It’s great cocktail-bar (and dive-bar) verse ... pellucid and startlingly intelligent poetry ... Sullivan catches the 'slam-hold of horns' in taxicabs and how, when you are young in New York, you can pile into a cab with too many others ... You follow this writer where she wishes to take you. She is a poet of steel shavings, of semidetached feeling, of unexpected links and impieties and unpropitious implications. She’s writing criticism of daily life—criticism of the state of her own soul.
Sullivan’s voice has a suppleness that canters within the formal constraints she imposes on it ... she can be mischievous in her rhyming ... At times it feels like it’s overreaching, taking in philosophical discussions of nothingness and Shelley’s ars poetica; but...it is always pulled back by Sullivan’s astonishing capacity for the seen, the telling analogy, or visual set-piece ... Sullivan’s choice of register is one of her main assets ... chatty and offhanded, while evoking both spring’s excess and a certain insubstantiality. She’s an exquisite image-maker and analogist ... Sullivan never forgets to bring her celestial concerns down to the human scale.
Her alluring debut collection...travels light, illuminated yet never shackled by scholarship, and investigates the way life does—and does not—revise itself ... She writes freshly about everything, including sameness. She is a sensual conjurer of atmospheres—writing almost as a poet-restaurateur ... There is intimacy in this collection—sex, giving birth, death. Could one come any closer to a writer than through these subjects? Yet much remains mysterious ... patternless beauty is what compels in her own writing although the form is anything but failed. There is pure pleasure in her rhyming couplets. Her facility is so great (she is a modern Browning as a rhymer) that she is as at home with the streetwise as with the intellectually sophisticated and can, with almost absent-minded panache, bring off unexpected pleasures ... a gorgeous wit alternates with melancholy ... whatever the cocktail, it is worth ordering if Hannah Sullivan has mixed it.
That her poems are...elegant, affecting, and verbally memorable—this has less to do with their taut confessional arc, and more with Sullivan’s balancing act between form and its discontents ... Sullivan exactly anatomizes an era, piling up details...in stanzas that quickly shake off the tight terza rima of her opening pages and loosen into long-lined Whitmanesque vistas of city nostalgia ... In its constellating of period detail, 'You, Very Young in New York' can seem too predictably of its moment...but there’s a voice here other than the merely memorial ... Sullivan is quite brilliant at the level of the individual phrase, the strangely turned observation ... The ever-changing river is one thing, terrible and attractive enough, but there are also the duties and joys of order and repetition—even of tradition, in Sullivan’s generous congregation of influence.
... a paean to cosmopolitanism, urban living in New York and a certain kind of ennui that characterises contemporary life ... Sullivan presents this lyric perspective through a second person narration, a ‘you’. Yet, this ‘you’ has a strangely alienating effect on the reader. Rather than feeling involved, or implicated, the ‘you’ evoked here feels detached, removed, perhaps oblivious to the emptiness and decadence of Western consumerism ... it’s uncertain as to the extent in which the persona of the poem is complicit in or critical of such global power imbalances and inequalities ... What is also noticeable here is Sullivan’s use of meter, of rhyming couplets which evidence an adherence to conventional forms and a preference for the long line. This lends itself conveniently to the use of anecdote, detail and narrative ... Three Poems stands as an admirable debut collection, impressive and compelling in its sophistication, sharp observation and alert attention to rhyme. Sullivan utilises various poetic forms with great dexterity and skill. Occasionally, the surface of the narrative felt rather busy and cluttered with detail. Despite this, the collection clearly seeks both to explore and expand the boundaries of the long poem in its contemporary form.
The poems are deeply rooted in the physical, with an unrelenting focus on bodily detail ... The collection has moments of bathos—the bad jokes about Shelley in ‘Repeat Until Time’ jar and flatten—but read together Three Poems is steadfast in its dedication to pushing its modes of writing beyond their natural limits, in free verse that grows more productively strange each time you read it[.]
Sullivan’s poems are befitting of an academic – dense in language and rife with formal play and intertextual allusions – but the personal and playful paths the poems tread make them accessible to the casual reader of poems ... Sullivan avoids many of the pitfalls the glut of lesser works fall prey to ... While the [first] poem successfully subverts the glamour of being “very young in New York,” it never quite delivers something totally new on that theme...Thankfully, the other two poems in the collection are more interesting.
... majestic ... The coolness with which Sullivan nets such detail could dull the poem’s urgency. Most of the time it doesn’t. The airy terza rima of its first section is tossed aside, suggesting that she knows when to respect a poem that announces it has other plans ... has an aerated extravagance that brings to mind Wallace Stevens’s ‘Parfait Martinique: coffee mousse, rum on top, a little cream on top of that’ – though that sounds positively austere beside these cocktails. Sullivan’s balancing acts are more strenuous than those of Stevens but her authority, reach and ambition are exhilarating. Her metaphorical scope is that of the internet, as access-all-areas as it is frictionless ... The long poem has already announced that it’s going to take time, so we may be more than usually willing to stop and solve a series of puzzles on the way. The difficulty comes when the poem does not want to be slowed down. Urgency is at times muted by an overinvestment in observation ... Despite a sense of pacing myself, I became so absorbed in the book that I noticed the repetition of an adverb (‘voluptuously’) used many pages apart and a possible contradiction involving an old blue dressing-gown ... Her drive to perceptual flood is exhilarating. It can overtake the reader, leaving us scrambling to catch up. It can overtake the poem, too. But I enjoy the confidence of this claim on my energy as well as my time.
The influence of writers like T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden abounds in Sullivan’s long stanzas and page-width lyrics, which are littered with pitch perfect images...succinct turns of phrase...and exquisitely captured sentiments ... Sullivan elevates otherwise mundane daily interactions through artful specificity and repetition of sounds ... At times, playful and humorous...Sullivan skillfully shifts gears to poignant and profound ... Composed of three long poems, this volume presents an odd paradox: though intimidating in length, it leaves the reader wanting more. An antithesis to abbreviated Twitter poetry, Sullivan’s lyrics are nonetheless accessible and exceptionally rewarding.