“It’s a rare poet who can look the muse in the eye and speak through or with her as Reese has done in this fragmentary and insightful collection, which reads both as a form of exegesis, literary criticism and dialogue, as well as a love poem to literature. It is at once a beautiful composition in its own right, and an illumination of the magic and mystery of composing verse, addressing the poets’ many sources of influence and inspiration. Reading it, I envisioned a stone skipping across the surface of our literary history, leaving ever-expanding circles behind it before sinking into the water. And while the muse, Renate Ștefan perhaps the alter-ego of Steven Reese, or the reborn Reese as the name suggests, might be like the skipping stone, it is the circles left in her wake that the writer is left with, that he delineates and celebrates in this remarkable text.” —Nin Andrews
“Manzano’s poems go beyond the traditionally circumscribed lyric, beyond the often humble and household range of so many contemporary poems. Translating those poems, and talking with Manzano about his work, was to experience that energy and ambition at close range, too close indeed to avoid being affected by it permanently Manzano offers one of the great gifts of translation—to be changed oneself in the process of that other, impossible change: moving a poem out of one language into another.”—Steven Reese, translator of Synergos
Since early in their history, Americans have been seen as restless, rootless, given to wandering; that trait forms the central thematic thread in American Dervish. In poems that range from the historical to the personal, from somber to comic, from free to formal, the book explores this propensity for constant motion on multiple levels, and its results: dislocation, loss, nostalgia, delight, discovery, even a kind of wisdom. Taken together, the poems suggest a close tie between renowned people and places in the country’s history—Annie Oakley, Vachel Lindsay, Philadelphia, Tombstone—and the contemporary individual’s journey of identity, whether it be as citizen, parent, partner, poet, or simply observer of a culture forever on the move.
“Steven Reese explores a wide range of quotidian mysteries in language that puts on such a performance—vigorous and surprising, punctuated by leaps like a dancer’s—the poems never settle down or settle for less: they keep moving and pushing. Some passages explicitly pay homage to silence and listening, the great parents of true voices, and the result is that everything here counts. But the boon for us is that, while acknowledging those sources, Reese unflaggingly spiels his lovely spiel, too delighted with the gift of speech to turn minimal on us. The mode here throughout is what I’d call High Palaver, the tongue both at play and deadly serious. The combination makes for a debut that leaves the reader persuaded there’s definitely enough light to steer by but surely not yet near enough of Reese’s poetry to read.” –Philip Dacey