H.E. Dare’s Queen of Dust

In Queen of Dust, H.E. Dare (who also writes contemporary romance as Hanna Earnest) takes on a plethora of tropes I thought I was going to love. Respectable courtesans! Sex positivity! Evil corporate overlords! Romance in space! The pieces are, in a word, fantastic. (I didn’t used to be into romance in space, but guys, Jessie Mihalik totally converted me.) The pieces really didn’t work … Continue reading H.E. Dare’s Queen of Dust

a small 2022 retrospective

One of the fun things about fibromyalgia, for me, is that I don’t really make it through a day now. I’ll get through what’s required of me—I’ve always been good at that. I’ll manage to make it home before the collapse (usually). But there’s always a collapse, and it feels like it’s coming earlier and earlier. I’ve already had one today, and now I’m hoping … Continue reading a small 2022 retrospective

On transit budgets and transit fares

I’ve grown up on the trains. More specifically, I’ve grown up taking Metra Electric, and have been on the University Park line now for more than two decades. It’s a good line, and the people who ride it are generally decent–and generally not wealthy. We’ve lately had a spate of articles telling us that Metra and the CTA face a budget crisis, a cliff of … Continue reading On transit budgets and transit fares

#LibraryJobs: Or, hire more people and pay them all a whole lot more

Much to my surprise, #LibraryJobs was trending on Twitter. I don’t think we’re a big enough group to get that trending? I mean, library Twitter is hardcore but this is kind of random. Nonetheless, I have thoughts about library jobs, and the people who budget and hire for them. Libraries are at a breaking point, here in the U.S. They are, fundamentally, a public good–one … Continue reading #LibraryJobs: Or, hire more people and pay them all a whole lot more

O Mr. Economist, unemployment ruins lives

Normally I’d set the stage for this with data, and more data, and more data. But I’ve had a long and lousy couple weeks filled with out of control asthma and allergies and fibromyalgia flares, and so I’ll just say this instead: every time I read another headline about how strong employment is bad, I want to scream. Do these ghouls of economists have no … Continue reading O Mr. Economist, unemployment ruins lives

a finger for Cristóbal Colón today

Last Friday I was trundling down Washington after work when I saw a very small demonstration in front of Daley Center. At first I couldn’t figure out what it was. Immigration rights? Abortion rights? None of those would be so small, not in a city like Chicago. I was almost to the intersection with Dearborn when it finally hit me: they were there to sing … Continue reading a finger for Cristóbal Colón today

guess I’ll never understand American media, qeii edition

So a major American city is without water, a suburban Chicago town has been without water off and on for almost year, gun violence continues to ramp up, a factory implosion continues to haunt a majority-Hispanic neighborhood, jobs continue not to pay enough, the last president is a traitor, the country’s filled with domestic terrorists including people attacking teachers and librarians, there are multiple simultaneous … Continue reading guess I’ll never understand American media, qeii edition

The Sealey Challenge: Flight

I close out my 2022 Sealey Challenge with bittersweet beauty: Chaun Ballard’s chapbook Flight, which takes on structural white supremacy and anti-Blackness and American history while still creating beauty, which nods to poets past and present while creating something unique. Every poem in this slight collection carries weight and depth and breadth, and every poem carries meanings—more than I can grab in one reading. Reading … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Flight

The Sealey Challenge: A Song of Frutas

Some books are both hugs in printed form and mirrors-windows-sliding-glass-doors, all in one. A Song of Frutas, with poetry by Margarita Engle and illustrations by Sara Palacios, is very much one of those books. Pretty much everyone, including Goodreads reviewers, describes A Song of Frutas as being rhythmic, and they’re damn right it is: like Drum Dream Girl, which I’ve also read for the Sealey … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: A Song of Frutas

The Sealey Challenge: I Have No Ocean

Nicole Arocho Hernández’s I Have No Ocean is, at its core, poetry of fury. Poet and poetry have every right to their burning anger: this is about the devastation wrought by Hurricane María, otherwise known as the continuing devastation of imperialism. It’s another entry in this summer’s catalog of loss, and it is furious. Parts of I Have No Ocean might make more sense if … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: I Have No Ocean

The Sealey Challenge: A Place Inside of Me

Zetta Elliott and Noa Denmon’s A Place Inside Of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart is a book to be shared, a treasure ripe for the holding. Elliott’s poetry and Denmon’s illustrations are warm, as enveloping as an embrace. I read this book both as a picture book lover (can I say collector? As of art? Because they are) and also as a librarian … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: A Place Inside of Me

The Sealey Challenge: The Ache and the Wing

Today’s poetry was Sunni Brown Wilkinson’s The Ache and the Wing, part of Sundress Publications’ e-chap series and an accidental continuation of my apparent themes of grief and loss. There are multiple losses here. One of them is the loss at birth of Wilkinson and her husband’s baby boy, which threads itself throughout the text, boy and grief and (misplaced) guilt moving even in silences. … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: The Ache and the Wing

The Sealey Challenge: Citizen Illegal

Back in 2019, when I read José Olivarez’s Citizen Illegal during my first trip ’round the Sealey Challenge, I called it “Hard-hitting, defiant, and celebratory, a masterpiece of poems.” Which is true, I guess, but really it is so much more. I think that Citizen Illegal will hit everyone who reads it a little differently. Like Olivarez, I am from the South Side. I come … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Citizen Illegal

