account_circle by Rachel Barenblat
Rachel Barenblat is co-founder of Inkberry, a literary organization in the Berkshires. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. A chapbook of her poems, the skies here, was published by Pecan Grove Press (San Antonio) in 1995. Learn more at

Book Lovers

The Poetry of Arab Women

Issue No. 54 ~ November, 2001

The Poetry of Arab Women, edited by Nathalie Handal, came across my desk some months ago. I was impressed; it’s an extremely thorough collection, featuring a wide range of Arab women poets from around the world. I thought it was an good book, and figured …

The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans

Issue No. 50 ~ July, 2001

If poetry volumes were ranked like ski slopes, I’d list Mary Jo Bang’s The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans as a black diamond: it’s not for the poetry beginner. Bang has some exquisite lines, and if you like associative poetry, you’ll adore her. …

Among Women

Issue No. 47 ~ April, 2001

What does it mean to be among women? As an insider, or as an outsider? By necessity or by choice? Does being among women mean being in community, or being alone? Jason Shinder’s new poetry collection approaches these questions obliquely. Although his language is simple, …

Speech! Speech!

Issue No. 46 ~ March, 2001

Because Geoffrey Hill is an Important Poet, I came to Speech! Speech! prepared to invest whatever energy the book required in order that I might achieve understanding of what I was certain would be a literary masterpiece. I failed, or else Hill failed, because I’m …

Still Life With Oysters and Lemon

Issue No. 45 ~ February, 2001

A sharp cracking cold day, the air of the Upper East Side full of rising plumes of smoke from furnaces and steaming laundries, exhaust from the tailpipes of idling taxis, flapping banners, gangs of pigeons. Here on the museum steps a flock suddenly chooses to …

The Determined Days

Issue No. 45 ~ February, 2001

Any book praised by Anthony Hecht and John Hollander is likely to be two things: fine tuned and formal. Philip Stephens’ The Determined Days is both. By “formal,” I mean that Stephens’ verse takes shape in specific and rule-bound ways, not that it is fussy …

Your Name Here

Issue No. 44 ~ January, 2001

Ashbery's poems reward a slant-reading in which one comes at the text from an angle, letting the words play across one's mind like insects on a pond.

Women and Children First

Issue No. 41 ~ October, 2000

[Prose's stories] left me feeling that, if I approached my own life with her scalpel-like intensity, I would find something extraordinary in me, too.

White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness

Issue No. 25 ~ June, 1999

I wanted to like this book. A combination of memoir and extended musing on race and race theory, White Lies is the work of Maurice Berger, a white boy who grew up Jewish in a largely black Lower East Side housing project. His father was …

Planet Doonesbury

Issue No. 24 ~ May, 1999

The best thing about Trudeau's political wit is that no one is immune from it ... Trudeau takes shots at liberal parents and conspiracy buffs alike.

The Last Avant-Garde

Issue No. 23 ~ April, 1999

Centered around the New York School of poets, this is a story about New York, Abstract Expressionism, and the fifties.


Issue No. 22 ~ March, 1999

As the book jacket proclaims, "it's more than a mechanic's memoir: it is a meditation on machines, metaphysics, and the moral universe." Jerome is curmudgeonly in the best New England intellectual tradition, but he's also astonishingly down to earth...


Issue No. 20 ~ January, 1999

In the interest of fairness, I should begin by admitting that I’ve been a Naomi Shihab Nye fan since I was old enough to read. I grew up in San Antonio, where Nye lives, and I took a poetry class with her when I was …

About Love

Issue No. 19 ~ December, 1998

Although I am a self-confessed romantic, I’m no expert on love poetry. I haven’t read a book of so-called “love poems” in years. The last love poems I remember reading are Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (which I devoured), and a …

One on One

Nathalie Handal

Issue No. 54 ~ November, 2001

Rachel Barenblat: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background. Nathalie Handal: I grew up in Europe, the United States and the Caribbean. My grandfather was born in Bethlehem and emigrated to the West in the early twentieth century, and my parents mainly …