nightboat books

Most Read Reviews @ North of Oxford 2022

Just in time for holiday shopping! Most read reviews as determined by the readership of North of Oxford

cas reports

Casualty Reports by Martha Collins

book cover

All the Songs We Sing – Edited by Lenard D. Moore


A Poetics of the Press: Interviews with Poets, Printers, & Publishers edited by Kyle Schlesinger


Smoking the Bible by Chris Abani

diseno de tapa echavarren paperback

Contra natura by Rodolfo Hinostroza Translated by Anthony Seidman


The Flash Fiction of Lydia Davis


The Upright Dog by Carl Fuerst


Punks: New & Selected Poems by John Keene

World's Lightest Motorcycle

The World’s Lightest Motorcycle by Yi Won, Translated from Korean by E. J. Koh and Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello


getting away with everything by Vincent Cellucci and Christopher Shipman


Along the Way by Scott Pariseau

a feeling

A Feeling Called Heaven by Joey Yearous-Algozin


Poolside at the Dearborn Inn by Cal Freeman


Your Nostalgia Is Killing Me by John Weir


The Bar at Twilight by Frederic Tuten





Aerial Concave Without Cloud by Sueyeun Juliette Lee


By Greg Bem

the invisible latent image
the nature
the time
the amount of agitation

(page 41)

Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s latest book, Aerial Concave Without Cloud, is a flash of brightness amidst and understanding of brightnesses, a meditation on light while immersed in light. It is a book that was composed while exploring the short and long days in Iceland, Norway, and Wyoming. It is a book that moves forward with Lee’s consistent commitments to a living awareness, and phenomenological and ontological understandings of the self and the systems within and beyond the self.

It is a book of poetry that, when unpacked, feels alive, and dependent upon the infinite number of circumstances provided by the reader and their reading form. And yet it is consequentially personal, a book that reads wholly and wholesomely of being and of being unique and of being alone. Lee’s splicing of study, reflection, and explication cycle into a lively poetics both awake and propulsive.

I began my inquiry into light, simply: can I decipher a similar capacity to translate and speak the light with my living human body?

And by doing so, can I relinquish the intensities of an inherited orphan grief?

(page 77)

Lee’s intentions are provided in small, elusive bits and pieces. The “inquiry into light” is one of both knowledge and experience, often inseparable. The text carries us along, as Lee exhibits situation and the process of revelation. Far from dramatic, these epiphanies lend us the exquisite and mysterious analogous to Lee’s settings. To be dreaming beneath the aurora borealis, to be seeking the textures of light within the arctic: a sense of extremes is muted by a calm determination.

The poet’s abstract work, strongly centered in the early moments of the collection, is heartily energized through its sprawling forms. What I appreciate between the snippets of prose and the small slices of poetry is the robust push and pull of certainty and sequence; Lee’s forms are pleasantly natural, hardly forced or constrained. Other times the narrative takes over, leaving behind form to paint a deep portrait of emotional vulnerability, as seen below:

The high ice cliffs around the village loomed over us, even in this small shelter.

I didn’t know how to proceed.
This isolation. It devours.

(page 99)

Often the artist’s explorations into the world are strongly removed from the resultant output. Lee challenges this norm by bringing the experience of “retreat” and “exploration” into the text directly. Just as the name implies, Aerial Concave Without Cloud is thus a book that extends beyond its core themes, offering a meta navigation of those project experiences.

Lee embeds these engagements fluidly. That the poet’s world was shifted, shaped, scraped, and reassembled by way of these travels. Through extreme climates and environments, Lee finds a new home and structure for her research and her creativity.

When I think of breaks in a chain, my mind can’t also help but turn to wonder at continuities, at streaming extensions that failed to break. My imagination turns to light.

(page 88)

Like her previous work, Lee’s latest collection speaks volumes in its entirety. It is the latest advance through a lifelong personal journey. And while it fits snugly alongside her multimedia and poetry of the past, this book also, by way of its focus on light and immersion, evokes a sense of awakening. And yet despite the epiphanies and the discoveries, and the abstract wonder that binds them together, Aerial Concave Without Cloud is but one additional step forward. It is a liminal work and feels hyper realistic as a result. It invites us to think about Lee’s future, and what body of work we will read our way through next.

