Books of March


The Bear and The Nightingale: A Novel — Katherine Arden (2017)

Best fairy tale I’ve read in a long time. I was skep­ti­cal at first. But the hero­ine is more than a pret­ty face with an inter­est­ing fate. I can’t be sure, as I am no expert, but the sto­ry seems to be more Russian than most set in that fairy tale world. The author was a Russian major in col­lege. Well writ­ten, you won’t find your­self con­stant­ly thrown out of the sto­ry by a bad turn of phrase as you are so often in fairy tales.



Minding the Muse — Priscilla Long (2016)

Better than the aver­age book on cre­ativ­i­ty — it allows for indi­vid­u­al­i­ty. And it’s a reminder about the need for dai­ly (near­ly) work that I need to hear.



300 Arguments — Sarah Manguso (2017)

Don’t both­er. I like books of frag­ments (99 God and Bluets are exam­ples) but this one does­n’t hang togeth­er as any sort of nuanced state­ment on the world. It got a lot of praise but I just did­n’t find the thread that was sup­posed to link the apho­risms to make them some­thing oth­er than a jum­ble. There are a few that cut to the quick though. The best being:

There will come a time when peo­ple decide you’ve had enough of your grief, and they’ll try to take it away from you.”


All of this mon­th’s poet­ry books are con­cerned with the domes­tic — but what dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences of home the poets bring.

The Day Before: Poems — Dick Allen (2003)

I remem­ber lik­ing these poems while I was read­ing them but a month lat­er I don’t remem­ber any­thing spe­cif­ic about them. What’s up with that? I don’t know what to think of poems that I like but that don’t leave a sol­id mark on me. I had to go and look at them again to write this review. These poems are pedes­tri­an — in a good way — the way in which some­one with­out anoth­er des­ti­na­tion in mind wan­ders down the street in a mid­size town just look­ing and won­der­ing about every­thing they see. They are root­ed in times and places and peo­ple and above all the lit­tle bits of nature that exist for us in every set­ting. But they did­n’t stick. Hmmm.



Bright Dead Things: Poems — Ada Limón (2015)

When she writes about her expe­ri­ences of being dis­lo­cat­ed from the city to rur­al Kentucky, Limon writes with humor and appre­ci­a­tion of both envi­ron­ments . Her descrip­tions of Kentucky horse coun­try from the point of view of a non-rural, non-horsey per­son are delight­ful­ly vivid. She also brings her fresh per­spec­tive to her rela­tion­ships and the loss of her step-mother. There is a won­der­ful imme­di­a­cy and hon­esty in these poems. Very down to earth, even when she’s being man­i­cal­ly unrealistic.




The Nerve of It: Poems New and Selected ‑Lynn Emanuel (2015)

Lynn Emmanuel is one of my favorite poets. I am always tak­en with her bit­ing, clear-eyed look at the places and peo­ple who make up her life. This vol­ume includes a cou­ple of my favorite old poems and some new favorites as well.