[REVIEW] [insert] boy, by Danez Smith


YesYes Books

116 pages, $16


Review by Peter LaBerge


“Being black, holy, drunk, my mother’s son”


            Thank God for good poetry. Thank God for good poetry collections that leave necessary emotion in their wake, and thank God for poets like Danez Smith, who—through his debut Lambda Literary Award-winning poetry collection [insert] boy—demonstrates that what is political should be openly approached in personal terms, and vice versa. In [insert] boy, Smith ignites a discussion about life as a queer person of color in today’s racially charged, orientation conscious society. Through the arteries of movement, music, and religious (or non-religious) experience, Smith allows us to imagine life from his perspective in a way that only the most powerfully evocative poetry can.

The collection begins simply enough. In the opening poem “Black Boy Be,” Smith compiles a list of similes that complete the sentence “Black boy be _________.” We meet a character who ranges in manifestation from “a village ablaze” to “an ocean hid behind a grain of sand” to “blood all over everything.” Within the first few lines, we effectively meet a character who represents the world. Ultimately, we come to find this sense of motion informs many of the poems in the collection. In the first “Poem in which One Black Man Holds Another,” “the black boy falls into himself / & you mourn everyone ever.” In the third poem of the sequence, the narrator “make[s] fire in the absence of storm.” In “The Black Boy & The Bullet,” “one’s whole life is a flash.” By emphasizing the fast-paced, always static nature of his narrator, Smith enhances the experience of [insert] boy’s reader by reinforcing both the urgency of his message as well as the entrancingly violent quality of the events that transpire. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die by Amy Fusselman


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

144 pages, $21.00


Review by Lacey Rowland


When I was a child, I used to play with my friend in a pasture near our developing neighborhood. We lived in a part of town outside the city limits in rural, southern Idaho. The areas we played in were often under construction, but frequently abandoned due to funding. These places, the half-finished houses, the construction areas that harbored nails and other potentially dangerous items, were our summertime playgrounds. They were the places where we learned what trespassing was, and how to maneuver around it. In the pastures, we would bring along stepladders and try to summit horses that were not bred for riding, or had not yet been broken. Whether our parents were aware of our adventures, I’ve never been brave enough to ask, but there is something in my childhood, this space I once lived in that doesn’t exist in the same way for children today.

In her book, Savage Park: A Meditation On Play, Space, And Risk For Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, And Afraid To Die, Amy Fusselman explores the space and world of play. Fusselman invites us to embrace our inner-child, to overcome our fears of death and purpose, while also showing us that, despite living in a world that seems to have everything figured out, there is still so much left for us to uncover. With her whimsical prose, Fusselman takes us with her on the high-wire with famed artist Phillip Pettit, and into the parks of Tokyo, where children romp through “adventure parks,” areas where open fires and sharp tools are at their disposal. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Down, by Sarah Dowling


Coach House Books

86 pages, $17.95


By Klara du Plessis


Attempting to tidy the bedroom, down escapes from the pillow. Imagine this feather floating gracefully, not quite ascending, but taking its time to land. Sarah Dowling’s third collection of poems, Down, appears deceptively light at a first glance, then a sequence of “Bury It” poems emerge and proliferate. Constructing a dichotomy between light, light-hearted and popular, and dark, introspective and difficult, everything goes “well / well” in these pages, “but the only problem is / the burial m-hm.”

Dowling appropriates diverse sources from both popular culture and academic circles – lyrics from Aaliyah and The Temptations, a Frank O’Hara poem, articles and interviews on fine arts and rhetoric. She then manipulates this material, chopping, rearranging, repeating and rendering it unrecognizable, so that the resulting verse is neither a series of found poems nor erasures. As a poetic black box, Dowling inputs text that is readily available to the public and transforms it into a highly private vocabulary with which to express herself. Take the poem “Starlight tours,” for example:

, though a and him He who     The ‘midnight on

cold         in had was bitterly         , ride’ bitterly

winter was   fresh taken cold lonely cold

bloodied field

out night night nights (48)

