Books by ALSCW Members

Amazon Rewriting Early America: The Prenational Past in Postmodern Literature by Christopher Coffman
Recent poems and fictions set in the early Americas are typically read as affirmations of cultural norms, as evidence of the impossibility of genuine engagement with the historical past, or as contentious repudiations of received histories. Inspired particularly by Mihai Spariosu’s arguments regarding literary playfulness as an opening to peace, Rewriting Early America: The Prenational Past in Postmodern Literature adopts a different perspective, with the goal of demonstrating that many recent literary texts undertake more constructive and hopeful projects with regard to the American past than critics usually recognize. While honoring writers' pervasive critiques of hegemony, this volume trades a preoccupation with antagonism for an interest in restoration and recuperation. It describes how texts by John Barth, John Berryman, Susan Howe, Toni Morrison, Paul Muldoon, Thomas Pynchon, and William T. Vollmann harness the ambiguities of the colonial past to find sociocultural possibilities that operate beyond the workings of power and outside the politics of difference. Throughout, this book remains devoted to uncovering the moments at which contemporary writers proffer visions of American communities defined not by marginalization and oppression, but by responsive understanding and inclusion.
Amazon Peaches Goes It Alone by Frederick Seidel
Peaches Goes It Alone, Frederick Seidel’s newest collection of poems, begins with global warming and ends with Aphrodite. In between is everything. Peaches Goes It Alone presents the sexual and political themes that have long preoccupied Seidel―and thrilled and offended his readers. Lyrical, grotesque, and elegiac, Peaches Goes It Alone adds new music and menace to Seidel’s masterful body of work.
Ethos Books Bite Harder: Open Letters & Close Readings by Koh Jee Leong
Fifteen years ago, Koh Jee Leong left a promising career in Singapore’s Education Service in order to become a poet in New York City. The change was transformative. Bite Harder: Open Letters and Close Readings tells the story of the change through essays that blend the personal and the literary: unlikely friendships in graduate school and the Village; encounters with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and the activism of gender rights advocate Pauline Park; reading Eavan Boland on the Upper West Side and reading Gregory Woods in Queens. These formative experiences are described alongside pioneering essays on Singapore poets, such as Goh Poh Seng, Cyril Wong, Yeow Kai Chai, and Justin Chin, and uncompromising letters about the struggle for freedom of expression. Koh’s unique perspective as both insider and outsider informs these essays and letters. 

Bite Harder is a vital contribution to the nascent genre of literary essays and the field of cultural criticism in Singapore.
Amazon The Heart of the Humanities: Reading, Writing, Teachings by Mark Edmundson
A renowned professor of English at the University of Virginia, Mark Edmundson has devoted his career to tough-minded yet optimistic advocacy for the humanities. He argues for the importance of reading and writing to an examined and fruitful life and affirms the invaluable role of teachers in opening up fresh paths for their students.

In his series of books Why Read?, Why Teach?, and Why Write? Edmundson explored the vital worldly roles of reading, teaching, and writing, earning a vocal following of writers, teachers, and scholars at the top of their fields, from novelist Tom Perrotta to critics Laura Kipnis and J. Hillis Miller.

Now for the first time The Heart of the Humanities collects into one volume this triad of impassioned arguments, including an introduction from the author on the value of education in the present and for the future. The perfect gift for students, recent graduates, writers, teachers, and anyone interested in education and the life of the mind, this omnibus edition will make a powerful and timely case for strengthening the humanities both in schools and in our society.
Amazon Nine Over Sixes by Mary Maxwell
“The impetus for Nine Over Sixes,” notes Mary Maxwell in the postscript of her fourth collection of poems, “was a certain affection for traditional received forms, but also a dissatisfaction with them.” The unconventional prosody of Maxwell’s poems, inspired by the shape of New England’s “nine over sixes” windows, pays homage to the elegiac stanzas of Vergil’s Georgics. Though in their subject matter her lyrics relate the poet’s daily encounter with Vergil’s “country gods,” their concerns, as she writes, also

overlap with contemporary issues of near-universal surveillance; true solitude, in all its painful yet pungent delicacy, is in terrible peril. What is heard, of course, is often limited by what has been listened for: Nature provides the increasingly rare luxury of quiet, the ability to hear oneself think.

