Benjamin Fondane: Cinepoems and Others

Edited by Leonard Schwartz

Translated by Mitchell Abidor, Marianne Bailey, E.M. Cioran, Marilyn Hacker, Henry King, Andrew Rubens, Nathaniel Rudavsky-Brody, Leonard Schwartz

NYRB, $14.95

Rainy Paris street.  A book.  Wearing fedora and raincoat.  With that face.  Benjamin Fondane.  The book shadows you.  Repeats your every gesture.  Even the rhythm of your heart.  You grab your umbrella.  Push the point into the book’s face.  Pierce the eye.  The book collapses into the gutter.  Rainwater gushing over it.  Benjamin Fondane.  Looking up at the camera.  Water bubbling from one eye.


I Am Flying into Myself: Selected Poems 1960-2014

Bill Knott

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28.00

What Bill Knott would have said about this book (in his own words): “It’s terrible.  The one consolation: It’ll vomit back.  Fiercely foilsome.  Dottily on the ledge.  Other faux pas I’m under no order to enumerate—Better is good but not as well.  The poem on its own, wandering.  While I lie here less than what, what.  The place where Bill Knott would be.  I did not know you were even alive.  Free me or worship me.  It aches for its source, the wound.  I smile.”


 300 Arguments

Sarah Manguso

Graywolf Press, $14.00

“Arguments”? The front flap of the book calls them “nonfiction,” “unrelated aphorisms,” “pieces,” and “renegade wisdom literature.”  John Jeremiah Sullivan calls them, in his blurb, “a sort of novel.”  Dani Shapiro, in her blurb, carefully avoids calling them anything.  Though no one seems certain what to call these short pieces of prose, this much can be said with certainty: They are set in Minion Pro and printed on acid-free, 100 percent postconsumer wastepaper.




Jill McDonough

Alice James Books, $15.95

I think that I shall never own a poem lovely as a drone.  A drone whose hungry mouth is prest

against some poor slob’s sweaty breast; a drone that looks like God all day, and fires its mighty arms at prey; a drone that may in Summer wear a nest made of your child’s hair; upon whose visage gazed the slain; who intimately lives with pain.  Poems are made by fools in Rome, but only a god can fire a drone.


Irradiated Cities

Mariko Nagai

Les Figues Press, $17.00

I’m an American.  I shouldn’t have to read or think about such fucked up things, nor should you.  OK, there is North Korea; OK, there is President Trump.  But irradiated cities and irradiated flesh?  We’d probably watch it if it were a Japanese horror flick.  But other than that?  C’mon.


 Made in Detroit

Marge Piercy

Knopf, $27.95

Marge Piercy was “made in Detroit,” hence the title, hence the title poem, which tells us: “I suckled Detroit’s steel tits.”  This is one of the best lines in the entire book, which drifts away from Detroit to Cape Cod (Will we all meet at Marge Piercy’s place in Cape Cod after the apocalypse?) where the book loses its focus.  Perhaps the problem can be found on the front cover: The words “MARGE PIERCY” are much larger than the words “MADE IN DETROIT.”  Smallest of all, the word “POEMS.”



Daniele Pantano

Black Lawrence Press, $16.95

Will there be pumpkin spice latte served in the afterlife?  Yes, but nothing else.  Will there be poetry?  Only one poet.  The poetry of Billy Collins?  No, only Georg Trakl.  As translated by Billy Collins?  No, by Daniele Pantano.  Only Orakl?  Only Orakl.  But hasn’t Pantano taken all of Trakl’s work and arranged every line of every poem in alphabetical order?  Exactly.  Isn’t that difficult for the reader?  And for Georg Trakl?  Drink your damn pumpkin spice latte.


The Verging Cities

Natalie Scenters-Zapico

The Center for Literary Publishing, $16.95

Well-placed anonymous sources tell me this is the book Melania and Donald read at night before bed.  Donald usually plays the border guard and Melania the migrant, but sometimes Ivanka is the guard and Donald the wall.  Melania, she’s always the migrant.



Frank Smith

Translated by Vanessa Place

Les Figues Press, $17.00

Once upon a time there was a place called Guantanamo.  Perfect for “bad guys.”  We conducted “enhanced interrogation.”  Sometimes called torture.  Transcripts of these sessions were obtained by Frank Smith (Yes, there really is a French writer named Frank Smith).  He edited them and translated them into French.  And they suddenly became Poems.  Now they’ve been translated back into English (Couldn’t she simply have asked Smith for his original English texts?) by Vanessa Place (No, this isn’t a street).  Even though they are now in English once again, they are still Poems.  But the interrogators and the interrogated?  They, the poor fools, are not Poets.  They are only interrogators and interrogated.



Layli Long Soldier

Graywolf Press, $16.00

If you planted this book in the earth, it would sprout grassesgrassesgrasses.  Not that I’m saying you should.  Not that you ever would.