PositiveThe Star Tribune... a soaring tribute to black and queer friendship ... Smith deftly uses the line break to dramatize other transformations that enable lives to remain livable even when marked by trauma ... With their signature braiding of rage and love, Smith celebrates the particularities of African-American friendship ... While their poems are bursting with love, Smith is frank about their rage ... bursts of anger allow Smith to celebrate the creativity of black friendships without mollifying narratives that the joy of solidarity undoes the trauma of racism.
RaveThe Star TribuneRepresenting nearly a quarter-century of published work, Carrying Water to the Field attests to Joyce Sutphen’s accomplishment as a lyric poet dedicated to clarity and concision. In his introduction, Ted Kooser describes the book as \'a collection of moments that may feel quite familiar to you.\' But the poems — rooted in physical description and the rhythms of manual labor — have more heft and materiality than a fleeting moment. Instead, the book feels like a bowl of pebbles harvested over years of country rambles. The reader can dip in, selecting one perfectly crafted poem at a time and relish the weight and feel of each in their palm ... Her careful, clear observations capture the particularities of growing up on a farm outside St. Joseph and the sensual pleasures of the work there ... While these poems take readers through transformation and loss, they also linger on what persists in moments of grace, such as the blade of a scythe left behind by a mower \'distracted/by something sweeter than fact or fire\' or the silence of the dead \'that I take/for love — a love that I carry/all the way to the horizon.\'
PositiveMinneapolis Star Tribune\"Kaminsky bookends this collection, chillingly, with poems that directly confront the reader with our inaction in the face of atrocity, implicating himself as well ... prescient and incisive...\
PositiveMinneapolis Star Tribune\"Andrea Gibson’s unabashedly emotional poetry performances create communal spaces for audiences to feel through the pain and joy of being queer, express queer love, and break the isolation of mental illness. None of this emotional power is lost in the transition from stage to page ... this book demonstrates that Gibson’s meteoric quotes are nested within complex and finely crafted poems.\
RaveThe Star TribuneAda Limón’s pitch-perfect fifth collection, The Carrying, is full of poems to savor and share. In it, she offers avenues to survival and persistence in the face of immense grief ... She writes with remarkable directness about painful experiences normally packaged in euphemism and, in doing so, invites the readers to enter a world where abundant joy exists alongside and simultaneous to loss. One doesn’t negate the other.
Ed. by Heid E. Erdrich
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune\"This collection is distinctly contemporary in its urgency, diversity and vibrancy. In it, she eschews categories in order to resist \'stereotypical notions of Native American history and culture in the past tense\' ... By not limiting her selections to fit themes, Erdrich welcomes a diversity of voices and concerns ... In bringing together contemporary, intersectional and diverse voices and refusing to corral them into thematic categories attached to stereotyped notions of indigenous poetry, Erdrich does more than capture the present moment of Native writing. She also advocates for its future: \'These poems create a place, somewhere we could go.\' \
Tracy K Smith
PositiveMinneapolis Star TribuneU.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith presents a clear-eyed portrait of the present, reconsiders the past and offers love as an ethical response to injustice ... A Pulitzer Prize recipient, Smith writes with political force and lyrical intimacy about current events.
RaveThe Dallas Morning NewsGirls Burn Brighter is punctuated by vignettes as characters tell each other elaborate stories and relate memories. In these passages, where characters struggle to find meaning in their lives, the quiet power of Rao\'s prose shines ... Overall the book has enormous emotional power and a compelling narrative that will carry the reader through to its unsettling conclusion. Savitha muses \'anything a person has held is a thing they never really let go.\' The novel is a powerful testament to how something as seemingly small as a private friendship between two girls can be a tool to resist oppression.
PanThe Dallas Morning NewsThe novel consists of first-person vignettes from more than 20 characters. These include a dead politician, a CIA station chief and rival gang leaders. Marley fades into the background, a foil for the others’ actions … The book is dominated by male voices. In the background, women nag their husbands or are assaulted to provide gritty details …The expletive-laced language and combination of sex and violence stops being shocking…If the novel is meant to show the devastating effects of CIA destabilization campaigns on communities from Kingston to Brooklyn, it needed stronger editing to keep the reader from becoming inured to the violence.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsWhite Tears shifts setting and time period without overtly signaling these moves to the reader, creating a disorienting and hallucinatory read ... Kunzru masterfully manipulates his prose to reflect the breakdown in narrative time. Rhapsodic descriptions of the sounds of New York City give way to short, syncopated sentences.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsSekaran does not offer easy answers about where the boy belongs. Readers may find themselves rooting for Soli to be reunited with her son, while also hoping Kayva is able to adopt Ignacio. The book's ambiguity forces the reader to wrestle with questions about family, nationality and belonging ... Lucky Boy is an ambitious novel that braids together two complex stories about family and parenting and also takes on the issues of immigration, class privilege and mass incarceration. Though her plot falters toward the end of the novel, Sekaran's characters are drawn with such deep compassion that the reader will stick with the book all the way to its somewhat outlandish conclusion.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsIn Valiant Gentlemen Murray ably narrates the shifting dynamics of colonial powers that led to World War I. The book consists of a series of vignettes rather than a narrative building toward a climax. This can bog the book down with extraneous material, but her well-drawn characters keep the novel engaging ... this book reveals an impressive breadth of research, which Murray naturally weaves into her vibrant scenes ... Murray is somehow able to translate these historical events through her characters as each forges their own understanding of the violence, brutality, and loss they experience.
Sun Yung Shin
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneWhile unabashedly scholarly, Unbearable Splendor is heartbreaking. The reader witnesses an orphaned individual urgently trying to position herself in the world and constantly failing, though there is something productive in the trying.
PanThe Dallas Morning NewsBeyond speculation, Charyn doesn’t add anything new to our understanding of Dickinson. The book is a collage of other scholars’ work glued together with his own hyperbolic prose: 'Dickinson’s not only fled: she has taken our entrails with her.' Style overwhelms sense: 'Language itself was a kind of Ice Age for Dickinson, utterly autistic — soundless sounds.' The most fascinating parts of the book are Charyn’s interviews with major contributors to Dickinson scholarship, including Christopher Benfey and Susan Howe. These scholars have deep respect for and knowledge of Dickinson. By contrast, Charyn seems like a fetishist reaching into a grab bag for sexist tropes.
PositiveThe Dallas Morning NewsThe book starts at a fever pitch and remains there. Everything from Allmon and Henrietta’s love affair to a day at the races is a high-stakes battle of identity and legacy. Given the diversity of America, the idea of the Great American Novel has perhaps outlived its usefulness. How could one author capture this sprawling nation? That being said, The Sport of Kings is a worthy contender and tells a story about America that is challenging and inclusive.