Gulf Coast Books

Reviews • Interviews • et Cetera

Reviews • Interviews • et Cetera

Troubling the ‘Water’: New Selected of Lucille Clifton’s Poetry is Fit for Turbulent Times

Justin Jannise

Among the many significant collections of poetry that plunked into the roiling depths of 2020 was Lucille Clifton’s How to Carry Water: Selected Poems, put out by the late Clifton’s longtime publisher, BOA Editions, Ltd., and carefully edited by poet Aracelis Girmay. How to Carry Water joins two previous volumes that each span multiple decades of Clifton’s trailblazing poetry—Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 and The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010—prompting a fair question from readers who may feel that Clifton’s work already occupies a stout presence on their bookshelves. Who really needs How to Carry Water?


Michelle Zauner's Crying in H Mart unpacks grief as she reconnects with her Korean heritage

Ashton Yoo

Before the release of her New York Times bestselling memoir Crying in H Mart, which met national acclaim, Michelle Zauner was a songwriter. Born to a Korean mother and a Jewish-American father, she came up in the Pacific Northwest’s alternative scene. She spent her allowance on CDs and frequented the concerts of local indie heroes like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Soldiers and Modest Mouse.


Alive on Stage: Collaboration, Intimacy, and Perseverance in Ian Spencer Bell’s Marrow

Devereux Fortuna

It's hard to talk about dance and not talk about music. By applying poetry to dance, I create a score that’s particular to my body. I am skeptical of universality; I believe that our lives are particular. Putting dance and poetry together—two different languages that are two personal languages—feels important for carving out my space in the world.


On Genre, Transcendence, Dogs, and Workshop: A Conversation with Jo Ann Beard

Adele Elise Williams

There is always a mystery in literature; not every question can, or should, be answered for the reader. It takes away the power, pulls the punch, to have such a personal experience (as reading) explained in blunt terms. Anyway, it would nearly always be reductive, because reading is a collaborative experience and when you define it too much you erase the reader’s own interpretation.


Writing the Body: Katherine E. Standefer's Lightning Flowers

Sarah Battilana

To make metal is to take the earth apart. The process of taking and refining the materials needed for the manufacturing of electronics, including life-saving ones, often irrevocably disturbs and poisons the nearby land, rivers, animals, and communities. The solvents used to extract the minerals are toxic; endangered species lose their natural habitats; people get sick. In Lightning Flowers, Katherine E. Standefer’s debut memoir, Standefer weaves a narrative of illness and trauma with her research into the ecological and ethical ramifications of the mining and healthcare industry.


Hygge, Racism, Womanhood: An Interview with Leesa Cross-Smith

Ursula Villarreal-Moura

That's what I usually try to do with my books. I have a horrible or wild thing happen then have the characters scrambling to hold their lives together because I feel that's how most people are living. Everyone has something going on and they're trying to keep going and be a person in the midst of all that.


On Lying: An Interview with Peter Kispert

Michael Colbert

We need to elevate queer stories, but when do we even unconsciously designate what gets to be a queer story? The more we resist accepting stories of queer characters who act less morally or ethically than we want for them to, the more I feel we are articulating that we do not accept queer people as equal.


Hiding From the Noise: A Review of Don DeLillo's The Silence

Jeremy Packert Burke

DeLillo’s signature postmodern discomfort is a bad fit for a book that claims to offer “mysterious resonance” with our current, tumultuous moment. In a time when we lack human warmth and connection, perhaps more than ever before, DeLillo’s dissociative nightmare feels ultimately cartoonish and unsatisfying.


Noir Fiction & the Ordinary Menace: a Review of Lee Martin's Yours, Jean

Ellen Birkett Morris

Yours, Jean initially presents the reader with a seemingly placid world populated by average people who find their values tested by unexpected circumstances and look for ways to solve their problems that are outside the bounds of expected behavior. This is an all too familiar notion in a country where innocent people are killed by those who are supposed to protect them, and where justice is rarely done.