Gently Read Literature, Winter 2014

Gently Read Literature’s first issue of 2014 is out now.


The Winter 2014 issue includes fiction reviews of authors such as Peter Cherches, Kirby Gann, Pamela Erens, Bonnie ZoBell, George Guida, Valerie Fioravanti, Adam Berlin, Luanne Rice, Bruce Holbert, Linda Lappin, and Juliet Marillier.

As well as poetry reviews of collections by Caryl Pagel, Emma Bolden, Elizabeth Robinson, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Bill Yarrow, Frances Hatfield, John Gosslee, Marjorie Maddox, Gerald Fleming, Kristina Marie Darling, Mary Biddinger, Terry Blackhawk, francine j. harris, Jamie Sharpe, Alex Dimitrov, Petrosino, Carrie Olivia Adams, Jeffery Pethybridge, Julie Marie Wade, and Olivia Stiffler.

We’d love for you’ to subscribe to GRL to receive this as well as the Spring issue (released in May) and the Fall issue (released in September). A year subscription is only $10 and will be delivered to your email as a PDF.

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or mail a check payable to Daniel Casey at

Daniel Casey

816 Indiana St.

Lawrence, KS 66044

Gently Read Literature
Reviews of Contemporary Poetry & Literary Fiction
Winter 2014


4—Colleen Abel on Caryl Pagel’s Experiments I Should Like Tried At My Own Death

6—Christina M. Rau on Emma Bolden’s poetry collection Maleficae

10—Amy Pence on reading On Ghosts by Elizabeth Robinson

12—Michael Kasper reviews the novel Lift Your Right Arm by Peter Cherches

15—Making Music from the Badlands of Horror Vacui: Virginia Konchan reviews Joshua Marie Wilkinson’s Swamp Isthmus

18—Parth Vasa reviews Kirby Gann’s novel Ghosting

21—David Appelbaum on Bill Yarrow’s Pointed Sentences

24—Ed Davis reviews the novel The Virgins by Pamela Erens

27—Robin Martin reviews Bonnie ZoBell’s short stories in The Whack Job Girls

30—Fred Misurella reviews George Guida’s short fictions in The Pope Stories

32—Bonnie ZoBell reviews Valerie Fioravanti’s short story collection Garbage Night at the Opera

35—Grace Curtis reviews Frances Hatfield’s poetry collection Rudiments of Flight

37—Robin Martin reviews Adam Berlin’s novel The Number of Missing

40—Christina M. Rau reviews John Gosslee’s Blitzkrieg

43—David Berridge reviews the anthology Homage to Etal Adnan

51—Brief Alphabet of Grief: Carolyn Perry Reviews Local News from Someplace Else by Marjorie Maddox

56—Deborah Bogen reviews Gerald Fleming’s prose poetry collection The Choreographer

59—Sally Deskins on Kristina Marie Darling’s VOW

61—An Insurgency of Language: Stacia M. Fleegal’s review of Mary Biddinger’s poetry collection O Holy Insurgency

63—Suzanne Hard on Luanne Rice’s novel The Lemon Orchard

65—Margaret Rozga reviews Terry Blackhawk’s poetry collection The Light Between

68—Jonterri Gadson reviews allegiance by francine j. harris

71—Emilie Esther-Ann Schnabel reviews Animal Husbandry Today by Jamie Sharpe

73—Samantha Duncan reviews Alex Dimitrov’s poetry collection Begging for It

75—Sing a Song of Darkness: Katherine Yets on Hymn for the Black Terrific by Kiki Petrosino

78—Help Me Solve a Mystery, Who is Who and Where are We?: Katherine Yets on Carrie Olivia Adams’ Forty-One Jane Doe’s

82—The Poem is a Ritual that Conceals: C. Kubasta reviews Jeffrey Pethybridge’s Striven, the Bright Treatise

85—Acceptance Inside an Envelope: Katherine Yets reviews of Julie Marie Wade’s poetry collection Postage Due

88—Olivia Stiffler’s poetry collection Otherwise, We Are Safe reviewed by Margaret Rozga

92—Twenty Poets Talking: Robert Archambeau reviews the anthology Password Primeval

95—Channeling the Prose Poem’s Ancestry: Steven Wingate reviews the anthology Family Portrait: American Prose Poetry

98—James Wharton reviews Bruce Holbert’s novel Lonesome Animals

101—Shaina Mugan reviews Linda Lappin’s Signatures in Stone

103—Things Redefined: Ayesha Ali Reviews Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

Gently Read Literature, Fall 2013



The Fall 2013 issue of Gently Read Literature is available now. Take a look at the contents listed below and if this sounds like a good line up to you, you should probably subscribe.

