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Hard Child (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). Natalie Shapero. Violently likable. Death claps along in each poem. Sometimes you have to cover your ears. Animals & plants & God-things wait in line inside the same memory. The poet functions, well, to malfunction. It's pleasing, the way dumping ice into grass is pleasing.

Late Empire (Copper Canyon Press, 2017). Lisa Olstein. For a second, you might be like: do I want to listen? But a second ain't nothing, so all the seconds after the first are YES. The intellect re-imagines emotion; translate: poems that don't make you cry, but beckon. Aphoristic; driven: the poet's deeply amused—rather than devastated—by perception.

Distant Mandate (FSG, 2017). Ange Mlinko. A literature gazing into literature. Myth-drenched; drugged by craquelure. The part of the wall a mirror hides is where words almost die. Or poems that ask which you enjoy: the flowers or the vase. This poet, whose poems are lathered in ruins, discovers intimacy in those things made in defiance.

Woods & Clouds Interchangeable (Wave, 2019). Michael Earl Craig. Curiously tedious. Surreal, in a Pioneer Valley way. It's hard to express how devastatingly boring these poems are, like life after the voltage of youth drops. This poet needs a change of address. (Or clearly not.) And yet there is one redeeming quality: an absence of frustration.


A Sand Book (Tin House, 2019). Ariana Reines. The poet isn't ashamed of being ashamed for being. Corporeal cosmopolitanism; lyric universe; humane—a poetry of sobbing. (The like is the malware of love.) Ambition never felt so intimate; this distant.

Waste (BlazeVOX, 2019). Emily Toder. Not quite detached, not quite vulnerable, the poet skillfully handles despair w levelheadedness; the poems are hungry w/o drooling, which gives them Magic. To give in is different than giving up. She knows how hideous/not hideous existing is, which isn't a waste.

Four Essays (Tammy, 2019). Marty Cain. To self-disclose like this, one has to be familiar w the limitations of shame. The book is sensible; small. It doesn't parade itself. It feels secretive, like reading in public. Confident, a little sloppy, but moving. It makes contact.

The Tradition (Copper Canyon Press, 2019). Jericho Brown. Excessively meaningful & self-infatuated, but not indulgent; no one loves us correctly, especially ourselves. Memory rhymes w history; family w mythology; body w philosophy. Formally on. Tender (or is it yearning)—w authority.