... 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.
Reines is a 21st century prophet, which is to say, the prophet popular American culture created ... A Sand Book is rhythmic, self-aware of its free incantatory metrical style, and utilizes motifs that re-emerge without surprising, making them feel distant, like echoes or reminders. These motifs come through in poems written as collages of experience, many of which lack normative progressions of sense and opt for stream-of-consciousness reflection ... A Sand Book covers an immense amount of territory over its 300+ pages, and as such the shorter poems interspersed with the longer poems work both as respites and little contemplations for the reader. While some of these feel a bit like filler, A Sand Book works more like a novel than like a poetry collection; not every sentence is meant to be or can be strong alone, but together they form a driven narrative whole. Reading Reines and journeying with her encouraged a deeper contemplation of existence because of this mix.
In the poems...she fleshes out the experience of selfhood, as it corresponds to the world, more completely than in her previous collections. While her prior books could sometimes read like conceptually icy soliloquies to oblivion, prefiguring the collapse of collectively shared values, with A Sand Book she’s looking out onto the world, addressing its dramatic vistas in a tone absent of irony: that of an 'I' addressing a 'you.' The 12 sections that compose A Sand Book designedly capture the minute particulars of experience, organizing memories, dreams, and reflections under different thematic headings ... the spirituality of Reines’s poetry, which often speaks to the authenticity of mystical experience, comes across much more profoundly than in her previous work. Admirers of Reines won’t be disappointed; and new readers will learn a great deal about the personality shaping her singular poetic voice.
...[a] tour de force ... Reines’ wildly rewarding poems are connected through clarity of voice, generous irreverence, and seemingly limitless purview ... Reines proves erudite in her selection of material, and readers may need to conduct quick research to decipher her subject matter ... It may prove impossible to completely characterize this powerhouse collection, which is part of its magic. Reines’ creation is to be paged through slowly, and revisited often, as it truly contains multitudes.
The fourth book from Reines...is ambitious in its scope and artistic vision, offering a postmodern take on the epic poem ... Despite these strengths, the poems in this volume occasionally traffic in abstraction, failing to ground vague concepts in sensory detail ... Throughout the book, Reines’s enjambments heighten the sense of irony that characterizes her approach to the feminist epic ... The poems operate primarily on the level of ideas, rather than through lyrical language, though the speaker’s deadpan tone does not always succeed in creating the sense of momentum needed to propel the reader through this textual landscape.