Junk by Tommy Pico

Reviewed by Sybil Mahone

Junk by Tommy Pico. Click for Catalog link.

Location: Main Stacks
Call Number: PS3616.I288 J86 2018

Location: ResHalls FloridaAvenue Circulating Coll
Call Number: 811 P588ju

Are these tweets or texts or a poem? Read this book-length gay breakup epic by Native poet Tommy “Teebs” Pico and decide for yourself. “I’m not going to just turn down a donut unless sex in the derriere is comin,” Teebs declares. Same, Teebs. Same. Imperialism is junk. Consumption is junk. Love is junk. *Junk* declares and questions and makes penis jokes about all of it. I love this book. It’s *Junk*.

Author Tommy Pico, photo from personal website.

Read other reviews:

Los Angeles Review of Books 

Kenyon Review

Publisher’s Weekly

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Ghost Of By Diana Khoi Nguyen

Reviewed by Corey Van Landingham

Cover art URL to catalog

Ghost Of, by Diana Khoi Nguyen. Click to view catalog entry.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3614.G85 A6 2018

Ghost Of may be one of the most successful—and surely the most intriguing—recent books of elegy. Nguyen takes on the liminal spaces of grief after a brother’ suicide and translates them not only into the linguistic field of these poems, but also the visual. Included here are family photographs with the brother cut out, and the shape of that cutting pasted onto new pages, collage-like, where that void is populated with new language. And the book is unflinching in its approach to this sudden loss: “Let’s get on with it,” Nguyen writes in “I Keep Getting Things Wrong.” “When I return to that house, I eat the food / left out for my dead brother. I don’t waste much.” This is a remarkable debut collection from a deeply wise poet.

To learn more about Corey Van Landingham, please read her collection of poetry entitled Antidote.

Author portrait with link

Photo of author Diana Khoi Nguyen. Click to visit website.

Read other reviews here:

Kenyon Review

Jet Fuel Review


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So Far So Good by Ursula K. Le Guin

Reviewed by Sebastián Maldonado-Vélez

Cover art

So Far So Good: Final Poems 2014-2018, by Ursula Le Guin

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3562.E42 A6 2018

Location: ResHalls FloridaAvenue Circulating Coll
Call Number: 811 L526so

You might recognize Le Guin’s name from an impressive number of science fiction and fantasy books that she wrote throughout her lifetime. A somewhat more understated aspect of her literary life includes poetry, this collection being the last that was edited shortly before her death in 2018. Le Guin’s poetry attempts and achieves a precision that comes from a respect the poet had toward all subjects: “All earth’s dust/has been life, held soul, is holy.” Her language reminds us how words and concepts we might think of as mundane just need a slight nudge to be revolutionary, revealing. I especially recommend this book to readers who feel uneasy when reading poetry, afraid that the poet is trying to deceive them in some way. Le Guin is open and honest about her intentions. In this collection she wishes us to meditate on the small to better understand the big.

Ursula Le Guin. Photo by Marian Wood Kolisch. Click to see website.

Read other reviews:

Portland Review

Publisher’s Weekly

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Magdalene by Marie Howe

Reviewed by Jessica Tanck

Cover art

Magdalene: Poems, by Marie Howe. Click to view catalog.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3558.O8925 A6 2018

Marie Howe’s Magdalene (2017) imagines the Biblical figure of Mary Magdalene as a woman in the present-day. Brilliant and sensual, yearning and thoughtful, Howe’s Magdalene is dignified, human, and cut with want. This is a book for those with a taste for the biblical and sensual, those who long for complexity, depth, and revelation, who cherish the plainspoken over the ornate. Howe’s seemingly unadorned verse presents thought, feeling, and scenes in a way that is somehow both intimate and mythical, delivering statements and descriptions that resound with both emotional truth and the lightning of revelation:

“Years holding on to a rope/ that wasn’t there, always sorry/ righteous and wrong.”

“The pills were the floorboards/ and the bright lights that made what’s what possible.”

“I liked Hell, I liked to go there alone/ relieved to lie in the wreckage, ruined, physically undone./ The worst had happened. What else could harm me then?/ I thought it was the worst, thought nothing worse could come. / Then nothing did, and no one.”

Whether you are a first-time reader of poetry or a long-time lover of it, whether you have much or little time to spend reading, you will burn through this book of poems.

Read other reviews:

The Boiler Journal

The Rumpus

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The Essential Etheridge Knight

Reviewed by Erich Slimak

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The Essential Etheridge Knight. Click to view catalog. 

Location: Main Stacks
Call Number: 811 K743E

Despite his prominence as a major figure of the Black Arts Movement, Etheridge Knight’s readership has waned somewhat in the years since his death. A nominee for both the Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Award as well as the recipient of an American Book Award, Knight was born in Corinth, Mississippi in 1931 and began writing poetry while in prison. In these, his selected poems, he displays astonishing range and formal daring, providing us with an unflinching look at his American experience.


Author Etheridge Knight

Read reviews from:

The Paris Review

Select Reviews 

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The Balcony by Jane Delury

Posted on behalf of Karen M. Huck, Library Specialist

The Balcony by Jane Delury

The Balcony by Jane Delury. Click the image to see it in the Library catalog.