Experimental in form and impulse, the formalism of Nine Over Sixes incorporates the imposition of the digital realm into their actual lines, gray numbers marking certain counted syllables as whispered percussion.  “Such random-feeling interruptions form the sound texture of contemporary life,” Maxwell observes in her afterword, “what with the constant intrusion of the virtual realm, its buzzing texts and cell-phone ringtones making themselves known even in the midst of a forest.” Innovative yet deeply felt, these lyrics both note the problem and propose its solution. The lyric poem attempts to recreate and record an individual’s response to nature and art, that dimension of “overtones” which forms such an essential component of human experience.
Amazon Oral Lake by Mary Maxwell
Just as the lyrics of Nine Over Sixes expressed anxiety about digital invasions into private experience, the nature-oriented chants of Mary Maxwell’s fifth volume, Oral Lake, join in protest against virtual realms. “Metrical form creates a kind of paradoxical exemption from chronological time,” writes the poet in the afterword to her new collection of “reflectively dual” lyrics: “I’ve returned to my previous book’s subject of time and measure, but here it revolves around the recollections of a man-made lake,” a real place from her post-industrial West Virginia upbringing.

As my present voice and younger self fuse, I return to a communal past, one filled with coal-black stories. The poems try to come to an understanding of my own personal history of deep melancholy…. Long-internalized family lore forms one kind of legacy on which these poems draw… [arriving] with something of the quality of voices coming across water.

It is “a world remembered and rendered into memorable song,” as described by an early reader, in which “the reader feels herself part of a deeply lived experience, the epiphanies and stings and frissons of youth, and all that enveloped in the West Virginia landscape of land and water that enfolds the imprint of past generations of ancestors.”  In Oral Lake readers will find a poetic cycle in which (as the author herself proposes in her afterword) “the personal and the historical are indissolubly combined, songs of the past and present… leaning toward a future.”
Northwestern University Press The Iphigenia Plays: New Verse Translations trans. by Rachel Hadas
At the heart of Iphigenia’s enduring story are an ambitious, opportunistic, and indecisive leader and the daughter whose life he is willing to sacrifice. In The Iphigenia Plays, poet Rachel Hadas offers a new generation of readers a graceful, clear, and powerful translation of Euripides’s two spellbinding (and very different) plays drawn from this legend: Iphigenia in Aulis and Iphigenia among the Taurians.

Even for readers unfamiliar with Greek mythology or drama, these plays are suspenseful, poignant, and haunting. Euripides’s ability to evoke emotion and raise difficult questions has long engaged viewers and readers alike. Taken together, the two plays illuminate timeless human conflicts, showcasing individuals and families ensnared by the fury of war, of politics, of religion, and of ambition. Euripidean characters are always second-guessing themselves; now new readers can also ponder their dilemmas.

Poet and translator Rachel Hadas highlights the lyricism, emotion, and sheer humanity of Euripides’s plays. Mordant humor is here; so are heartbreak and tenderness. Hadas offers an Iphigenia story that resonates with our own troubled times and demonstrates anew the genius of one of the world’s supreme dramatists.
Amazon Articulate as Rain by Stephen Kampa
Poetry. A collection that encompasses the Garden of Eden ("Something for Everything") and the end of the world ("Have It, Eat It"), ARTICULATE AS RAIN is an omnium-gatherum of tones, themes, prosodies, and poetic ploys. With characteristic comedy and surprising darkness, Stephen Kampa explores the relational aspects of our lives-love, faith, metaphysics, our civic selves-while revelling in the ranginess of the English language and in the music of its metrics. Yet for all its variety, this book reminds readers that countless raindrops can belong to the same storm.
Amazon The Game’s Afoot: A Sports Lover’s Introduction to Shakespeare by Cynthia Lewis
Like the age-old feud between the Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Juliet, the enduring rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers makes for great drama. Macbeth's career began with promise but ended in ruin--not unlike Pete Rose's.

