Reviews of Poetry Books That I Have Not Read (Because They Do Not Exist Yet (I Think))

There are some books I read for contests that as far as I know have not made it out into the world at large.  These are poetry books, filled with poems, by persons unknown (because, of course, the contest was name-blind), that I liked a great deal, a deal enough to push them towards being label-mates with me at Zone 3 Press.

In essence, this isn’t so much a list of reviews as it is a way of saying that if you find these books out there–assuming the title hasn’t changed, which is a big assumption–then you should pick them up and read them.  And you should also tell me they are out there so I can do the same (as well as tell the respective poet him- or herself how much I like their work).

P.S. I originally had samples selected from all the books, not just Fourthspace, but then I realized that I don’t have permission from the poets and, unlike with published books, fair use doesn’t apply in this case.  Although if any of the poets of said books listed below want to give me permission, then I’ll certainly put a representative few lines back up because, well, your work is awesome.


Actually, I know who wrote this one: the multi-talented Sarah Blackman.  I know because this book was a runner-up in the last contest I helped sift through for Zone 3 (though I didn’t know it was her manuscript at the time).  But, as far as I can tell, the manuscript isn’t published yet and that’s a damn shame.

Sample line:

It is the year
I have bartered away all my teeth.

Well, what do you know.  I found a link to that entire poem on-line, so here you go: “A Marriage Poem“.

I Don’t Trust Anyone Without Regrets

Ah, yes, now we’re into the realm of possibility, where any one of these manuscripts could, in fact, be by anyone.  ANYONE!  My mother.  My dentist.  Donald Rumsfeld (under a pseudonym, naturally).  Machiavelli.

There were about fifty or so manuscripts I was assigned to winnow.  Those that kept my interest, that (most likely) hooked my eye from the first line, that caused my brain to stop and think and waffle in wonder, those are the ones I pedestaled and pushed ahead.  Now I just wish the books would spontaneously erupt into existence so everyone could read them (and I could own them, because I’m a capitalist materialist).

Hog Rifle

It’s strange reading manuscripts for a contest, especially one that introduces a new poet/book to my publisher.  Partly, I’ve found myself drawn to those manuscripts which resist me the most, the ones that I find most challenging and, therefore, in some way, perhaps least likely to be published elsewhere.  I suppose that’s because I like to read what arrests my attention on the page.

The second thing that strange about reading manuscripts is seeing things that I think I recognize, that feel familiar, but that I can’t place.

The House in Scarsdale

Well, what do you know, I know this person, too.   This is apparently the work of Dan O’Brien, who I met at Sewanee a few years ago.  He was there as a playwright and I didn’t know he wrote poetry until I started recognizing his name out and about in various journals.

He’s a nice guy.  Knew virtually nothing about his poetry and, despite what I said in the above capsule, nothing about his work in this manuscript struck me as familiar.  I suppose what caught me instead was the voice. (Note: this manuscript is still unpublished, so your only recourse to finding his work is to scour away on-line and in journals of the print persuasion.)

Her, Infinite

This is the one that challenged me the most, and that is impossible to excerpt effectively.  I’ll cull a few lines to show below, but that won’t give the truth about the way the text spreads out over the page and clumps in sections like dictionary definitions or dances from side to side like the pendulum on a grandfather clock.

What you see below you captures the music of the language, but not the concreteness of the poems on the page, not the way a stanza becomes an attempt to cross a field littered with radiation (numbers included to mark the rad count), and definitely not the conversation that occurs in your own head as you make sense of the argument in lyrics stretched out before you.

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