Location: Literatures & Languages New Books
Call Number: PS3604.E44765 B35 2018

A dream of a novel, Delury begins her book with what appears to be an autobiographical account of being an au pair in a house in the outskirts of Paris for a family with “une jeune fille,” that simply sucks you in. The au pair is given the larger, upper room with the balcony to stay in. The double entendre of the term “between two” follows all of the accounts of the myriad people who dwelled in the house. Each story does somehow intertwine with other stories and eventually a history of a magnificent house and its inhabitants comes to the fore, but ultimately the stories illuminate what happens between couples, siblings, parents and children and all manner of relations people have. The Balcony witnesses all. The prose is elegant and smooth, enjoy this story as you would a meal, slowly yet with gusto.

Read reviews from:

Kirkus Reviews

Publisher’s Weekly

The New York Times

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Memory, Movement and Action

Posted on behalf of Karen M. Huck, Library Specialist

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cover art for The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Click the image to see it in the Library catalog.

Location: Undergrad
Call Number: PS3573.H4768 U53 2016

There is another copy at the Ikenberry Residence Hall Library and an online audiobook is also available (access on-campus or with UIUC NetID).

An important work that grapples with issues of movement, both physical and psychological, for Blacks, Whites and Native Americans during the early 1800s, Underground Railroad bleeds with relevance. Reimagining the Underground Railroad as a physical train, Whitehead follows Cora, the protagonist, on a subterranean escape, from stop to stop, encountering varied degrees of oppression above ground and even below. Painful yet hopeful, the story propels readers towards new understandings of both blatant and subtle racism that permeates society at that time. But how far have we come since those early days? Not far enough. Cora’s opinion that “Poetry and prayer put ideas into people’s heads that got them killed, distracted them from the ruthless mechanism of the world” illustrates how action and movement matter more than words and ideas. In contemporary terms, voting proves stronger and more potent than believing. Once each American embraces “doing” over “hoping, praying and thinking,” the true wishes of the people will prevail. Underground Railroad is Whitehead’s call to action for every American.

Photo of the author

Photo by Madeline Whitehead.

Read reviews from The New York Times, The Guardian, or The Denver Post.

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New Exhibit: Gay and Lesbian Literature: The Early Years

The Literatures and Languages Library celebrates LBGTQ History Month by showcasing the works of some of the foremost gay and lesbian writers. In this new exhibit, Gay and Lesbian Literature: The Early Years, located in the Literatures and Languages Journals area within the Main Reading Room, we peer into the works of early LBGTQ writers, to highlight groundbreaking writings that, in those times, were downright controversial. We get a glimpse into their private world and the broad society in which they lived and wrote, making us to witness transformations that were underway for decades. The exhibit features Anglophone, English, and notable European writers to show the wide range of themes, genres, and literary techniques employed to express an identity that is authentic and self-determined.

In addition to the works featured in our exhibit, the Literatures and Languages Library features a wealth of reference titles and research resources on LGBTQ literature. They include:
Hugh Steven’s work The Cambridge Companion to Gay and Lesbian Writing (Cambridge: New York, 2011)
The Perils of Pedagogy: the Works of John Greyson, edited by Brenda Longfellow, Scott MacKenzie, and Thomas Waugh (Montreal&Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013) 
The American Isherwood edited by James J. Berg and Chris Freeman (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).
Valery Rohy’s Lost Causes: Narrative, Etiology, and Queer Theory (2015) was just published by Oxford University Press.
The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature edited by E.L. McCallum and Mikko Tuhkanen (New York: Cambridge University Press: 2014). 

Many subject terms are listed in the VuFind Catalog under the field “Topics”, giving users quick access to a wealth of related works. Some key subject headings to use in our catalog searching are Gays in Literature, Homosexuality in Literature, Gays’ Writings – History and Criticism. The result list can be filtered even further by using the “Narrow Your Search” options.

Please check out these Library resources and consult the Literatures and Languages Library staff members for further research assistance on LGBTQ literature and theory.

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Alistair MacLeod, Canadian Novelist, Dies at 77


The Canadian literary world is mourning the loss of Alistair MacLeod, a great writer and academic who inspired generations of students, who died at age 77 this past Sunday. The Saskatchewan native died from complications from a stroke he suffered in January.

MacLeod’s first and only novel, “No Great Mischief,” was published in 1999 to ecstatic reviews. He also published somewhat fewer than two dozen short stories. Nearly all of MacLeod’s fiction is set on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, where MacLeod spent his childhood and maintained a home later in life. In spite of his limited literary output, his reputation remains extremely bright.

For wonderful biographical accounts, please consider reading the following:

“In appreciation of Alistair MacLeod” by Frances Itani, Ottawa Citizen

“Alistair MacLeod, a Novelist in No Hurry, Dies at 77” by Margalit Fox, New York Times

“Remembering a great writer: Alistair MacLeod dies at 77” by Steven Galloway, Special to the Globe and Mail


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