Weekly updates and mini poetry reviews for sam sax’s Bury It, Eve Ewing’s Electric Arches, and Hieu Minh Nguyen’s Not Here.
This week, I managed to read everything on my TBR list: Roxane Gay’s Hunger and three collections of poetry. I fell ill midweek, though, so I didn’t have the chance to check out anything else! Next week, I’m planning on balancing a couple of essay collections with a few novels, before launching into fiction for the rest of fall.
Candid but bleak, sam sax meditates on death, desire, and personhood in Bury It, a series of experimental poems. Separated into five sections, the collection questions what it means to grieve and experience great loss: the best of the poems center on sax’s reactions to his first love’s death. Doubt and detachment pervade the collection, but sax’s biting wit saves it from reading as self-pitying. The poet marries the aesthetic of self-report to emotional disconnection in ways that are as intimate as they are off putting. Bury It has limited appeal, but sax accomplishes what he set out to do.
A whimsical collection of poetry, prose, and art, Eve Ewing’s Electric Arches explores the depths of Black girlhood and womanhood. Ewing writes accessible poems mostly based on her sundry memories of growing up in Chicago. As with her stories, though, her poems often take fantastical turns. The collection is divided into three parts of similar length, and the principles of Afro-futurism and magical realism appear in each. While I enjoyed some of the pieces, especially those in the second section, the collection as a whole felt scattered. Ewing hasn’t yet settled upon her style, but her work shows great promise.
In his second collection, Not Here, Hieu Minh Nguyen confronts his relationship to space, memory, and pain as a queer Vietnamese-American man. The collection consists of a mix of long and short pieces, addressing everything from childhood trauma to the loss of love, and it features a wide array of forms. Nguyen’s versatility as a poet is mesmerizing, as are the cadences of his poems. His images are lucid, his language uncomplicated and moving. The poems considering Nguyen’s relationship to his mother are among the strongest in the collection, but all the poetry is compelling and worth rereading several times.