12 Booklist April 1, 2017 www.booklistreader.com
and joining Steve Blass, Chuck Knoblauch,
Mackey Sasser, and a few other Major Leaguers who famously lost their ability to throw a
baseball straight. Far more tragic for Ankiel was
a childhood marred by an abusive, often-absent
father, painfully detailed here, along with the
mystery of his throwing a;iction and his failed
e;orts to ;x it. Remarkably, though, Ankiel
would extend his Major League career another
seven years by turning himself into a bona ;de
out;elder/hitter. Better, he would ;nd a way to
move beyond the Pitch. —Alan Moores
Away with Words: An Irreverent Tour
through the World of Pun Competitions.
By Joe Berkowitz.
June 2017. 288p. HarperPerennial, paper, $15.99
Berkowitz begins this non;ction adventure
through the sludge of semantics with a disclaimer: he ;gures readers will get annoyed
with his book. He expects them to groan
with frustration. He predicts his book will ;y
angrily across a few living rooms. ;e book
is, after all, a penetrating exposé of American pun competitions. Despite Berkowitz’s
ominous warning, Away with Words is an enjoyable read. Taking a Mary Roach approach
to investigating the world of wordplay, he attends the major pun conferences, befriends
the pun superstars, and even visits the writers’ rooms of TV’s “punniest” shows—Bob’s
Burgers and @midnight. ;e book calls for a
close read; solving the phonetic tricks without hearing them aloud takes time. Overall,
it’s time well spent. Readers will leave having
enjoyed a hearty belly laugh over Berkowitz’s
natural skepticism of the “sport” and also with
a pocketful of fresh puns to whip out around
the water cooler. —Courtney Eathorne
The Hue and Cry at Our House: A
By Benjamin Taylor.
May 2017. 208p. Penguin, paper, $16 (9780143131649).
It starts with a handshake. It’s November 22,
1963, in Ft. Worth, Texas; the hands belong,
respectively, to dazzled 11-year-old Benjamin
Taylor and John F. Kennedy, “this Apollo,” as Taylor
describes him, “with his cop-per-colored hair, blue eyes,
and tanned complexion.”
Later that same day, the president would be assassinated.
;eir brief encounter, however, is the jumping-o; point
for Taylor’s lovely, gorgeously written memoir
of the year that followed and of the hue and
cry at his family’s house “against disorder, bedevilment, despair.” ;ese seem to have gained
little lasting purchase in Taylor’s young life,
though that life was, in a sense, compromised
by his then-undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome,
his budding homosexuality, and the odd en-
American Originality: Essays on Poetry.
By Louise Glück.
Apr. 2017. 208p. Farrar, $25 (9780374299552). 814.
National Book Award–winning Glück’s (Faithful and Virtuous Night, 2014) poems
are vital palimpsests; so, too, are her essays, penetrating inquiries stoked by immersive
reading and rigorous thinking. Her second prose collection begins with two astute,
mind-expanding dissections of two facets of our national identity and literature. In the
title piece, Glück tests America’s ardor for originality, which she freshly rede;nes and
identi;es as a source of hope and possibility, qualities essential to democracy. In “
American Narcissism,” she considers how the American character is re;ected in the projection
of the self in the work of poets ranging from Whitman to Mark Strand, C. K. Williams,
and John Ashbery. She writes of her joy in serving as a judge for major ;rst-book poetry
prizes and presents 10 expert and exuberant introductions to such exciting poets as
Dana Levin, Spencer Reece, and Arda Collins. Glück then wraps up her incisive and
sophisticated volume with piquant personal essays on writing for revenge and learning
how not to fear happiness. —Donna Seaman
A Little Book on Form: An Exploration into the Formal Imagination of Poetry.
By Robert Hass.
Apr. 2017. 448p. Ecco, $29.99 (9780062332424); e-book, $14.99 (9780062332448). 814.
;ere is nothing “little” about this intricately informative and inspiring master class on
poetic forms. A distinguished poet and scholar with a global literary ;uency and a passion
for sharing his knowledge and awe, Hass (What Light Can Do, 2012) establishes the traditional rules for composing sonnets, villanelles, and other forms based on a precise number
of lines and other ;xed elements, but what he hopes to address is the “formal imagination”—that is, the creative force fueled by emotion and intuition that brings poetry to life.
He constructs his guide sturdily, beginning by examining “one line as the basic gesture
of a poem,” then moving on to stanzas and blank and free verse, all the while tracking
the evolution of forms over time and providing powerful examples by a thrillingly diverse
range of poets ancient and modern. Hass then shifts from structure to genres and subjects,
analyzing lyrics, odes, elegies, and more in erudite yet conversational commentary. Form
meets the artistic spirit in this zestful and invaluable mix of lucid instruction and vibrant
anthology. —Donna Seaman
Sallies, Romps, Portraits, and Send-Offs: Selected Prose, 2000–2016.
By August Kleinzahler.
May 2017. 176p. Farrar, $28 (9780374282097). 814.
Kleinzahler is a plain speaker who knows his way around a sentence and understands
the duty of a critic. He exhibits taste and good sense, he knows the di;erence between
judgment and opinion, and he picks just the right quotations. His second prose collection, released with his new selected poetry volume, Before Dawn on Blu; Road / Hollyhocks
in the Fog, contains portraits of poets, many of them friends, including Allen Ginsberg,
;om Gunn, Christopher Logue, Lorine Niedecker, and Kleinzahler’s ;rst and most
in;uential teacher, Basil Bunting, as well as prose writers Leonard Michaels and Lucia
Berlin. If among the seven reminiscences, the highest emotional pitch is found in “Cutty,
One Rock,” a masterful personal essay, Kleinzahler makes much of ordinary di;culties:
eccentric neighbors, laconic traveling companions, the vicissitudes of clearing 60 years of
stu; from his family home in Fort Lee, New Jersey. By turns wistful, sardonic, wry, and
occasionally silly, this collection o;ers genuine pleasure. —Michael Autrey
By Adam Zagajewski. Tr. by Clare Cavanagh.
Apr. 2017. 288p. Farrar, $26 (9780374265878). 891.8.
Poet Zagajewski (Unseen Hand, 2011) presents a book-length essay made up of entries
diaristic and expository, aphoristic and prolix, autobiographical and biographical. Zagajewski is a humanist and a cultural conservative acutely concerned with exile—the loss
of place and home—and formlessness—the loss of forms that shaped the arts. His most
interesting and moving sections concern poetry and poets. If Zagajewski propounded
de;nitions, this book could serve as an ars poetica, but he is too circumspect, or perhaps wary, to de;ne the art he has devoted his life to. Instead, he is generous to a fault
toward authors he admires, including Simone Weil, E. M. Cioran, and George Seferis.
It’s clear he reads principal works as well as diaries and letters. If Zagajewski could be
said to espouse his philosophy, he ;nds the most succinct statement of it in Paul Claudel: “He who admires is never wrong.” Given the times, this noble sentiment has extra
resonance. —Michael Autrey
POETS WRITING PROSE