The latest issue of Galatea Resurrects is up, and I have two reviews in it. So, if you're looking for something that read, migrate on over.
I wrote this review of Faulkner's Rosary by Sarah Vap, a book I enjoyed very much. For those of you tired of the treacly views of the Virgin Mary we get in this time of year, these poems serve as the perfect antidote: "Vap also taps into a larger cultural motif by weaving Mary, the mother of Christ, throughout these poems. Poets who explore pregnancy have a variety of archetypes and ready-made cultural artifacts to use. Vap acknowledges her variety of choices in the poem 'To be breathed-in by a god,' where she lists an assortment of Marys, from the Virgin Mary to Mary Kay to Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. This brief poem wrestle with the question about who is lost when we use these cultural archetypes and answers 'and we have lost the girl.'"
You may be saying, wait, "Ugh, I am so tired of the winter holidays." Vap's collection has plenty of poems that have nothing to do with the Virgin Mary. Most of the poems do deal with pregnancy and motherhood, however. But even readers without children will find much to enjoy here; after all, we're all living in bodies that give us challenges and joys.
I also wrote a review of Looking Up Harryette Mullen: Interviews on Sleeping with the Dictionary and Other Works by Barbara Henning. What a great book. It gives so much insight about the writing process, like this nugget: "For example, she describes writing her long poem Trimmings this way: 'Writing the poem also involved a process of making lists. First, I made a list of words referring to anything worn by women. Each word on that list became the topic of a prose poem (I started with clothing, then decided to include accessories. There were a few things I decided not to write about, such as wigs, dentures, and so forth.) Then I made more lists by free associating from words on the first list.'”
There's a comprehensive introduction written by Juliana Spahr, in which she "gives helpful background to the avant-garde groups and techniques used by Mullen. For example, she says, 'A number of the poems in the book are composed by the N = 7, a process attributed to Jean Lescure . . . ' (iii). She goes on to describe the Oulipo writing community that Lescure founded, and then says, 'In the N + 7, the poet replaces each noun in a text with the seventh one following it in a dictionary. The result is a joyous sort of a mad lib type of a poem' (iii)."
This book is useful in so many ways, from its insights into experimental and avant-garde writing, to its conversations between two poets, from the way the women discuss the challenges of being a writer in our modern life, to the insight we get into the writing process. Along the way, the book maintains an accessibility that might have been lost when it comes to poems that are so experimental.
As always, when I write these reviews, I'm struck by how broad the world of poetry is now--and I'm profoundly grateful. It's frustrating to know how much great reading is out there, and to feel like I never have enough time to get to it. But it's also a wonderful problem to have!
And if you'd like to review for the next issue, go here for the list of books available. You've got until April 15 to write the review, and you've got plenty of work from which to choose.
May our last days of 2011 be full of good reading!
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