In her latest collection, the author of Mercury (2011), The Cow (2006), and Coeur de Lion (2007) chronicles new dimensions of consciousness for our strange and desperate times in poems tracking climate change, bystanderism, state murder, sexual trauma, shopping, ghosting, love, and the transcendent shock of prophecy.
... By baring so much of herself in these poems (and despite its size, scope, and difficulty, A Sand Book may be Reines’s most personal book to date) Reines presents herself to the reader as a guide to spiritual and societal chaos, an ally in the struggle against both ... What do you do with someone like Ariana Reines right now? Read her. Read her for the power of her vision, and for her willingness to look at tragedy, whether personal or planetary, head-on. As the planet grows hotter, as civilization becomes increasingly brutal, banal, and irreal, a voice as powerful as Reines’s is too valuable to neglect. A Sand Book is a necessary guide to a future rapidly becoming the present, a map of the desert we all have to navigate.
The 12 sections of A Sand Book are distinct but in conversation, giving the volume a feeling of slow accretion ... Reines moves through a wide variety of topics, themes, forms and tones. The images can be as specific as visiting her homeless mother at Bellevue...or as quotidian as the report of a celebrity breakup. Yet throughout, Reines whips us through emotional states (ecstasy, depression, self-loathing, infatuation), physical locations (Queens, Arizona, Lithuania, Haiti) and forms of communication (diary entries, dreams, couplets, aphorisms)—all to consider what we’re doing to one another ... If this sounds ecstatic and trippy, it’s meant to be, for Reines wants us to understand how she sees divinity and paradise in this single tapestry, and the connectedness of all people ... this is certainly her impulse: to make her way into the chaos, document what she sees and feels, and make the most of things with them.
...audacious ... The book is a psychedelic epic about climate change and forever war; capitalism and surveillance; gun violence and police brutality; fascism and genocide; diaspora, mental illness, gender, and the occult. These subjects are inseparable from the signs and symbols by which, in our media-glutted moment, they are relentlessly articulated ... In A Sand Book, capitalism’s parasitic effect on discourse mirrors its ransacking of the environment; Reines ties cultural and spiritual desiccation to literal desertification ... In A Sand Book, the threat of annihilation is not just speculative but historical. Reines reckons with patriarchy’s assaults and imperialism’s appetites, as well as more localized atrocities ... The journey A Sand Book narrates is not a hero’s triumph, then, but something messier, less readily legible ... Reines navigates existential calamity as she does literature and language—like a sieve or a singing bowl ... A Sand Book shows her consciousness at its most expansive and integrated to date. These poems understand nothing so well as their own inevitable incompleteness—that no composition could contain everything, that every history is partial.