Staff Picks


Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück

… I was constantly face-to-face with blankness, that stepchild of the sublime, which, it turns out, has been both my subject and my medium. (from “Afterword”) Louise Glück’s latest book is a masterful meditation on existence and death, on the passage of all things — topics as old as any in this material world. Her… Read More

Saint Friend by Carl Adamshick

If a collection of poetry at its best can at once be a confession, an elegy, a history, a love lyric, penned in the two-hearted language of retrospect, Saint Friend is such an achievement. This book speaks with a foreign tongue requiring no translation. It reads like the story of the stranger you see daily…. Read More

Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder edited by Chad Wriglesworth

Here we have a window into over four decades of friendship between two prolific and well-respected countercultural American writers. Formally introduced in the early 1970s after already having been mutual appreciators of each other’s work, the poet-farmers struck up a cross-country camaraderie buoyed by the all-but-forgotten beauty of conversation. Through almost 250 letters, Wendell Berry… Read More

Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary by Harryette Mullen

Known primarily for the Steinian language poetry of Trimmings and S*PeRM**K*T and for her syntactically, semantically experimental Sleeping with the Dictionary, Harryette Mullen here departs into “capturing in concise form the ephemera of everyday life” by way of adapted traditional Japanese verse. Some simply observational, others more contemplative, Urban Tumbleweed’s tanka demonstrate a poet amidst… Read more »

Read More

My rice tastes like the lake by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa

Ms. Dhompa’s third collection of poetry—first published in 2011 yet remaining her most recent—is a squat, slender text of sizeable mindfulness split into eight sections. Raised in Tibetan exile communities before settling in San Francisco, the author shies not from her Buddhist roots in composing musical, meditative blocks through which are woven life’s paradoxical quests… Read More

Sorrow Arrow by Emily Kendal Frey

One can quite happily take in Ms. Frey’s fine new book as one would a wondrous mosaic — as a whole it shimmers with a gorgeous sadness. That haunting whole is assembled from untitled pieces, few longer than one page, which are themselves composed of doubled-spaced lines that begin with a capital letter, giving each… Read More

Headwaters by Ellen Bryant Voigt

On March 22, 2014, John and I had the deep pleasure of hearing Ellen Bryant Voigt read from her stellar recent collection of poetry, Headwaters, at the University of Washington. The poems in this new volume tumble with a lyric energy made all the more compelling by their complete lack of punctuation. It is a… Read More

If I Don’t Breathe How Do I Sleep by Joe Wenderoth

An effusive assessment of Joe Wenderoth’s most recent book might also function as a warning — his wit is well honed, merciless, and sustained. And there is much in the world it cuts. Those familiar with his uproarious and greatly unsettling collection of pieces written on Wendy’s restaurant comment cards, Letters to Wendy’s, understand. I… Read More

Swamp Isthmus by Joshua Marie Wilkinson

All senses engage on Wilkinson’s tour of the swamp: an emotive modern folktale in seven parts, teeming as the eponymous waters of this 2013 title. Recurring images populate a landscape of short, molasses-like lines—dogs, reeds, rafts, the moon—sketching as much as whispering interpersonal connection and loss. There’s the distinct feeling of collecting, sifting, cataloging, all… Read More

Talkativeness by Michael Earl Craig

In the way a night spent out in the country after a lifetime of city dwelling does, Talkativeness offers singular introspection and a back-road ghostliness. There’s a theatrical nature, too, to Michael Earl Craig’s poems. Deliberate staging, dim backlight, a slow panning to guide the mind. One can feel an aura of directorship always nearby,… Read More