Poetry Book Reviews

by Stephen Oliver

Greywacke Press,
Canberra, 2018
112 pp.

Reviewed by Nicholas Reid

Though I’ve never met Stephen Oliver in person, I’ve been reviewing his poetry for nearly twenty years and ought, in the interests of transparency, to acknowledge that I have played a role in the publication of his latest volume. It’s a significant work which should have found a home with a major press, and thereby hangs a tale for Otago University Press, which expressed an interest and would have published it were it not for equal measures of stubbornness from both poet and would-be editor. It’s a shame that that deal fell through. It’s a shame, more broadly, that the work of a major poet like Oliver, writing at the height of his powers, could find no other major press. But it is also pleasing to find the volume named in The Listener as one of the best ten poetry books published in 2018.[1]

For the collection displays Oliver’s gifts with a more than usual intensity, the gift for writing well-formed short lyrics (and prose poems) with a complete mastery of voice and tone, along with a gift for imagism rarely to be found. Consider, for instance, the beginning of the poem ‘El Niño’ (p.4):

An argent sunset. And you know it is autumn

In Te Kuiti; a swift’s wing chips light into the barn.

The image captures autumnal light brilliantly. It helps to know that in Maori every vowel is sounded, and given equal weight, for that, once grasped, is the key to the flow of the lines. Constraint and release in the first line, quietly drawn back in in the repeated ‘i’ sounds, which with delicate precision cut the flow in the second line, reflecting aurally the strobing light and dark of the shadow of the swift. This gift for image is everywhere apparent in Luxembourg, there to be found by the reader who looks.

The collection largely eschews the kind of mythologizing at the heart of his previous volume, Intercolonial, with its psycho-geographical exploration of the shared and repressed national identities of Australia and New Zealand. Instead, it focuses on an anxiety we often find in Oliver’s work (one thinks of Harmonic, for instance), for the center that Yeats tells us cannot hold (Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’). As an epistemological anxiety, this lies at the heart of Oliver’s essentially modernist sensibility, but it is also an anxiety that is deeply personal. As Oliver put it in an email to me, this: 

“sense of yearning for something that does not exist , Saudade, Hiraeth – has always been strong in me. My poetry attempts more often than not, to open up such portals. It is a haunting – a reaching out – something that one can almost grasp.” (Oliver, personal communication).  

Saudade is a Portuguese and Brazilian word for “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone, … the love that remains’ after someone is gone” (Wikipedia). Hiraeth is a Welsh term for more than missing home; it is the missing of a time, an era or a person. Both emotions are central to this collection, and explain an existential unease, and at times an apocalyptic element, in Oliver’s poetry that I have in the past sometimes been too slow to credit.

But here they also have a personal dimension, and the volume is in part the response of a man who has returned to New Zealand after many years in Australia, to a country he no longer recognizes. As he mordantly observes:

Absent twenty years, I left a country of sheep,
returned to a country of cattle. (p.11)

Worse, he finds himself living in ‘North King Country’, a world of:

… run-down rentals
and mouldering hatreds, hobbled by small
town boredoms.

As he goes on to say, “this isn’t L.A. This is rural New/Zealand”. In another poem, he speaks of:

… this town, country-ransomed,
found on a map antique or rumoured. (p.7)

It is anywhere but the center, and a place lived in mainly, I suspect, because of the poverty common to poets, the all too common material condition which makes them begin in gladness, but end in despondency and madness (Wordsworth, ‘Resolution and Independence’).

In the titular poem, the poet finds himself as a young man in the city of Luxembourg, looking for Radio Luxembourg, a pirate radio station broadcasting in the days when the BBC had a monopoly within the UK, and a station for which he hoped to work. Luxembourg might be thought of as a tiny state in the center of Europe, rich, attractive and a long way from rural New Zealand. But, if so, the joke was on the young Oliver, for the station actually had its headquarters, in hiding, in London. And Oliver was fleeing the end of a love-affair. He imagines the girl, elsewhere:

Over my shoulder, within the vaulted amphitheatre
of Central Europe, her raised, jade-green eyes, gazed
out on the darkness from a balcony in Vienna (p.68).

If there is an ironic echo here of stout Cortez, gazing over the Pacific (Keats, ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’), the center is not where Oliver is:

…. I had come to the city on
some false pretext, what I sought did not exist here.