Twelfth Night's Viola's disguise as a boy to enter into a man's world is echoed in Babe Didrikson Zaharias' challenge to the pro golf patriarchy when she competed in the Los Angeles Open.

Exploring parallels between Shakespeare's plays and famous events in the world of sports, this book introduces seven of the best-known plays to the sports enthusiast and offers a fresh perspective to Shakespeare devotees.
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Otherworld, Underworld, Prayer Porch by David Bottoms
David Bottoms explores otherness, the death of parents, and private spirituality. Images of rural Georgia confront the changing landscape of his memories where he searches for refuge in quiet places of prayer. Rooted in nature, Bottoms’ poetry affirms the “tenuous ways tenderness seeps into the world” and the loneliness inherent in memory. Memory is “smoke off a damp fire” as Bottoms explores absence, a contemplative inner life, and changing landscapes.
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Berlin Notebook: Where Are the Refugees? by Joshua Weiner
The chronicle of a fall and spring in Berlin during the peak influx of refugees into Europe in 2015-16, Joshua Weiner's Berlin Notebook opens a new view on German society's attempt to cope with an impossible situation: millions of people displaced by the Syrian civil war, fleeing violence, and seeking safety and the possibilities of a new life in the west. As some Germans, feeling the burden of the nation's dark past, try to aid and shelter desperate asylum seekers, others are skeptical of the government's ability to contain the growing numbers; they feel the danger of hostile strangers, and the threat to the nation's culture and identity. Unlike other contemporary reports on the situation in Europe, Weiner's sui generis writing includes interviews not only with refugees from the east, but also everyday Berliners, natives and ex-pats – musicians, poets, shopkeepers, students, activists, rabbis, museum guides, artists, intellectuals, and those, too, who have joined the rising far-right Alternative for Germany party, and the Pegida movement against immigration. Intermixed with interviews, reportage, and meditations on life in Europe's fastest growing capital city, Weiner thinks about the language and literature of the country, weaving together strands of its ancient and more recent history with meditations on Goethe, Brecht, Arendt, Heidegger, Joseph Roth and others that inflect our thinking about refugees, nationhood, and our ethical connection to strangers.
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Fort Necessity by David Gewanter
Who are the lords of labor? The owners, or the working bodies? In this smart, ambitious, and powerful book, David Gewanter reads the body as creator and destroyer—ultimately, as the broken mold of its own work.

Haunted by his father’s autopsy of a workman he witnessed as a child, Gewanter forges intensely personal poems that explore the fate of our laboring bodies, from the Carnegie era’s industrial violence and convict labor to our present day of broken trust, profiteering, and the Koch brothers. Guided by a moral vision to document human experience, this unique collection takes raw historical materials—newspaper articles, autobiography and letters, court testimony, a convict ledger, and even a menu—and shapes them into sonnets, ballads, free verse, and prose poems. The title poem weaves a startling lyric sequence from direct testimony by steelworkers and coal-miners, strikers and members of prison chain-gangs, owners and anarchists, revealing an American empire that feeds not just on oil and metal, but also on human energy, impulse, and flesh. Alongside Gewanter’s family are hapless souls who dream of fortune, but cannot make their fates, confronting instead the dark outcomes of love, loyalty, fantasy, and betrayal.
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Hothead: A Poem by Stephen Cushman
Hothead is a haibun-patterned, book-length declamation in which no topic is off limits―Buddha, Jesus, Lincoln, America, global warming, eros, mental illness, the natural world, technology, the aging body. Cushman’s poetry shows us how to live in a world in which it is difficult to balance “the place where light and dark meet.” With an outmoded laptop named Patience as his daily consort, the speaker navigates through themes of love, politics, and belief. “There’s got to be someone,” Cushman writes, “exploring the way,” and the speaker of Hothead steps in to fill those shoes with intelligence, endurance, moxie, and humility.
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Catherine Lescault by Walter Idlewild
In the delirious and vitalizing novel Catherine Lescault, alternative incarnations of Honoré de Balzac’s classic characters from The Unknown Masterpiece enact romances of lunacy and obsession to dramatize their search for the reality of artistic creation. The novelists Frenhofer and Porbus, the painter and muse Gillette, the troubadour Nicolas, and the sculptor Houdon all strive to discover the secret of imbuing art with life, despite the voices of academic critics and students, peers and rivals, relatives and loved ones, and their own withering internal frailties. Some disciples may achieve the dream of allowing the ideal courtesan subject, Catherine Lescault herself, to breathe and live and love, while other artists’ fixations lead into monomaniacal madness with unspeakably tragic consequences.

