Review of Montgomery & Sieburth’s ‘Antarah

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: There’s a batch of between seven and ten very old poems that, I’m told, every educated Arabic-speaker knows. All introductions to all translations of these poems say this. Unfortunately, these pieces are notoriously untranslatable—which is not to say they can’t be Englished and explained. You can do that; the thing you can’t do is make the result graceful.

[originally posted Wednesday 6 March 2019]

Meet Your New Favorite Poet

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: And why can’t beginners have this pleasure? That’s easy. ’Cuz they cannot bring themselves to read material that’s “not gonna be on the test.” And even if they do somehow read such material, they do not love it. They are beginners; they love each other. Everything else is homework.

[originally posted Wednesday 20 February 2019]

I'm reading this right now.

It's a satirical novel about H.D.; came out, 1926. The novelist is one of the many men whom she drove absolutely crazy all through her twenties and thirties. It made them SO MAD that her self-involvement simply and harmlessly left no room in the picture for them.

Review of Ha Jin’s Li Bai

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: Almost all we have are lists of dates and names of places. In such-and-such year the genius went to such-and-such place. Now, if one collated such chronologies, and set ’em up the way it’s done in the backs of Library of America editions, you’d be looking at two, maybe three, pages of material. And it wouldn’t tell you jack. There’s almost nothing personal there. So how are you gonna get 300 pages out of it? Basically: hook a bicycle pump to those names and dates and fsssht-fsssht-fsssht ’til you hit 300….

[originally posted Friday 8 February 2019]

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Review of Melissa McCormick, The Tale of Genji: A Visual Companion

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: Suppose you don’t honestly want to read Tale of Genji, but you want to want to read it. The Tale of Genji: A Visual Companion could help with this. Because! When you look at a picture, say, of some random-to-you dude (with an attendant) peeping through a fence at a busy scene with women chasing a sparrow, you just naturally want to know what’s up. Who are these people. Why is he peeping. Why are they chasing. You imagine the better and more cultured version of yourself who might spot this image in a museum and turn to whomever-you’re-with and go: “Oh!! I know what this is! This is the scene from Tale of Genji where [blah blah blah]…!” That would be a tasty moment, you must admit.

[originally posted Wednesday 9 January 2019]

Review of D.H. Lawrence, The Poems, Volume III: Uncollected Poems and Early Versions

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: What we have here is the fortieth (and final) volume in the Cambridge Edition of the Works of D.H. Lawrence. The textual embalmers have been at it for more than forty years, and their work is finally complete. There must be a couple graduate students in a space station somewhere, high-fiving just now. They’ve been waiting since 1979. Now they can write their chapters.

[originally posted Wednesday 9 January 2019]

Review of The Labyrinth, by Saul Steinberg

At Rhino.

Teaser quote: I turn the pages of this book in a state of outrage that anyone could have been gifted with this much talent. I keep saying aloud: “Son of a bitch!” “Goddammit!” “Fucking no. NO. You can’t be this good. No one can be this good!”

[originally posted Thursday 6 December 2018]

Review of Hesiod I: Theogony, Works and Days, Testimonia; Hesiod II: The Shield, Catalogue of Women, Other Fragments, edited and translated by Glenn M. Most

At Rhino.

Teaser quoteWorks and Days is a little bit like a poem that might have been written in an 18th-century madhouse. There’s little personal bits, loads of advice (some of it patently cuckoo), and then miles of simply joyous description of natural phenomena, in the gnomic mode.

[originally posted Thursday 6 December 2018]

Æsop Again

At The Paris Review Online.

Teaser quote: I felt I must warn the young as I had been warned: “Lessons are bad. Talking animals are bad. Anything that smacks of the Middle Ages is bad.” Today I think the opposite, straight down the line. Lessons are good; talking animals, hell yes. And anything that smacks of the Middle Ages is probably my only reason for getting up in the morning.

[originally posted Wednesday 21 November 2018]

On Æsop’s Fables

At The Paris Review Online:

Teaser quote: The ants all gathered ’round and said, Ah-hah, you are justly served for being such a lazybones! Now starve, shithead.

[originally posted Wednesday 7 November 2018]

Two microreviews for Rhino: Jonathan Swift + Vanessa Couto Johnson



Teaser quote, from the Couto Johnson review: Now, the first thing a beginner would do with this format is decide it’s uninteresting to have all the prose stanzas be end-stopped. Indeed, beginners only choose forms so they can immediately make them more “interesting” by defeating every last molecule of reason for having the form in the first place. VCJ is not like that. She selected this form because of what it does; then she proceeds to exploit its potential.

[originally posted Monday 5 November 2018]