You can find the book here:

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at

The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void by Jackie Wang


By Alexis David

In Jackie Wang’s dreamy collection of poems, The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void (National Book Award Finalist), Wang casts her own spell over us, the reader. The book contains a series of dreams. When I was young, my sister would always tell my family her dreams at breakfast. Both my sister and Jackie Wang appear to have a deep intellectual inner life. Dreams are a way of sorting out the chaos of this rich interior life.

Wang writes her dreams in an immediate present tense that is both intoxicating and disorienting, “A woman is trying to kill me. At first she acts friendly but then turns on/me. She is spying on me” (33). When I review books of poetry, I spend a long time with them. I carry them around with me to the places I go. While reading Wang’s work, I found myself at a coffee shop with my husband and two of our friends. We were talking about ghosts. Suddenly, a woman with a tattoo of a ghost appeared in the line. We all noticed this and found it strange. My friend tells me that she believes in ghosts and she tells me that after a person dies, you have 40 days for them to stay in this realm and then they must go to the next sphere. I found this incredibly interesting. It reminds me of Jackie Wang’s work, which is so influential on the reader, that I found my syntax changing to replicate hers.

I bring up ghosts because Wang’s poetry is otherworldly. It is partly academic, partly fairy tale and partly just badass. In “Survivor Trauma,” the speaker wakes up from a dream, unhappy to be awake.  She says, “I like the person I was in the dream” (26). There is a sense that the speaker feels more truly herself in her dreams, even if they are, at times, unsettling and otherworldly.

I don’t read poetry in a New Criticism kind of way. I am deeply curious about the author. Because of this, I often search the web for biographical information. I found a talk by Jackie Wang about “the oceanic feeling.” Romain Rolland first used this phrase in 1927 in a letter to Sigmund Freud. It is the feeling of being one with eternity and appears to be related to the Lacanian theory where an infant does not perceive itself to be a different entity from its parents.

Wang’s interest in “the oceanic feeling” may in part dictate an entire book spent dreaming, “In the dream I mutter/Capitalism is not a bed of sunflowers/as I hobble around Wall Street/in broken high heels” (21). This image is beautifully encompassing of the book: undertones of dream states, of longing for a different economic system and oppression of women—the high heels that are broken.

Additionally, this is partly a book of pilgrimage, of a speaker who has “always been without country” (1). In “Life is a Place Where It’s Forbidden to Live,” the speaker is a traveler, someone who is on a journey to “The Asian market,” “the Palace of Snacks” (1). In “The Phantasmagoria of Failure” the speaker talks about “a fellow lost-girl” who “when I hear her speak another/language to her mother. . . it indicated she had been transplanted” (84). It is tempting to say that this is a collection of poems from a writer of color looking for identity; this may be partly true, but Wang writes with a disassociation that I am guessing comes from her view of “the oceanic.” Instead of the speaker trying to fit into a particular country or region, the speaker is searching for something better, a limitless feeling. However, there are also thematic impulses of not fitting in, “D calls to tell me I’m not a real person of color” (14). This book may also be addressing both the loneliness of dreams and the loneliness of perceiving yourself as someone who doesn’t fit in. In “[A Moment Breaking Loose from the Past Becomes the Voice Inside Your Head,” Wang writes, “Here/there is no Friend/just the soundless reverberations of/the disappeared, an errant herd/of revenants who roam the page in search of a body faithful/enough to hold the memory” (124).

Often from waking from a dream, I feel exhausted. My own dreams are strenuous and tiring. Wang’s dreams are more invigorating. They read like small police dramas, like journal recollections with the people in them going by letters instead of their real names.

Perhaps there is a constant need for dreaming: “I said we had a shared dream” (17) or a need for “the oceanic” as a means for connecting with other people, even if these people are, like a figure “Angela” who is a “decapitated angel”(23) that the speaker carries around with her. In writing down her dreams and turning them into poems, Wang plays with the idea of logic. Both dreams and poems don’t often follow our waking life logic. Wang’s poems unnerve us, but also soothe us. This book of poems will unsettle you and by the end of the book, you may feel that you have woken up into a strange new morning.

