Any book that opens with a quotation by Joy Division is probably worth investigating and Near Miss is no exception.
Engraved on every body and programmed to repeat, “twitch force” is a muscle’s “measurement of its energy potential,” so the back cover of Michael Redhill’s new volume tells us. Quirky, unaffected and completely at ease with itself, the whole book is a twitchy learning curve. Section headings alone—Astronomical Twilight, Chemical Drowsing, Core Sample—illustrate Redhill’s edgy range of call and response. While reading you inevitably increase your word horde. You find yourself looking up scientific terms for transformations of various kinds. You laugh. You learn.
The poems in Souvankham Thammavongsa’s fourth collection, Cluster, warrant multiple readings. Though drawn in simple language, these are not gentle or delicate poems, but blunt, and Thammavongsa is not interested in bringing the reader to places of refuge or comfort. Rather, she quietly shakes the reader out of their privilege with her incisive voice.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Tonguebreaker is a survival handbook for working class disabled femmes of colour. In the opening inscription to the collection of performance texts and poems, Piepzna-Samarasinha lays out a blueprint for a crip future for “all femmes in struggle.” She creates alternate futures through her words, even as she refers to the reality of living precariously as a disabled femme of colour.
From religious texts to fiction to true crime, death, dying, and the possibilities of what comes after have been written about throughout history. And though fascination with death is not unique to writers, they are perhaps uniquely qualified to address it, at least in an entertaining and thoughtful way. Nicola Vulpe does just that in his new collection of poems, Insult to the Brain. Described on the front cover as an “altogether unreliable account” of Vulpe’s “conversations with poets, mostly about dying, but also about other matters great and small,” this collection is a unique ode to poets, their lives, and poetry itself.
I have a confession to make. I dog-ear books I’m reviewing. Reading wherever I happen to be, I crisply fold and tuck a small triangle of the top or bottom of pages I may end up quoting or referencing.
“So many things seem like a BIG DEAL.” So begins the back cover copy for Dina Del Bucchia’s latest poetry collection, and a truer sentence could not be said of our hyperconnected, contemporary world. Every five seconds there’s some new trend or bit of news we’re expected to have a reaction to, whether it’s outrage or joy, sadness or annoyance. It’s a Big Deal! tackles the concept of “bigness”―personal, ideological, physical, or otherwise―examining how we interpret and handle the captivations and distractions of modern life.