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"Poetry is probably my deepest love, even if I do gadabout more with the likes of fiction and philosophy. No matter what I read, I tend to be most interested in how a writer is using language -- what they do with words and the spaces between them. There is, I find, often more poetry shacked up in the paragraphs of prose than at its home in verse. I love a good story as much anyone, but more importantly still are the worlds created in the telling of that story. One result of this is that I tend to err on the side of reading slowest the books I value the most."
Olio is unlike anything else I've ever read. How often does a person get to say that? Tyehimba Jess' second book is a mash-up of sonnet, song, and story, and neither the fiction nor fact of American history looks the same again. A celebration of the works, lives, and defiance of African American artists and musicians who suffered (then and today) minstrelizing stereotypes. Olio is an education and encyclopedia.
We are in the midst of a new golden age of Mexican literature, and Sudden Death has opened even more audacious paths for this most cosmopolitan storytelling. To retell the plot does the novel very little service -- which isn't to say it is plot-less or even particularly difficult to follow. Rather, it is tightly wound (not unlike the balls used in the epic duel of a tennis match that functions simultaneously as the novel's centerpiece and frame) and bounds expertly between centuries from Old World to New.
Sudden Death is, at its core, a very angry book - specifically, at the insipid successes of the world's colonizers - but it is an anger born of play and the censure of comedy. The bad guy may always win in the end, Enrigue seems resigned to say, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the losers' little victories along the way.
Not quite poems. Not quite essays. C.D. Wright's final collection before her untimely death earlier this year is a fitting farewell for -- and arguably even introduction to -- a poet who defied formal identification. In the course of saluting the likes of Robert Creeley, Jean Valentine, and William Carlos Williams, and meanderingly reflecting on her time spent in Mexico and with those who have lost lifetimes in prison, Wright gives us a master-class in modern American poetry. Fans of Mary Ruefle's underground classic, Madness, Rack, and Honey, should take special note.