You can find the book here:

Alexis David is a fiction writer, poet, and illustrator. She has published the chapbook, The Names of Animals I Have Loved (Dancing Girl Press, 2019). She holds an MFA in fiction from New England College and a MA in education from Canisius College.

Of Mineral by Tiff Dressen

Of Mineral by Tiff Dressen
By Lynette G. Esposito
Of Mineral by Tiff Dressen, published by the nonprofit Night Boatbooks in New York is a contemplation of form versus subject. Because the forms are hard to represent here with total accuracy, a description of form will be discussed in relation to the poems.
In the poem, A Letter in May: Portals from San Francisco which begins on page four, is stretched and arranged as if the narrator is on a particular journey perusing the city. The poem consists of eighty-four lines presented in three-, two-, and one- line stanzas which are arranged in a form as to suggest a winding and unwinding forward movement just like wandering and walking around.
The poem is printed from page four to page nine which makes a little difficult to follow.
The poem opens with the first stanza flush left.
This city is a Labyrinth
I walk   in my head
another poet repeats.
Dressen proceeds with lines spaced, indented, and stand-alone to suggest barriers from going and finding solution.  The poem is also divided into sections with lines to indicate the change.  On the journey, average but representative things are observed.  One wonders in another’s mind, seeing and trying to understand the metaphorical meaning until the last lines
house with phantom
flower crops
“It’s still warmer here”
The reader realizes the search is for safety and finds it in a familiar although imperfect place. The image of a labyrinth has been successful in relating not only to a walk-through San Francisco, but also to the walk through life.
Dressen uses this visual spacing technique in his other poems.  For example, in the two- stanza poem on page seventeen, Dark Sky Preserves, the spacing is complex and no punctuation is used to clarify.
Because I wanted to learn how
to look at the sky
                              I chose from among
                               your voices
While the spacing and stretching is interesting, the poem’s words are strong and the images successful.  If I have not been one hundred percent on the spacing, I apologize.
In the poem Night Arc: in October on page thirty-five, a more traditional form is used.  It is a one stanza verse with eighteen lines that is flush left and moves down the page in one skinny stream.
Sea starved
we begin with
motion liquid oar
we took on water
night phospho
under pole
star plunge
some fish spoke
through my
lungs some large
mammal bellow
who is native
and who is not
those who could
swim survived
we studied
those tiny faces.
The poem is well focused and lean. The images are clear and the ending is successful which demonstrates Dressen can produce both traditional and nontraditional verse with equal skill. This poem keeps the reader following the movement in the water until the final study of those being observed.
Dressen varies the lengths of the poems as well as the subjects. The volume is fifty-nine pages of poems and is especially worth exploring for those who enjoy manipulation of form.
Dressen’s first book of poems Songs from the Astral Bestiary was published in 2014
You can find the book here:
Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.

On Autumn Lake – Collected Essays by Douglas Crase

autumn lake

In this wide ranging; cohesive collection of essays Douglas Crase presents four decades of critical writing and lectures in an intense poetic prose style that is also conversational. Crase brings his subjects to life on the page. Ashbery; O’Hara; Schuyler and Niedecker are but a few. He restores Emerson to the forefront of American writing as well as the commonwealth of creating prose and poetry.

Crase provides detailed accounts of the artistic/literary landscape that became the New York School as well as the Tibor de Nagy Gallery that was the hub and inspiration of the movement. He traces its history to Jean Connoly and its benefactor Dwight Ripley.

Honest writing is the key to an ongoing democracy and thanks go to writers of truth such as Douglas Crase and the documentation of the past. The future awaits us and Crase has set the bar high for all of us. May we live up to his example.

