Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

What are You Recommending, Mary Jo Bang?


NBCC members and finalists and winners of our book award were eligible to vote in the winter edition of the NBCC’s Good Reads. Here’s what poetry finalist and NBCC member Mary Jo Bang recommended and why:

In Tendril: Poems (Omnidawn) Ramke uses allusion (science, literature, low culture, philosophy and aesthetics) to create a historical overlay that compliments his own take on the human state of complaint and the slim comfort of amazement. His enduring Romantic lyric themes are one with the postmodern world where Ovid and Diane Arbus stand side by side and poems progress by means of repetition and revision, word slippage and etymological asides. The result is a smart, expansive, moving, yet entirely unsentimental, meditation.

Amy Bloom’s Away (Random House) places a young woman — half-vamp, half-ingénue — in an epic setting where, because she’s a quick study and is possessed by a driving need, she survives against the odds (until she doesn’t) with verve and wit. Side stories weave in and out of the main one until the book becomes as much about story telling as the story told. The book begins with the sentence: “It is always like this: The best parties are made by people in trouble.” Bloom well knows that the best stories are about people in trouble.

Mary Jo Bang is the author of four previous books of poetry, including Louise in Love and The Eye Like a Strange Balloon. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where she is a Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Washington University.