Notes on recent poetry books:
Andy Levy, Ashoka, Zasterle press
Ashoka has substantial helpings of levity and breath. The pulled apart lines have created a more open and relaxed space than I've encountered in any of Andy's previous books. I also get the feeling he is being influenced by his young daughters, whose presence in these poems sparkles. A refreshing ludicrousness and unpretentious meditative warmth are at play together here. I've gone back to this book several times, and the poems seem capable of operating from a slightly different angle at each reading.
Buck Downs, Marijuana Soft Drink, Edge Books
Maybe it's because I've been immersed in Zen literature while working on a review of Pat Reed's work, but I kept thinking of Issa when reading Marijuana Soft Drink. These poems use a spare, honed vernacular and engage in a caring hedonism of ambiguity and closely tuned-in connotative resonance. The book is speculative and lyrical and it unpacks the pleasures (or creative potentials) of disorientation. Or disorientation is deliberately but into the service of contact. There's something about the way the phrases build where they don't lend themselves to quotation - you almost always feel you'd have to quote the whole poem to show what he's doing. Humor is used here on simultaneous levels- for pleasure and for social critique.
Jeff Hull, Spoor, Subpress Collective
Spoor riff-switches between spare word combinations that test each others resonances and transcendental perceptions that rescue themselves from transcendental usage. Incredibly compact and careful handling of two and three word phrase-units.
Jennifer Moxley, The Sense Record, Edge books
Highly crafted poetry with a strong, intellectual spirit: a psychological drama projected from a persona. This work uses intentionally archaic diction, as well as objects, images, and scenes, not for their own sake, but as shapes to build structure and argument around. She unabashedly embraces a pose of literary archness, and this seems to actually up the ante on the variegated streams of thought that are active here. The poems operate as a fantasy-space of complaint against some of the current situations and deals of the White American Adult Mind- and maybe as an attempt at a temporary autonomous zone for sentiment, disclosure and shameless artfulness. These poems caustically valorize their disappointments in a way that is actually engaging, as though turning self-pity from a liability into a kind of engine.