Telling the Bees by Faith Shearin is a collection of poems that processes and recounts the relationships she has with her dog, her daughter, her parents, and with herself. While there were moments of intrigue, especially in the poems ‘Scurvy’, ‘Telling the Bees’, ‘Floods and Fires’, and ‘Dust’, the rest of the collection felt like it lacked depth. This can be seen in poems such as ‘Rewind’ which was about watching movies in rewind and wanting to be younger. Though, the poem didn’t go any further than that, and I would’ve liked to see a specific moment which was rewound or dug deeper as to why she wanted to be younger. I was also a little apprehensive about the poems ‘Lizzie Borden’ and ‘Typhoid Mary’ which both seemed to lay out what each person did wrong, but ultimately created an empathetic image in the end. This unsettled me, which may have been what Shearin was going for, but both seemed to be outliers in their sentiments in the collection. Overall, the collection didn’t feel specific/granular enough.
Final Rating: 2.5/5
The Iowa Review Spring 2021 is a collection of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction published by the University of Iowa. This issue heavily focused on the voices of veterans within its fiction portion. There were some bright spots in the issue, namely ‘Coelacanth’ by Ellis Scott, ‘The Lantern’ by Greg Wrenn, and ‘Routes’ by David Lombardi. These stories, at least, felt authentic with unique voices and twinges of queerness that I felt like I could relate to.
However, I was deeply disappointed with the rest of the pieces featured. Many of the stories written by and about veterans carried with them a staleness like in ‘Where’s Charlie?’ by Erik Cederblom. The story relied too deeply on the narrative of the prideful and just America, that all nuance was lost. No new ground felt like it was trod since many of the stories featured white male protagonists and didn’t critically view America’s actions as it related to war. The enemy was generally vilified and the only story to critically think about the military, ‘He Said, She Said’ by Jerri Bell, eventually fell in line with that narrative at the end. I was also not impressed at the poem ‘Dire Offense’ by Mark Levine as it seemed to become incoherent with a nonsensical stanza listing random nouns. It dragged on far too long and also relied too heavily on an unconventional rhyming scheme. Overall, I expected a more critical issue.
Final Rating: 2.5/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.