Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the backissue database. PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital edition via our app or online. For more information on PW's new integrated subscription plan, click here. If you are currently a PW subscriber, click "Login" for full access to the site (if you have not done so already, you will need to set up your account for the new system by going here), or click the "Subscribe" button to become a PW subscriber. Email service@publishersweekly.com with questions.

Login or Subscribe
Wrestling with Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen

Edited by Liana Kerzner and Jerome Stueart. Hades/EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy, $15.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-77053-068-3

The enjoyable but unexciting eighteenth installment of Tesseracts, an anthology series collecting short science fiction, fantasy, and horror prose and poetry by Canadian writers, is focused on religious themes. Some of the religions discussed are real, such as the Christianity of Robert J. Sawyer's rather clichéd priest building a congregation on Mars in "Come All Ye Faithful"; some are real but extrapolated into possible future strangenesses, such as the kitschy android maybe-messiah of Derwin Mak's "Mecha-Jesus." But the standouts of the collection make up their own religions and cultures, such as James Bambury's charming "Chromatophoric Histories of the Sepiidae," which traces the entire course of a civilization of octopi, or Megan Fennell's powerful "Where the Scorched Man Walks," in which a young woman has to confront her feelings about her culture's enigmatic death god. The poems are generally slight, but Tony Pi's "A Hex, with Bees," structured around the I Ching, is the book's best single piece. When the collection errs, it's on the side of cliché and occasional clumsy language, and a higher percentage of the book is set in post-apocalyptic hellscapes than seems necessary. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Women in Public

Elaine Kahn. City Lights (Consortium, dist.), $13.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-87286-681-2

Kahn's precise and attentive debut full-length collection probes at notions of femininity with a sharp dagger, her terse but assertive stanzas carrying an understated conviction. "Listen, I'm not political, I am distracted," she proclaims, though her focused language will convince readers of her intelligence and savvy. Kahn examines and attempts to understand womanhood, relationships, and the abjection surrounding both. Deeply personal, her poems exude a careful intimacy. "Every observation is perverse," she writes, "So kiss me/ like you're eating/ soft serve/ from a cone." Despite her constant self-examination, Kahn's curiosity and doubts remain: "I have seen a million/ pictures of my face/ and still/ I have no idea." In this outward radiation one finds sensations of simultaneous self-disgust and self-fascination. "I make myself into a line," she exclaims, before finding "The horror of myself/ and the meanness of myself./ The black boxes of my body / floating just above the earth." This sense of disembodiment and self-removal permeates the collection: "I call out from the water perfectly/ oh hello glossolalia my God." Kahn's poems emulate both the microscope and telescope, looking at once inward and outward in succinctly speaking to and about womanhood. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Some Habits

C. Violet Eaton. Omnidawn (UPNE, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-63243-004-5

Eaton's debut, selected by Forrest Gander as winner of the 2013 Omnidawn Open Prize, buzzes with idiosyncrasies and personal meditations. The collection is organized as a series of letters to a man named David that take on the appearance of an ars poetica and journal: "David I am trying to scratch into what are observations. Hollow out : will write of them here." Folkloric remedies abound alongside jinxes and grimoires: "sevenbark : ninebark : sheepshit tea/ ... the black ant powdered, mixt w/ lard/ will prod an infant slow to walk." Ozark dialect colors the collection, inhabiting the poem with local voices: " ‘What view have ye of God?'/ Predestination./ ‘What think ye of man in his first/ erectitude?'/ A few ready switches set beside the doorframe." Occasionally, the letters to David, composed by an unidentified speaker, appear propelled by sound over meaning: "Dear David,// the cleft in your dinnerplate pockets a swift./ that pink on my kerchief is waltzing away./ at first I seen you standing one aspect in two halves." Elsewhere, the speaker offers guidance: "I will tell you david how to rid yourself of this melancholie: Bind the entrails of a chicken to your left palm." Eaton's distinctive idiolect is full of jarring and inventive juxtapositions. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
A Roll of the Dice