You can find the book here:

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories and on occasion literary criticism. He can be found at:




A Feeling Called Heaven by Joey Yearous-Algozin

a feeling

By Greg Bem 

I wanted to show you something

that would give you pleasure

before the end of the world

(page 3)

Climate change. Ecological disaster on a global scale. The coming and going of empire, civilization, the human imprint. The collapse. The Anthropocene. It is all very present and very intangible and, no matter how we spin it, the end of the world (as we know it and have known it) is nigh. And so, what are we going to do about it? There are many who believe that the only two responses are complacency and response, where response is solution oriented. But there is a third, humble option: acceptance.

The embracing of finality is a core concept in Joey Yearous-Algozin’s A Feeling Called Heaven, a book surging with as much pause as activity. Within this remarkable collection, Yearous-Algozin takes the poet’s approach to disaster and hopelessness by finding a contemplative, curious, and stable position of observation. Not without difficulty, the poet’s form is as much didactic as it is conceptual: the poet is one of instruction and of a simpler positing within the calm reality that the horrific exists and it probably really is too large for us to manage.

I want you to focus your mind

on denouncing the hope

embedded in the idea

of our momentum as a species

the belief that we will somehow continue

even after we’ve gone

(page 40)

The book is composed of two poems: a first that lasts most of the book, and a second that serves as a coda to close out what is, overall, a sequence of meditations, mantras, prayers, and cathartic rest. The poems total just over 60 pages in length, and I felt them gently urging me on from the moment I opened the book. I felt the poet’s breath, the angles through which the dismal was approached, and reconciled, and I read on and on until the last line. There are natural pauses throughout the book’s first poem, “for the second to last time,” but they feel more like the space between the pulse than any full rest. It is an active book, after all, one that accounts for stillness but radically approaches stillness with full energy and availability. Even the title indicates that the fullness of acknowledgment and existent may sit within a single second, which for readers of poetry may be further elaborated as a single poem, a single book, a single read.

A Feeling Called Heaven is calm, and much of the calmness, despite the terror that surrounds us, can be connected to the simple and uncomplicated language Yearous-Algozin has filled within the pages. I attribute the plainness of the poet’s speech as a method of contrast to the failings of the human world’s complexities: what we, as a society, have created across time and space have led us to this point, this point that will soon be gone. Is it the poet’s job to continue the damned lineage, or offer relief and radical shift? The speaker here follows the latter path, though not without calling forth several examples of our burning world:

and the sun glints off pools of irradiated water

outside a freeway on-ramp

or hospital parking lot

in which a few discarded syringes

and fragments of plastic tubing

bob in the light breeze

(pages 12-13)

Like other post-apocalyptic descriptions as we’ve come to know them in recent decades, the imagery within A Feeling Called Heaven is as bleak and valueless as it is slightly exaggerated as relic and memento. It feels human while lacking the humanity, feels moving while utterly still in the confines of the poem. The poet, on the other hand, is not completely still. The speaker murmurs their way through the lines that scatter like dust across anonymous landscapes and situations that are grayed, sitting beyond the realm of truth and beauty. These moments that float through the page are as much liminal as they are in the center: the blind spot that is within each of us as we exist in an ever-fading moment.

Yearous-Algozin calls out this ever-fading moment as beyond-verbal. It may be hard to imagine a situation, a system, a reality that is outside of the confines of language, but that is yet one more radically-shifted premises of this book, and it is not just a premise but a truth that is absolute:

a non-verbal certainty

that a time will come

when the residue of the human

will have disappeared

almost entirely

(page 16)

When Yearous-Algozin writes “almost entirely,” it is the crucial piece of this recipe: we are not quite gone yet, and this is a moment we can refer to as the “feeling” of “heaven.” The last stretch before the end is one that is reconciliation, catharsis, and embrace. It is fullness. Finality. Totality. It is utter loss and the resounding silence we can feel at the end of our collective existence and knowing that it has come from us and will exist after us.

