New Pages Fall 2019

Oh, the places you'll go with a fresh crop of books from faculty and alums
Detail from cover of Prof Campion's book RADICAL AS REALITY showing green tree against orange mountains

New works from English faculty


Professor Peter Campion
Radical as Reality: Form and Freedom in American Poetry
University of Chicago Press, 2019
From Katie Peterson, editor of Robert Lowell’s New Selected Poems: "The last line of this book proclaims, 'We’ll know the sincere poem by the way it moves,' and the essays within move deftly with the poems themselves, capturing both spirit and form. American poetry, in Campion's story, doesn’t celebrate freedoms preserved but acknowledges reality changed. I remember some of these essays, when they first appeared in the best journals, as vitally acerbic and fiercely challenging. And they remain so—but the raw material of the necessary book that collects them, Radical as Reality, is revealed to be wonder rather than judgment. Here, poet-critic Campion celebrates the spaciousness and splendor of a found family of American poets, less fathered by the great men of Modernism and their heir, Robert Lowell, than fostered in their own diverse practices."


Professor Michael Hancher
The Tenniel Illustrations to the "Alice" Books, second edition
Ohio State University Press, 2019
With six new chapters. From Patrick Leary, co-founder of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP): "This vastly enlarged and splendidly illustrated new edition of Michael Hancher's already indispensable book is a must-read, not merely for those who relish the work of John Tenniel and Lewis Carroll, but for anyone interested in how the surprisingly complex processes of nineteenth-century illustration actually worked during the golden age of wood engraving. The book's appearance is cause for rejoicing—for Victorianists everywhere."


Professor Douglas Kearney
Starts Spinning [poetry chapbook]
OHM Editions, 2019
From the publisher: "Poems inspired by the first few seconds of famous tunes, Starts Spinning will make you dizzy with happiness. Douglas Kearney's dynamic voice comes through clear in these poetic liner notes. From Harry Belafonte's 'Jump in the Line' to Eric Clapton's 'Tears in Heaven,' Kearney's poems in Starts Spinning will have you saying yes YES. Short, personal takes on pop hits, filled with humor and pathos."

Professor Katherine Scheil, editor
Shakespeare and Stratford

Berghahn Books, 2019
From the publisher: "As the site of literary pilgrimage since the eighteenth century, the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the topic of hundreds of imaginary portrayals, Stratford is ripe for analysis, both in terms of its factual existence and its fictional afterlife. The essays in this volume consider the various manifestations of the physical and metaphorical town on the Avon, across time, genre and place, from America to New Zealand, from children’s literature to wartime commemorations. We meet many Stratfords in this collection, real and imaginary, and the interplay between the two generates new visions of the place."

New works from English alums


Marilyn M. Cooper (PhD 1980)
The Animal Who Writes: A Posthumanist Composition
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019
From Deborah Brandt, University of Wisconsin–Madison Professor Emerita: "What does it mean to be an engaged writer? How do writers create, move, and change themselves and the world by cooperating with things and beings around them? In The Animal Who Writes, one of the most treasured visionaries in our field demonstrates just how much writing has to do with being earnestly alive."


Jennine Capó Crucet (MFA 2006)
My Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education
Picador USA, 2019
From Library Journal: "In her first book of essays, Crucet (Make Your Home Among Strangers) reflects on her experiences as a first-generation college student, as well as the limits of the American Dream, Cuban and American politics . . . and family communication and conflicts in theory-informed, narrative-driven essays. As a Latina and first-generation American, Crucet takes on privilege, whitesplaining, and white tears; the gulf that can grow between first-generation Americans and their immigrant families; and the contradictions and self-deceptions inherent in the American Dream. Notably, the author also discusses the role of fantasy in dominant US culture and the importance and potential of reclaiming fantasy in order to envision one’s possible future(s). Crucet's well-written essays are entertaining and accessible, without letting readers or the author herself off the hook for reflecting on and addressing cultural issues. Strongly recommended."


Laressa Dickey (MFA 2005)
Syncopations [poetry]
Shearsman Books, 2019
From Matt Duffus, author of Swapping Purples for Yellows: "Laressa Dickey's Syncopations continues the thematic explorations of her earlier work—family, memory, the American South—but displays a depth and richness all its own. In 'Two Holed Mouth,' Dickey challenges readers to 'hold space for your own I; otherwise someone fills it.' This collection makes plenty of such space, demonstrating that Dickey isn't just an accomplished lyric poet and aphorist; she is 'a graduate of persistence and traditional courtesies,' qualities she combines in ways unique to her work. These poems show readers what can be gained once these courtesies are no longer necessary and persistence has paid off. Readers are treated to a poet in full command of her art who is willing to share the benefits of her hard-won knowledge, making this a truly essential collection."