Which interpretation will ultimately triumph: sculpture, paint, music, dance, acts on the stage, or words on the page?
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Moments Captured: A Novel by Robert Seidman
"Moments Captured" is the captivating story of two indelible individuals and a shattering murder in latenineteenth-century San Francisco. An epic saga of young America flexing its muscle, it is roughly based on the life of the great photographer Edward Muybridge. Crossing the country with his camera and outsized ambition, Muybridge meets the emancipated young dancer Holly Hughes, and inexorably she becomes the true focus of his life- though a corrupt robber baron interested in Muybridge's talent for technology comes between them.

Through Seidman's finely drawn prose, we witness nation-building on a colossal scale, along with the politics of wile, greed, and seduction. With an intense love affair at its center and a true-to-life narrative of art and technology, this novel brings to life one of the most picaresque settings in American history.
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Making the Poem: Stevens’ Approaches by George Lensing
Over sixty years after his death, Wallace Stevens remains one of the central figures of American modernist poetry, celebrated for his masterful style, formal rigor, and aesthetic explorations of both the natural and metaphysical world. In Making the Poem: Stevens’ Approaches, George S. Lensing charts the evolution of the poet’s body of work from a holistic perspective, examining many of the elements that Stevens drew upon in the making of his poetry. Lensing’s analysis extends from the sources and contents of well-known poems, including dynamic new readings of canonical texts like “Sea Surface Full of Clouds” and “The Idea of Order at Key West,” through the historical backgrounds and musical elements central to Stevens’ technique, before concluding with a discussion of the gradual reception his work sometimes received overseas. By considering the form and meaning of individual poems, as well as the composition and reception of a poet’s body of work, Making the Poem provides a fluid view of the evolution of Wallace Stevens’s poetry, analyzing key elements in its development, composition, and reception. Drawing on his decades of research and writing on Stevens, Lensing offers many new insights to help scholars and teachers navigate the poet’s occasionally elusive texts.
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Zero Visibility Paperback by Grzegorz Wróblewski
This collection of poems from one of Poland’s major contemporary writers, Grzegorz Wróblewski, demonstrates his characteristic virtues: anthropological focus, objectivist detachment (though not without hallucinatory interference), minimalistic precision. But it also signals the presence of new elements. One of them is an extensive reliance on found language, the preferred mode of Anglophone conceptual writers, here acquiring a distinctly Eastern European flavor. Another is his candor, which teases readers with glimpses of his most private feelings. Bleak and terse, Wróblewski subjects his material to almost clinical treatment in order to better dissect and so understand the series of events that we call reality.
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Shakespeare’s Rome: Republic and Empire by Paul Cantor
For more than forty years, Paul Cantor’s Shakespeare’s Rome has been a foundational work in the field of politics and literature. While many critics assumed that the Roman plays do not reflect any special knowledge of Rome, Cantor was one of the first to argue that they are grounded in a profound understanding of the Roman regime and its changes over time. Taking Shakespeare seriously as a political thinker, Cantor suggests that his Roman plays can be profitably studied in the context of the classical republican tradition in political philosophy.
           