In Social Text Journal, Barrett White writes of Yearous-Algozin’s book, “Through its radical acceptance, A Feeling Called Heaven teaches an important lesson about pausing, being present, and deeply listening, both inside and outside ourselves.” While in agreement, I also believe that the book offers an additional lesson on our capacity as creators. Yearous-Algozin has written a book that offers a nullification of the creative process, an anti-inspiration to take the pause and escape the creative act; unlike any other book I have read, A Feeling Called Heaven positions itself as a rational counterpoint to tangible production and artistry. In the book’s second and final poem, “a closing meditation,” the poet writes:

my speaking to you now

produces an image like the reflection of the sun

or more accurately

a space for your thoughts to inhabit

(page 55)

Indeed, this book causes process to cease, time to fold, and the mind to warp beyond thought. For that feeling alone, I can’t recommend it more highly during this Winter, this season, this precipice we have found ourselves upon.

You can find the book here:

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at




All the Rage by Rosamond S. King


By Greg Bem

All the Rage is an outstanding book, capturing the moment of the pandemic, the fight for Black lives, and the movement to understand emotion and life within the borders of our everyday life. It is a book divided into seven sections, and each section could feel like its own book, and the entirety wrapped together feels ecstatic and boundless. Rosamond S. King is not only a storyteller but a mediator of truths, a gateway into the archetypes being born today. This is a book that, like the recent work by Claudia Rankine and Divya Victor, captures a contemporary feminist approach to discontent within America, and also follows in the radical, performative Black poetics of Douglas Kearney, Terrance Hayes, and Tyehimba Jess.

This book is for
you, whether you quarantine
stuffing your face
or (and) reorganizing drawers

(from “This book / is for you,” page 1)

The book opens matter-of-factly, inviting the reader into a world of quarantine and the mundane. It is from this stable beginning that King leaps off the edge into the known and unknown simultaneously. This leap, this dive through text and literary spirit, is done with subtle critiques to and amendments of style and standard formatting. Take “America the beautiful,” an early poem in the book’s opening section. “Beautiful” is left uncapitalized. The poem’s punctuation is highlighted, emphasized as taking on importance akin to the words themselves. The poem ultimately moves from a focus on lines of beauty to lines of bondage:

. True
, some never make it out, but while they’re here, we
distract them with baubled accessories and bubbled beverages

(from “America the beautiful,” page 6)

King is concerned with flow, and the absence of flow. Or its interruption. The following poem, “Etymology of a Scream,” calls forth Yoko Ono’s tweet during the 2016 election. But this is not a poem about 2016 so much as it is a poem about now, about always. Amidst the subtle narrative, King writes: “. Mourn those who came / before and the absence among those who / remain.” (page 8).

As with any astute, mature and conscious poetry, King is able to balance between trauma and reconciliation, between wound and insight. It may take patience, but the reader can follow this volume and find the ends of the spectrum readily available from page to page. In “21st Century Goddamn,” King morosely writes: “Everybody knows / not every body / gets out of this alive” (page 15), alluding to the murders of Black lives from slavery to Baltimore to Staten Island to Cleveland (and so on, and so on). Pages later, the meditative sway of the pendulum: “Breathe / . As in what if / the shadow is gold / en? Breathe.” (from “Avante-Garde Is a Term of War,” page 24). The subtle art of the poet is one that bears multiple waves of resonance and multiple contexts of control over image, feeling, and time. King captivates without sacrificing a serious investigation into public and personal relations with violence over social brutality (a la white supremacy) and a personal, focused process of grief.

All the Rage is not a book that “ends” or finds resolution within its covers. The book, as rage, captures rage in its many forms. As such, there is a very intense and beautiful disintegration that occurs as the book evolves from beginning to end. A prominent interplay and exchange with words and their cores emerges, revealing not flaw but remarkably vulnerable risk-taking in language:

desire lead yu by the nose hairs, promising
love and panic just there
just beyond   desire will drown yu
an as liquid becomes pummeling wave

(from “Sunshine Sigh, page 96)

An emphasis on deconstruction within voice and tone recalls Toni Morrison and other fantastic and fantastically raw writers whose words will not be forgotten. King’s work here is unforgettable. It lingers, awash with the permanence only humanity can provide, with witness, with observation, with the capturing of our flight and our ongoing struggle to know flaws and pain, and growth.

You can find the book here:

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at