Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling

Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling
by Carole Satyamurti
W. W. Norton & Company, 2015

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In her vibrant retelling of this set of tales from ancient India, British poet Satyamurti (Countdown) elegantly captures stories of family conflict, family rivalry, jealousy, pride, ambition, honor, defeat, and love woven through the long Sanskrit poem. Satyamurti works from other scholarly translations—using K.M. Ganguli’s unabridged 5,000-page English prose translation as her primary guide—to condense all 18 books of the poem into blank verse, remaining faithful to its structure and dramatic range. At the core of the work is the bitter ongoing conflict between two rival families for control and possession of the Bharata kingdom and its capital of Hastinapura, the “city of the elephant,” on the Ganges River in northern central India. (Publishers Weekly)

Carol Satyamurti is a poet, sociologist, and translator. The author of many books of poetry, she has taught regularly for the Arvon Foundation and for the Poetry Society (UK). She lives in London. (Publisher’s website)

Need I Say More?

Need I Say More?
by Stephen Kessler
El Leon Literary Arts, 2015

71wB8sn0eELFollowing his first two books of essays, organized around themes of poetry and cultural criticism, in this third collection he gets more personal and political. Kessler’s keen eye, sharp wit and readable style—whether reflecting on Viagra, multilingualism, Miss America, fatherhood, Gertrude Stein, cooking, anarchism, education, Robinson Jeffers, Vivian Maier, the pleasures of gossip, a trip to Cuba, Steve Jobs, Charles Bukowski, shopping for a used car, or getting mugged in New York—keep his writings vividly alive. (Author’s website)

Stephen Kessler is a poet, translator, essayist and editor whose writings have appeared in books, anthologies, magazines and newspapers across the United States since the late 1960s. Born in Los Angeles in 1947, he has degrees in literature from Bard College and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of eight books and chapbooks of original poetry and more than a dozen books of poetry and fiction in translation, including Written in Water: The Prose Poems of Luis Cernuda, which received a 2004 Lambda Literary Award. He was a founding editor and publisher of Alcatraz, an international journal, and The Sun, a Santa Cruz weekly, among other periodicals and independent publishing ventures. He is a contributing editor of Poetry Flash and the editor of The Redwood Coast Review. (Publisher’s website)

Review in Good Times

Landfalls

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by Naomi J. Williams
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015

By focusing on the penumbra of this legendary voyage, a disastrous, 18th-century quest for geographic knowledge, Naomi Williams brilliantly illuminates the enduring story of L’Expedition de Laperousé. The novel is a deft and stunning evocation of human aspiration at the dawn of the Industrial Age. (Barry Lopez via Amazon.com)

Born in Japan, Naomi J. Williams holds an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis. Her fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including American Short Fiction, Colorado ReviewThe Gettysburg Review, Ninth Letter, One Story, A Public Space, The Southern Review, Sycamore Review, and ZYZZYVA. In 2009, she received a Pushcart Prize and a Best American Honorable Mention. She lives in Northern California and is working on her second novel. (adapted from the author’s website)

Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the Worldwww.randomhouse
by Jane Hirshfield
Knopf, 2015

Closely reading poems by Dickinson, Bashō, Szymborska, Cavafy, Heaney, Bishop, and Komunyakaa, among many others, Hirshfield reveals how poetry’s world-making takes place: word by charged word. By expanding what is imaginable and sayable, Hirshfield proposes, poems expand what is possible. Ten Windows restores us at every turn to a more precise, sensuous, and deepened experience of our shared humanity and of the seemingly limitless means by which that knowledge is both summoned and forged. (Publisher’s website)

Jane Hirshfield is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Beauty; Come, Thief; After; and Given Sugar, Given Salt. She has edited and co-translated four books presenting the work of poets from the past and is the author of a previous collection of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of PoetryHer books have been finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize; they have been named best books of the year by The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Amazon, and Financial Times; and they have won the California Book Award, the Poetry Center Book Award, and the Donald Hall–Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Hirshfield has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets. Her poems appear in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry, The New Republic, and seven editions of The Best American Poetry. A resident of Northern California since 1974, she is a current chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. (adapted from Amazon.com)