A year-long subscription to Gently Read Literature (3 issues) is $10 & will be delivered to you as a PDF.

You can subscribe via PayPal ( ) to the email address

or mail a check payable to Daniel Casey to

Daniel Casey

816 Indiana St.

Lawrence, KS 66044


(Critic, Author, Work)

4—Caroline Crew: On Male Privilege, The Exorcist, & Women Writers Who Won’t Step Down

7—Sophfronia Scott: The Making of a Classic, Review of Pamela Erens The Virgins

14—Alyssa Jocson: Forever Quirky and Fantastically Flawed and Ridiculous, Review of Madeline McDonnell Penny, n.

16—Jaime Boler: Think Twice Before Opening Boxes, Review of Norah Labiner Let the Dark Flower Blossom

20—Suzanne Hard: Persistent Empathy, Review of Anne Leigh Parrish All the Roads that Lead from Home

22—Suzanne Hard: Ill-equipped, Perhaps, Deserving of Compassion, Laura Kasischke If A Stranger Approaches You

25—Eileen Austen: In Search of Narrative, Review of Alicia Kozameh Ostrich Legs

31—Kelly Lydick: Unconsciously Conscious, Review of Bernadette Mayer Ethics of Sleep

35—Glenda Burgess: Art of the Discarded and Reclaimed, Review of Dana Johnson Elsewhere, California

37—Christine Cody: A Missive from the Deities, Review of Anne Germanacos In the Time of Girls

40—Matthew Mahaney: A Lyrical Choose-Your-Own Adventure, Review of Loren Erdrich & Sierra Nelson I Take Back the Sponge Cake

44—Allan B. Rubin: An Edifying Compendium, Review of Daniela Gioseffi Pioneering Italian American Culture

47—Maria Espinosa: Of Craving, Of Touch, Review of Susan Sherman The Light That Puts an End to Dreams

50—Pamela Klein: Uncomfortably Dangerous Poetry, Review of Rauan Klassnik The Moon’s Jaw

53—Bill Pruitt: Questionable Insight, Review of Hugh Martin The Stick Soldiers

57—Bill Pruitt: Xenotransplantation, Review of Bruce Beasley Theophobia

60—Holly Helscher: The Complexity of Choices, Review of Gila Green King of the Class

63—Glenn Halak: Poetic Persona vs Poetry, Review of Helene Cardona Dreaming My Animal Selves

68—Glenn Halak: The Invisible Man, Review of William Pitt Root’s translation of Pablo Neruda

78—Cory Johnston: Forms of Detachment in Holocaust Literature

Gently Read Literature, 2013 Spring Issue

Now that Spring is finally here, so is a new issue of Gently Read Literature. The Spring Issue has some brilliant poetry and fiction reviews as always as well as some interesting literary essays. This issue’s most interesting feature is a special section devoted to impressions, personal essays, and summaries from attendees to this year’s AWP Conference is Boston.

Take a look at the contents–


Special Feature Essay on the AWP Conference Boston

Featuring Mary Biddinger, Heather Bowlan, Dianne Turgeon Richardson, Kris Bigalk, Mark Jenkins, & Suzanne Cope

Reviews & Essays

Taste and See: Michelle Ovalle Reviews Tropicalia by Emma Trelles

An Act of Witness: Tawnysha Greene Reviews Pamela Uschuk’s Wild in the Plaza of Memory

An Untroubled Poet: David Appelbaum Reviews Laurie Filipelli’s Elseplace

Unclear Dreams: Stacie Theis Reviews Patricia Goodwin’s When Two Women Die

What Remains: Ben Moeller-Gaa Reviews Kristina Marie Darling’s Melancholia (An Essay)

A Reach For Our Better Angels: Sophfronia Scott Reviews Robert Vivian’s Tall Grass Trilogy

The Mystery of Faith: Zachary Boissonneau Reviews Ira Sadoff’s True Faith

The Sestina and Ardor: An Essay by Marilyn Krysl

An Inner World: Maria Espinosa Reviews Paul Christensen’s Strangers in Paradise

Images of Water: Lisa Cole Reviews Edith Sodergran’s Salt Ballads as translated by Brooklyn Copeland

Finding One Thing in Another: Jeffrey DeLotto Reviews Anne Whitehouse’s The Refrain

Colors of Emotion and Mind: Jesse A. Lambertson Reviews Neil de la Flor’s An Elephant’s Memory of Blizzards

