March 30, 2007

Review: The Book of Truants & Projectorlight

The Book of Truants & Projectorlight
Octopus Books, $6

Crack open Wilkinson’s chapbook and the dusty mothlight glows on a little bit of this (a picturebook, starlings, “a kind of note more easily read / when torn in two equal pieces”) and a little bit of that (marbles, grass, “a country song / in your bottle of blood”). The poems here are snapshot narratives, each one a collection of meticulously posited images. Six of the sixteen poems are titled “still life with...” (“still life with starlings in the attic,” “still life with bullfrog,” “still life with shark tooth, sleeping boy, moon [missing], & treefrog,” etc.), and the canvases on which they reside are immense. But the poems are not static. They move across landscapes populated by gardens, animals, bicycles, bellies, water, and ominous weather.

This three-part chapbook is aptly titled: the stories and images proceed frame by frame, and there are times you’d swear you could hear the clicking of the projector reel. The poems are brief, but their trajectories are endless. Worlds spring to life in the poems’ first lines:
The dusk light reeled backwards & all the children marched into the collated fields.
(“dusk light / long light”)


Here is the kingdom of the phonebooth.
(“sleeping & arriving alike”)


There are four gashes in the moon & if you look through this glass you will see them all & the lost satellite, spinning.
(“still life with satellite, radish garden, mailboxes, & deer”)
The first and third sections of the book are prose poems. The second section is in Wilkinson’s more familiar fragmented lineation that would be right at home in his most recent full-length collection, Lug Your Careless Body Out of the Careful Dusk (winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize). As in his previous books (including the wonderful chapbook published by New Michigan Press, A Ghost As King of the Rabbits), Wilkinson builds a narrative across poems, crafting what is, in essence, a book-length poem. The beauty of his work is in how each poem has both nothing and everything to do with each of the other poems. They converse with each other through queries, shared images, and a language that is both measured and ephemeral, but taken individually, they are striking and complete.

The poems in The Book of Truants and Projectorlight inhabit serene, magical worlds of solemn whimsy in which everything is familiar, but shrouded in a dream-like fog. It’s like a visit to the attic, a day spent at the Museum of Collected Things, and all you need to do is stop and look around for a bit—you’re bound find something to stow in your pocket and carry away.

by Nate Slawson

This is the second in a series of eight reviews on the chapbooks from Octopus Books.

March 29, 2007

Review: The Knife-Grasses

The Knife-Grasses
Octopus Books, $6

As the title suggests, the duality of objects is not an either/or, but an is/is. This chapbook-length poem, with its short lines and spare syntax, strings together image after image, investigating the multiplicity of each one in perfunctory preciseness:
Here are the
lullabies sick
voices dump
right in the
The moves Doxsee makes are not turnings-over to see the other side of images, but are more like meditations on images where each image presents itself for a brief instant before it shifts out of focus and another one takes its place. In that sense, this is a book full of fleetingness where place constantly shifts under the “now sky / & now cracked sky,” where, to paraphrase Eliot, the world is a heap of twofold images.

It is a fantastic, child-like world of cross-eyed dogs, fireworks that explode into castles, girls diving from balconies into mittens, a peanut-shaped sun, and stars that are walls. It is a Technicolor dreamscape where everything is only when it seems, whether real or imagined or some gorgeous hybrid of invention.

by Nate Slawson

This is the first in a series of eight reviews on the chapbooks from Octopus Books.

March 28, 2007

Volume 7 Has Arrived!

Hot off the presses, the newest issue of Luna is in and available for your reading pleasure.

Volume 7 is full of wonderful poems by Mary Jo Bang, Michael Burkard, Adam Clay, Mark Conway, Denise Duhamel, Dobby Gibson, Rigoberto González, Mark Irwin, Henry Israeli, Laura Kasischke, Shara McCallum, Paul Otremba, Ellen Wehle, and Crystal Williams.

Subscriptions are available, too. Just print and mail the ordering form found on this page.

March 24, 2007

Review: Crow Call

Crow Call
West End Press, $12.95 paper
ISBN 0-9753486-6-3

A book-length elegy, a meditation on loss and love, a call to action, Crow Call is an unusual book of poetry. Inspired by the murder of Cincinnati homeless activist Buddy Gray, these poems boldly call upon Henson’s “ancestors”: Debs, Tubman, King, Neruda, Whitman, Lorca, Blake, Florence Reece, Tom McGrath, Joe Hill, and Molly Jackson.

