Tag Archives: Poetry

‘The Tradition’ by Jericho Brown: Bursts of Ecstasy and Longing

To some extent, every poet creates a persona. Think of Berryman’s Henry, for example. But Jericho Brown has done so more fully and convincingly than most. Born Nelson Dimery III, he answered to the name Jericho in a dream. In that dream the name allowed him go through a door. He later learned that the loose translation of the name is “defense,” and he discarded his birth name and became the unmistakably singular poet Jericho Brown. In the same way, he has transformed his evangelical fundamentalist upbringing into spirituality, physicality, and song. This transformation is showcased in his latest book, …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Love and I’ by Fanny Howe: A Meander through a Singular Mind

Fanny Howe prefers to be alone—perhaps that’s what makes her such a perceptive poet. In her latest collection, Love and I (80 pages; Graywolf Press), the fruits of Howe’s solitude are on full display. Howe is introspective, curious, and content when she is by herself. Many of the poems in Love and I celebrate the comforts of being alone: I’ll sit at the window Where it’s safe to say no. Won’t go out, won’t work For a living, will study the clouds Becoming snow. That’s not to say Howe doesn’t grapple with the aches of loneliness as well: “Someone help …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Q&A with Brandon Shimoda: ‘The Grave on the Wall’ and Writing with Ghosts

How to capture a life, how to represent it, is a difficult if necessary question to address in writing. Brandon Shimoda’s The Grave on the Wall (222 pages; City Lights Books) relentlessly contends with this concern as it recounts the story of Midori Shimoda, the author’s grandfather, within the entangled histories of immigration, Japanese incarceration during World War II, mourning, and memory. The book is also an examination of writing itself, the mechanism available for, and sometimes burdened with, conveying these stories; with relaying and reimagining them, opening them to visitation. A chronicle of the living and the dead and the places …Continue reading

Posted in Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Be Recorder’ by Carmen Giménez Smith: A Call to Action

Anyone who has ever questioned the capacity of poetry to do something needs to read Carmen Giménez Smith’s newest collection, Be Recorder (88 pages; Graywolf Press). Be Recorder refuses to pretend it lives elsewhere, in some untouchable world of the lyric. Rather, each poem is undeniably here, in the now of state-generated violence and imperialism, of oppressive immigration policies, of love, of motherhood, of writerly politics. This list, while certainly marking many of Giménez Smith’s major attentions, is painfully incomplete: Be Recorder sees everything, even what it has yet to witness. It is this impulse –– to witness and uncover, …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ms. Lonelyhearts”

The phone calls me to attention. An old friend, dead. 89. She had a “good run,’’ as they say, it was for the best, whatever that means. Trumped, quickly, replaced with wincing news that another’s son killed himself, jumped off a bridge too far. Words fail, repeatedly. Searching for emoticons in lieu of emotions. Stir and mix the customary repetitive political jabber, echoing indignation. Where is love? Is it in the stars above? I sink below, mired in timeless sorrow, time beyond time. Multiple failures, fumbles, fright. Who to “speak’’ to? God is dead, or so it’s reliably said. We …Continue reading

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

‘As One Fire Consumes Another’ by John Sibley Williams: Each Poem a Sermon

The poems in John Sibley Williams’ latest book, As One Fire Consumes Another (82 pages; Orison Books), are verbs: they implore and demand, they connect and recall, they cry out and they quietly walk away. The collection, winner of the 2018 of the Orison Poetry Prize, maintains a generational sense of story — an understanding of family that is dense in time and broad in scope as it considers both the immediacy of human relationships and the distance of the natural world. Williams is as acutely focused on the wide arcs of historical violence and injustice as he is on …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Aug 9—Fog’ by Kathryn Scanlan: Glazing the Mundane with Meaning

Kathryn Scanlan’s Aug 9—Fog (128 pages; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) is short and sweet — to be read in one afternoon, then reread many afternoons over. Existing somewhere between fiction, collage, and found poetry, Scanlan’s book is composed of sentences the author pulled from a stranger’s 1968 diary, which she won in an Illinois estate auction. As Scanlan’s authorial voice blends with that of the diary owner, the two meditate together on the passage of everyday life. While reading Aug 9—Fog, I was reminded of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead in the effortless way Scanlan glazes the mundane with meaning. Scanlan forms …Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Know” by Paul Wilner

“I don’t know,’’ my father used to say when I offered the conversational tic, an adolescent affectation. He liked to put people on the spot. When they said they loved reading he’d ask, “What was the last book you read?’’ Uncomfortable silences ensued, he rather enjoyed it. Or if we were sitting around at dinner and referred to him in third person, the matriarchal duet, my mom and sister emotionally outweighing the two of us. I had divided loyalties at best, anyway. “Who’s he?’’ my dad would say, countering the implied lack of respect, deference. He wasn’t a martinet, or …Continue reading

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

“Who” by Kevin Killian: ZYZZYVA No. 45

San Francisco is mourning the loss of one of its greatest writers. Kevin Killian was not only a tremendous talent –– as a poet, a novelist, a playwright, an art critic, and more –– but one of the most gregarious and giving souls one could hope to meet. The following is his poem “Who” from ZYZZYVA No. 45 in its entirety: Who, I didn’t love him enough ninety thousand names for the government to gamble on, to conjure, out of a hole so big it could be only Who said to me look at my lesions, no, Kevin, really look, …Continue reading

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Q&A with Ross Gay: ‘The Book of Delights’ and an Essay a Day for a Year

Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights (288 pages; Algonquin Books) is a collection of over 100 short essays. The project began as a type of writing exercise: Gay would write one essay about something delightful every day for a year. While the collection doesn’t contain an essay for every single day of that year, and some of the essays might be called more thought-provoking than purely delightful, the book couldn’t be more aptly named. The pieces read at times like prose poetry or journal entries, and they cover a variety of topics, such as a single flower growing out of …Continue reading

Posted in Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Little Key’ by Joshua Rivkin: National Poetry Month

April represents National Poetry Month, intended as a way to spread awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. To celebrate, each week we will be taking a look back at ZYZZYVA’s recent and distant past to share some choice selections. For our final installment, we present “Little Key” by Joshua Rivkin from Issue No. 103: Hopes are shy birds flying at a great distance, seldom reached by the best of guns, Audubon wrote in his journal thinking not of the hawk or the wren but of course the sparrow. An animal throat untwists the shadow of your name. Song replying …Continue reading

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Lost Boy’ by Matthew Dickman: National Poetry Month

April represents National Poetry Month, intended as a way to spread awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. To celebrate, each week we will be taking a look back at ZYZZYVA’s recent and distant past to share some choice selections. For our fourth installment, we present “Lost Boy” by Matthew Dickman from Issue No.108:  I’m standing behind the 7-Eleven moving a crushed-up can around with my foot. I’m maybe twelve blocks away from the house I grew up in. I could walk there right now if I wanted. See who’s living there and if the house is the same or not …Continue reading

Posted in Excerpts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment