PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe voice is casual, although you’ll never doubt you’re reading poetry ... Young is an expansive, almost relaxed writer; blistering intensity isn’t his signature. But he can throw salt in the pot when it’s needed ... At his best, Young reminds us that poetry’s middle voice remains a resonant instrument ... But if Young’s work gives you reason to hope, it also makes you think the poetry world’s precarious position may be hurting some of its strongest talents ... what you get, when you’re a traditional lyric poet publishing at this rate, is slackness. For instance, you have metaphors that don’t cohere...Perfunctory poeticisms are attached to things as banal as sausage ... Young is a gifted writer; he surely knows this isn’t helpful. Why is he doing it? Maybe because nearly everyone is. Young publishes more than most, but even a writer like Louise Glück, who is routinely described as acetic, has amassed a page total that dwarfs that of Robert Frost. But we are far from Frost today and deep into an anxiety of overproduction. There are so many books, we think, with so many lines that say so many things at such length — how could any of this be marginal? Surely the center of this storm of words must be magnificent. This is possible. But other things are possible too, and it’s worth considering, amid the hurricane of pages, what still, small poems one might have waited for.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewSeshadri’s poems are testily smart, often funny, conceptually intricate and so chock-full of irony that it’s hard to avoid making a pun here involving magnets or multivitamins ... The essence of Seshadri’s writing is conversation, and that conversation is coiling and liquid, not diffident. Seshadri is fluent in an unusually wide range of forms — he ranges here from rhymed quatrains to fat blocks of prose — and his voice is typically chatty, probing, importuning, self-mocking.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewIn the non-Ethernan poems, Solie sticks with the approach that has worked for her in previous books. That approach depends on associative leaps, rapid changes in register...and diction plucked from every nook in the dictionary ... Compression, stillness and plainness are largely absent; quick shifts, volubility and references to Barthes are fully present ... You might suppose this would result in a little too much self-conscious literariness, but Solie tempers her lines with good humor and an attractive populism ... You can see the best of Solie in a shorter poem like \'A Lesson\' ... The quiet assurance is astonishing. This is unfortunately not the case for quite a bit of the rest of The Caiplie Caves ... her Ethernan...gets old fast ... while Solie’s speed can be a virtue, it can also lead to lines that look hurried and unhelpfully baroque. This has been true of her earlier collections, though not debilitatingly so ... The project form seems to have aggravated this tendency ... The Caiplie Caves has its moments ... But this feels like the work of a poet who has set out to write poetry, rather than of a writer who has turned out to have written some poems. This will get applauded; people like poetry that looks the way it’s supposed to. But it would be good to see this talented writer disappoint such readers in the future.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewSynthesizing Gravity is a delight, if a tart and idiosyncratic one ... There is no mystical bombast here whatsoever. Indeed, there is very nearly the opposite, delivered by a writer with a full command of the English sentence and an electric talent for metaphor ... cheeky, unpretentious excellence ... Ryan has all of a critic’s skills, but this isn’t a critic’s book. That’s not a put-down but an observation ... Synthesizing Gravity, however, is a poet’s book about poetry, and a fairly circumscribed one at that. The same figures recur. The same lines recur ... This can be frustrating, especially since Ryan is such a strong thinker and writer ... Yet if Ryan gives us a view through a keyhole, it’s a view often made richer by its constraints.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review\"The poems in On Drinking are distinguishable from the prose mostly by virtue of line breaks that are inserted in why-not fashion ... There’s basically no difference between these lines and the prose narrative that precedes them, except that the prose involves an extended brawl while the poem includes Bukowski pulling a knife on some French security guards ... Bukowksi talks about plowing around hammered in a car, yet every episode carefully avoids any sense of the possible horrific consequences for other people and returns us instead to the comfortable presence of that charming rogue, Charles Bukowski. He’s so funny, so honest. You want to hang out with him, maybe have a few cold ones ... What is strangest about On Drinking, though, is its lack of strangeness.\
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"... an ode to the past and present of, yes, Marfa — the West Texas town with a population of roughly 2,000 ... playfully exacting ...\
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"Stallings is widely admired for her formal agility and classical expertise ... In Like, her fourth book of poems, we get the rhyming wit one expects from Stallings, although in the best poems here that wit is attractively darkened by experience in a place that is, to take Stallings slightly out of context, \'Deep in the woods where things escape their names.\'”
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"... a fast-paced but unflappable tour of hotels, airports, college drop-offs, gynecologists’ offices and the cafes of Lower Manhattan ... But the moments of stillness in Human Hours are equally compelling.\
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"The spare, sly lines in A Memory of the Future are a reminder that the game of a poem is sometimes better advanced by underplaying.\
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewUglow’s approach is more or less to try to cover the waterfront. There is a lot of it to cover ... What redeems the constant travelogue is Uglow’s sympathetic and perceptive view of her subject, as both person and artist. She is well aware of the masks Lear was forced to don as a sexually fluid man in the 19th century...and finds beneath his wit and friendly humor \'the admission that he was in essence a man who would live his life alone, and, perhaps, lonely.\' This seems right: The desire for understanding, however unlikely its achievement, is a strong theme in Lear’s writing; has there ever, for instance, been a more tenuous pairing than the Owl and the Pussy-cat? ... If a cat and an owl can be joined, the poem quietly suggests, then surely there is hope for anyone. Lear’s gift is to find his own thirst for companionship echoed in the sense-making elements of language.
Tracy K Smith
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"Smith’s fourth book is the strongest and most wide-ranging she’s written. Many readers will be drawn to the series of poems here composed from the letters and statements of African-American soldiers in the Civil War and their dependents. This work is admirable, but it would be a mistake to overlook Smith’s growing command of the domestic poem, which presents unique and subtle challenges that are easy to underestimate.\
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewIt may sound as if the problems with The Hatred of Poetry outweigh its virtues. That’s not the case, actually. Yet in order to understand what’s worthwhile about Lerner’s book, it’s necessary to appreciate the precarious position from which it was written. Contemporary poetry is, to put it mildly, unpopular, and that unpopularity may be increasing.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review“All the Poems is admirably professional and thorough, from its formal, scholarly introduction to its four appendixes to its two indexes, and it is almost disconcerting to see this poet of radical whimsy so coolly annotated. Yet it is also completely appropriate. As May notes in the first sentence of his preface, Smith is a “great poet.” She is a great poet because almost half a century after her death, her poems are more startling and bizarre than those of many poets who deliberately set out, as one suspects Smith never did, to be startling and bizarre.