Books To Watch Out For: August 2019, Guest Edited by Krystal Languell

Aug 12, 2019 · 4 min read
Be Recorder, by Carmen Giménez Smith. Greywolf Press, 2019.

Be Recorder, Carmen Giménez Smith
Who’s your favorite Gen X poet? Mine is Giménez Smith. I’ve read her galley several times, but I’m suddenly gripped by “American Mythos,” a longer prose piece in Be Recorder. It’s about post-apocalyptic ideations and reluctance to purchase a Star Wars video game. No other poet I know could with a more dexterous, subtle sleight of hand, draw together in a single piece the contents of her Amazon shopping cart, a critique of white supremacy in mass media, and her own mother’s “decay which was so florid.”

The End, by MC Hyland. Sidebrow Books, 2019.

The End, MC Hyland
Life in a city that’s addicted to busyness, constantly getting high on its own supply, is what anchors this collection. My favorite part of any book is the notes or acknowledgments, and Hyland delivers here. Her sources range from high academia to protest signs and posters to fellow poets. The stamp of her wide reading is imprinted throughout the text, mirroring the city’s complex mesh of voices and activity.

Losing Miami, by Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué. The Accomplices, 2019.

Losing Miami, Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué
An extremely prolific young poet, Ojeda-Sagué imagines Miami destroyed by rising sea levels. His work is often bilingual, and his latest collection offers a unique formal presentation of Spanish and English; many bilingual poems are footnoted with the languages reversed. A monolingual reader can flip back and forth to assemble a poem for themselves, but this structure is not foolproof. Twists and surprises in the flex between languages surface in the act of reading. His objective is not to make the work easier for monolingual readers to access, but rather to point up the liminal space and joyous slippages between or across languages.

Meet Me There, by Samuel Ace. Belladonna*, 2019.

Meet Me There, Samuel Ace
A reissue of two out-of-print books first released in the 90s (Normal Sex and Home in three days. Don’t wash.), this book not only makes two queer texts available again, but also provides new material: reflections from TC Tolbert, Pamela Sneed, Cameron Awkward-Rich, and several others. It’s a marvel of both trans collaboration and of book design for its capacity as an art object to contain several eras and minds. Ace even “collaborates” in the introduction with Linda Smukler — the name he went by in the past, which also appears side-by-side with his name on the book’s cover.

Two Hunters, by Marina Blitshteyn. Argos Books, 2019.

Two Hunters, Marina Blitshteyn
Tough as nails, these poems critique male-dominated hierarchy with Big Bitch Energy. The work slips quickly into deep wordplay, and Blitshteyn takes obvious pleasure in the materiality of language. She writes, “I’m so damn Russian to everyone but Russians,” examining immigrant narratives and the accompanying rhetorical pitfalls. “Do you know anyone with a Soviet fetish?”

Ten, by Jen Firestone. BlazeVOX, 2018.

Ten, Jen Firestone
Constraint-based poetics for a constraint-based life: Firestone ritualizes writing ten lines a day throughout her recovery from surgery. Ten provides a model for writing with no time to write, how to create time out of thin air.

The Nancy Reagan Collection, Maxe Crandall
Forthcoming from futurepoem, this is a chronicle of Reagan-era American culture and the AIDS epidemic. Crandall’s first book is a deeply researched and resonant critique. Through the lens of Nancy Reagan’s fashion, we see her celebrity social life wherein she utterly fails to perform allyship to the gay stars she enjoys proximity to. Formally innovative, the work takes many forms: lineated poetry, stage play script, archival or ephemeral footnote, and devastatingly a running catalog of HIV/AIDS deaths.

The Year of Blue Water, by Yanyi. Yale University Press, 2019.

The Year of Blue Water, Yanyi
One way to define this sensitive and complex book is to call it a collection of love letters to influences. Yanyi writes, “When I am writing, I am never alone.” Alienation from family of origin drives this speaker to seek out kinship among friends and books. The journey toward self-determination is the work of a lifetime, and this book renews my desire to continue that work for myself. Love imbues every page. Yanyi makes wellness look cool.

Krystal Languell’s most recent book is Quite Apart (University of Akron Press, 2019).


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