St%C3%A9phane Mallarm%C3%A9, trans. from the French by Jeff Clark and Robert Bononno. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $25 (96p) ISBN 978-1-940696-04-1

French poet Mallarmé's 1897 text, both a poem and a work of visual art, has long been heralded as the very beginning of the international avant-garde. Writers for decades have seen its amazements: sentences broken up and reassembled, words in many type sizes and conjunctions, splayed all over each page. Indeed, the poem's lightning-frantic, arresting phrases alert readers that it seeks a new verbal world, a "whirlwind of hilarity and horror// above the abyss." Poet and book designer Clark (Music and Suicide) and prolific translator Bononno produce a fine contemporary English to match the dazzle of Mallarmé's French. But their real claim to attention is the physical, typographical form of the book, which—more neatly than any prior version—matches the visual experience of "Un coup de des"; Clark and Bononno duplicate the layout and design that Mallarmé wanted (but never got before his death), first in their English, and then in Mallarmé's French, using different typefaces for the two languages, but otherwise the same design. The full-page photographs between text pages come uncomfortably close to illustration, yet the pages of text do something to and for a reader's attention, reaching places that a more conventional printing might not find. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Revenge of the Kremlin: A Malko Linge Novel

G%C3%A9rard De Villiers, trans. from the French by William Rodarmor. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $14.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-8041-6935-6

In de Villiers's draggy third Malko Linge novel to be published in the U.S. (after 2014's Chaos in Kabul), a prominent Russian exile, corrupt oligarch Boris Berezovky, is found dead with a length of cord around his neck that's tied to the shower head in the master bathroom of Berezovky's English manor. When the British authorities refuse to investigate, the CIA station chief in London turns to Linge for help. The crafty agent, assisted by his usual assortment of secret sources, tradecraft tricks, and sex-hungry female informants, tracks the killing back to the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin's desire to eliminate potential rivals. De Villiers (1929–2013) never bragged about literary pretentions, but the writing in this installment is even more clichéd and artless than usual. Scenes of true action are scarce, and readers should be prepared for the author's distinct signature: raunchy, detailed sex that serves no discernible plot purpose. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Pelvis with Distance

Jessica Jacobs. White Pine (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-935210-66-5

In this detailed, raptly lyrical debut collection, Jacobs mixes scenes from the life and letters of Georgia O'Keeffe—alone and alongside her husband, Alfred Steiglitz—with the poet's own present-day responses to the great painter. "Construct meals with a life-raft eye. Go to bed before full dark," Jacobs advises herself, writing "a letter to the poet I cannot finish." In Jacobs's account, Steiglitz, a photographer, tells O'Keeffe, "Look/ closely and you will see// the self I want you to be." Her long, admiring, well-researched examination of a woman very used to being looked at switches with ease among points of view, while paying homage to O'Keeffe's passion for solitude and her independent eye. In a project constructed as a set of short poems, each keyed to one moment, Jacobs finds ways to vary her pace and her forms, from very short lines to thick prose paragraphs: her tones, however pursue a rapt, observant constancy. This work should delight the painter's many fans, and its sentences evoke her paintings' beauty. At the same time, though, it's hard to know how much Jacobs's labor adds, either to the trove of ways to think about this particular painter, or to the set of modes in which earlier poets have told the story of somebody's life. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper

Abdourahman A. Waberi, trans. from the French by Nancy Naomi Carlson. Univ. of Chicago/Seagull, $21 (96p) ISBN 978-0-85742-238-5

