Perennial by Kelly Forsythe (23 Aug 2018)
The events of 1999’s Columbine shooting preoccupy Forsythe in these poems, refracting her vision to encompass killer, victim, and herself as a girl, suddenly aware of the precarity of her own life and the porousness of her body to others’ gaze, demands, violence. Deeply researched and even more deeply felt, Perennial inhabits landscapes of emerging adulthood and explosive cruelty―the hills of Pittsburgh and the sere grass of Colorado; the spines of books in a high school library that has become a killing ground; the tenderness of children as they grow up and grow hard, becoming acquainted with dread, grief, and loss.
Circus by Dante Micheaux (15 Aug 2018)
Dante Micheaux’s superb poetic aptitude is wedded to an eually superb poetic amplitude. Intimate soliloquy, lyric address, and linguistic allegory merge with resonating voices and personae. This poem is masterful, paradoxical and spiritual. The “holiness in all its unholy rejoicing” is variously scored in Dante Micheaux’s commanding Circus.
I still stand by words I wrote almost twenty years ago, when I read Dante Micheaux’s poems for the first time: “I am impressed by the serious depth and masterful technique of Micheaux’s poems. He is a true man of the world, mature beyond his years, one whose voracious intelligence and richly diverse background uniquely equip him for the literary vocation. Circus promises to be received as a masterpiece reminiscent of the best of Melvin Tolson’s work, and some of Micheaux’s poems bear an a nity to the delicate music and wisdom of Robert Hayden. But Micheaux’s in uences are not limited to the stars of African American poetry; his experience and reading ranges wide. Dante Micheaux is a code-switcher fluent in many languages. Some of his lines bring this reader close to heartbreak.”
– MARILYN NELSON
Dante Micheaux’s Circus commands the reader’s attention. In this long poem, each line is tuned by breath and image, serious play and heartfelt critiue, but also by the modern urban motifs of grief and love. At times, signifying can get us to a desperate truth. The reader or listener has to possess a sense of history in order to be transported to the here and now. In Circus, the borders between the imaginary and the real dissolve as the poem delivers us into verisimilitude.
– YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA
Safe Danger by Stephen Zerance (15 Aug 2018)
In Safe Danger, here comes a Stephen Zerance poem sashaying down the street: snakeskin tights, clean-shaven legs, black tee–why it could be Satan himself. It’s a far cry from the baggy khakis and extra large shirt Zerance’s father would have him wear, clothes sure to make him feel like a real man. No dice. Instead, Zerance has demons under his bed and phobias–mosquitos, bees, roaches, spiders, ticks–a veritable house of horrors, his pain and longing all the more powerful for their formal restraint. These are elegant poems, knife thin, taut and edgy.
– BARBRA GOLDBERG
The post-apocalypse is happening now and in Baltimore in the steamy, exciting poems of Stephen Zerance’s Safe Danger, in which the mythic is mashed against the everyday to produce a strange and intoxicating juice fermented with pieces of his own body and accented with notes of lyric intensity.
– DAVID BERGMAN
Stephen Zerance’s Safe Danger is an anxious book, a book about desire and dread, worry and wonder, about how it’s possible to fear what feeds us. These marvelously brutal poems speak the body always on the verge of its own undoing, the body that is “all meat, learning how to suffer.” A skillful debut: artfully written, painfully naked, and radically disruptive.
– AARON SMITH
Playtime by Andrew McMillan
In these intimate, sometimes painfully frank poems, Andrew McMillan takes us back to childhood and early adolescence to explore the different ways we grow into our sexual selves and our adult identities. Examining our teenage rites of passage: those dilemmas and traumas that shape us – eating disorders, masturbation, loss of virginity – the poet examines how we use bodies, both our own and other people’s, to chart our progress towards selfhood.
McMillan’s award-winning debut collection, physical, was praised for a poetry that was tight and powerful, raw and tender, and playtime expands that narrative frame and widens the gaze. Alongside poems in praise of the naivety of youth, there are those that explore the troubling intersections of violence, masculinity, class and sexuality, always taking the reader with them towards a better understanding of our own physicality. ‘isn’t this what human kind was made for’, McMillan asks in one poem, ‘telling stories learning where the skin/is most in need of touch’. These humane and vital poems are confessions, both in the spiritual and personal sense; they tell us stories that some of us, perhaps, have never found the courage to read before.
Appetites by Charles Rafferty (30 July 2018)
Though it might not be yet apparent, what the world hungers for—not just the poetry world but all sentient beings—are the rapturous, precise, lyrical revelations in Charles Rafferty’s Appetites, a startling collection full of poems that chart desire through an abandoned couch transformed into redeeming ecstasy, that channel the “popcorned and sawdusty air” of the circus tent where folks gather to turn away from themselves, that show us the subversive art of souvenir-taking in the form of a sliver of Picasso’s signature smuggled under a fingernail, and that give us a “Prelude” for our time. In the vein of Stephen Dobyns and Denis Johnson, but ever original and even more expertly-crafted, Rafferty is a major American poet. If you don’t know his work yet, you owe yourself this chapbook.