This, then, is a collection founded on emotion, an uncentered sense of loss. The volume opens with the claim that:

we soon deluded ourselves in the belief
that panic did not exist by pursuing
rational exegesis …. (p.5)

And this claim is followed by the question, “Was memory a dangerous place?” Some readers will think these lines overly portentous, but they do signal the volume’s thematic concerns from the beginning.

And in the poems that follow, we soon find Oliver pursuing the theme in fine form. The poem “Undercover” (p.11) begins strikingly:

The moon was half. As though the act
of clearing a space in the partially clouded
sky had worn itself away.

The image is highly visual (it demands that the reader should visualize it), but though the moon as “imagination” is a central romantic image, we are clearly in modernist territory here, the symbol here being conventional, a mere trope. We may not quite be in the territory of the symbolists, whose symbols spoke of their failure to speak, but for Oliver:

The entire rehearsal eddies to nothingness.
But what happens next (and folk will admit to
this), is nothing more nor less than weather. (p.12)

Symbolic resonance is disavowed. As so often in Oliver, I am reminded of Wallace Stevens’s use of the weather trope — for instance, “Today the mind is not part of the weather” (‘A Clear Day and No Memories’, p.397) — though Oliver himself points to other influences (personal communication). I am similarly reminded of Stevens in another poem, “The Waiting”, which begins with an evocation of quiet stillness.

After rain, a still evening, the gathering dark
cloud cover a grey-blue. Quietness. Starter engine
of the morepork. (p.48)

What reminds me of Stevens here is the listing of natural features, almost reduced to abstractions, though here the morepork (bird and harbinger of death) does speak to more personal concerns than we usually find in Stevens. The “waiting” of the title is a waiting for death, and the poem speaks again of the poet’s rural isolation.

The origins of this isolation are as much psychological as geographic, grounded in childhood self-consciousness. In “What Angels Throw” (p.60), Oliver remembers the “Panels of light and shadow I studied as a child” and recalls a formative moment:

One private act of knowing I was only half aware of,
mood shaded the colour of twilight I trusted, and as I did
so, aloneness turned to lonely …. (p.60)

It’s a moment of Wordsworthian self-consciousness, a moment of loss which led him on to the “uplands” of his later, self-conscious life. In a later poem, ‘A Sunday,/lonesome sense pervades’ the rural town he now calls home.

While the note of loss provides the emotional grounding for the collection, I don’t want to leave the sense that the poems themselves are depressing, for the poems are marked everywhere by energy. At times they revel in fancy, as in “Titan Lovesong” (p.32), where Oliver imagines his lovers admiring the rings of Saturn not “by the rivers of Babylon” (Psalm 137), but in a kind of exile “By the dark regions of Senkyo, Aztlan, Fensal,” on Saturn’s largest moon. The lovers have become an alien life-form breathing hydrocarbons in a world without oxygen:

Once upon the vast flood plains
of Titan we grazed the hydrocarbon sand dunes
and drank our fill of benzene.

There is similar wit in “Another Wow! Signal”, which imagines a secular quest for revelation and salvation (with allusions to St John of the Cross) fulfilled by the arrival of an extra-terrestrial radio signal (p.13). And, again, there is similar wit in “No pen or paper in paradise,” which imagines the after-life.

But it is for his lyricism and his images that one reads Oliver, and I want to end with some examples. Consider, for instance the poem “Millefiori”, which takes its name from the use of glass beads to create patterns of color in glassware. The poem is set in the pre-dawn of an April morning, a time when (as a later poem informs us) the season begins to look forward to “the first frosts’”(p.25). The speaker, perhaps suffering a bout of insomnia, is awakened by a night train which passes through the town without stopping—a metaphor for rural isolation. Oliver beautifully evokes the scene in quiet descriptive phrases before a brief moment of lyricism:

It is 4:30 AM, mist holds the valley,
            rolled lightly, it floats there, a yellow-lit
ghostly tube. The glass bowl tilts overhead,
millefiori, galaxies, frequencies, spill. (p.15)

Here the quiet constraint of the earlier lines is released in the lyricism of the word “millefiori”, gradually subsiding again into the single syllable “spill”. If the “bowl of night” come from Fitzgerald’s “Rubaiyat”, it has here become a many-beaded glass, reimagined and given lyrical expression.

