Poets’ Essays: On Three Recent Collections

The Mystery Shopping Cart, Porcupine’s Quill 2013
The Pigheaded Soul, Jason Guriel, Porcupine’s Quill, 2013
Career Limiting Moves, Zachariah Wells, biblioasis 2013

Several books of poetry criticism were published in the past few years. I haven’t read them all, but of those I have read three–from Anita Lahey, Zachariah Wells and Jason Guriel, are worth noting. Guriel and Wells take up several of the same themes,


You can find the introduction to Lahey’s book here, and a chapter from Wells here. We posted neither excerpt nor review of Guriel’s book, but I can recommend this one from Brian Palmu who gets at the strengths and weaknesses of this collection.


There are moments in this book that make me want to poke my eyes out. The review of Charles Bernstein, for example, seems so grossly an occasion for the reviewer to lay out his own terms for poetry that it’s impossible to take it seriously. In other reviews, where he has less at stake (although really, what do any of us have at stake in this non-business?) and simply reads the book at hand, he proves himself one of our best readers of verse. Not that the author of this book seems at all interested in feedback, particular from this bitch, but my note would be, remember, all chop and no shine makes the critic a dull blade.

I said the same last year when I listed Starnino’s collection of essays in my year-end review, why there wasn’t more discussion on this book is baffling. Three strong books of criticism and nothing?

Also, a lot of women waiting for a collection of essays from a woman and I haven’t seen anyone talking about Lahey’s book.