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Cleaver Magazine started the New Year with a bang: four great reviews out this week on our Reviews page, including Kenna O’Rourke’s take on the second poetry collect by Cleaver Poet, 22-year-old phenom Jerrold Yam (Issue 3).

by Nicole Callihan
Sock Monkey Press, 72 pages
reviewed by Anna Strong
The startling beauty of Nicole Callihan’s SuperLoop lies in the balance the poems strike between the specificity and universality of childhood memory. The strongest poems take us deep into a place of colorful, youthful imagination, full of the unexpected juxtapositions that only retrospection can bring. The poems retrieve those crystal-clear moments in childhood when we make our first brushes with what it means to be a grown-up—a death in the family, divorce, a new word, and ultimately, the realization that our parents are no more perfect than we are. Callihan constantly crushes and compresses those moments of innocence and experience together, as in the the title poem.…read full review

by Rina Terry
Texture Press, 102 pages
reviewed by Shinelle L. Espaillat
We tend to equate the word “prison” with concrete, metal and despair, ostensibly as means of change or as a tool of rehabilitation. In her new collection, Cardboard Piano, Rina Terry reveals multi-layered evidence of the transformative power of art versus stone. Anyone who is familiar with Stephen King’s prison stories, The Green Mile and Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption (or at least with the movie adaptations thereof) expects to question the prison system and to explore the humanity of both the inmates and the guards. Terry’s words push the reader to consider the realities of an in-person search for and confrontation of that humanity, in all its potential glory and obloquy.read full review

by Jerrold Yam
Math Paper Press
reviewed by Kenna O’Rourke
Jerrold Yam’s second poetry collection was titled with care: like the image of scattered vertebrae, these poems are at once beautiful, dark, and disturbing. Yam weaves family life, social expectation, religion, and tragedy together so ornately that at times one does not realize what they’re reading. This technique generally makes for compelling and delicate poetic image, but at times the disorientation feels less deliberate—Yam’s is a poetics that requires rereading, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. It is a poetics of “pleated identity” (31), turning away from singular intent or simple subject matter, and its difficulty reflects the personal sense of unease that Yam confronts throughout: unlike some collections, here one can safely equate the speaker with Yam himself…read full review

MERMAID: A Memoir of Resilience
by Eileen Cronin
W.W. Norton, 336 pages
reviewed by Colleen Davis
When I read a memoir, I feel like I’m climbing into the kitchen of someone I’ve never met to see if their recipes for life trump mine. It’s amusing—and sometimes shocking—to discover the great variety of messes humans can create with similar ingredients. Lives get twisted and re-shaped by crazy family members, creative impulses, and random events. But some people get a truly strange variable thrown into their stew. Eileen Cronin, for example, was born without legs. You might think that if you’ve spent your earthly time in prime physical condition, her story will not connect with yours. But that’s not how Cronin’s memoir, Mermaid, comes across. Sure the young Eileen is at a great disadvantage in her early years. She must “squiddle” from one place to another instead of walk. But once she’s old enough to get prosthetic legs, her challenges start to resemble those of typical teenagers….read full review