If this is yet another example of Oliver’s gift for the visual, the poem is even more extraordinary for the way in which it transfers an imagist aesthetic into the realm of the aural. The poem begins with the lines “A drawer sliding on its wooden runners/suggests a brief, hushed sound, a dryness”. The reader will need to find such a drawer, and open it quietly, to appreciate the observation of sound here. The poem extends this attention to sound as image in its later description of the train:

It is 4:30 AM, at the close of April,
            the smooth rasp of the abacus or accordion;
a goods train whose carriages run the

            entire length of this town; closer, the sound
of an abacus—drawing away, that of an
            accordion, exhaling, towards the dawn.

This power of observation could be exemplified in a hundred other places within the volume. One further example will have to do:

It’s that time of day when darkness
has clenched the outline of things; …. (p.16)

Readers who are attuned to such things will find in Luxembourg the work of a master, writing at the peak of his capacities. It is true that some will enjoy the occasional satiric remarks on post-structuralism more than others. But if some lines seem portentous, they need to be understood within the emotional economy of the collection. And these short-comings, minor as they are, are more than compensated for by the sheer number of fine lyrics and fresh observations. Interspersed is a series of short prose poems, a form for which criticism may not yet have the tools of analysis but which here often reveals the same powers of compression and observation we find in Oliver more generally.

I am at something of a loss to understand the critical neglect of Oliver’s work, though a certain stubbornness, mentioned above, may have something to do with it. In any case, Oliver is a poet who rewards close consideration. As Coleridge said, it is “Not the poem which we have read, but that to which we return, with the greatest pleasure, which possesses the genuine power, and claims the name of essential poetry”.[2] And that is Oliver’s power. For the reader who looks, Oliver is one of those poets who make us see the world, in all its particulars, anew – a poet whose depth of imagination is everywhere apparent, an imagist whose poems catch consciousness at its very margins.

About the reviewer:

Nicholas Reid taught romanticism and contemporary poetry at the University of Otago from 1990 to 2003. In more recent years he has been a house builder and has worked for the Australian Commonwealth Treasury. He currently teaches at the ANU College in Canberra.

[1] https://www.noted.co.nz/culture/books/best-poetry-books-of-2018-listener/

[2] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ed. James Engell and W. Jackson Bate [Princeton: PUP, 1983], Chapter 1, p.23.



We Become Summer
by Amy Barone

NYQ Books
2018 (ISBN: 978-1-63045-053-3)
92 pp. $15.95


Reviewed by Patricia Carragon

Amy Barone, author of Kamikaze Dance (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and Views from the Driveway (Foothills Publishing, 2008), has a new full-length collection from NYQ Books called We Became Summer. A delightful and insightful collection of poetry stemming from her childhood in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, to her New York literary lifestyle. Her life reads as a poem, divided up into five sections: Heat, Light, Sounds, Home, and Breeze.

The book begins with Heat, and Ms. Barone introduces herself as a poet reviewing her history seen from a window, reading a Joseph Heller book, hearing Beatlemania flashbacks, revisiting challenging family get-togethers, thinking about that rendezvous at the Old Warwick Hotel and chaste dates at the Cloisters, and listening to a bass player from Brazil. She recounts her stories, a lioness sipping espresso macchiato in one hand while writing out her passion in the other. There are no happy endings in love, but poetry heals Ms. Barone.

Poetry is her longing and life, and in her poem, “Healing Poetry,” she writes:

She reads of a stuffed animal who served
as best friend. The loneliness that could have 

choked her. Touches on a learning disability
and bullies. I was uplifted by grace

that emerged and powerful poetry,
writing that clearly saved her life.

In Light, Ms. Barone takes us to Italy, her ancestral homeland and where she was a reporter for Advertising Age. Here, we grab a bike and journey with her through many cities, get happy in Ferrara, meet her cousins in Teramo, explore Byzantine mysticism in Ravenna, feel the splash of the Adriatic on our faces, desire the beaches of Abruzzo, retrieve that beautiful yellow Versace jacket from a thrift shop in Milan, and see Italy as a vast museum of human and natural beauty. She touches on the literary, tracing the steps of James Joyce in Trieste and retreating to Torcello to write with Ernest Hemingway as her muse. Her descriptions of food entice your senses, and those handsome men on fire-engine red motorcycles spoke perfectly seductive Italian.

In “Sounds”, we feel the torment of her childhood music lessons, going from instructor to instructor, only to find salvation in Al Green and Carly Simon. As she grew older, Ms. Barone was lured into the world of smooth and sensual jazz. From the piper’s horn of “Pharoah” Sanders, playing life-like Clifford’s drums, to romancing the Brazilian beats of Jaco Pastorius and Davi Vieira, we feel Ms. Barone’s inner passion for music, and follow each beat with joy and self-renewal.

