Writing book reviews has been a means of deeply engaging in others’ writing, a way of savoring what is delicious and nourishing, and a practice as a writer for understanding how meaning is sought/built/revealed. Here are some books I recommend, if the reviews are available online:
- Connie Wanek’s New and Selected Poems is a great way to get started with this remarkable writer. I reviewed Rival Gardens for Rain Taxi, hoping to show why more people should know this wry, honest, and understated poet.
- As a regular reviewer over at American Microreviews & Interviews (AMRI), I offer my praise of Eamon Grennan’s There Now, which is a book that renews my faith in the lyric poem and sets a standard for what I would like my own work to do.
- I’ve enjoyed few biographies as much as I did Rachel Corbett’s You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin. Not only does it profile two artists that have influenced me from the beginning, but she writes so well, informing the story with great cultural detail and tracing the artistic influences of these two men, that I found it hard to put down. My review appears in The Quarterly Conversation.
- I want everyone to read Martha Collins book Admit One, and you can start with my review of it in Rain Taxi. In fact, read all three books in her trilogy. She examines race in American through history, language, and poetry. Powerful, insightful, and challenging work.
- J.K. Daniels’ debut collection of poems, Wedding Pulls, was selected by the late C. D. Wright for the New Southern Voices Poetry Book Award. It’s a dynamic set of poems with rich, lively language and important themes.
- Julie Marie Wade’s book of seven lyric essays, Catechism: A Love Story, is beautiful, intimate, and reflective. Here’s what I have to say about it at the Colorado Review.
- What causes some few people to resist the power of social pressure toward cruelty and brutality, but instead continue to view–and to act on that view–others simply as human beings, like themselves? I loved reading Eyal Press’s book of essays, profiling a collection of these people in a variety of dire situations in Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times.
Here are some essays that have appeared on the web.
“The Secret History of our Enemies: John Balaban’s Translations of Vietnamese Poetry” appeared in The Critical Flame’s special issue on translation. In it, I argues that reading the literature of our so-called enemies can strenthen our moral and sympathetic imagination, the most powerful force in overcoming enemies–by transforming them into friends.