Books

A Short History of Presidential Election Crises

Short-History-Presidential-Election-CrisesIn A Short History of Presidential Election Crises (City Lights Publishing), Constitutional scholar Alan Hirsch addresses these issues with urgency and precision. He presents a concise history of presidential elections that resulted in crises and advocates clear, common-sense solutions, including abolishing the Electoral College and the creation of a permanent, non-partisan Presidential Election Review Board to prevent or remedy future crises.

Main Street Rag – Interview with Cathryn Cofell

Main Street Rag - Fall 2019The Fall 2019 Issue of The Main Street Rag includes an interview with Cathryn Cofell. The interview touches upon career, inspiration, and the Cofell’s submission process.

Cofell was named the winner of the 2019 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and readers can also find three of her poems in this issue: “Rush Hour,” “What I Learned from My Father,” and “Resignation Notice.”

Stick Figure with Skirt, the winning book, was released in November 2019 and is available at the Main Street Rag bookstore. Readers can also find additional sample poems from the book at the store.

‘We Are Meant to Carry Water’ by Carlson, Reed, and Dibella Seluja

We Are Meant to Carry Water

Guest Post by Kimberly Ann Priest

“Are we only bone, skin, and urge?” asks the speaker in The Great Square That Has No Corners. I am beginning to wonder if the answer to that question is affirmative. Yes. As I write this, I am sitting in my living room on a Tuesday afternoon in October, mid-way through another semester teaching, and realizing that, this autumn, I have over-committed myself . . . again.

As projects begin to pile up and my network grows, while responsibilities increase and my own poetry demands that I give it more of my attention, I have to let some things go. After four years reading and writing about new works by various authors and publishers, this will be my last review for NewPages. It’s time, once again, to listen to my body and check my urges. And, how fitting that I should end my review history with a review of a collaborative manuscript by three clearly very talented women who have written an elegant collection of poems on assaulted womanhood—a topic that continually shows up in my own work. Drawing from mythology, Tina Carlson, Stella Reed, and Katherine Dibella Seluja have woven a modern (though not modernized) conversation between Helen, Leda, and Lilith, and they have done so with such precision, such tastefulness, such raw beauty. Continue reading “‘We Are Meant to Carry Water’ by Carlson, Reed, and Dibella Seluja”

‘Night Sky with Exit Wounds’ by Ocean Vuong

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean VuongGuest Post by Andrew Romriell

Ocean Vuong’s collection of poetry, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, is a masterpiece that illustrates the most vital and sincere hardships of humanity in astonishingly few words. Leaping from free-verse to prose poetry, from stringent format to broken syntax, Vuong fashions here a collection of inclusion.

We open on “Threshold,” a poem where Vuong introduces his themes of body, parenthood, sexuality, and history. He warns us from the very beginning that “the cost of entering a song—was to lose your way back.” Vuong asks us to enter into his words and lose ourselves there. And we do, poem after poem, until we close on Vuong’s book with the penultimate piece, “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong.” In this poem, we read an assumed message from Vuong to Vuong where he tells himself “don’t be afraid,” and to “get up,” and that the most beautiful part of his body “is where it’s headed.” Before this, we’ve read pages of poetry full of pain, fear, and shattering, but here, Vuong embraces himself—and us alongside him.

“Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong,” like all the poems in Night Sky with Exit Wounds, rings with pain, wonder, regret, and history. Yet, there is also hope here, and I would say this is the theme of Vuong’s work: hope, inclusion, and change. Vuong takes us through a journey, shatters our expectations, holds our hearts, tells us to get up, and that, like him, we can survive the voyage.


Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong. Copper Canyon Press, April 2016.

About the reviewer: Andrew Romriell is a creative writing student at Utah State University.

Lynda Barry: Making Comics

Lynda Barry Marking ComicsLynda Barry’s Making Comics is a how-to graphic novel guide for people who gave up on drawing. Lynda Barry says that everybody has an innate ability to draw, which most people abandon in their youth; comics are gestures of the human hand, and the act of writing is likened to the art of drawing. Making Comics explores the process of expanding the life of drawings, and fusing symbols for character building. A term is introduced for reimagining the happenings of one’s life: autobifictiontionalography.

Great interview with Lynda Barry by Michael Silverblatt on Bookworm KCRW.

More here: Lynda Barry’s New Book Offers a Master Class in Making Comics

 

‘Out of Speech’ by Adam Vines

Out of Speech by Adam VinesGuest Post by Adrian Thomson

Adam Vines’s Out of Speech, a poetry collection comprised of ekphrastic poetry based upon famous paintings as well as personal experience, draws on Vines’s travels from southernmost Argentina to the Louvre. Each poem begins by naming the art piece it takes as a subject, then moves toward unpacking their visual elements often through fascinating uses of enjambment.

More than just describing the artwork, Vines peels away surfaces to encounter shavings of shocking humanity lying beneath. In “My View From Here,” a poem responding to Yves Tanguy’s Les Vues, Vines sees an abstract red vista of segmented alien pillars the cancer polyps hidden in a barstool acquaintance he meets by chance outside the gallery. “Holes and Folds,” based on the group portrait The Swing by Jean Honoré Fragonard, finds a narrator focused on the most innocent of the lounging young men in order to question his objectives as a hand slides up a woman’s dress.

Vines’s visual inspection of minutiae leaves his reader questioning the subjects presented in the paintings. Will the awoken businessman in Hopper’s Excursion Into Philosophy leave before his lover stirs? What has made his countenance so dour? What of the open book forgotten on the bed? Is his shoe slipping into, or out of the light? The reader feels unsure even after turning away, and Vines leaves them contemplating in silence.


Out of Speech by Adam Vines. LSU Press, March 2018.

About the reviewer: Adrian Thomson is a creative writing student at Utah State University.

Divine Medicine: A Natural History of Beer

Natural-History-of-Beer.jpgIn the beginning was beer. Well, not quite at the beginning: there was no beer at the Big Bang. Curiously, though, as Rob DeSalle and Ian Tattersall point out in A Natural History of Beer, the main components of beer—ethanol and water—are found in the vast clouds swirling around the center of the Milky Way in sufficient quantity to produce 100 octillion liters of the stuff…

In America, where there was no such tradition, the movement was more heterogenous. It has found its public, though: by now there are 5,000 craft brewers in the United States producing 20,000 brands of beer. It is one of the bright spots in America’s otherwise dismal recent history.

Down Girl by Kate Manne Wins APA Book Prize

Author Kate Manne
Kate Manne

Kate Manne, associate professor of philosophy at Cornell University, has won the 2019 Book Prize from the American Philosophical Association (APA) for her Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny.

In Down Girl, Kate Manne calls attention to an underappreciated question in the literature: how should we understand misogyny? She advances a new account of it to make sense of some of the most fundamental issues in feminist thought and political philosophy.