RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksWe not only read to enjoy the poet’s craft; we pause for reflection to find what the poem means to us. This happens while reading Hirshfield more than most ... Slowing down is not a bad thing in poetry, and this is Hirshfield’s gift. We don’t swim through lyricism alone, or story — as in narration — with people, places, and things all acting on one another...Instead, we have lines that renew themselves for a second reading and more. And in the emptiness between the lines, we find our own completion. I cannot say enough about how a reader’s keen imagination is grateful for Hirshfield’s imaging ... Language is kept at a high bar with assessed value, and that, perhaps, is why this writer doesn’t waste it ... another invitation to find the many choices within ourselves.
RaveWashington Independent ReviewWalsh is author of two previous chapbooks and this is his first premier/debut book of poems. It’s stunning ... Each page is a powerful notice formed by the landscape: insistent, imagistic, with a lesson in each story. We can see the grand pattern with poetry as social contract, but it would mean nothing if subject and style were not so beautifully paired. Each poem is an ordinary blessing, often one about danger, but this knowledgeable perceptive writing is not rhetoric, it’s narrative — felt life — well served by the right word connections on the right lines, with the right stillness. Hope that Walsh wins a first book prize.
Naomi Shihab Nye
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksOnly a seasoned poet can modulate fury into poetry. Each verse gives a piece of the tattered puzzle which is Shihab Nye’s native country, more than Middle East historians could tell us, because the core of a country is here — its skin is on the bodies of father, grandfather, friends, mothers of sons. This book can wake us up, because it’s not of policy — it’s the flesh of people who know who they are, in a land so mistreated. Also, there’s gracefulness here ... This poet, always America’s sweetheart, has shared her life with us through her career, warmth, and wisdom — earning our validation — and now, even more, she makes emotion and the world meld, to give an in-depth analysis of her besieged land, letting us know how it appears from inside. In connecting the land and the sea, possibilities and tragedies, poetry reaches the high bar.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksI didn’t know the imagination could reach so many places with such various surfaces and depths ... What a versatile original sound she has ... vocabulary is exactly what she commands with fierce love, such fierce love it makes tears spring to your eyes. These poems are passionate, transcendent, beautifying pain with words that know what they are: There’s great mastery here.
RaveWashington Independent Review of Books\"This masterwork is pure body heat about the humane and the inhumane — how we treat each other — in anecdote, narrative, personal, and historical poems. A spectrum of stories is rooted in the Midwest with indelible characters and memorable events. Smith can sound like your next-door neighbor even while lacing cruelty and sweetness neatly together. He’s captured the heart of rural America and navigated its conscience brilliantly.\
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books\"This is a new voice for me and it’s a dazzling one. The book has major sections—taste; revelation; humiliation; pastoral; myth; parable; rest cure, all with an overlapping theme: male/female relationships. Others have written this, in fact everyone has, then how can it feel so new, so exciting, and so dangerous ... It’s rare to have a poet allow each line a special place and give it such a big life; for this writer makes words alive, surprising, with unintended consequences. She’s intuitive and has never outgrown the childhood ability to play, changing the dynamics of a gray world by instinct, daring and the totality of intelligence. I’m crazy about this poet. She’s deeply meaningful about human relationships and has the ability in this book to reframe poetry.\
Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksCastillo channels passion into elegy, ritual, lyric, song. His fervor is not man-made, but comes from centuries of suffering, loving, witnessing. There’s horror here and sadness but always muted with the elegance of a gifted writer, one who will be remembered after his time ... the poet composes as if he imagines words from another world and births them into form.