Winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
Longlisted for the National Book Award
“Her writing is queer and raunchy, raw and occult, seemingly never pulling away from her deepest vulnerabilities. Yet Reines simultaneously maintains a feeling of epic poetry, of ancient intention.” —Diana Arterian, The New York Times
A Sand Book is a poetry collection in twelve parts, a travel guide that migrates from wildfires to hurricanes, tweety bird to the president, lust to aridity, desertification to prophecy, and mother to daughter. It explores the negative space of what is happening to language and to consciousness in our strange and desperate times. From Hurricane Sandy to the murder of Sandra Bland to the massacre at Sandy Hook, from the sand in the gizzards of birds to the desertified mountains of Haiti, from Attar's “Conference of the Birds” to Chaucer’s “Parliament of Fowls” to Twitter, A Sand Book is about change and quantification, the relationship between catastrophe and cultural transmission. It moves among houses of worship and grocery stores, flitters between geological upheaval and the weird weather of the Internet. In her long-awaited follow-up to Mercury, Reines has written her most ambitious work to date, but also her most visceral and satisfying.
The fourth book from Reines (Mercury) is ambitious in its scope and artistic vision, offering a postmodern take on the epic poem. Like some of the major long-form poets who have preceded her, among them H.D., Lorine Niedecker, and Adrienne Rich, Reines inhabits and renegotiates the space of the long poem. The nine-part poem's sprawling scope considers Hurricane Sandy, the mountains of Haiti, and Twitter, offering conceptually interesting passages and a wholly original response. Despite these strengths, the poems in this volume occasionally traffic in abstraction, failing to ground vague concepts in sensory detail: "Many of us had succumbed to quivering/ Idiocy while others drew vitality from careers." Throughout the book, Reines's enjambments heighten the sense of irony that characterizes her approach to the feminist epic. She writes, for example: "Nothing she meant to make a big/ Deal of, only some tiny budging/ Of memory." The poems operate primarily on the level of ideas, rather than through lyrical language, though the speaker's deadpan tone does not always succeed in creating the sense of momentum needed to propel the reader through this textual landscape.