The Sealey Challenge: Dothead

Amit Majmudar’s Dothead is hella funny. It’s not what I was expecting: the titular poem, “Dothead,” is sad and should piss the reader off, as Majmudar explores racism and white supremacy through his mother’s bindi, the “‘third eye,’” sure, but not “an eye eye, not like that. It’s not some freak / third eye on your forehead like on some Chernobyl kid.” The imagery is … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Dothead

The Sealey Challenge: Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota

I picked up Amelia Gorman’s Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota not because I am familiar with Gorman’s work (I am not), nor because I knew anything beyond the title about the content. No, I picked it up because I am, you see, a native plant gardener, and boy did her title catch my eye. Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota, published by … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Field Guide to Invasive Species of Minnesota

The Sealey Challenge: Keeper of Limits: The Mrs. Cavendish Poems

Stephen Dunn’s Keeper of Limits: The Mrs. Cavendish Poems, twelfth in the Quarternote Chapbook series, is an odd little book. The interconnected little poems are often quite funny, and sometimes quite wise, and also sometimes kinda creepy. We follow two main characters—our nameless narrator, a guy who goes by “I,” and Mrs. Cavendish, aka Rachel, the object of his obsession. And obsession it is. Our … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Keeper of Limits: The Mrs. Cavendish Poems

The Sealey Challenge: Where Are the Snows (a quick second reading)

Today, in what feels a bit like a cheat, I re-read Kathleen Rooney’s forthcoming collection Where Are the Snows. My review is forthcoming too, over on Third Coast Review, so this will be a little different than most of my posts. This was a hard book for me to review, because I loved it so much. It felt from the very first word like what … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Where Are the Snows (a quick second reading)

The Sealey Challenge: Nowhere to Arrive

Last year, when I read Jenny Xie’s exquisite Eye Level—the fourteenth book of August, on the fourteenth day—I questioned whether those tight-knit poems could exist in any other form than together. This year, to my delight, I found her award-winning chapbook Nowhere to Arrive—and also the answer to last year’s question: yes. The bones of Eye Level are here in Nowhere to Arrive, but in … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Nowhere to Arrive

The Sealey Challenge: cunt. bomb.

Whatever I’d expected of a chapbook titled cunt. bomb., Jessica Helen Lopez’s book, alternately funny and sad and defiant, wasn’t it. The titular poem here is, I suppose, the closest to what I would have expected–although it’s also a bit of a manifesto. cunt. bomb. is generally talking about cis women, although Lopez doesn’t exactly say so. It’s a manifesto and a celebration of all … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: cunt. bomb.

The Sealey Challenge: Latitude

Natasha Rao‘s Latitude is strange and beautiful, a story of growing up and becoming, becoming, becoming, whether or not that becoming is always good. (The Poetry Foundation‘s review calls it “in some ways a fairly straightforward Bildungsroman in verse,” which I suppose has some truth to it, though it feels like something rather more to me.) Latitude is one of those books of poetry which … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Latitude

The Sealey Challenge: Ordinary Misfortunes

Emily Jungmin Yoon writes of the unbearable weight of history in Ordinary Misfortunes: of tragedy and violence so extreme, so widespread, as to become ordinary. And, while many of the twenty poems (or, at any rate, thirteen shorter poems and one broken out into seven distinct sections) are themselves titled “Ordinary Misfortunes,” and while many of them pertain to the horrors suffered by Korean “comfort … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Ordinary Misfortunes

The Sealey Challenge: wash between your toes

Her biography says that Teni Ayo-Ariyo writes “soft, brave things.” She demonstrates this tendency throughout wash between your toes, published in 2021 as one of Sundress Publication’s e-chapbooks. wash between your toes is often tender and often sweet, and it’s often as hard-edged as beautifully forged steel. I grew up on myth and folklore, and so I’m sure it will surprise no one that the … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: wash between your toes

The Sealey Challenge: All the Blood Involved in Love

Maya Marshall’s All the Blood Involved in Love is stunning. I can’t really think of another word. Marshall’s topics are difficult, and often brutal. She references the ugliness of the past, of the present, even of the future. And, through it all, All the Blood Involved in Love is perfectly, stunningly, gorgeous. This is an interesting book to read, in this strange, frightful time of … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: All the Blood Involved in Love

The Sealey Challenge: Diary / Diario

Liliana Ponce’s Diario, translated by Michael Martin Shea as Diary for Ugly Duckling Presse, is slight, exquisite, and intense, a collection of twenty poems that demands far more than one reading—and, indeed, far more than the quick write-up I can give it tonight. Ponce is a porteña, born and bred in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I confess, when I looked her up, I wondered if … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Diary / Diario

The Sealey Challenge: Death by Sex Machine

Once upon a time, for last year’s Sealey Challenge, I read Franny Choi’s marvelous Soft Science, and it thrilled me and broke my heart. This year I’ve read its predecessor, the chapbook Death By Sex Machine, and it, too, is a marvel. Much as I said of Soft Science, Choi interrogates humanity in Death By Sex Machine. Who is allowed to be human, and whose … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Death by Sex Machine

The Sealey Challenge: Of Forests and of Farms: On Faculty and Failure

Adjua Gargi Nzinga Greaves manages, in the slender book that is Of Forests and of Farms: On Faculty and Failure, to tackle Blackness, white supremacy, western hegemonic thought, the violence of coloniality, and the vitality of life. It is a LOT, tucked into one slight, delightful book. Sometimes, stylistic choices are about as important as wording, in poetry. Greaves’ choices are incredibly important here, from … Continue reading The Sealey Challenge: Of Forests and of Farms: On Faculty and Failure