New & Noteworthy Poetry From Tina Chang, Natalie Scenters-Zapico and More
DEAR DELINQUENT, by Ann Townsend. (Sarabande, paper, $15.95.) With elegant language and turbulent feeling, this collection tracks the course of desire. “The mind knows when to stand back,” Townsend writes. “Part of me / was not for order, but chaos.”
LIMA :: LIMÓN, by Natalie Scenters-Zapico. (Copper Canyon, paper, $16.) This book, by a poet from El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, fixates on liminal zones: national borders, gender roles, the overlap between love and possession. “Isn’t that what women do,” one poem challenges, “laugh at jokes at their own expense?”
HYBRIDA: Poems, by Tina Chang. (Norton, $26.95.) Drawing on fairy tales, mixed-media visual art and other hybrid forms, Chang evokes the bottomless love and terror of motherhood as she describes raising her mixed-race son: “I know the world will find him / and tell him the history of his skin.”
SIGHTSEER IN THIS KILLING CITY, by Eugene Gloria. (Penguin Poets, paper, $18.) Jazzy, surreal, neon-lit, Gloria’s new poems describe a culture of violence in the Philippines and especially America. The book ends on the image of a sign at a mall: “Karate, Guns & Tanning.”
AN INFUSION OF VIOLETS, by Nancy Naomi Carlson. (Seagull, paper, $19.) Carlson, who also works as a translator and editor, uses controlled lines and a lyrical voice to plumb the self, often with biblical overtones.
In A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW, Amor Towles sets a tale of humanity and humor in a place and time sorely lacking in both: the Stalin-era Soviet Union. The brutality of the age haunts every page, shaping the plot and the finely drawn characters, but it is a rumble in the background, more suggested than seen. The story unfolds within a grand but fading hotel; not quite Eloise at the Plaza, but far from Ivan Denisovich in the gulag. Like Towles’s prose, his central character, an aristocrat, is refined, radiantly witty and all the more compelling for being utterly out of place. As he adjusts gamely to his diminishing circumstances over more than three decades, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov manages to view the absurdities of both the decadent czarist past and the earnest Bolshevik present with wry detachment. His stubborn insistence on dignity and his impeccable manners slowly reveal a deeper decency, a need for human connection, and build to a surprising finish.
Richard Pérez-Peña, London Bureau reporter
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