Eric Dregni (MFA 2007) with Fred Case
When the Stones Came to Town: Rock 'n' Roll Photos from the 1970s
Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2019
From the publisher: "Photographer Fred Case was on the scene in the Twin Cities during the 1970s whenever the top rock and blues musicians came through town. With his camera in hand, Case photographed such legends as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, John Mayall, Leon Russell, Richie Havens, the Who, Steppenwolf, the Grateful Dead, Small Faces, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, Captain Beefheart, Alice Cooper, Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, and the Rolling Stones. The photographer also hung out with many of the musicians and took behind-the-scenes snapshots of backstage antics. Case's own wild adventures chasing his music heroes, beginning in his teenage years, led to many fascinating—and some questionable—experiences."


Matt Duffus (MFA 2005)
Swapping Purples for Yellows [fiction]
Unsolicited Press, 2019
From Allen Wier, author of Tejano: "Swapping Purples for Yellows is by turns moving and comical, and the fully realized characters will long remain alive in readers' minds and hearts."
From the publisher: "Homecoming celebrations and big donor gifts don’t always mean high spirits as a troubled university couple each seek divergent paths to heal their damaged household. When a billionaire grad school dropout unveils plans for a major gift, the Sutherlands must endure the bizarre rituals of rich alumni and reunion receptions. Rob drinks and rants. Molly rolls dice and dreams of winning her own identity. Their gifted teenage daughters push and pull at the rules in opposite directions. Over the course of the weekend, they each confront their deepest secrets and undeniable flaws. A splendid debut novel that navigates a twisted trail of comical regrets and heart-wrenching uncertainty."

Cover of TRANS*

Jack Halberstam (PhD 1991)
Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability
University of California Press, 2018
From Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts: "If Trans* were simply a compressed, learned primer about gender variability for audiences of all kinds, it would be important enough. But Jack Halberstam here offers us something more—a supremely lucid explication of highly complex and controversial ideas, cultural artifacts, and histories that never dumbs down nor gets lost in the weeds. I particularly appreciate its ranginess, perspective, sense of humor, autobiographical anecdotes, and critical dedication to 'putting pressure on all modes of gendered embodiment.'"
From the publisher: "In Trans*, Jack Halberstam explores recent shifts in the meaning of the gendered body and representation, and explores the possibilities of a nongendered, gender-optional, or gender-queer future."


Patricia Hodgell (PhD 1987), as P. C. Hodgell
By Demons Possessed [fantasy fiction]
Baen Books,  2019
From the publisher: "New Entry in the Kencyrath Series. A crucial moment draws nigh leading to the ultimate showdown between Jame Knorth and Perimal Darkling, the supernatural entity that has pursued Jame’s people, the Kencyr, across multiple universes, destroying all in its wake. Can the Kencyr finally make an effective stand, or will another world fall into shadow? But now news arrives from Tai-tastigon, the vast city that formed Jame into the master thief, wily fighter, and godling-in-the-making that she has become. It seems something is preying on the gods of Tai-tastigon. The new Pantheon is falling, and the ancient city is in turmoil. The self-serving, beguiling demi-god leader of the Thieves Guild has coerced Jame into finding the soul of his missing brother by holding hostage people she loves. She reluctantly returns to find a Tai-tastigon in turmoil, with citizen pitted against citizen, and day and night-time folk at one another's throats. It seems many in the vast Lower Town have lost their shadows—not so funny when you realize that a shadow is cast by a soul."

Cover of BODEGA

MFA alum Su Hwang (MFA 2016)
Bodega [poetry]
Milkweed Editions, 2019
From The Millions: "These poems demand to be sounded-out and savored. 'Manholes hiss secrets,' Hwang begins one poem. 'Inside: a transistor radio with foil-tipped antennae sputters the Yankees doubleheader.' We are in a Queensbridge bodega owned by Korean immigrants, and the narrative eye and ear is gentle, encompassing, hypnotic. 'Gust of wet heat enters with an elderly Nigerian man wearing a beret & wooden cane in the other—his salt-and-pepper hair gathered into a seahorse.' Hwang is adept at capturing action and setting, as well as more intangible touches: 'How far do you have to travel to arrive / at dying,' she writes in an elegy for her grandmothers. Some poems swoop across the page, riding sound and form; others, like 'Latchkeys,' are pointed narratives contained by closed spaces. In that poem, the narrator is with her brother, waiting for her parents to come home. When their 'headlights cast shadow / puppets against the living / room wall,' she and her brother scramble to seem responsible: studying biology, playing the upright Yamaha. A strong debut."


