Elevate Difference

Reviews of W.W. Norton

A Journey with Two Maps: Becoming a Woman Poet

“But if the tradition would not admit me, could I change its rules of admission?” Eavan Boland asks in her new book, A Journey with Two Maps. This volume honors the accumulated change wrought by earlier woman poets, the self-claimed permission for women to write identities outside of the feminine, and the female victory of bringing the ordinary into the canon. She also proselytizes for a transcendence of the binary: that the writer can perceive the contradictory aspects of poetry’s history and practice and reconcile them through her work, and then use these two maps to reach a poetic destination.

Sonata Mulattica

Rita Dove’s poetry is seductive. Her narrative verse reels you in because it’s like reading a page-turner of a novel that suddenly immerses you in her beautifully recreated world. It is always a world she has taken the time to carefully research. In 1986’s Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas and Beulah Dove’s subject was the adventurous and bittersweet epic lives of her grandparents, who survived and loved through the Great Depression and into the Jim Crow era in Akron, Ohio.

Word Comix

Word Comix by Charlie Smith is a collection of poetry that often explodes with strange and unfamiliar words. Reading it, I kept getting the desire to grab a dictionary and improve my vocabulary.

What Goes On: Selected and New Poems 1995-2009

Stephen Dunn, an experienced poet with a litany of accolades after his name, has published a selection of works from the last fifteen years, along with a slim collection of new pieces, in What Goes On In a wry, raw voice Dunn’s poems touch upon matters of politics, success, and sex.

Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale

I jumped at the chance to review Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale, an unconventional graphic memoir from writer/artist Belle Yang. While I am no expert on graphic literature, I did devour Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis series.

Bar Book: Poems and Otherwise

Julie Sheehan’s third collection brims with a jumble of lyric verse, snippets of conversation, and wry prose reflection. The pieces take their titles from the outlandishly suggestive names of drinks: “Brandy Stinger,” for example, the opening poem, features the voice of an older woman boozily bemused by the plight of the modern (divorcing) woman: “All right one more, and that’s final.

Toxic Flora: Poems

An extraordinary selection of poetry by Kimiko Hahn, Toxic Flora beautifies the ugliness of the scientific life and the elements of being human through poetry. Extending from the common small animals of the world to outer space, Hahn delivers a speckling of her work with both clever brevity and clarity. Projecting moments grasped from the New York Times, Hahn elaborates only the slightest amount necessary in her poetry, leaving the reader to ponder and to possibly wonder about the natural world and the human place in it.

Elegies for the Brokenhearted

Elegies for the Brokenhearted is a book about nobodies. The narrator, Mary Murphy, is a silent observer to the destructive forces around her that ultimately shape the outcome of her life. As invisible as her ubiquitous name, Mary is a shy—and at times optionally mute—child and young adult who finds very little to care for. We first meet Mary as a young girl trying desperately to gain the (positive) attention of her mother and uncle.

I Was the Jukebox

As a poet myself, it’s inspiring to come across a writer like Sandra Beasley. Not only is she highly talented, but she’s also a young, female poet who has already published two book-length collections and received national recognition and awards. In her latest collection, I Was the Jukebox, it’s easy to see why she’s so successful. From the first page to the ninetieth page Beasley blends refreshing imagery with unique diction. She mixes myth and modernity.

Erotic Poems

Love, sex, and springtime are fundamental themes in E.E. Cummings’ lifetime body of work, and in Erotic Poems, editor George James Firmage brings together pieces by Cummings’ that are especially sexual, exalting of fertility, and written in a voice that is at once fresh and wise, evocative of the dumb yet utterly precise instinct to procreate.

The Wave-Maker: Poems

If Elizabeth Spires' poetry collection, The Wave-Maker, presents a single image, it is something deceptively simple, like the flick of a blouse hanging on a clothesline. Difficult subject matter such as death, aging, and the meaning of life are examined by peering in to closely examine the minutiae.

From Rage to Courage: Answers to Readers' Letters

Alice Miller alleges that "most people (ninety-five percent of the world population) were beaten as children." You might think these are some pretty hefty charges: so did I.

Where I Live: New & Selected Poems 1990-2010

It’s truly a shame that poetry is so often thought of as inaccessible, hopelessly and purposefully snarled with obscurity and flabby with rococo intellectualism. Great poetry should work on many levels, and thus appeal to a wide audience from those who appreciate it for its pure beauty and those that delight the complexity of further analysis. Maxine Kumin is a poet whose entire oeuvre is rooted in what she knows: her farm in New Hampshire, where she works in the ground, keeps horses.

New Collected Poems

Combining eleven of Eavan Boland’s books, New Collected Poems presents readers with her finest work. Boland, a contemporary Irish poet, guides readers across thirty years of her work in this 307 page tome. During the journey, one begins to traverse tradition, grasp snippets of myth, and peer inside the life of this extraordinary woman. Most of Boland’s poems are written in traditional forms, which give her work a smooth consistency.

Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen

Forget fairytales and fables that threaten rape and violence to women who go off the beaten path, deny their parents, or refuse to marry. Marilyn Chin's novel, Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen, doesn't lock away its female protagonists into a tower so a prince can climb up their hair and doesn't ask the women to honor and obey their parents.


Unmentionables is a striking collection of bold, in-your-face poetry that covers a variety of subjects using a type of broken-up and eclectic writing style. I found the poetry somewhat confusing, and though they focused on ordinary topics, like animals and nature, It was challenging to discern what they were all about.

Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank

When researching medical or social history, one of the things that often becomes apparent is the level of mystery that surrounded women’s bodies and bodily functions. This mystery and speculation is the subject of Randi Hutter Epstein’s Get Me Out. As the title suggests, Hutter Epstein, a medical journalist, presents an overview of ideas related to conception, pregnancy, and childbirth spanning from antiquity to the modern day.

Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits

Ask people to picture the Great Depression of the 1930s, and they’ll likely envision bread lines, rural poverty, and ragged families trying to hold destitution at bay. One photo, of a tired-looking woman, personifies the crisis. Called Migrant Mother, it depicts a worried female, hand on chin, looking into the distance as two cowering toddlers curl into her body. Taken by Dorothea Lange, the chillingly beautiful, if austere, photo has been used for nearly eighty years to illustrate the personal toll of economic troubles.

The Blue Hour: A Life of Jean Rhys

There’s no shortage of texts examining Jean Rhys, the woman whose writing is as highly regarded among second wave feminists as it is among literature professors. Rhys herself was at work on a memoir when she passed away in 1979, leaving behind the collection of pieces that became Smile Please.

Emily's Ghost: A Novel of the Brontë Sisters

Denise Giardiana creates a gentle and yet realistically harsh world with her newest novel, Emily's Ghost. In the same tradition as Jane Austen, George Elliot, and the Brontë sisters, Giardiana weaves a revealing story of Emily Brontë, author of Wuthering Heights. Emily is portrayed as both intelligent and independent.

Night of Sorrows

If you only knew the basic plot of Frances Sherwood’s Night of Sorrows, you might think it was a novel set in the 21st century. It’s a story about an invasion done in the name of a higher good with an ulterior motive of wealth. And it’s hard to tell who the good guys are because both sides are nowhere close to being saints. But this isn’t a story about America’s invasion of Iraq, Middle East terrorism, oil or the altruistic spread of democracy.