These piercing poems about firearms cut to the core.



A writer brings poems to a gunfight and gets off more than a few clean shots.

It is a small miracle—and a testament to the author’s versatility—that Sizemore (American Love Poem, 2017, etc.) can write such a wide variety of good poems about firearms. But don’t let the title of his new collection fool you: This is not a celebration of America’s gun culture. It is a lament. The book is dedicated to “all the lives lost to gun violence in the United States, and to all the survivors,” so unsurprisingly, many of the poems read like dirges. Take “Prayer to the Cosmos,” a post-Parkland piece that tries to capture how that tragedy transforms readers: “School buses become potential hearses, / an ambulance but a carrier of bodies / from one panic attack to the next, / a diploma more like a participation trophy / in the obstacle course of a shooting gallery, / as we wring our hands and offer the wind / from our mouths as succor for blue light.” Of course, readers are changed by such bloodshed, whether it causes them to long for a peaceful future or hope to see the gun culture grow. To its credit, this collection imagines both possibilities. To the first, Sizemore writes “Needs of a Gun Enthusiast,” a lyrical, six-stanza poem whose every block begins with the same line: “I don’t need a gun.” In it, the poet gives readers an evocative, streamlined sketch of a life lived fully without firearms. But in the opposite vein, the title poem imagines a world in which guns grow “on trees”: “Is this the utopia we deserve, / land of breath by Russian roulette, / land of nitroglycerin smoke, / black residue left on the fingers / of the firing trigger fist, / land of forests where the wind / through the limbs / sounds like a chorus / of haunted pitch pipe barrels / whistling in the key of apathy?” The message here is clear: a land in which weapons are ubiquitous is no utopia. But in sketching such a possibility with sublimity and grace, Sizemore catches some of the allure of his fatal subject. That this critic of gun culture can communicate—even implicitly—some of its dark appeal renders his appraisals even more effective. 

These piercing poems about firearms cut to the core.

Pub Date: May 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71868-483-6

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Crow Hollow Books

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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    Best Books Of 2012



Merging geographic precision with detailed lyricism, Berry’s collection of poetry spans continents and states of the soul.

The best poetry focused on a particular locale tends to evoke sensory stimulation as much as meaning, and Berry’s collection of nearly 60 poems is no different. Born in England, the author has travelled widely throughout Africa and the United States. With a doctorate in geography, she casts a discriminating, discerning eye on the landscapes to which her travels have taken her. In unrhymed, compact poems—few more than a page in length—the poet speaks with seriousness about the relationship between the natural world and one’s inner world. In “Music of Place,” she writes: “Carried in the wind is the music of place, blown / like washing on a line, white sheets flapping, sending / large billowing folds of sound back to me,” which typifies her ability to translate a place into a finely detailed, highly specific moment in her past or present. Some poems set in North Africa elevate journallike jottings into sharply etched experiences. The dominant moods suffusing these poems are calm and meditational, perhaps reflecting the influence of poet Elizabeth Bishop, who was also attuned to inner and outer geographies. The final 20 poems shift focus from geography and place to reconciliations or frictions with family members; many relatives have passed on but are vibrantly alive in the author’s memory. These family sketches often turn on a particularly poignant phrase spoken to the author by a parent or loved one: “Windows” pivots on Berry’s father’s comment, “I could drive if I wanted to,” as the author notes that her father never owned a car. Few books of recent poetry reveal such a penetrating awareness of how the environments in which we live affect us as much as we affect them. An extraordinary, nuanced collection by a gifted poet.


Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1935514749

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Plain View

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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Wise, kind and lively verse that truly “dances to a tune that’s / gloriously redeeming / of anger, hate, and envy. / It’s an...



Engaging lyric poetry that manages to be sensual and cerebral, fun and profound.

Readers willing to dig deeper than the work of poets Derek Walcott, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Anthony Joseph will find that exciting new worlds of Caribbean poetry await. Although some lesser-known Caribbean writers tend to get bogged down in the exotic fecundity of their island landscapes, others write with a grace and steadiness that highlights personal experience within the larger context of culture and environment to reveal something universal. Trinidadian novelist, painter and poet Drayton (The Crystal Bird, 2012, etc.) most decidedly falls into the latter category. Her personal poems often focus on singular moments in her past, yet her evocation of the slippage between past and present, of how we manage to exist in both times simultaneously, speaks directly to readers. The exploration of how “time…magically overlaps generations” pervades this collection. Her narrators are buffeted by nostalgia but are never fatalistic or cloying; instead, they treasure the past and the present as a single fabric of interwoven threads. One narrator, for instance, revisits a memorable beach and finds that the “scenery I knew has all but gone, / except for the sea. / Longing and waiting, I dream of the days / that never can be again. / The sea waits while I dream a dream / where I stand on the balcony of this precious day.” Drayton invests symbols with a similar complexity; the titular brown dove, for instance, is at once a symbol of maternal devotion, sexual allure, rebellion and quiet endurance, and is rife with gender and racial resonances. Occasionally, her more contemplative poems suffer from excess erudition, and she is sometimes prone to distracting alliteration, but she also delivers unmatched similes such as, “The morning stormed my day / like a drunken party crasher / with streams of gold and white ribbons / coming through the window.”

Wise, kind and lively verse that truly “dances to a tune that’s / gloriously redeeming / of anger, hate, and envy. / It’s an awesome authority / with boundless energy.” 

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1478160045

Page Count: 120

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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