Newberg, OR: Wiseblood Books, 2015. Paperback. 346 pp. ISBN: 9780692468203
reviewed by Stephen Barnes
The old saw among the literati, that all novel plots can really be reduced to just two—namely, a man goes on a journey, and a stranger comes to town—is given the lie in Glenn Arbery’s stunning first novel, Bearings and Distances. The two plots can be combined, producing a third possibility: a man may leave his home only to return as a stranger, a stranger even to himself.
Eugene, OR: Resource Publications (imprint of Wipf & Stock), 2015. Paperback. 124 pp. ISBN: 9781498225564
reviewed by Marjorie Maddox
Both affirming and unsettling, David Craig’s Pilgrim’s Gait walks us sometimes stub-toed, sometimes limping, sometimes leaping for joy across continents and centuries in this pilgrimage of poetry and prose.
In the first section, “Pilgrim’s Places,” we find ourselves with the poet and his family journeying through Europe and the United States. At Garabandal, Craig exclaims, “It was labor intensive, / this waiting for God!” (2) and even more so as the family— including a three-year-old with Downs’ chiming in with comedic alleluia’s—find they are waiting during the “wrong year” for healing. Throughout, such amusing and somber missteps eventually make for sure footing as the narrator approaches sites of “fake apparitions” (9), churches “decrepit enough to convince anyone / that what mattered most wasn’t there” (5), “God dancing, as He always does, / in feathers, in the past” (8), and—most importantly—the realization “what could any of us, finally, have traded / for what we’d been given” (4)?
reviewed by Aaron Brown
Bowling Green, KY: Steel Toe Books, 2016. Paperback. 82 pp. ISBN: 0986357510.
[Note: Marci Rae Johnson will be a featured presenter at the 2017 Windhover Writers’ Festival, Feb. 15-17.]
It doesn’t take much time before Marci Rae Johnson’s latest poetry collection Basic Disaster Supplies Kit has you laughing, cringing, and experiencing every emotion in between. This is the kind of book only possible in the 21st century: a collection of poems referencing Buzzfeed articles as much as Holy Scripture, blurring lines between sacred and profane, the familiar and the disorienting. The voice that emerges through these poems is a strong one, not just in its at times brash critique of masculinity, religion, and culture but also in its overpowering moments of quiet introspection.
reviewed by David Craig
Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2016. ISBN: 9781498239226. Paperback. 104 pp.
In The Life of an American Poet James Atlas tells us that Delmore Schwartz was, at Harvard in the 40s, “one of the earliest beneficiaries of a policy–one that continues to this day–of hiring writers to teach English composition.” It’s a move that has long benefitted everyone involved. The monolith has gotten cheap labor; the poet, his or her meager bread initially, a foot in the academic door (a door which has, thankfully, widened since that time with the development of so many creative writing courses); and the students have gotten access to sensibilities which intimately understand how important language, poetry, is.