So many books, so little time . . .
I’m amazed by just how many good books have been published in the past few years. But these five recent releases—through their formal dexterity, philosophizing, evocative imagery, or all of the above—have rendered me speechless . . .
Gregory Robinson’s All Movies Love the Moon: A magnificent collection of prose pieces about the birth of silent film, published by the one and only Rose Metal Press. In this beautifully produced (and beautifully crafted) debut collection, traditional scholarship meets prose poetry, flash fiction, witticisms, and the delightfully strange texts lurking in every university archive. Robinson’s captivating assemblage of ephemera and prose fragments presents the reader with poetry-as-scholarship, and the literary text becomes a space for critical engagement with the artifacts of culture.
Katie Farris’s Boygirls: This haunting and lushly illustrated hybrid collection examines all of the myriad ways that genre, and the various hierarchies and labels we impose upon language, are gendered. Divided into two sections, “Boys” and “Girls,” the style of these prose pieces shifts with the gender categories that are imposed upon the work. The “Girls” section is artfully fragmented, and these luminous fractures suggest the possibility of writing out of, away from, and beyond received forms, expanding what is possible within genre categories (and within conscious experience).
Emily Toder’s Beachy Head: I loved Emily Toder’s Science and was thrilled to see that she had a new collection. Well, let me just say there’s a reason that her second book, Beachy Head, was sold out when I first tried to order it. Toder definitely envisions poetry as a conversation with other literary artists (one can see Dickinson’s influence, as well as the great female Modernists: Marianne Moore, Nancy Cunard, Mina Loy…) but these poems are like no one else’s. Toder shows us the strangeness inherent in language, culture, and the self, restoring a sense of wonder to received literary forms (couplets, tercets, the lyric, etc.).
Carol Guess and Daniela Olszewska’s How to Feel Confident with Your Special Talents: This innovative and engaging collaboration, based on WikiHow, eschews traditional narrative modes, exploring alternative ways of creating tension and conflict within prose. Through their imaginative work and true technical virtuosity, Guess and Olszewska use sound to forge connections between ideas, images, and plot elements within the text. While addressing these larger questions about how we create meaning within a literary work, the poems work beautifully on a stylistic level, offering language that snaps, crackles, sparks, and hums.
Matt Bell’s In The House Upon The Dirt Between The Lake And The Woods: In addition to being one of the most innovative and hard working editors around, Matt Bell knows how to craft prose paragraphs that are just as stylistically compelling as a prose poem. The high register, and almost biblical syntax, of his first novel are ideally suited to the book’s mythical content (which presents readers with an impatient fisherman, a barren landscape, a wife who sings objects into being). Through this graceful matching of style and content, Bell’s first novel offers one of the few truly convincing examples of contemporary magical realism.
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