In “Home,” we learn that Barone’s immigrant family settled in East Harlem, New York but moved to Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, blending in with the local WASPS. Ms. Barone inherited her parents’ love for jazz and a tenderness for family. Her mother would croon, especially when sad. Songs like “Smile,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “The Shadow of Your Smile” filled the airwaves for Ms. Barone to later discover her own passion for jazz. Her father loved Gershwin and studied music at the Bryn Mawr Conservatory of Music. Like his memories, his vinyl collection of artists, such as Bing Crosby and Liberace, were salvaged.

In “Secrets,” her mother secretly loved pink roses and gave an oil painting of these roses to her daughter on the occasion of her move to New York:

Pink roses do resemble my mother —
subtle, sweet flowers from the regal rose family.

In “Echoes of a Hardware Store,” her father worked hard to support his family:

He mastered the nuts and bolts of life; make list,
pray before bed, be loyal to family, spend less than you earn.

He wasn’t mechanical or a fixer-upper, but good with money,
more of a dreamer and childlike in his simplicity.

In the final section, Breeze, Amy Barone becomes the breeze, learning from the past, moving on to create her future, evolving into the poet and person she is today. Two poems sum it up; “Lessons Learned from Moths” and “Orange Is My New Black.”

In “Lessons Learned from Moths:”

I learned the art of detachment
from a destructive pest
romanticized by poets
whose origins go back millions of years . . .

White larvae covered elegant outfits.
Soles fell from Ferragamo pumps.
Moths cunningly coached me to occupy now,
not dwell in closets lined with past lives

nor focus on nostalgia
tarnished by death and deceit.

In “Orange Is My New Black:”

I’m tossing black from my world —
black clothes, black cars, black moods.
Banishing dread and gloom . . . 

I’m deporting colorless lingerie and sex.
When I sleep, instead of jumping into black puddles,
I’m going to emerge from tangerine dreams. Glowing.

Amy Barone is a positive force on the poetry scene in New York and Pennsylvania, glowing like a tangerine dream, moving on from the past like a butterfly schooled from moths, swaying to Brazilian Bahia beats, feeling a connection for her mother and father, life, love, music, and poetry. “We Became Summer” is a masterpiece of words that flow like smooth and sensual jazz. A book that should be read while listening to Miles Davis, Sade, Jaco et al.


About the reviewer:

Patricia Carragon is a widely published Brooklyn writer and poet. Her latest books are The Cupcake Chronicles (Poets Wear Prada, 2017) and Innocence (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Patricia hosts the Brooklyn-based Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology. She is an executive editor for Home Planet News Online.  For more information about Ms. Carragon and her reading series, please visit her websites at brownstonepoets.blogspot.com and at patriciacarragon8.wordpress.com.



The Arc and the Mirror

The Out-of-Body Shop
by Nancy Mitchell
(MadHat Press

Reviewed by Miriam O’Neal

It begins with the idea of the Past, as a body disinterred from its grave, its burial shroud unraveled, spread out in the sun to “burn/ off the mold, the stink.” It ends with cigar smoke, Easter Peeps, car keys, and, finally, “a fallen galaxy.” In between these two points, Nancy Mitchell’s, The Out-of-Body Shop plunges the reader into the five senses again and again, while also walking us through the ways the mind releases itself from the body, finding safety in disassociation.

Smells, sounds, touched surfaces, images, and tastes anchor the poems in the physical world even as the mind flees. Mitchell invites us to consider how trauma, sorrow, fear, memory, revelation often include the cost of separating from oneself for survival purposes and sometimes, more happily, for the delicious disappearance down the rabbit hole of lovemaking. Mitchell captures the out-of-body experience in two early poems, “Unbearable” and “Intake Invoice.” They share facing pages in the text, which helps reinforce their difference. In “Unbearable” a speaker declares,


            Want to make love
            outdoors and eat dark
            bread knock out
            this wall with a sledge
            hammer and let the night
            in sink my arms in warm
            mud…. (1-7).

The intensity of the speaker’s declaration suggests a physicality that cannot be contained within the body, a sense of being larger than the physical self.