The Beauty

9k=The Beauty
by Jane Hirshfield
Knopf, 2015

Hirshfield opens her beautiful eighth book of poems describing the copper bowls of a scale in perfect balance: on one end of the scales a woman in a wheelchair sings a traditional Portuguese fado, on the other end everyone else present hangs in attention. This moment, one that expresses the internal vastness of the individual, bleeds into the rest of the collection as Hirshfield seeks the idea of balance. In a collection where “an hour can be dropped like a glass,” the pieces are seen by the reader as a new whole. “The ideas of poets turn into only themselves,” she notes, and those ideas are both the most important and the least. She uses the quotidian to peer into the life cycle. When she writes, “Now I too am sixty. / There was no other life,” it is as if the whole world had reached that milestone before her and she is somehow the last to see it through. The book pleads with itself to remember the past; the moments where days drifted by and doors could open or close. It pleads not to be forgotten. (Publishers Weekly)

Jane Hirshfield is the author of seven previous collections of poetry, two books of essays, and four books collecting and co-translating the work of poets from the past. A current chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Hirshfield has received many prizes and awards including fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Book Award, the Poetry Center Book Award, and finalist selection for the National Book Critics Circle Award and England’s T.S. Eliot Prize. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, The New Republic, Harper’s, Orion, The American Poetry Review, Poetry, Slate, McSweeney’s, and seven editions of The Best American Poetry. She has been featured in two Bill Moyers PBS television specials and her work appears frequently on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac and other public radio programs. (Publisher’s website)

Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora

2Q==Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora
edited by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, Mariam B. Lam, and Kathy L. Nguyen
University of Washington Press, 2014

Pairing image and text, Troubling Borders showcases creative writing and visual artworks by sixty-one women of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Thai, and Filipino ancestry. The collection features compelling storytelling that troubles the borders of categorization and reflects the multilayered experience of Southeast Asian women. (Amazon.com)

Featured Contributors: Melba L. Abela, Azizah Ahmad, Anida Yoeu Ali, Eliza O. Barrios, Christilily Chiv, Tiffany Chung, Rachel Quy Collier, Anh Thang Dao, Phuong M. Do, Reanne Estrada, Marsha C. Galicia-Monroe, Lian Guow, Grace Kong (or Kanhcharavatey), Marine Ky, Emily P. Lawsin, Anne Le, May Lee-Yang, Leakhena Leng, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, Lin + Lam (Lana Lin and H. Lan Thao Lam), Karen Llagas, Phayvanh Luekhamhan, Nalyne Lunati, Heang Ly, Vi Ly, Phet Mahathongdy, Mail Order Brides/M.O.B. (Reanne “Immaculata” Estrada, Eliza “Neneng” Barrios, and Jenifer “Baby” Wofford), Mong-Lan, Pang Houa Moua Toy, Anh-Thu Ngo, Anh-Hoa Thi Nguyen, Chau Nguyen, Debbie Nguyen, Kathy L. Nguyen, Gina Osterloh, Connie Pham, Aimee Phan, Ann Phong, Jai Arun Ravine, Barbara Jane Reyes, Gayle Romasanta, Amy Lee Sanford, Linda Saphan, Davorn Sisavath, Grace Talusan, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Kao Lee Thao, Angela Narciso Torres, Diep Tran, Linda Tran, Tran T. Kim-Trang, Tran Mong Tu, Tran Tue Quan/Quan Tue Tran, Pimone Triplett, Hong-An Truong, Julie Thi Underhill, Kou Vang, Mai Der Vang, Vo Hong Chuong-Dai, Chi Vu, Jenifer K. Wofford, Kao-Ly Yang, Yer Yang

Editors: Isabelle Thuy Pelaud is associate professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University; Lan Duong is associate professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside; Mariam B. Lam is associate professor of comparative literature, media and cultural studies, and director of Southeast Asian studies at the University of California, Riverside; and Kathy L. Nguyen is a writer and editor in San Francisco. (Publisher’s website)

The Descartes Highlands

9k=The Descartes Highlands
by Eric Gamalinda
Akashic Books, 2014

With a keen eye for splendor amid the grotesque, Gamalinda writes with a poet’s heart and a philosopher’s mind, while enthralling readers with emotional, gritty storytelling. (Booklist)

Eric Gamalinda is the author of two story collections, three books of poetry, and five novels. His novel My Sad Republic won the Philippines’s Centennial Literary Prize. Gamalinda was born and raised in Manila, where he worked as a journalist. He currently lives in New York City and teaches at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University.