Letter From Reviews Editor, December/January 2018-19

Letter From Reviews Editor

This set of reviews feels particularly special to me, as two of the writers written with here – Simone White and Stacy Szymaszek – previously worked at The Poetry Project, first as reading series coordinators and then as Program Director and Executive Director, respectively. The work of The Poetry Project is labor of poets with poets, and I’m excited to present reviews reading those who have done so much to ensure that writers, coming from New York City and from “out of town,” have a place for performance and sociality at the Project. Simone and Stacy – thank you!

Other connections exist here as well: reek bell, with immediate lyric and careful work on Simone White’s Dear Angel of Death, read with Jasmine Gibson during the release party in Philadelphia for Don’t Let Them See Me Like This, a collection that came out this past June and is also reviewed in this issue. Stacy Szymaszek’s A Year From Today was also published that June on the same press, which is when William Camponovo corresponded with me about reviewing Meena Alexander’s Atmospheric Embroidery. And for Meena Alexander’s work, among other place, at CUNY Graduate Center, where Laura Henriksen gave me a review copy of A Year From Today. There exists a certain summer buzz about all of these reviews being published together. All of them have been worked on for some months, almost in a reverse hibernation: there are ready, now, to be published in our December/January “wintry mix” issue.

The issues covered in these books range widely, to which our writings attest. Themes of care and state violence seem to come to the forefront: these are a poetics of seeing to each other’s needs and pleasures in the midst of brutality. Intimacies through pain, shared, chosen care and Black maternities becomes reek bell’s lens through which Simone White’s Dear Angel of Death gets taken up. Though I write a bit differently regarding Don’t Let Them See Me Like This by Jasmine Gibson, the importance of live commemorative spaces emerges in a related sequencing. “Traumas, be they historical and personal, are not hermetically-sealed events,” Camponovo reminds us in a deep study of Atmospheric Embroidery by Meena Alexander. “The situation of illness, of surgery—or of environmental devastation—is not anathema to the everyday; it is endemic to the everyday.” Keeping this in mind, tuned towards regularity, the final piece on A Year From Today by Stacy Szymaszek keeps the quotidian kaleidoscopic, where shifts in light engage the many daily windows into restlessness and rest. We never stop moving, even in our stillness.

After completing this issue’s letter, we were informed that Meena Alexander had passed away. We are incredibly grateful for her presence and her work. William Camponovo has written a reflection appended to the Atmospheric Embroidery review in appreciation of Alexander.

— John Rufo

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Photo: S*an D. Henry-Smith

John Rufo

John Rufo has been a reviews editor for The Poetry Project Newsletter since 2017. Work has been published, or is forthcoming, on Poets [dot] org, Ploughshares, The Offing, The Capilano Review, Tagvverk, Entropy, The Journal Petra, NOO, and Dreginald. Links and contact at johnspringrufo.tumblr.com