Opinions don't matter - the only thing that matters is the work on the page, in the ear or as it tricks out your brain by playing with your eyes.
For what it's worth, these are some brief reviews. They are updated irregularly and are based, largely, on my reading habits rather.
TNJ also accepts reviews and review essays for possible publication.
Double Fold by Nicholson Baker
The Tormented Mirror by Russell Edson
Asunder by Susan Wood
The Throats of Narcissus by Bruce Bond
A Ballad for Metka Krasovek by Tomaz Salamun
Edited by Toni Beauchamp
When I first came to Houston in 1998 I hated it. I saw it as something like a gate to hell or a pit into which one falls and dies a brutal death. Friends would ask about it and I'd lie: I'd say I thought it was okay, that it had it's merits. On the whole, I didn't think there were many merits. My spouse says we came here for me; I say we came here for her happiness. Regardless, we came, and I'm thankful. I'll say the truth: I like Houston.
The point, then, is that some other people have found reasons to revel in this place. Good, a curious collection of essays and graphic work, was assembled to make a record of the state of affairs n Houston at the turn of the millennium. At about 120 pages, the publication gathers the works of many writers, artists, activists, and people who have, by chance or determination, come to Houston, called it home, and helped impact the civic culture in Space City. In their time, the essays illustrate how they've each learned how to celebrate some aspect of the place.
Accompanying each essay, native Houstonian Mel Chin "Illustrates each essay with a conceptual map" of Houston, adding, as the collection's editors put it, "a symbolic counterpoint to the written descriptions of Houston" and a "visual link" between "disperate essays."
Readers will discover the city as seen through the eyes of immigrants, outcasts turned insiders, the disenfranchised made stake holders in the cultural production of a place they all call home. And in those visions and recollections, the ability to understand the idea of "home" and the surprise of what, for the uninitiated, Houston might be.
Of note, Lorenzo Thomas' contribution "Finding a Space for Song," an essay tracing the musical roots of this city some have seen as more gritty than the hardest alleys in New York, provides an insightful look at the evolution and impact of the African American members of Houston's community both on this city and on the national scene. Bao Long Chu, who provides "Home, In Parts," expresses a great deal of what it means to have come here from the ultimate outside - in his case, from Vietnam - and to claim this place as one's own. Others attend to the vital life of the city's visual arts, and to the architecture. Still others offer insight into the political and social evolution of a place both uniting and divisive, though one hopes the divisive forces are going the way of Louie Welch, a former mayor of Houston who during a bid to reenter the office then received his walking papers over, in large part, a comment on the lesbian/gay community.
In short, Good gives good representation and all due props to a city I to am learning to all home.
A Fine Excess: Fifty Years of the Beloit Poetry Journal (Volume 51, Numbers 1 and 2 Fall/Winter 2000/2001)
Marion Stocking, Editor
I think my first copy of The Beloit Poetry Journal was given to me by a professor in Wichita, Kansas, though I could have made that memory up. Since then, I've been an off-and-on subscriber, and normally buy the magazine at the bookstore where I used to work. I make sure I get my quarterly dose of Marion Stocking's reviews and the full-course of what the editors are serving up on the poetry plate.
So it's a great pleasure to see this selection from the magazine's 50 years of publishing. A Fine Excess well represents the poetic production of the latter half of the 20th century and is also testament to the importance of the little magazines to the livelyhood of American letters. Between the covers readers will find everything from Ntozaka Shange, Russell Edson, Albert Goldbarth, William Stafford and Charles Bukowski to the likes of Adrienne Rich, William Carlos Williams, Galway Kinnell, W. S. Merwin and Joyce Carol Oates. You'll find a heck of a lot more, too.
Buy this magazine. Subscribe. Ask for it at your local bookstore. Otherwise, may vermin feast on your bones and may you be remembered unkindly in the poems of a 1,000 awful poets who've among them no sense of line or language, all of whom you'll never find published in The Beloit Poetry Journal.
Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems, 1970 - 2000
A friend and fellow poet talked about how it wasn't until he figured out Plumly's music that he then figured out what the music of poetry means. Plumly's latest offering makes of the old and new a renewed trajectory through the ramparts we manage to make of life. "Kunitz Tending Roses" and "Souls of Suicides as Birds" are two highlight pieces, but there's little to nitpick in the book. You should read it even if you don't like Plumly.
Breaking Up at Totality: a Rhetoric of Laughter
People talk about rhetoric, particularly people who don't think about rhetoric. Rhetoric this, rhetoric that, the rhetoric of the right, the rhetoric of the left. They don't know what they're saying, or they know enough to know they're not saying anything and that makes them happy and us... well, bleary-eyed with boredom.
On another hand, Davis invites us to open our eyes a little wider and examine the potential of a rhetoric wherein there is a Yes - a very big, embracing Yes. She writes, "Though this book does proceed with a certain re/present/ational intent, it also hopes, simultaneously, to perform what George Batalle and Maurice Blanchot call a 'nocturnal communication,' or even a nocturnal emission: a 'communication which does not avow itself, which antedates itself and takes authority from a nonexisting author,' an author who is breaking up."
Davis looks at how we develop boundaries (in language, by bodies, by borders) and how instances can break down those boundaries and reveal a connection shared among subjects that is fluid and excessive. She makes us think differently.
by Hoa Nguyen (Skanky Possum Press)
Brevity and a surreal vision make Dark a startling and wonderful ride.
Some readers will be familiar with Antrim's earlier novel, The Hundred Brothers. Set during a night-long pancake dinner-retreat for a group of psychotherapists, The Verificationist tends to be a little more tongue-in-cheek than Antrim's previous book, but if the reader gives it the time it deserves the reader is justly rewarded.
Spinach Days (poems)
When I first encountered Spinach Days I thought about Hart Crane and Walt Whitman, one for attention to New York and for a coolness in his lines and the other for an all-embracing, full-throttle approach to the world. The poems in Spinach Days bring us closer to ourselves, closer to our neighbors and our world - they do the work of art - and Phillips' approach is as fearless and as full of wonder as that of Whitman. It's American poetry in all the best possible connotations.
Energetic and full of play, Fulton continues to revel in the linguistic acrobatics Sensual Math also performed but takes them a step beyond.