Continue reading

[REVIEW] Loose Strife, by Quan Barry


University of Pittsburgh Press

65 pages, $15.95


Review by Colleen Abel


Quan Barry is having a good year. Her debut novel She Weeps Each Time You’re Born came out to strong reviews in February, and her third book of poetry, Loose Strife, came out in January. Anyone who has read Loose Strife may not be surprised to hear that Barry is now also a successful novelist: she has a fascination with unearthing stories, and over the course of her three books, Barry has proven that the darker the tale, the more important it is to tell.

In the end notes to Loose Strife, Barry writes that many of the poems were inspired by a collaborative exhibition between her and the visual artist Michael Velliquette, and the book reads like a multimedia lecture or an artist’s talk, delivered with the pictures missing, the poems serving as the only evidence that they were there. Musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson has said of her early career teaching art history in New York that she would forget the details of what she was teaching during slide lectures and just stand in the dark making up stories about the images. Were it not for the poems’ impeccable craft, we might get the same sense from Loose Strife; it’s an unsettling and memorable effect. Continue reading

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu

Dear friends and family,

Please accept this brief note as PANK’s formal notification of resignation, effective as of the end of this calendar year, 2015. We’ll publish one last print issue and two final online issues of PANK Magazine; look for those in the months ahead. We are immeasurably proud of our publications and have boundless gratitude for all the staff, contributors, and each and every reader who has labored alongside us over the last decade. It’s been an immensely gratifying ride. PANK loves you.

Yours sincerely
M. Bartley Seigel, Roxane Gay, & Co.

[REVIEW] Einstein’s Beach House, by Jacob M. Appel



188 pages, $15.95


Review by Lynne Weiss


The theme of the highly readable and surprising stories that comprise Jacob M. Appel’s Einstein’s Beach House is aptly expressed in the first sentence of the first story, “Hue and Cry”—these stories describe things that are “funny” when they happen “to other people.” Things, the narrator goes on to explain, like “tarring and feathering, Peeping Toms, mad cow disease.” In a sense, all three of these things happen to characters in this first story, which describes the plans of a man dying of a brain-wasting disease to teach his daughters forgiveness by taking them to meet a paroled Level 1 sex offender who has recently moved into their neighborhood. The protagonist is 13-year-old Lizzie, one of the aforementioned daughters of the dying man. While everyone else in the neighborhood is protesting the presence of the parolee (metaphorically tarring and feathering him), Lizzie’s father is making plans to befriend him, and Lizzie and her friend Julia are the Peeping Toms who put a watch on the sex offender’s house and break into it to look for something unspecified. “We’ll know it when we find it,” Julia assures Lizzie, and Lizzie does find something in the course of the story, but it has nothing to do with the sex offender and much to do with her coming to terms with her father’s death and declining powers.

Appel is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in more than 200 literary journals. According to his website, Appel is has an M.D. from Columbia and has been admitted to the bar in New York State and Rhode Island. Einstein’s Beach House, which is published by Pressgang, a small press affiliated with the Butler University MFA program, is Appel’s second collection of short stories. He has also published novels and collections of essays. Continue reading

[REVIEW] The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson


Graywolf Press

160 pp, $23.00


Review by Jacob Spears


The unsettled prose in Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts reflects the intractability of her concerns in writing about identity, personhood, and how we make relationships with others. The white space that surrounds each paragraph is a return to the fragmentary form she developed in Bluets, which also found Nelson using the intimacy of her life to write about larger cultural ideas. The Argonauts, however, is a more difficult work, interested in expressing concerns about gender and normativity without attempting to situate those concepts through a fixed discourse. Every bit as erudite as her previous book, The Art of Cruelty, though not as magisterial and academic, The Argonauts embarks on a voyage of exploration in which the ship, like the Argo, “designates molten or shifting parts, a means of asserting while also giving the slip,” intent on retaining “a sense of the fugitive.”

