We were thrilled to see our own Juliana Spahr included in a poetry roundup last week in The Nation. Stephen Burt reviewed the new books of poems by Spahr, Noah Eli Gordon, Anna Moschovakis, and Kathleen Ossip. According to Burt, "all four poets are reacting to big modern systems, above all to the system called capitalism, whose results and failures seem inescapable, from the swells of the North Pacific (where miles of plastic collect and glaciers decay) to the American flag on the moon."
Here is Burt's take on Black Sparrow's Well Then There Now, Spahr's latest book of poetry:
Juliana Spahr taught at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, from 1997 to 2003. Her autobiographical novel The Transformation (2007) remembers how she and her closest friends became excited about Hawaiian ethnic nationalism, despite its efforts to exclude them, because it held some “possibility of escape from large systemic limitations. They too were trying to escape from large systems, from limitations on relation. . . . And while they had never indulged in the misunderstanding that art and music and literature could be independent of politics, [their] goosebumps were a reminder that they had a lot to learn.” In Well Then There Now Spahr shows what she learned. She is now a professor at Mills College in Oakland, California, but most of her new book dwells on her time in Hawaii, and it is by far the most detailed and satisfying of her four collections of poems. Five of its eight works concern the islands; all eight speak to the mixed emotions, or new emotions, that Spahr’s insistent attention to large systems—money, language, climate, geography—recommends.