Tough company, but this book takes great risks, and they pay off. One of the results is that the book possesses duende, Lorca’s term for that death-defying ability found in great art. You hear it over and over it these poems, which at times echo Lorca’s “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias.” Henson too uses repetition to build deep emotion, as can be seen in these lines from “Song of Wounds":
Wounds blackened in the asphalt of the beltway
Wounds with the marks of teeth of the wind
Wounds in the bellies of small brown children.
Wounds sleepless at four in the morning
Wounds in the disordered ladders of the cell
Henson’s “at four in the morning” even evokes Lorca’s “at five in the afternoon,” but if Henson’s influences are manifest, so is the power of these poems.

Part of the power of the book is the relentless focus, the reoccurring images: crows, moles, cold, streets, and bullets. Once again, it’s risky, but Henson knows how to use crescendo and silence. And he also knows the strength of direct statement, as can be seen in the closing lines of “The Day”:
It is sad, to leave such richness and grief,
but it was love that called us out,
and I think it is love who calls us back,
into the earthen lap and wintering birth of the world.

Readers who tire of the poetry of clever displays of technique and ego, or who believe that poetry of resistance no longer can be found are in for a surprise with Crow Call. We need more poetry like this, and more poets with Henson’s courage.

by John Bradley


The Editors are pleased to announce that Rigoberto Gonzalez, contributor to Issue 7, will be joining LUNA as a contributing editor. Rigoberto (author of the new collection Other Fugitives and Other Strangers), will occasionally grace the LUNA blog with his reviews/criticism of contemporary poetry. Welcome, Rigoberto!

March 17, 2007

Review: Collected Poems 1947-1997

Collected Poems 1947-1997

Harper Collins, $39.95 cloth, ISBN 0-06-113974-2

This is it. This is the American story told in poetry of blood, music, madness, and light. This is the 1,200 page monster of the 20th century journey that formed one of the greatest accomplishments in U.S literature and should have been granted the Nobel Prize while its author was alive. This is the work of genius, of pure humanity, and the writings of an explorer whose greatest strength was knowing exactly where he was going as he wound up, in legendary poem after poem, in places he never dreamed he would. This is “Howl” and “Kaddish” changing American poetry forever. This is Plutonium Odes and White Shroud reminding us a gifted master walked among us and many didn’t even know it. This is a huge book that must be read in the time of Bush and in the time of poetry. It is a mind-blowing escape into reality and the humming hallways of language that erase human foibles and rewrite them as angelic actions of prophets.

by Ray Gonzalez

Review: The Complete Poetry

The Complete Poetry
Edited and translated by CLAYTON ESHLEMAN

University of California Press, $49.95 cloth, ISBN 978-0-520-24552-5

This is a landmark book in the history of modern poetry. To have the complete poems of César Vallejo in one volume changes the course of poetic translation as this huge volume records layers of visionary experiences that often defied interpretation. Vallejo saw the world through the anguished eyes of a hawk and the heart of an elusive spirit. The result was some of the darkest, yet most moving poetry of the twentieth century. The publication of this massive undertaking is important because the entire poetic work of Peruvian César Vallejo, one of the three most important Spanish language poets of the past century (Pablo Neruda and Federico Garcia Lorca being the others) has finally been gathered in an English edition.

by Ray Gonzalez

Review: The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems

The Great Enigma
New Collected Poems
Translated by ROBIN FULTON
New Directions, $16.95 paper, ISBN 13978-0-8112-1672-2

This book gathers all the poems the great Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer has published, from his first book in 1954 to work written after a debilitating stroke in 1990. All twelve books are collected here, along with a new cycle of haiku poems. Transtromer has always been one of those poets who sees beyond things and creates through the immediate revelations of language. His work has been translated into English by several key American poets, but this is the best translation of his poetry because Fulton recreates Transtromer work in dynamic English poems that build image upon image, until the Swedish voice of experience becomes a universal call for discovery, reincarnation, and redemption.

by Ray Gonzalez

Review: The Mountain in the Sea

The Mountain in the Sea

Coffee House Pres, $15.00 paper, ISBN 1-56689-191-4

For almost forty years, the rich tradition of Puerto Rican literature has centered on the music in the poetry of Victor Hernandez Cruz. No poet has influenced the cross-cultural union of so many people as Cruz has done through a long and distinguished body of work. This new book extends his vision beyond personal global experience as he reminisces about key individuals who influenced his formation as a writer. This “Portraits” section includes poems on figures like Don Quixote, Jorge Luis Borges, and other literary and musical icons. By acknowledging his masters, Cruz proves how the timeless calling of poetry has no territorial boundaries. Cruz is a poet who hears the higher angelic calling of the artist and his response is a poetry of meaning, adventure, and the heavenly sound of human transcendence.

by Ray Gonzalez

March 14, 2007


CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Prose on poetry, to be published on the LUNA blog. Please query before submitting.