Sheila O'Connor (BA 1982)
Evidence of V: A Novel in Fragments, Facts, and Fictions [fiction]
Rose Metal Press, 2019
From The Star Tribune: "To the blend of fact and fiction we expect from historical fiction, Sheila O'Connor's experimental novel Evidence of V adds poetry and memoir, and arrives at a cohesive and moving portrait of the grandmother she never knew. The outlines of the lost story emerged from a thin file of documents O'Connor and her mother found at the Minnesota History Center in 2001. In the mid-1930s, at the age of 15, a girl identified by various names beginning with 'V' began entertaining at the Cascade Club in Minneapolis. After she became pregnant, V was picked up for truancy, then incarcerated at the Minnesota Home School for Girls in Sauk Centre, there to stay until she reached the age of 21. Not long after she was finally 'paroled' six years later, she leapt to her death. Around that scaffolding, O'Connor builds a collage of imaginary vignettes and fascinating/horrifying historical documents that brings to life a lively, talented girl and her bitter fate."

Cover of LEVEE

Paul Otremba (BA 2002)
Levee [poetry]
Four Way Books, 2019
From Houstonia: "Nothing in the brief author bio mentions the aggressive illness that took Otremba's life this summer at the age of 40, mere months before the book's September release. Reading the finished product, one gets the sense of a man looking beyond the limited scope of human experience to contemplate something grander and perhaps more terrifying. 'It's a luxury to be this calm,' Otremba writes in the opening poem as he peers out into Houston's 'oil-fed night sweats.' Levee—set in and around the Ship Channel, lush greenery, and crawfish boils of the Bayou City—is a thoughtful, sometimes ironic work that examines living in a time besieged by climate change and perpetual violence in a place forged from industry and greed. It's also some of Otremba's most personal work, drawing, as it does, from the poet's own confrontation with mortality."


Joyce Sutphen (BA 1982, MA 1993, PhD 1996)
Carrying Water to the Field: New and Selected Poems [poetry]
University of Nebraska Press, 2019
From The Star Tribune: "Representing nearly a quarter-century of published work, Carrying Water to the Field attests to Joyce Sutphen's accomplishment as a lyric poet dedicated to clarity and concision. In his introduction, Ted Kooser describes the book as 'a collection of moments that may feel quite familiar to you.' But the poems—rooted in physical description and the rhythms of manual labor—have more heft and materiality than a fleeting moment. Instead, the book feels like a bowl of pebbles harvested over years of country rambles. The reader can dip in, selecting one perfectly crafted poem at a time and relish the weight and feel of each in their palm. Sutphen has been Minnesota's poet laureate since 2011, a natural choice given that she grounds most of her work in the landscape of rural Minnesota. In a poem from her 1995 debut, Straight Out of View, she writes of the prairies: 'That is not the country for poetry. . . . Yet I knew it to be passionate.' In the seven collections that follow, she proves that Minnesota clearly is the country for poetry, a place to witness clouds 'rubbing their dark / knuckles over the yellow dunes' and listen for 'five kinds of birdsong / threaded through the air.'"


Shana Youngdahl (MFA 2006)
As Many Nows as I Can Get [young adult fiction]
Dial Books, 2019
New York Public Library Best Book of 2019 for Teens
From Publishers Weekly: "Embracing Einstein's theories of time, debut author Youngdahl offers a complex, compassionately written love story about a freshman college student whose past is very much a part of her present. When the novel opens, native Coloradan Scarlett's 'now' involves a cross-country road trip with college roommate Mina from their school in Maine to California. But Scarlett's focus keeps looping backward to other 'nows,' which focus on her ex-lover David, whose magnetism and increased dependence on drugs drew her to dangerous places the summer after high school graduation. Since then, her obsession with David and their shared passion has affected almost every aspect of her life, causing her to become a distraught, isolated physics student, until level-headed Mina brings Scarlett out of her shell and helps her make perhaps the most important decision of her life. Youngdahl's keen understanding of teen emotions and reactions adds credibility to her story, as does her interesting experimentation with structure."


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