Die Now, Die Then: Jesse A. Lambertson Reviews Robert Day’s Where I am Now

Accordions in the Mind: Lisa Cole Reviews Juliet Cook’s Poisonous Beautyskull Lollipop

In the Midst of Anxiety: Victoria McCoy Reviews Matthew Cooperman’s Still: Of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move

Getting Away With It: Lisa Cole Reviews Listen to Her Heart by Amy Berkowitz

o louvre of the world, Poetry and Grammar: Emma Bolden Reviews Emily Carr’s 13 ways of Happily

Life in the Margins: Ben Moeller-Gaa Reviews Kristina Marie Darling’s Petrachan

One-on-One, Writer & Reader: Linda Lappin Interview with Thomas Kennedy

Love at the Speed of Sound: Sophfronia Scott on Elena Passarello’s Let Me Clear My Throat

The Drive to Connect: Stephen Page Ponders Adrienne Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language

Stolen Identity: Alyssa Jocson Reviews Eric Goodman’s Twelfth & Race

Literary Combat for History’s Collective Memory of the South before the American Civil War: An Essay by Forest Balderson


If this sounds like a good line up to you, you should probably subscribe. A year-long subscription to Gently Read Literature (3 issues) is $10 & will be delivered to you as a PDF.

You can subscribe via PayPal ( ) to the email address

or mail a check payable to Daniel Casey to

Daniel Casey

816 Indiana St

Lawrence, KS 66044

Subscribe to Gently Read Literature: Become a Subscriber & Support Book Reviewing

Greetings from Gently Read Literature,


Some of you may have notice that GRL has been absent of late with our most recent issue being released in May. This is because GRL is going through a format change.


Instead of publishing every month as we have done for the past few years, Gently Read Literature will now publish three times a year—a Summer (September), Winter (January), and Spring (May) issue.


Gently Read Literature has reached a crossroads. On September 1st, GRL will release its Summer 2012 issue which will be comprised of 23 review essays on contemporary poetry and literary fiction and be over 70 pages. GRL’s Summer issue will feature the same in-depth review essays that you’ve come to expect and enjoy; this Summer’s issue will see reviews of recent work by Traci Brimhall, Terese Svoboda, Sarah Falkner, Peter Richards, Maxine Kumin, Ron Padgett, and Jane Lazarre among others.


Our Summer 2012 issue will be the last free issue of Gently Read Literature. Although I’ve strived to make GRL as accessible as possible over the last 4 years, it has no longer become feasible to continue on as a free publication.


Subscriptions to Gently Read Literature will start with the January 2013 issue, which will be sent to subscribers as a downloadable PDF and made available online.


A year-long subscription to Gently Read Literature (three issues) will be $10.



If you would like to become a subscriber to Gently Read Literature, you can send payment via PayPal to the email address


Mail a check to

Daniel Casey

20698 Drake Ct

Rogers, MN 55374


After the release of the Summer Issue, only subscribers will receive email updates like this one.


I hope you’ll continue our conversation by becoming a subscriber.

Thank You for Your Support

Daniel Casey, Founding Editor




Take a look at our past issues:

May 2012,

April 2012,

March 2012,

February 2012,

January 2012,

Gently Read Literature can now be purchased for download to your Nook or Kindle!


Gently Read Literature can now be purchased for download to your Nook or Kindle!

Not only will Gently Read Literature be sent free to our list of subscribers every month but also we will offer digital download to you e-reader, tablet, or hand-held device.


Barnes & Noble Nook

Gently Read Literature, November 2011

Gently Read Literature, October 2011


Amazon Kindle

Gently Read Literature, October 2011

Gently Read Literature, November 2011

English Studies in the 21st Century: A Critical Look at Combining Cultural Studies and Classics by Kelly Hunt

Kelly Hunt,

English Studies in the 21st Century: A Critical Look at Combining Cultural Studies and Classics



The fate of English studies appears most threatened by increasing technology, employability and institutional pressures.   In the face of such troublesome issues, scholars find themselves defending the field and calling for a new direction, most often involving an interdisciplinary approach.   While I do not deny the inevitable path towards interdisciplinary work or Cultural studies, I resist the recent trend to dismiss the importance of the aesthetic value and rich experience reading and studying literature offers.  Still, according to Richard Ohmann, the number of English majors has shrunk at least 50 percent in the past twenty years (92), figures that suggest the need for change. Throwing out the classics to make room for the study of a blog or comic strip would be a terrible loss, but to examine only the traditional canon will leave students unequipped.  The answer lies somewhere in the middle with themed courses in Cultural studies that include a variety of text.   

