Ground Rules

Photo by Single.Earth on Unsplash It’s June and I turn and turn my wet leg in sleep, in hopes of making a poultice. There is so much to learn here, in this place where fire does the kind of good violence we need it to. Already I have taken to calling this valley floor peat, […]

Before the Small Machines

Photo by Maël Balland on Unsplash Before there were such small machines, there were augurs plying their trade in every paper. Dear Scorpio, they’d write, the stars are aligned for you this week, but be suspicious of promises of sudden wealth. I spent my dimes and quarters on candy, and was susceptible to flattery. I […]

Raw Anyone

Write the word “Dear” and what comes next? An epistle suggests a located life, a name, a “you” at the receiving end of it. Written during the pandemic years that over-located so many of us in our homes, Alex Mattraw’s Raw Anyone (The Cultural Society, 2022) unthreads the decidedness of location in a captivating series […]

The Plague Doctor

You might be in the mood for a crystal-clear lyric, perhaps, or your lethargy demands something a little more stirring; you may be in need of the discordant, the unforeseen, to trigger some memory, some vague sentiment or reaction; or it might be that a flip chart of arresting imagery might just do the trick. […]

Rocks & More Rocks

About fifteen years ago, I wrote a review for Stephen Ratcliffe’s book of poetry REAL, writing that Ratcliffe’s work will be “demanding our attention for years to come.” Here I am, years later, talking about Ratcliffe’s newest books, released by Cuneiform Press in 2020. In the first review, I called Ratcliffe a “muse of stone” […]

What Small Sound

“I’m here to bear witness to this deafness / that expands imperceptibly,” writes Francesca Bell in her latest collection’s titular poem—and yet What Small Sound is a marvelous testament to just how much the poet does perceive about herself, about the people around her, and about the horrors and blessings of this world. Many of […]


April, it’s been written, is the cruelest month. By now, generations of undergraduates have been dutifully instructed as to Eliot’s parodic intentions in the opening line of The Waste Land, with its allusion to the beginning of the “General Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales: Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of March […]


Annelyse Gelman’s newest book, Vexations, is formally modeled on Erik Satie’s piano composition of the same name. Notorious for its ambiguity and duration, the piano piece consists of a haunting melody repeated 840 times—a true feat of stamina as a performance can take upwards of twelve hours. The one Gelman saw at age sixteen—the event […]

2 a.m. with Keats

There’s a certain irony in analyzing a work such as 2 a.m. with Keats in light of the concept of negative capability, which eschews analysis in favor of embracing mystery and unanswered questions. Keats coined the phrase in a letter to his brothers in 1817, inspired by Shakespeare’s work, which he describes as “being in […]