Novelist Waberi, the best-known contemporary writer from the East African nation of Djibouti, evokes "an entire life in the echo of my tongue" in his first collection of poems. His terse sequences incorporate the region's recent troubles with civil wars and Islamic extremists ("the Somali bullet: bloom of a new genus/ that bans/ all transports of joy") along with ancient fable and history. The Koranic story of Bilal recurs as a myth of national origin; the poet asks us to "let nomadic words live," with "oral ancestors' shadow/ resisting harsh winters." Sometimes Waberi returns to the landscape: "my tree the aloe/ my flower the crack in the cactus/ my river none in my land." But his verse, in its trim stanzas and its thin lists, insists on its modernity too: "for miniature republic/ parsimonious poems." Carlson's translation sounds spare and clear, though not always distinctive: few readers will cherish the English for the style alone. More than a few, though, will be glad to find the unity of place and feeling, "native soil/ between fig trees and loose stones" where "the dog of my deepest self/ is there/ curled on the ground." (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Laodicea

Eric Ekstrand. Omnidawn (UPNE, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-63243-003-8

Ekstrand's debut collection is a slow burn in which poems dance around the idea of apocalypse, both literally and metaphorically, as they build on what has come before and provide a grounding for what comes next. Each line enters "as inexactly as anxieties" while also presenting a strange sort of clinical exactness that is almost textbook-like in nature. Ekstrand will present a moment or image then shift the lens a fraction to show the side the reader can't quite see. Ultimately one finds a refusal of metaphor—a forest is "exactly how I expect/ a bamboo forest to look"—with tension aggregating from images being picked apart so delicately, always with an awareness that metaphor could exist. The second half of the book delves into a time/place motif that touches on race relations in North Carolina pre-WWII. These poems seem out of place, even unfinished, contributing to a sense that the tension of the first half expends itself and drifts to the final page. While Ekstrand is similar to Frank O'Hara in tone and plainspokenness, there is a decided lack of conversational approach. At times the works read like dictionary entries; they're academic and dry, and while there is beauty in the details of a moment, those details have to be plucked to life. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Hemisphere: Poems

Ellen Hagan. Northwestern Univ./TriQuarterly, $16.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-0-8101-3080-7

Hagan's second collection (after Crowned) is centered on creation and femininity, discussing the generations of women around her, motherhood and daughterhood, and even girls she sees on the subway. She dreams of a world where women are free from oppression and violence while acknowledging that it cannot exist. The book opens with a call to attention and goes on to name the world as it is for Hagan during her pregnancy. This declaration of ownership by naming, akin to what Adam did in the Garden of Eden, is the most interesting section of the book. Full of sentimentality for the future and a genuine love of the women around her, Hagan presents poems about pregnancy and womanhood that are really about the world. The rest of the book is divided into two sections: one about the speaker's own history, and one about the actual birthing process. These sections are less successful and feel like retreads of other feminist writings. The writing is beautiful and plain, emotional without being overwrought. By the time readers reach the collection's close—"all of you tilted/ from the hemisphere of me"—it is clear that Hagan means more than the daughter just born. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
Far-Fetched

Devin Johnston. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23 (96p) ISBN 978-0-374-15359-5

Johnston (Traveler) offers a fifth collection of poems that sparkle with a sharp eye for image and ear for language play. The way Johnston describes a pair of Orpington chickens "with iridescent necks" would serve equally well for the poems themselves: they "kindle in each yolk, the smallest flame of spring." The first half of the collection examines the textures and strange mysteries of the natural world, occasionally in language that seems to come from another time. "Be stil, and smoothly draw your flye/ to and fro in a kind of daunce/ as if it were alive," Johnston instructs a would-be fly fisher. Then Johnston shifts his subject matter to contemporary urban landscapes without altering the crisp precision with which he sees his surroundings. A "hand waits its turn/ outside a bag of popcorn," and a surprising conversation takes place on a flight from Houston. This is where Johnston lets his character slip through, exploring his role as a poet, birdwatcher, and father. "Let the child cry awhile," he writes, waiting for his child to sleep. In Johnston's arresting poems, "eyes roll inward/ and night unravels/ the wale/ that day has knit." (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.