 The problem with the canon remains rather obvious and two-fold.  First, its neglect of minorities and difference—as Lillian S. Robinson points out; “It is quite accurate to think of the canon as an entirely gentlemanly artifact, considering how few works by nonmembers of that class and sex make it into the informal agglomeration of course syllabi, anthologies and widely commented-upon ‘standard authors’ that constitutes the canon as it is generally understood” (154).  Secondly, if the fate of English studies depends on a Cultural studies approach, the four-year degree can only hope to cover a mere fraction of the “great works” as other text will necessitate class time.   However, I do not want to see all canonized text disappear as Robinson suggests could happen; “Permission may have been given to the contemporary critic to approach a wide range of texts, transcending and even ignoring the traditional canon” (162).  There are certain works, written by dead white males as they may be, which are referenced within the college experience and throughout life.  Not only could one miss out on “the joke” or the richness a subtle reference adds to whatever context in which it might be found, but there are certain works a student must be familiar with as they are used often as examples in the classroom and criticism.  

I propose closer reading and critical examination of a variety of texts, a sort of juxtaposing of the classic and modern within the same course similar to those taught by J. Hillis Miller who explains, “My strategy has been to teach and write about old literary works in the context of one ‘timely’ problematic of another, ‘Victorian and Modernist English Novels: Moments of Decision’ for the last two years, ‘Victorian Multiplotted Novels as Models of Community’” (4).  In these types of courses, students should be taught a methodology, a learned set of skills for analysis of any type of text—canonized or found on the back of a cereal box. 

As previously mentioned, time permits the wide coverage of all literature that may have made it onto Bloom’s seemingly arrogant list of, “what I have read and think worthy of rereading, which may be the only pragmatic test of the canonical” (226).  Instead, I recommend tightening the focus by teaching courses in themes that comprise multiple types of texts, including film and media.  I agree with Robert Scholes when he writes, “The process of reading should take precedence over the coverage of texts in the English curriculum.  By process I mean learning how to read closely and carefully, how to situate a text in relation to other texts (intertextuality) how to situate a text in relation to culture, society, the world (extratextuality)” (117).   In this way Cultural studies again comes into play, reaching to various humanities departments.

The interdisciplinary nature of studying literature in regards to varying cultures of varying times, produces its own problems amongst humanities departments.  Because of this I agree with critics who suggest literature will be rolled together among a new department of Cultural studies.   However, students should still have a “concentration” within the major of Cultural studies, much like Art majors could a have concentration in Drawing or a Music major with a concentration in Musical Composition.   One of the concentrations among Cultural studies majors will of course be Literature, ensuring that the study of literature will never fade away.  These literature courses could introduce students to prominent schools of theory by centering themselves on various relevant themes. 

The idea of pushing English studies into Cultural studies might also alleviate the burden of employment for students after college.  Since the subject area is broader and more relevant to current trends in society, multiple opportunities for application of knowledge will surface.  Still, with the Cultural studies major and “concentration” model I have suggested, students who desire to focus on literature may do so while gaining the benefits of a wider area of study.  More people are college graduates than ever before—making the job market highly competitive—and studying literature, where jobs are few, might seem like a risky decision.  However, it is precisely because of this that many (if not most) graduates end up in a field far from what they studied in school.  However, as Ohmann points out, the skills learned upon receipt of an education in English are considerable, “English teachers have helped train the kind of work force capitalist need in a productive system that relies less and less on purely manual labor.  More, we have helped to inculcate the discipline—punctuality, good verbal manners, submission to authority, attention to problem solving assignments set by somebody else, long hours spent in one place—that is necessary to perform the alienated labor that will be the lot of most”  (92). 

Of course there are more sentimental reasons for studying literature as well.  Humanist Helen Vendler writes, “Nothing is more lonely than to go through life uncompanioned by a sense that others have also gone through it, and left a record of experience” (39). And despite what Harold Bloom claims about today’s students lack of passion for reading, “only a few handfuls of students now enter Yale with an authentic passion for reading” (226), recalling friends, classmates and a bustling Barnes and Noble in every town, I conclude passion for literature is alive and well.    

