Soul of the City: ‘Deal: New and Selected Poems,’ by Randall Mann

by Gus Berg

With an illustrious career spanning over several acclaimed poetry collections, Randall Mann is a luminary in contemporary poetry. His impressive body of work includes Complaint in the Garden (2004), which garnered him the prestigious Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry, and Breakfast with Thom Gunn (2009), a finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the California Book Award. The depth of Mann’s talent is further showcased in Straight Razor (2013), a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and Proprietary (2017), a finalist for both the Northern California Book Award and Lambda Literary Award. Now, with Deal: New and Selected […]

Continue Reading

Radical hope: ‘Not Too Late,’ edited by Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua

by Zoe Binder

The sun has not yet set on climate activism and our potential for a bright future. So say Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua, the editors of a new collection of essays and interviews, Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story From Despair to Possibility (200 pages; Haymarket Books). Not Too Late features the voices of advocates who have been through the mill in the fight against climate change; they show us that giving up is not an option. They have become thick-skinned and resilient, and their writing offers a guide for us to turn to when we need revitalization. […]

Continue Reading

Bearing Witness: ‘Bone Country,’ by Linda Nemec Foster

by Gus Berg

In Bone Country (110 pages; Cornerstone Press), the thirteenth poetry collection by Linda Nemec Foster, each poem is a snapshot, presented in a fragmented style that emphasizes the intensity of each image. Despite this fragmentation, the collection is united by a quick rhythm that propels the reader. Every piece is imbued with an intense sense of place in Europe. Warsaw, Krakow, Bratislava, the Tatra Mountains, Now Sac, Rzeszow, Tarnow, and the Baltic Sea all make early appearances. Poland is the central focus, from the beauty of natural landscapes to the horrors of war and occupation. The collection explores the tension […]

Continue Reading

Keeping It Light: ‘Always Alwaysland: New Poems’ by Stanley Moss

by Megan Luebberman

Having written several volumes over half a century, the critically acclaimed American poet Stanley Moss continues to offer galvanizing ideas, images, and feelings in his work. His latest, Always Alwaysland (239 pages; Seven Stories Press), contains more than 100 poems covering a wide range of personal, philosophical, and political topics. Using fanciful free verse and occasional rhyme schemes, Moss takes readers through his vivid memories and endless imagination.             While Always Alwaysland has no unifying theme, there are recurring ideas, such as the concept of language, reading, and poetry itself. Moss continually comments about the nature of the poet and […]

Continue Reading

Broken Home: ‘Archipelago,’ by Laila Malik

by Zoe Binder

            From the first piece in her debut poetry collection, Archipelago (86 pages; Book*hug Press), Laila Malik ponders the complexity and impermanence of home, a concept that sometimes stretches across continents. The metaphorical loss of place through multigenerational migration and the literal loss of land through climate change are connected in each of the collection’s four sections (“precambrian”; “petroleum by-products”; “half-life of exile”; and “kufic”).             Many of the pieces in Archipelago are written in the second person, interspersed with the expanded first-person perspective “we,” transforming a collection of personal reflections into a subtle set of instructions. Malik’s poems carry […]

Continue Reading

World-Building: ‘The Nature Book,’ by Tom Comitta

by Zoe Binder

In Tom Comitta’s new work of fiction, The Nature Book (272 pages; Coffee House Press), we never encounter a human being. Taking the form of a literary “supercut” that pieces together words from over 300 novels, Comitta’s collage redirects our attention to the life force that pulses through land, water, time, and outer space. Comitta (they/them) uses ornate prose to describe how time moves across seasons to paint a fresh picture of the world and how all nonhuman life fits into it. A standard fast-paced plot is replaced with a gentle rise and fall in action that decentralizes any characters—wolves, […]

Continue Reading

L.A. stories: ‘Boom Times for the End of the World,’ by Scott Timberg

by Marius Sosnowski

Value is everything. You can tell a lot about a society by what it values. In America, things that move tenaciously with the bravura of a cha-ching—like buildings, prescription pills, and personal data—are big business, practically a national pastime. But what about the arts? The arts are trickier. Art is messy, it’s too human, and by virtue of provoking thought and reflection, too ambiguous (although the market for fine art makes capital use of ambiguity). How do you judge art? What’s it worth? What does it mean? Where’s it from? Who cares? Scott Timberg, former arts reporter for the Los […]

Continue Reading

‘Trace Evidence’ by Charif Shanahan: Worlds Apart

by Valerie Braylovskiy

Trace Evidence (93 pages; Tin House Press) is the second collection of poetry by Charif Shanahan, author of Into Each Room We Enter Without Knowing. These poems use language and form to peel back elements of Shanahan’s identity and show how markers like nationality, race, and sexuality intersect within one’s lived experience. The poems feel deeply personal yet rooted in the universal as Shanahan raises profound questions about human nature and what it means to feel displaced in the world. Born in the Bronx to an Irish American father and Moroccan mother, Shanahan— a professor at Northwestern University— discusses his […]

Continue Reading

‘Meltwater’ by Claire Wahmanholm: Mother, Earth

by Zoe Binder

Claire Wahmanholm’s latest poetry collection, Meltwater (128 pages; Milkweed Editions), is both a lament for the Earth as it suffers the harmful effects of climate change and a poignant reminder of the joys that make life worthwhile despite this loss. Wahmanholm centers the collection on two recurring series of poems—“Glacier” and “Meltwater”—that follow the anxieties of a person raising children on our threatened planet. In “Glacier,” the speaker battles feelings of grief at the sight of a calving glacier—and guilt at the thought of children experiencing a world without these geological formations: I am trying to say it’s too late […]

Continue Reading

‘Feast’ by Ina Cariño: Food for Thought

by Gus Berg

Ina Cariño, the recipient of a 2022 Whiting Award and a 2021 Alice James Award, is a Filipinix American poet whose work draws heavily on intergenerational nourishment and transformation in marginalized communities. Feast (100 pages; Alice James Books), their first book of poetry, is an enriching collection that satisfies a primal hunger for fulfillment while questioning the social conditions that leave people of color deprived. One of the most disarming things about Feast is the bone-deep rawness of this poet’s voice. Even as they veer away from the realm of possibility, the poems feel real because the speaker’s voice remains […]

Continue Reading

‘Novelist as Vocation’ by Haruki Murakami: Persistence as Key

by Danielle Shi

Novelist as a Vocation (224 pages; Knopf; translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen) is Japanese literary icon Haruki Murakami’s comprehensive look at his expansive and prolific career, a collection of thoughts on the process, substance, and form of novel writing, as well as the habits that make for a successful novelist. The autobiographical essays chart his path as an author over thirty-five years, spanning from his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, to more layered and formally complex works such as Killing Commendatore. As a whole, the pieces provide a glimpse into the mind and career of a man […]

Continue Reading

‘Cinema Speculation’ by Quentin Tarantino: Talking Trash

by Paul Wilner

Cinema Speculation (400 pages; Harper), billed as Quentin Tarantino’s “first work of nonfiction,” could easily fall into the category of a quickie volume sold on the basis of the Pulp Fiction auteur’s brand value. So it’s a welcome surprise that this book is entertaining, smart, and vivid. Tarantino hasn’t been making the talk-show circuit as much as the pre-streaming old days (for a while, he was a fixture with the now-discredited Charlie Rose), but he brings the same feisty, movie-mad energy to his prose as he did to his early breakthrough films.             Even his book’s title seems like a […]

Continue Reading