Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Sugar Suggests—Mini Reviews from Sugar Staff

Believers and Seven Sermons from the Bacchae 

by John Tipton 

(Flood Editions, 2022)

This book intersperses new translations of the Gospel of Mark with the ancient Greek tragedy Euripides’ Bacchae and Tipton’s own poetry. Believers will change the way you think about ancient texts and broaden your perspective on time.

—Katherine Indermaur

Be With 

by Forrest Gander

(New Directions, 2018)

Forrest Gander dares to expose shortcomings and grief, revelations, and regrets after the death of his wife (poet C.D. Wright). In Be With, he takes every imaginable color of pain and hurls it through the line until, sometimes screaming and other times in reflection, it says, This is what it’s like to look out at the world in this moment. 

If you want to read a poem once and know everything it has to offer, this isn’t for you. But if you want something that dares you to suggest it might fail, you won’t regret picking up this Pulitzer Prize-winner. 

 —Neil Flatman

Arboretum in a Jar 

by Frances Donovan

(Lily Poetry Review Books, 2023)

“ … I wanna do what I want," from the last line of “Pastoral, Poughkeepsie,” encapsulates Donovan's success at writing poems that, ironically, cannot be contained. She writes a new niche by building up, breaking down, and twisting around the modern fairy tale via her intelligent lens, sharing a unique blend of intimacy and hindsight in this melodious collection. The poet reveals “complicated laces”and "coded secrets" via themes of family, sexuality, and identity, and does so the way she wants—masterfully and beyond comparison. 

—Clarissa Adkins

Our Cancers

by Dan O’Brien  

(Acre Books, 2021)

Twenty years after the events of 9/11, the dust continues to settle—in the Battery Park apartment and surrounding neighborhoods where Dan O’Brien and his wife lived and worked, in their breath and bodies, and in the brief 24 hours in which the one cancer journey concludes only to find another lying in wait. Love and nothingness curl around the enjambments and white space of these 101 terse lyric poems, each of which finds O’Brien acknowledging in new ways that “I must find / my way / to live here.”

—Michael McLane

A Book of Days 

by Patti Smith 

(Penguin Random House, 2022)

A Book of Days includes a picture and a caption for every day of the year, revealing music icon and poet Patti Smith’s solid practice of finding beauty within the mundane and imbuing both the objects and people in her world with a special kind of magic, designating all aspects of her life worthy of inspiration. With spare language and dreamy Polaroids, Patti Smith lays her ardor upon the altar. 

 —Shari Zollinger


by Sarah Bates

(New Michigan Press, 2020)

Do you ever tire of poems forcing tidy revelations onto things/states that are defined by disorder? (Hi entropy, have a nice bow!) If the answer is yes, check out this mini-collection. Bates’ availability to the all-too-much-ed-ness of both tragedy and minutiae, and her conveyance of “always starting over”—in topic, in form, and in the act of observation—is breathtaking.

 —Nano Taggart

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