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Massachusetts Reviews: Spectra

- By Robert Manaster

Spectra: Poems by Ashley Toliver (Coffee House Press, 2019)

"Kinesis," the first poem in Ashley Toliver's powerful first book Spectra, frames the collection's primary strength: that of movement through trauma and the emotionally dark places in the female self, where one can be "plumbing / a violent kinesis. "This movement takes place via Toliver's poetic form and her charged poetic language. While near the collection's beginning, the female speaker's husband in "Long Division" is waiting for "a woman / to crawl out of / herself," by the collection's last poem, the speaker sees herself "in the last pew / of the lit horizon / in the wide-open field of the...


Reviews

Massachusetts Reviews: Liquid Whitman

- By Marsha Bryant

Some poets are wine poets. Walt Whitman is a beer poet. In a Brooklyniana piece from 1862, he describes the Eastern District breweries as “sources of the mighty outpourings of ale and lager beer, refreshing the thirsty lovers of those liquids in hot or cold weather.” In American literature, the boisterous and sprawling poem that made his name still refreshes lovers of innovation with its mighty outpourings. Bell’s “Song of Myself” India Pale Ale isn’t Whitman’s first beer incarnation. ...


Reviews

Massachusetts Reviews: The Book of Delights

- By Brad Crenshaw

The Book of Delights: Essays by Ross Gay (Algonquin Books, 2019)

The 2019 Conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs concluded this spring, after nearly six hundred panels, readings and celebrations, and over eight hundred vendors and literary presses on display at the book fair—all crammed into three days and three nights. The Massachusetts Review was there, celebrating its 60th anniversary by organizing an excellent, memorable panel, and establishing its presence at the book fair. This conference for writers is, of course, not the only one held this year, but it is the largest, and its organizers were visibly committed to representing as wide a range of...


Reviews

Massachusetts Reviews: Moxie

- By Allison Bird Treacy

Moxie by Alex Poppe (Tortoise Books, 2018)

Scott Hamilton was wrong when he said that the only disability in life is a bad attitude. In fact, you ask many self-described disabled people, a bad attitude is just our other disability. That’s why, when an abled writer puts a disabled character at the center of a story, as is the case in Alex Poppe’s debut novel Moxie, the text must walk a fine line: avoid the inspiration porn trap.

Often ascribed to the late disability activist, journalist, and comedian Stella Young, inspiration porn describes the majority of mainstream disability...


Reviews

Massachusetts Reviews: Kill CLass

- By Allison Bird Treacy

Kill Class by Nomi Stone (Tupelo, 2019)

Living as we do in a time of ceaseless, overlapping wars, I would venture that most Americans believe that we know how soldiers prepare for war, through basic training and boot camp, the persistent physical trials of young men to ensure their strength. In order to enter into Nomi Stone’s incisive second collection, Kill Class, however, we have to let go of this vision of military training, and follow her through the vortex of the anthropologist’s camera. There we encounter Pineland, the military training ground that “has room for whatever the world does to itself.”

Home to a special class of war games, Pineland can be anything, but today it’s Iraq—any city there, any Middle Eastern...


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