Wednesday, December 20, 2023

 Sugar Suggests—Mini Reviews from Sugar House Review Staff

The Descent

by Sophie Cabot Black

(Graywolf Press, 2004)

If you’ve ever been asked to describe a momentous event and found language wanting, consider this collection. In The Descent, Sophie Cabot Black distills love and loss into a tossed coin that refuses to land. The poetry equivalent of espresso, it makes everything else taste like soy latte.

—Neil Flatman

Quiet Orient Riot

by Nathalie Khankan

(Omnidawn, 2020)

This astonishing debut collection quietly traverses the embattled landscapes of Palestine and infertility. Khankan takes us from border crossing to border crossing, seeking motherhood while wrestling with the promise of sovereignty—for both body and country.

—Katherine Indermaur

The Kingdom of Surfaces

by Sally Wen Mao

(Graywolf Press, 2023)

Every line in Sally Wen Mao’s new collection of poetry oscillates between veneration and evisceration, calling her readers to the bodies of history (ancient Chinese and other) through bowel, breath, and skin. Her sisters “comb their hair, / part it sideways to promise a lifetime of celibacy.” 

—Shari Zollinger

Something I Might Say

by Stephanie Austin

(WTAW Press, 2023)

Stephanie Austin writes in a unique, authentic voice with such seeming ease that I know it is, in fact, her craft and skill that make it so, as the subject matter of multiple losses coupled with caretaking during the pandemic is incredibly difficult to write about effectively. If you're in for personal essay with emotion, you'll be in for this short, but not small, book. It has everything a reader needs.

—Natalie Padilla Young

In the Hands of the River

by Lucien Darjeun Meadows

(Hub City Press, 2022)

Meadows’ debut reads like a queer love letter to Appalachia. Like a good lover or a good trail through a beautiful place, these poems—rich with texture and image—will leave you thirsting for more. 

—Katherine Indermaur

American Scapegoat

by Enzo Silon Surin

(Black Lawrence Press, 2023)

Enzo Silon Surin’s works from American Scapegoat make you feel like you’re witnessing a poetic speaking in tongues. He portrays the human experience through the Black experience in brilliant stanzas, giving tribute to Black activists, poets, and victims of systemic racism. Speakers punch through reality and tell stories that overwhelm with their power and reverence. Surin’s voice, and the voices he presents must be heard and acknowledged in this “postscript of a furious sweat.”

—Clarissa Adkins

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