It’s easy to read a book by Jennifer L. Knox and imagine all the characters between the front and back covers living in the same world, if not in the same town. This feeling is strongest in Days of Shame & Failure (Bloof Books, forthcoming 2015), Knox’s fourth and maybe most heartbreaking book to date. The characters Knox illuminates here (Marilyn in “Life’s Work,” Tommy in “A Fairy Tale,” unnamed I’s) are all bound together by various forms of shame and/or failure. And by extension, Knox, with her characteristic use of dark humor, holds a mirror up to us as readers. Some of these poems are gut-bustingly funny, some are sniffle-worthy, but most are even better: a combination of both. Knox isn’t so much keeping her finger on the pulse of life in America as she is speaking from it: that is to say, through saying a lot, trying to figure it out along with the rest of us (whatever “it” is).
Author Archives: Nate Logan
The speaker in Sarah A. Chavez’s first collection of poetry, All Day, Talking (dancing girl press, 2014), is in mourning. This mourning primarily revolves around the speaker’s friend, Carole, but there’s also a longing for a past life—the life the speaker had when Carole was alive. There’s an identity Chavez’s speaker tries to resurrect for herself throughout the poems, one whose mantra could easily be carpe diem. Identity is an important concept for Chavez—she’s a scholar of Chican@/Latin@ & Native American literature and culture and a self-proclaimed “mestiza.” On her website, she has two bios to choose from (“Keepin’ it Real” and “Longer, More Professional”), indicating her investment in the idea of multiple or mixed identities. The poems in All Day, Talking show a speaker trying to build a new, independent sense of self after the loss of a loved one. These poems are loaded with concrete detail, so as the speaker reminisces about Carole, about her former life, the reader does, too. Chavez doesn’t give us every single detail, but she doesn’t have to. The bond between the speaker and Carole evokes the feelings of friendship and love that, if we’re lucky, we each get to experience in this life. Continue reading