books, 2010.

There are a number of striking similarities between these books: for starters, there’s the preference both poets display for traditional meters and forms, as well as the variety of those forms—sestinas, sonnets (Petrarchan, Shakespearean, terza rima and otherwise ) blank verse, rondeaux, villanelles.… continue reading...

An Ellipsis Experiencing Phantom Excitement In a Sentence Limb

Ghost Girl by Amy Gerstler. Penguin Books, 2004. 67pp, $16.

First, a problem of definition. This latest catch-all of Amy Gerstler’s, Ghost Girl, is really less a “book of poems” as such than it is a bringing together, a propulsive gleaning of all the notions of a poetic nature that happened to pass her way since Medicine, her last such collection and the eleventh to appear before the one under review.… continue reading...

A Glint of Bullion Hefted

Where Shall I Wander by John Ashbery, Ecco Press, 2005. $22.95

When even a very fine poet is able to lob twenty-five volumes of verse into circulation in no more than twice that number of years, there are bound to be, as age withers and custom stales, trace-amounts of dross visible amid the threads of gold and silver.… continue reading...