This roundup includes several poetry collections, a short story debut, and a biography of a groundbreaking neuroscientist. Give these titles a look and stay tuned for part 2!
Daisy Fried’s follow-up to Poems and Advice is The Year the City Emptied (Flood Editions), a collection that translates and reimagines French author Charles Baudelaire’s poems. Although Fried interprets Baudelaire “without the grave difficulty of confronting a completely blank page,” her poems are raw and visceral in their treatment of contemporary issues, including the ongoing pandemic, lockdowns, political protest, and the death of a loved one. Fried’s poem “Forcefeeding” appeared in NER 36.1.
In her debut short story collection Seeking Fortune Elsewhere (Catapult), O. Henry Prize winner Sindya Bhanoo tells the story of three South Indian immigrants. Each of these women embark on parallel journeys where “regret, hope and triumph remain in disguise.” Bhanoo’s stories are consistent in their haunting prose, as well as their meditative, empathic style. In “No. 16 Model House Road,” a woman deliberates on whether she will defy her husband; “A Life in America” focuses on a professor who is accused of exploiting his students; a school shooting destroys a mother’s world in “Nature Exchange.” “No. 16 Model House Road” appeared in NER 41.4.
Poet Tomás Q. Morín’s memoir, Let Me Count the Ways (University of Nebraska), explores and reconciles machismo, poverty, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Morín—who grew up in a small South Texas town in the eighties and nineties—recalls events from his tumultuous early life, including a memory of helping his father spot unmarked cop cars. Let me Count the Ways is a “vivid portrait of South Texas life” that “challenges our ideas about fatherhood, drug abuse, and mental illness.” Morín’s poems appear in multiple issues of NER, most recently in issue 35.3.
In The Brain in Search of Itself: Santiago Ramón y Cajal and the Story of the Neuron (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)—the first major biography of Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal—author Benjamin Ehrlich lauds the incredible achievements and research of his subject while telling a deeply human story set in early 20th century Spain. Beginning with Cajal’s complex relationship with his father—a temperamental physician—Ehrlich steadily makes the case for the importance of Cajal’s work to our modern understanding of neurons. Ehrlich is a senior reader for NER.
Wry, unorthodox, and delightful, Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry) by poet Susan Rich demonstrates a literary balancing act between the serious and the whimsical. Subjects in Rich’s fifth collection of poetry include vegetarian vampires, musings on middle age, and fun vignettes that explore the nature of travel. “Let love be imminent and let it be a train; / let it arrive at dawn, its whistle whiskering the air,” Rich writes in “A Middle Life: A Romance.” Rich’s poem “String Theory with Heartache” was published in NER 39.2.
Matthew Olzmann’s Constellation Route (Alice James) presents poems as letters—epistolary verses written by mailmen to recipients; conversations between couriers; points of understanding or chaos that flash out between nomadic souls. “In language at once direct and artful,” the author “memorably explores the question of how one might speak across the gulfs dividing humankind.” Olzmann’s work has appeared in multiple issues of NER, most recently in issue 42.2.
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