One area of debate I must mention lies in the placement of the composition course.  Most universities require these types of courses, forcing students to crank out what Richard Marius dubs “model airplane” essays.  “These are papers whose writing resembles what kids do when they buy a model airplane in a hobby shop…[t]he student writers exhibit no creativity, no sustained rational discourse that explains or builds a careful argument” (Marius 474).   This type of class does very little good for the English department, and perhaps little good for the students as well.  Instead, I suggest students take a course designed within their major that fulfills the writing requirement.  As Marius points out, many history classes have students write multiple papers in a term, as would a cultural studies class.  Students would write about something they are actually interested in (assuming that the major they picked interests them).  This could provide a solution to the problem of outside departments that “insist on naming and authorizing” (McQuade 484) the activities of the composition courses as well as increase respect through out academia for the composition professor (who would also teach a variety of skills such as close reading, critical analysis, etc.) within each department.

Harold Bloom predicts the fall of “Departments of English” as we know them by pointing to the lack of passion in today’s students.  He writes, “You cannot teach someone to love great poetry if they come to you without such love.”   I disagree based on personal experience, and so would Gerard Graff who relays his earlier struggles with literature in his essay, Disliking Books at an Early Age.  Graff admits his aversion to reading until he was introduced to critical debate and close reading under the direction of a knowledgeable professor, “It was through exposure to such critical reading and discussion over a period of time that I came to catch the literary bug” (44).  If a student finds a particular piece of writing as engaging as Graff’s professor made it for him, they will expand their personal reading beyond classroom assignments.  The problem (if you call it one) regarding the lack of coverage in a Cultural studies type program could solve itself.

Despite Graff’s experience, critical exposure means little if it remains aimed at the very few who already understand it.  Several critics acknowledge the difficult nature of literary study and criticism including Graff who writes, “Many literate people learned certain ways of talking about books so long ago that they have forgotten they ever had to learn them.  These people therefore fail to understand the reading problems of the struggling students who have still not acquired a critical vocabulary” (45).  Wayne Booth forms a similar complaint in his request to the editors of Critical Inquiry when he suggests, “ask each author who uses fancy but necessary new terminology to provide a brief glossary at the end of the article rather than assuming an audience of five or ten who are up on the new terminology” (1).  Alan Purves also acknowledges the jargon heavy arguments, calling them confusing and denigrating to teachers and parents (211).  If indeed the threat against literary study does exist, and I believe it does to some extent, scholars need to open the club up to new and interested parties instead of closing it off to a select, highly educated few. 

While acknowledging the challenges in determining the fate of English Studies in an increasingly technological world, I still believe the aesthetic role of literature will never be eradicated.   There is merit in reading literature, just as there is merit in the mass culture and commercial entertainment suggested to be an overwhelming force against it.  For scholars such as Alan Purves, “enjoyment” is not a worthy enough cause to study literature.  Commenting on school literature he writes, “It is not supposed to be fun; it’s supposed to be a mental discipline.  Students are learning a disciplined way of reading, watching or listening and a disciplined way of talking, writing, or composing, which teachers believe—or someone believes—will help them later in life” (214).  His is a sad statement.  While reading literature does help one later in life, can it not be for enjoyment as well?  Besides, if a university level student does not enjoy learning, I fail to see how they will succeed in the scholastic career, let alone the area of expertise they choose.    The sage advice, “do what you love,” exists for a reason—if you do not enjoy something, not only will you be unhappy, but you probably won’t be very good at it.   With the vast areas of interest involved in Cultural studies, students will (in theory) have more options for courses and may pick and choose based on where interests lie.  Themed courses will bring to light a variety of texts and their relationship to culture, establishing connections leading to deeper understanding and greater knowledge.  


Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. “Elegiac Conclusion.” Falling Into Theory. Ed. David Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin_ 2000. 225-234. 

Booth, Wayne. “To the Future Editors of Critical Inquiry.” Critical Inquiry 30 (2003). Chicago. 3 Dec. 2007 <;. 

Graff, Gerald. “Disliking Books At an Early Age.” Falling Into Theory. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin_ 2000. 40-48. 

Hillis Miller, J. Critical Inquiry 30 (2003):  14. Chicago. 18 Nov. 2003 <;. 

Marius, Richard. “Composition Studies.” Redrawing the Boundaries. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt and Giles Gunn. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1992. 466-481. 

McQuade, Donald. “Composition and Literary Studies.” Redrawing the Boundaries. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt and Giles Gunn. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1992. 482-519. 

Ohmann, Richard. “The Function of English At the Present Time.” Falling Into Theory. Ed. David Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin_ 2000. 89-95. 

Purves, Alan. “Telling Our Story About Teaching Literature.” Falling Into Theory. Ed. David Richter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin_ 2000. 211-217. 

Robinson, Lillian S. “Treason Our Text: Feminist Challenges to the Literary Canon.”