King's debut essay collection touches on cultural cornerstones that would be familiar to anyone who came of age in the late '90s and early 2000s--it's positively redolent with Auntie Anne’s pretzels and Bath and Body Works spritzes--and teems with the awkwardness of adolescence. But what makes this collection so refreshing is her attention to the kitschy, the trashy, and the tacky; interweaving a well-honed snark with odes to things that more highbrow critics would turn their noses up at, King takes readers on a ride that is unrepentant in its joy, teaching us to love in ways that are shameless, silly, and just plain fun.
When Reece spoke with Louise Gluck, who had chosen his manuscript for the Bread Loaf poetry prize, he noted how “she spoke in fully formed, complete, complex, laser-like sentences….My own English tightened to keep up.” Similarly penetrating portraits of James Merrill, Mark Strand, Richard Blanco, and other luminaries of contemporary poetry stud this memoir, but Reece’s rise to their ranks was slow and anguished. He struggled for over 15 years and racked up 300-plus rejections before the Bread Loaf breakthrough. These were years not only of literary frustration, but of alcoholism, family estrangements, and, the anguish of a gay man afraid to come out, even to himself. Reece writes wrenchingly of “the way my life swung between buttoned up repressions and drunken outbursts,” but while he couldn’t face his sexuality, he did recognize that he loved poetry, and from Plath to Dickinson to Elizabeth Bishop, George Herbert, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, it saved his life over and over. This would be a rich enough story, but, like Hopkins, Reece shares the dual callings of writing and religion; now an ordained Episcopal minister, he has made poetry key to his spiritual mission,an experience he renders in powerful, resonant language—as he does everything in this heartfelt, haunting book.
Taking readers on an intimate journey of her early adulthood--one that covers the actual ground from Taos to Paris to New Mexico--Pham's stellar essays put sensitivity front and center. In a generous weaving of literary theory, art history, and the narrative of her own heartbreak, Pham tempers the cerebral with her deep empathy and masterful storytelling that doesn't just explore themes of desire and longing, but that, like any good pop song, immerses us in the unreserved heart of her emotions. This collection is an album you'll want to return to again and again