Books by ALSCW Members



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.


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. 


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. 


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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."


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.


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.


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.


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


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