Facing “Unbearable” is “Intake Invoice.” This poem turns the erotic loss of self to something larger on its head as “Intake” details are listed:

            Triggering Secondary
            Incident: Female. Fifth grade.
            School bus driver—grandfatherly, smelled
            of soap and rising dough.
            Called her chica
            bonita, asked about books
            she liked. His hand—
            blue veins, skin thin
            as tracing paper—slid
            up her blouse, callused
            edge of his thumb nicking
            her nipple. The whole time
            he was smiling….. (1-13)

The poem closes around the young abuse victim’s “symptoms: …/ …sense of shrinking.” Here, Mitchell uses the languages of reports, interviews, and diagnostics to reinforce the girl’s sense of disassociation from her experience. We recognize the way her mind stepped out of the moment in order to survive.

Within the first few pages of The Out-of-Body Shop, Mitchell establishes both its arc and its mirror. Over the rest of the collection, she walks us in and out of the “shop” of the mind. Physical pain, survival of self, revelation of self, revisiting roots, trespasses, and losses all require an ability to navigate the past with faith in the healing qualities of introspection and distance.

Knowing where we come from seems like a good place to start in understanding the quirks and foibles that bind us and/or separate us from others in our present lives. “Family Photograph circa 1920” and “Farewell to BellHaven,” work as a portrait and a mosaic that reveal lives held together by sheer will in spite of having been shattered by accidental death and suicide. There is the speaker’s favorite aunt to consider; her plain and “rigid-as-a-soldier’s face” that the speaker loves most because “I knew she was loved the least.”  In this poem, Mitchell gets at the kernel of how, as children, we walk out of ourselves and into the ‘other’ as we choose our ancestors less by direct heritage than by a sense of connection to this or that one, which rises in our own imaginations and the condition of our own hearts.

The poems in The Out-of-Body Shop range in scale and size from slender lyrics, to aubades, prayers, and muscular prose poem narratives. In all cases, her attention to the way sound can bind the reader to the poem’s reason for being is consistent. “Ah in Father,” lays its success on the various ‘a’ sounds, flattened and hardened, that run through the poem. This apparently simple sound experiment constructs the father/daughter relationship clearly. The conflict of love and power, failure and confusion are all there. And, as with so many poems in this collection, “The Ah in Father” is mirrored by a slight lyric about a child’s misperception of what she is seeing; fireflies in the vacant lot become weeds burning because her father has threatened to do just that.

Occasionally the speaker changes in these poems. A young father with a violent past faces his demons after his child is born. A would-be keeper of hens, can’t make a commitment to his flock: disaster and guilt ensue. The hen-keeper’s landlord diagnoses the source of one hen’s death. There are also poems of direct address as the speaker shares the death and funeral rites of a close friend and his child’s reactions to the ritual, seemingly endless ringing of bells. In every case, Mitchell gazes unwaveringly at the near and distant past, with that ability to “be in, but not of” the experience. As Ranier Maria Rilke wrote, “This is the crux of all that once existed,/ that we are not returned to it completely….”

At the heart of the book the mirror poems, “Why I’m Here” and “While In the Body” speak to the challenge of recovery from the disassociativeness, that sometimes impedes the sense of self within self. Finding one’s way back into one’s own body is the objective. Understanding that one has used absence for survival is the first step.

As the first poem in the book prepares the reader for an examination of the past and of recovery of the self, the pair of closing poems return to the moment when, it would appear, the speaker finally refused to be separated from herself. The act of leaving her husband is the first step toward recovering herself. “Prayers Reversed” is such a formidable title, as it implies action over supplication.

            ….. Toast burns and the air
            stinks of the cigar smoke rising

            from behind the business
            report you’re reading. Slowly
            I gather the car keys, my purse

            our will and good
            silver. Shush the children,
            lure them with Peeps

            from the TV’s gleam before
            we slip out the back door
            careful of the hinge’s squeak. (11-18)

The final poem, “Leaving” completes the rejoining of body to mind, opening us at the very end to “a fallen galaxy.” We look back with the speaker, and then, ahead.

Whether we have experienced trauma ourselves, or the more quotidian challenge of not conforming to another’s idea of the norm, our minds often find a way of sheltering from those storms, understanding that there is harm afoot. These poems offer the reveal, that once you have found yourself ‘out-of-body’, there is a way back.

About the reviewer:

Poet Miriam O’Neal’s recent book isWe Start With What We’re Given”, dedicated to the life and work of Esther Lurie, who was imprisoned in the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania and later, in a series of slave labor camps during the Holocuast. She believed that it was the artist’s task to preserve the daily moments of life, both tragic and ordinary.  