Though it swells in and out of its address, Argonauts unfolds mostly as a confessional written to the second-person ‘you’ that is her partner, the artist Harry Dodge, who very publicly underwent a transition from female to male through the course of their relationship. “Something about identity,” Nelson quips, “was loose and hot in our house.” As a memoir, Nelson’s account of intimacy is at turns light and disturbing, charming and uncomfortable. What if where I am is what I need? she asks, citing Deborah Hay. “Before you, I always thought of this mantra as a means of making peace with a bummer or even catastrophic situations. I never imagined it might apply to joy, too.” Argonauts is an attempt to chart this course in which her position and experience—like language—is anchored in the moment of exchange. A place, context, or sentence inevitably shifts understanding, performance, and intention. Continue reading

[REVIEW] Breakable Things by Loren Kleinman


Winter Goose Publishing

71 pages, $12


Review by Brian Fanelli


Loren Kleinman’s third collection of poems, Breakable Things, has more than one reference to Charles Bukowski, and similar to Bukowski’s work, Kleinman’s latest effort contains more than one poem about drunken revelry and sexual adventures. However, the poet pushes deeper, beyond poetry about wine and sex. Breakable Things draws a stark connection between love and violence, either mental or physical, while highlighting themes of loneliness, trauma, passion, and moving on from past relationships.

Immediately, the opening poem establishes the theme of loneliness and longing, which haunts much of the collection. In the book’s title poem, the author establishes surreal imagery and juxtaposes it with a speaker whose fragility is exposed by the closing stanza. In the opening stanza, the speaker states, “My kitchen/is the only thing that exists/one room/floating up/above New Jersey’s faults lines,” before confessing in the second to last stanza that she is alone, eating, smoking and drinking in the kitchen, “the only girl in the world/hiding in cabinets/next to breakable things.” Images about lights circling around the speaker and the ceiling acting as its own solar system make the reader feel as buzzed as the speaker. What grounds the poem, however, is the confession in the closing lines, the fact that even the alcohol isn’t enough to comfort the speaker. Continue reading

The Lightning Room: Blog People

[PANK] Interviews Editor Diana Clarke is a facilitator of the unexpected. She is a brilliant asker. Her approach both to writing and to conversations with other writers is vivid and curious, articulate and pointed. The fiery result of this approach comes across not only in her interviews, but also in her other work – including her film reviews, her writing about urban space and culture and her work translating Yiddish women poets. The stories she tells – and the ones she draws out of her subjects so deftly – are deeply dimensional.

Below, Clarke talks Lolita, lightning, pleats, vulnerability and Yiddish.


–Interview by Temim Fruchter


1. Many of us are scattered across the country and only know one another, and our writers, from the internet. Where do you blog from?

Mostly I blog from coffee shops. I find I can do the work much better–much truer, with more presence and intention–away from my home. My favorite cafe in Northampton, Massachusetts, where I’m living these days, has huge windows and great people-watching. I love sitting in the ambient communal energy, able to be still because of all the motion around me.

2. Okay, maybe this is a cheating question, but here goes: What is your dream question, the question you’d want any interviewer worth their salt to ask YOU? Continue reading

MÉNAGE À TRIOLETS, by Heidi Czerwiec

A [PANK] Blog guest series for National Poetry Month






Your lover can fuck you beyond the grave.
I’m just going to put this here:
a widow has needs. If you crave
your lover’s dick, from beyond the grave
his ash is yours, forever your slave
encapsulated in plastic gear.
I can fuck myself beyond his grave –
I’m just going to put this here.



hauthorpicHeidi Czerwiec is a poet, essayist, translator, and critic who teaches at the University of North Dakota and is poetry editor at North Dakota Quarterly. She is the author of three chapbooks, including Self-Portrait as Bettie Page, and the forthcoming A Is For A-ké, The Chinese Monster. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Barrow Street, Waxwing, and Able Muse, and you can visit her at heidiczerwiec.com