RaveThe Guardian (UK)At a time when structural imbalances of capital, health, gender and race deepen divides, the young American Leila Mottley’s debut novel is a searing testament to the liberated spirit and explosive ingenuity of such storytelling ... What makes Nightcrawling scarring and unforgettable as a novel is Mottley’s ability to change our language about and perception of the repressed and confined. She does this by entering the mind, body and soul of Kiara, one of the toughest and kindest young heroines of our time ... From the messy yet intimate domestic interiors of Kiara’s apartment to the seedy Oakland streets studded by potholes, Mottley creates a broken world in which reality reads like exuberant satire ... Fiction needs both order and chaos. Mottley handles the chaos outside and inside Kiara with a quiet, cool elegance that is entirely unjudgmental. This is a difficult feat, particularly when all eyes around Kiara – those of family, friends, police officers turned clients, and finally a grand jury – focus fiercely on her throughout, making demands on her time, body, money and capacity for forgiveness ... Nevertheless, it is exactly its commitment to the art and ethics of survival that makes Nightcrawling a rare and compelling meditation on the powerless. The blazing candour of Motley’s art unpacks Kiara’s complex psychology, youth and edgy intelligence as well as showing her unflinching maternal instinct to protect Marcus and Trevor at all costs ... not only a fearless investigation of justice, guilt and prejudice, but an allegory of the potential power of speech, narrative and fiction itself ... marks the dazzling arrival of a young writer with a voice and vision you won’t easily get out of your head.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Not since Emily Dickinson has poetry conveyed such an oceanic openness to the self’s quiet laceration and resilience. These new poems collect fragile private moments and glue them together, like Joseph Cornell’s collages made out of rescued materials. They are emotionally potent due to their inherent vulnerability. Bullet imagery cuts through the book ... Vuong’s words hit us with debris that resemble our own memories of art, love, grief and survival. His mothering poems register the incompleteness of life, even as we find ourselves in a world where a single word, a quick turn of phrase or a short line make a difficult moment bearable. All the same, the violent process of fermentation they exhibit keeps poetry pungent, truth-seeking and unerasable.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)A soaring sense of history and solidarity pervades Gorman’s debut collection ... Gorman’s poetry puts immense pressure on our present moment, committing itself to an archaeology of our past and conservation of our future ... One of the most haunting things about her book is its retreat from the first-person singular ... Gorman’s affirmative choric we echoes Martin Luther King’s memorial dream and John Lennon’s utopian lyricism, but her music also draws on the new dimension opened up by trailblazing poets such as Elizabeth Alexander, Anne Carson and Tracy K Smith ... wide awake to the complex strata of human history and restlessly original in its poetic form ... Gorman is an erudite absorber, resister and recreator of vocal, textual and etymological legacies. Without being overburdened by references, her poems allude to multilayered sources ... Directly and indirectly, grief as ubiquitous as light holds Gorman’s book together ... Gorman has written a mnemonic symphony of hope and solidarity in the face of the \'vanishing meaning\' of our time, speaking eloquently with \'the lip of tomorrow\'.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Very few poets, living or otherwise, can combine high-speed wit, tongue-twisting alliteration and dizzying rhyme with the kind of insight that makes us pause, laugh, remember; feel envious, out of breath, punch-drunk. In Howdie-Skelp, Paul Muldoon summons the ghosts of TS Eliot and Dante to tell stories about our splintered realities, where the wasteland is everywhere and nowhere and Virgil is an immigrant waiter offering overpriced steak tartare. With cheeky poignancy and almost biblical satirical force, Muldoon captures the arrhythmia of our times ... With their elongated lines and expansive forms, often cast in sequences or variations, the poems feed on memories triggered by the news, TV binge-watching, ruins, damsons, or Robert Frost’s apples. They also flirt outrageously with paintings, translating the perverse and macabre into luminous commentaries on our desires and taboos. The book ends with 15 mutating sonnets about the rich absurdity of our pandemic lives and a new state of existential confusion.
Thom Gunn, Ed. Clive Wilmer
PositiveThe Poetry SocietyWilmer’s informative and carefully annotated book is more interested in representing the arc of Gunn’s career as it relates to his life, framing his work through illuminating biographical material ... provides enlightening glimpses of Gunn’s half-century career across both sides of the Atlantic, which coincided with increasing tensions within the poetry establishment about the importance of tradition versus individual talent as well as ferocious conflict over identity politics, fought out in terms of race, gender, and sexuality, particularly in the U.S. ... Arguably, this new selection could have given more space to the poems than the notes. Nevertheless, the selection weaves together highlights from Gunn’s astonishing career, reminding us that in refusing many of our confident labels about styles and movements and resisting the poetics and politics of ‘identity’, Gunn has left us a memorable body of work unparalleled among his contemporaries.