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Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s summer reads


We get a ton of books for review consideration on my desk for The Volta. Even though we tried to run weekly reviews for a year, that still didn’t seem to touch anything but the best stuff off the top. So, I’ve pulled out a dozen or so that I’m really excited to read this summer:


Rae Armantrout’s Just Saying is the follow-up to the follow-up to Armantrout’s Pulitzer Prize winner, so I won’t be surprised if it gets less attention than Versed or Money Shot—though it shouldn’t. I’m halfway through it, and it’s just as good:


A woman writes to ask

how far along I am

with my apocalypse


What will you give me

if I tell?

2-GridleySarah Gridley’s Loom won Omnidawn’s open book prize, and its centerpiece is a series of prose poems in a section called “This Heart is Dependent on the Outside World.”  Here’s an opening sentence of one: “Through dust and dusk and words that fast in the dark between them, let a moon appear to lift us through the paths of interrealming stars.”

Or, a summer reading list.








An Atlas of Lost Causes (Kelsey Street Press) is Marjorie Stein’s first book, a prose murder mystery of sorts. My guess is that fans of Selah Saterstrom and Renee Gladman will dig this one, as it looks to be chock-full of haunted sentences like this: “We love for the bones to go on without us.”












4-crjClaude Royet-Journaoud’s Four Elemental Bodies (from Burning Deck), translated by Keith Waldrop, is a tetratrology, and four books in one. Minimal, strange, lovely work: “The wolf comes out of the sleeping man. Rosy flame rising. The void invades the mountain. The void spreads.”








Elizabeth Robinson’s got two new books out, actually: On Ghosts, a meditational essay in prose, from Solid Objects and Counterpart, a work of poetry, just out from Ahsahta Press. From the latter, here’s the start to a poem called “Trickery”:

This all had to do with folds—

the word after word

folded in on itself.


A letter, secreted in the heel

of a shoe, gets ground

into the highway.





6-alferiNight and Day by Pierre Alferi, and translated by Kate Campbell, is already the tenth release from Cole Swensen’s amazing La Presse, a French poetry in translation imprint of Fence Books. “You Are Invited,” the book’s first one, opens: “So the day advances masked / On very narrow rails.”




7-carterI have only to paste in the jacket copy to Roxanne Carter’s beautiful first novel, Beyond This Point Are Monsters (Sidebrow Books), to get intrigued by this one: “Like a gothic teleplay by Gertrude Stein, filmed by Andy Warhol, and transcribed into a stunning lyrical novel by the very voyeuristic monster at its center, lustful in equal measure for the scintilla of soap opera set pieces and the two women — one master, one slave — trapped in an ever-shifting atmosphere of vamp and apprehension.”









8-ZawackiHis first book since the stellar Petals of Zero Petals of One, Andrew Zawacki’s Videotape is just out from Counterpath Press, and the opening poem begins: “Grayscale breath on a fluid / field, with lo-fi / rainpatter—petrol blue—” Zawacki’s one of the most formally innovative poets around, and this one looks to be exemplary on that front as well.









Subress Collective recently released Camille Guthrie’s Articulated Lair, comprised entirely of poems about Louise Bourgeois: “breakable voids, crashing ice floes, / and your quiet aeire // eyelids apparent.”




10-LewtyBravura Cool by Jane Lewty was chosen by Fanny Howe for the 1913 Press first book prize, and I’m cheating a little here because I’ve read most of this beautiful new book and even got read a couple of times with the poet this past spring in Berlin and Amsterdam, where Lewty lives. Her very long lines sound something like this: “What bulk can we ascribe to signals? Are they small large long fluid straight circular / a fix a star-map, just an old code.” And it’s published a gorgeous, large-format edition as well.


11-McCarthyPattie McCarthy’s Marybones (Apogee Press) riffs playfully and passionately on every Mary you can think of: “Mary / was gifted with bilocation. was sitting stitching by the open window. was a virgin. was a whore. was a repentant whore. was an excuse to paint nudes. was covered in hair. was drawing water from a well. was planning a murder.”


12-BeckmanJust a couple of days ago, I got the uncorrected proofs for Joshua Beckman’s forthcoming book, The Inside of an Apple (Wave Books). Beckman’s one of my favorite living poets—unsoiled as he is by trends and camps. He walks in stride with Whitman and Niedecker and Ginsberg somehow, without sounding like a throwback full of archaisms or faux wit. Anyways, I already love this book. Here’s why:

It’s not a funny thing

watching a star land in a boy’s mouth

or a big moon shine down

on a dead hill

or the showy light from a sun

spread out on a cold self






Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s most recent book is called Swamp Isthmus (Black Ocean 2013). With Afton Wilky, he edits The Volta and, with Noah Eli Gordon, he edits Letter Machine Editions. He lives in Tucson, AZ.

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