Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged contemporary poetry

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

There is something quite redemptive about the 2010 edition of Ntozake Shange's experimental “choreo-poem,” For colored girls who have considered suicide/When the rainbow is enuf, which is published as a tie-in to Tyler Perry's underwhelming film adaptation, For Colored Girls.

Burning of the Three Fires

Burning of the Three Fires marks the third collection of poems from Jeanne Marie Beaumont. Beaumont, who won a National Poetry Series award for her first book, experiments with form and examines the female condition in her latest collection. The result is a vibrant mix of poems that keep readers turning the pages and analyzing the words before them. “Girl on a Scale,” though not atypical in form, vividly depicts an eating disorder.


Elyse Fenton’s first book of poems, Clamor, features some of the finest contemporary poetry on war. She captures both the battlefield and the homefront with an unwavering realism. Her imagery is fresh and her language rich. Fenton opens her book with a definition of the word “clamor” which is quite striking.

Thin Kimono

Michael Earl Craig wants you to know something: he's glad he's not a poet. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier who says, “Every now and then I wonder if I fucked up with this horseshoeing thing, but then I talk with my friends in academia and, well, I’m okay with my choices.” So yes, he does write poetry, and may even author a volume or two, but he’s not a poet. Thin Kimono is one of those volumes.

Thousand-Cricket Song

Thousand-Cricket Song is a compelling collection of poetry. My copy is smudged with fingerprints, creases, and other signs of wear from the use I've given it in only one month. I often read one poem at a time, and found myself needing time to consider new ideas or read up on history. The subject matter is heavy; poet Catherine Strisik spent time in Cambodia.

Water the Moon

Socrates famously stated that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I respectfully submit that poets take the dross of everyday life and spin it into gold by focusing on those tiny details that can sometimes get lost in the dizzying mosaic of daily life. See the tiny lines on the woman’s face as she bends down to pick up her glove. Those lines are the map to her life story. Watch the play of light and dark that dance across the shade as dusk falls. Step back and look at your world as though you’ve never seen it before.

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.

Saints & Cannibals

If I were to list my favorite poets, the count would be long and span a modest range of styles, but several rise clearly to the top. These poets—Sharon Olds, Carolyn Forché, Sylvia Plath, and Audre Lorde, to name a few—in no way shy away from subject matter women are traditionally taught to suppress or deny: the shocking, shadowy, and infinitely juicy reality of our lives.

Find the Girl: Poems

Lightsey Darst’s first book of poetry, Find the Girl, offers a haunting look into the world of womanhood. She explores the missing and the murdered, the tragic (Helen of Troy, Atlantis), and the everyday girl who is discovering herself. A number of Darst’s poems contain a true-crime slant, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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.

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.

Arc and Hue

It is deeply satisfying to encounter poetry like Tara Betts’. The widely published poet, author, and Rutgers University creative writing professor bears witness to the true grit of life, including poverty and appearance-based assumptions and experiences that categorize one as other, even among an already marginalized population.

The Bride of E

Mary Jo Bang’s amazing new collection of poetry, The Bride Of E, is vivid with haunting images. The poems in the first part of the book follow their lead from the alphabet, beginning with “ABC Plus E: Cosmic Aloneness Is The Bride Of Existence.” This disturbingly truthful poem is anything but simple. It mirrors the loneliness one can feel even in large crowds.

Names: Poems

Marilyn Hacker is a poet after the heart of not just poetry readers but poetry writers. I was immediately enthralled by the rich language of this National Book Award winner—for Presentation Piece in 1974—a language pulsating with raw indignation at injustice and celebration of what are life’s quotidian and banal joys: the small pleasures of winter light, sips of Sunday coffee, and the company of friends.

Unrest: Poems

The poems in Joanna Rawson’s recent collection, Unrest, have the quality of things scrawled in the harsh fluorescent light of insomnia. The lines scurry in jagged lengths, infesting the broad pages with buzzing images of immigrants suffocating in a boxcar, feverish babies, a suicide bomber, and war.

Somewhere to Run From

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is an activist poet, critic, playwright, and performer working in Montreal and Toronto, and whose first poetry collection, Emergency Contact, was published in 2006.

Once You Go Back: A Novel

Once You Go Back is a poignant and semi-autobiographical novel about a young man and his quest for identity as he grows up in a dysfunctional working-class household.

The King: Poems

I’m trying not to look at Rebecca Wolff’s new book of poems, The King, as a self-help book, which, of course, it’s not at all. But as a fellow writer and mother whose venture into the latter ’hood punted me way out of my cozy work-life comfort zone, I can’t help but look for clues and compare notes while reading Wolff’s crystallizing poems.

Revealing Moments

In Revealing Moments, Wayne Scheers’ collection of twenty-four of prose vignettes, we are plunged right into dark, hopeful, nostalgic and passionate moments of people’s lives. True to form, each vignette is extremely short, ranging from one paragraph to nearly two pages at most. In each carefully crafted snapshot the reader is voyeur to pivotal moments that presumably shape each characters’ reality for better or worse.

A Toast in the House of Friends

Oliver’s collection of poetry is a haunting tribute to her son’s death. However, the collection itself has a universal theme, relatable to readers who haven’t experienced the same loss. Oliver creatively uses words and structure to create her own expression. The book is a collection of poetry in varying lengths and poetic pattern, thus keeping a good flow, as well as engaging.