A Trip Thr0ugh Reality with Empathy

Hungry Words
by R. Bremner
Alien Buddha Press, Erie, PA
2018, $9.89
Paperback: 62 pages. 6”x9”
ISBN # 9781724991140

Review by Richard Paul

Bremner’s Hungry Words takes us on a trip through city streets, suburban sidewalks, and several minds in varying degrees of health and dysfunction. We visit a junkyard in Passaic, an Indian sweet shop in Jersey City, the Havana moon, a graveyard, and other delightful stops in our odyssey. Along the way, was pass by Kafka, Chuck Berry, Richard Brautigan, Steve Dalachinsky. And all with a flair for wild word choices (“maudlin boysenberries”, “terrifying sickos”, “smiling cherry moon”, “my sequestered brain”) and an empathy for the human condition that overwhelms his weird, sometimes surrealistic, lingo.

The empathy shows in “Jersey City”, where an Indian mother in a sweet shop gently strokes her daughter’s hair in a moment in which Bremner finds

“an ordinary
magic, yet something
extraordinarily tragic in
these moments which can never repeat,
which will dissipate in the Newark
Avenue breeze”

It shows also “In the confessional” in the person of a priest who forgives sins and gives penance, but dares not ask “if the penitent would ever commit those same sins again”.

And in the surrealistic “Doldrums run a marathon”, he celebrates the triumph of Kathryin, who after “she sails her boat meticulously into the Bay of Mun” (mundane?) where “hands and feet drop from the sky”, she “wards them off with an unopened umbrella”.

Kathryin’s triumph is complete when she “rips the doldrums from her insides, and relaxes calmly with her head resting on Richard Brautigan’s brain”.

One can feel the author’s satisfaction at both his character’s success and his nod to Brautigan, an obvious inspiration. 

The book contains two Fibonacci poems, one stretching its last line to a surrealist/absurdist fifty-five syllables:

“in the hair of an abominable snowman born to be wild when it drinks its
19th nervous breakdown and asks who’s to blame because it thinks that girl (you) and me
just ain’t sane after eggs were dropped on our heads by stealth bombers.”

The other is a short, sad tribute to Chuck Berry’s “Havana Moon”:

smiling cherry moon
fibbed to each other’s anxious selves
as we bent against the time and tide that soon ran out
before we could realize that maybe, just maybe, this was the real truth we pined for.

Hungry Words is one of the finest reads of the year.


Richard Paul

 About the reviewer: Richard Paul currently divides his days among Toronto, Boston, and New Jersey. Originally from Colombo, Sri Lanka, he is the author of Tamil Tales of Sri Lanka, and has most recently appeared in States



Icarus Rising, Volume 1

by Don Beukes

Alien Buddha Press
106 pages/paperback ($9.99)


Review by Heath Brougher

Don Beukes’ second book Icarus Rising – Volume 1 published by Alien Buddha Press, is bursting with brilliance and some of the most amazing word-weaving you’ll ever come across. His voice is singular and totally unique. It stands on its own two legs. This is true poetry, which is, unfortunately, extremely rare in contemporary poetry.

It’s not only the writing style that will blow you away but the content will, as well. Don Beukes grew up during South Africa’s Apartheid era when citizens were lawfully classified as black, coloured, white and Indian. Beukes is in my opinion one of the most important voices in contemporary literature. He has a tale to tell and everyone who appreciates a global voice needs to listen. I’m not just speaking about poems only concerned with Apartheid, but also of the genuine and genius perspectives on life Beukes has gleaned over the years.

Icarus Rising, Volume 1 touches on many topics and this book is a must read for anyone with the slightest interest in contemporary literature as well as the future of literature! This book also contains some astounding artwork to go along with these brilliant poems, which serves to enhance the entire reading experience. This is a book by one of the most important voices you can possibly hear and these important poems are written with such brilliant word-weaving that to miss out on this book would be tantamount to missing out on William Carlos Williams “Spring and All.” So engage in history as it’s happening before your very eyes. If ever you needed to own a copy of an important new global literary voice, I urge you to invest in Beukes’ poignant and existential Ekphrastic collection.


About the reviewer:

Heath Brougher is the poetry editor of Into the Void Magazine, winner of the 2017 and 2018 Saboteur Award for Best Magazine. He is a multiple nominee for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Award. His newest book is “To Burn in Torturous Algorithms” (Weasel Press, 2018). His work has appeared in journals such as Taj Mahal Review, Chiron Review, MiPOesias, and Main Street Rag.