In Shakespeare’s Rome, Cantor examines the political settings of Shakespeare’s Roman plays, Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra, with references as well to Julius Caesar. Cantor shows that Shakespeare presents a convincing portrait of Rome in different eras of its history, contrasting the austere republic of Coriolanus, with its narrow horizons and martial virtues, and the cosmopolitan empire of Antony and Cleopatra, with its “immortal longings” and sophistication bordering on decadence.
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Shakespeare’s Roman Trilogy: The Twilight of the Ancient World by Paul Cantor
Paul A. Cantor first probed Shakespeare’s Roman plays—Coriolanus, Julius Caeser, and Antony and Cleopatra—in his landmark Shakespeare’s Rome (1976). With Shakespeare’s Roman Trilogy, he now argues that these plays form an integrated trilogy that portrays the tragedy not simply of their protagonists but of an entire political community.

Cantor analyzes the way Shakespeare chronicles the rise and fall of the Roman Republic and the emergence of the Roman Empire. The transformation of the ancient city into a cosmopolitan empire marks the end of the era of civic virtue in antiquity, but it also opens up new spiritual possibilities that Shakespeare correlates with the rise of Christianity and thus the first stirrings of the medieval and the modern worlds.

More broadly, Cantor places Shakespeare’s plays in a long tradition of philosophical speculation about Rome, with special emphasis on Machiavelli and Nietzsche, two thinkers who provide important clues on how to read Shakespeare’s works. In a pathbreaking chapter, he undertakes the first systematic comparison of Shakespeare and Nietzsche on Rome, exploring their central point of contention: Did Christianity corrupt the Roman Empire or was the corruption of the Empire the precondition of the rise of Christianity? Bringing Shakespeare into dialogue with other major thinkers about Rome, Shakespeare’s Roman Trilogy reveals the true profundity of the Roman Plays.
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The Homeric Simile in Comparative Perspectives: Oral Traditions from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia by Jonathan Ready
The Homeric Simile in Comparative Perspectives: Oral Traditions from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia investigates both the construction of the Homeric simile and the performance of Homeric poetry from neglected comparative perspectives, offering a revealing exploration of what made the epics such powerful examples of verbal artistry. Divided into two Parts, the volume first considers similes in five modern-day oral poetries - Rajasthani epic, South Sumatran epic, Kyrgyz epic, Bosniac epic, and Najdi lyric poems from Saudi Arabia - and studies successful performances by still other verbal artists, such as Egyptian singers of epic, Turkish minstrels, and Chinese storytellers. By applying these findings to the Homeric epics, the second Part presents a new take on how the Homeric poet put together his similes and alters our understanding of how the poet displayed his competence as a performer of verbal art and interacted with his poetic peers and predecessors. Engaging intensively with a diverse array of scholarship from outside the field of classical studies, from folkloristics to cognitive linguistics, this truly interdisciplinary volume transforms how we view not only a central feature of Homeric poetry but also the very nature of Homeric performance.
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After the Afterlife by T.R. Hummer
Poetry. Philosophy. AFTER THE AFTERLIFE explores the zone between language and spirit. It is a book of inner and outer boundaries: of blockades, of tunnels, of wormholes. Where does our consciousness come from, and where is it going, if anywhere? With a nimble blend of wit, whimsy, and erudition, Hummer's poems assay the border that the shaman is forced to cross to wrestle with the gods, which is the same border the mystic yearns to broach, and the ordinary human stumbles over while doing laundry or making lunch—where questions of identity melt in the white heat of Being:

"which is like trying to teach / The cat to waltz, so much awkwardness, so many tender / advances, and I'm shocked when it actually learns, / When it minces toward me in a tiny cocktail gown, offering a martini, / asking for this dance, insisting on hearing me refuse / To reply, debating all along, in the chorus of its interior mewing, who / are you really, peculiar animal, who taught you to call you you."
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Eon: Poems by T.R. Hummer
Eon is the third and final collection in a conceptual trilogy that includes T.R. Hummer’s Ephemeron (2012) and Skandalon (2014). Along with its sister volumes, Eon tells part of the story of the all too short arc of our being in the world and the mystery that follows death. Separated into three sections, this work is a meditation on what humans can know concerning the eternal. Its second section, “Urn,” is comprised of a series of poems that read like extended epitaphs, all titled for and informed by someone who has passed away. The collection is shot through with significant corporeal imagery, as well as metaphysical flourishes, and closes with a section that gestures toward the redemptive power of love. In both its style and its multiple references to the work of Rainer Maria Rilke, Emily Dickinson, and Philip Levine (to name a few influences), the collection is deeply aware of the poetic tradition from which it comes and into which it enters.
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Babylon Under Western Eyes: A Study of Allusion and Myth by Andrew Scheil
Babylon under Western Eyes examines the mythic legacy of ancient Babylon, the Near Eastern city which has served western culture as a metaphor for power, luxury, and exotic magnificence for more than two thousand years.

Sifting through the many references to Babylon in biblical, classical, medieval, and modern texts, Andrew Scheil uses Babylon’s remarkable literary ubiquity as the foundation for a thorough analysis of the dynamics of adaptation and allusion in western literature. Touching on everything from Old English poetry to the contemporary apocalyptic fiction of the “Left Behind” series, Scheil outlines how medieval Christian society and its cultural successors have adopted Babylon as a political metaphor, a degenerate archetype, and a place associated with the sublime.

 Combining remarkable erudition with a clear and accessible style, Babylon under Western Eyes is the first comprehensive examination of Babylon’s significance within the pantheon of western literature and a testimonial to the continuing influence of biblical, classical, and medieval paradigms in modern culture.
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Race, Transnationalism, and Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies by Robert Levine
Inspired by Toni Morrison's call for an interracial approach to American literature, and by recent efforts to globalize American literary studies, Race, Transnationalism, and Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies ranges widely in its case-study approach to canonical and non-canonical authors. Leading critic Robert S. Levine considers Cooper, Hawthorne, Stowe, Melville, and other nineteenth-century American writers alongside less well known African American figures such as Nathaniel Paul and Sutton Griggs. He pays close attention to racial representations and ideology in nineteenth-century American writing, while exploring the inevitable tension between the local and the global in this writing. Levine addresses transatlanticism, the Black Atlantic, citizenship, empire, temperance, climate change, black nationalism, book history, temporality, Kantian transnational aesthetics, and a number of other issues. The book also provides a compelling critical frame for understanding developments in American literary studies over the past twenty-five years.
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Fancy’s Orphan by George Drew
"George Drew holds a high place among our lyric poets, and is a masterful storyteller besides. For evidence of his narrative skills, see 'Elegy for Jared,' 'The Men,' 'Matthew Brady Speaks,' 'About Connecticut,' and others. Fancy's Orphan is an outstanding collection full of things moving and memorable. Any reader is sure to find great pleasure in." --X.J. Kennedy
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The Stranger World by Ryan Wilson
“Ryan Wilson’s unsettling debut collection The Stranger World is filled with poems of menace and promise, surprise and sorrow, tempered by gentle humor and always tuned to a fine music. The long poem ‘Authority’ reads like a masterpiece of modern horror. The deeply psychological ‘Xenia’ is a minor miracle of a poem. These pages contain ‘real shores across imagined seas . . . where black suns set,’ where the poet meditates on ‘that present unity / of absences the living move among.’ Each page of The Stranger World yields a new delight. Wilson proves himself a worthy heir to Anthony Hecht with this remarkable, disarming, and genuinely moving book. Seek it out.”
— Ernest Hilbert