Foreword Reviews

It's Everything—It's Poetry

It’s soothing, it’s enraging, it’s melodic, it’s grating––it’s poetry. For an array of feelings all in one section, read any of the six poetry books below.


Book Cover
Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
BOA Editions
Softcover $16.00 (112pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Mama never said there’d be debuts like these, presenting new poets who arrive with unforeseen, indescribable gifts. Over the mountains of Tijuana at age five, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s journey included an MFA at the University of Michigan—the first undocumented student ever—on to teaching positions at Sacramento State University and Ashland University. Cenzontle recently won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize.


Yes, we drowned, then changed our minds,
then drowned again,
because we could,
because no one would know the difference—

a leaf to its trembling
when it is no longer a leaf
but just a trembling.

We splashed against the current—
a zipper of palms opening and closing.

We were too busy to notice
that everything we touched
was a little bell that was a little famous.

The sun opened its curfew and song

as I swam to shake the sounds
of your laughter off me.

MATT SUTHERLAND (February 27, 2018)


Book Cover
Bernard Farai Matambo
University of Nebraska Press
Hardcover $17.95 (96pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Poetry is marvelous transportation. Africa beckons—you want some of me?—and the poet takes pains, takes pens to the stuff of his life, so that we can experience the Zimbabwe in the man. An Oberlin College creative writing assistant professor, Bernard Farai Matambo won the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets.

Feasts for the Blind

That year it rained crows. Birds fell out of the sky in midflight. Their
squawking made mother nervous. It gave her the chills and made her
teeth chatter. She threw her eyes everywhere and through the window
caught the taut sky tightening. It had been dark for days. I watched her
avidly and stabbed her with eyes full of questions. Don’t be an idiot,
she shot back, the earth too remains hungry. She was going blind, and
her mind was beginning to sag. She walked into things and smiled
with suffering. She stared into dark corners and hummed into them.
She gathered nothing of the swelling whiff but stood by the window
and stared hard outside. The beauty of the birds tormented her. In
the yellow moonlight they glowed with the threat of better things
to come. I licked my lips and heard her mumble inaudibles. She kept
her gaze outside, watching the birds fatten, a sour breath gathering
among them, a harvest of pus waiting in the wound.

MATT SUTHERLAND (February 27, 2018)


Book Cover
BK Fischer
Mad Creek Books
Softcover $16.95 (88pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Ooooh, baby, the gloves are off. In Radioapocrypha, BK Fischer has done imagined Jesus Christ as a buff chemistry teacher in Maryland in 1989. Does she not fear bolts of lightning? The author of two other superb collections, Mutiny Gallery and St. Rage’s Vault, Fischer is the poetry editor at Boston Review.


Sweet Maren, relent. You are naked because you peeled your damp
tank top over your head as you slept. You were clench-jawed and call-
ing out about the Iron Curtain and the iron lung, voodoo, Virginia
Woolf, Watergate, the last man standing in a field of wheat. You’re
here, with me, in the bedroom. Sit up and see by moonlight—there’s
the picture on the wall, the shape of the fruit, the shaded side of the
bowl. Find your spot here on my chest, your damp ear, damp tendril.
A carpet will slip on its carpet pad. Prophesies will cease, tongues will be
stilled, knowledge will pass away. Only love remains. You don’t need to
get up again for a drink of water. You don’t need to pee. You don’t need
to put your knee on the vanity to get a closer look at your imperfec-
tions. Believe me. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

MATT SUTHERLAND (February 27, 2018)

Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance

Book Cover
Fady Joudah
Milkweed Editions
Softcover $16.00 (88pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

A Houston poet’s tool box doesn’t normally include fluency in Arabic and an internal medicine practice—indeed, Dr. Joudah’s scholastic accomplishments and life experience raise our expectations. And, in turn, we find his work on the page to be intensely observant, thoughtful, skilled, and outright enjoyable. In 2007, he won the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition, and later received the Griffin Poetry Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. This is his fourth published collection.


Morning slept well. The fruit vendor—an immigrant in a Paris
street market whose name I can access but don’t recall—sliced
a peach and called out to passersby, city dwellers, tourists to
try this heart of his, not too sour, not too sweet, ripe, ready, his
bare hands looked as dry as can be expected, the pocket knife
blade clean as well. Many refused. A few reached out and let
his quartered peach fall unto their fingertips furled like flowers.
They ate his offering then walked off with or without shaking
their heads. No thank you or Yes but No. You waited as you
chewed then picked four fruits, one for each chamber. He said
“Gorgeous, you’re the one who’s mended my heart.”

MATT SUTHERLAND (February 27, 2018)

The Middle Ages

Book Cover
Jim Daniels
Red Mountain Press
Softcover $18.95 (92pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Poets and words, a relationship built on endless frustration and betrayal. That’s not what I intended to say. Sorry, bard, that’s what you get with me. Certain poets embrace the ambiguity, as if potential misunderstandings raise a poem’s interest level. Not Jim Daniels. The author of sixteen collections of poetry, five books of fiction, and several film scripts, his deliberate, painstaking prose is as grounded as his native Detroit.


If you’re at home watching a movie
on your movie-watching device of choice

and somebody calls you up
to say they’ve got some bad news

and you press pause
as the train pulls out of its dreamy station

and they tell you someone you love has died,
do you ever watch that movie again?

And if so, what happens when you reach
the part where you paused?

Or maybe you should just pick up
from that moment? Or should you

just leave it there, freezing the train
forever in that terrifying green valley?

MATT SUTHERLAND (February 27, 2018)

Girl with Death Mask

Book Cover
Jennifer Givhan
Indiana University Press
Softcover $10.00 (92pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

When cornered, we’ll admit to preferring poetry with rhythm—musicality in the ear surely deepens a poem’s effect. Yes, Jennifer Givhan, we’re awed by your use of pause and pacing, as you lead us to better understanding a woman’s landmine-filled journey out of childhood. Much awarded and published in top poetry journals, she is the author of two other collections and lives in New Mexico.


No it’s true I put on makeup for my rapist

I loved him I know I shouldn’t admit it
the way the wick melts into wax & needs

to be dug out I loved him so hard He still calls me
sometimes I didn’t even realize what that night

should be called how naming things calls them
into being I bought a new skirt & I don’t mean
before I mean after I even curled my hair

& maybe I’d curl it again I don’t know
how long does it take to be cured They sell

new wicks in packs & you can stick one in deep
with a needle It’ll burn the same You can burn
your skin if you’re not careful I’ve done it I’ve

dreamt I’m not still dead
I wake on fire

MATT SUTHERLAND (February 27, 2018)

Matt Sutherland

Load Next Feature