Patrick Pritchett - Best of 2016

It's that time of year again -- time for the dreaded "Best Of" list. You can read my full screed on my blog. For those of you who just want to cut to the chase I've appended the list by itself below.

The Ratio of Reason to Magic | Norman Finkelstein | Dos Madres Press
Archeophonics | Peter Gizzi | Wesleyan UP
Of Beings Alone (complete) | Lissa Wolsak | Tinfish
Day for Night | Richard Deming | Shearsman
Falling Awake | Alice Oswald | Norton
Poesis | Rachel Blau DuPlessis | Textile Series
Lay Ghost | Nathaniel Mackey | Black Ocean
The Laughter of the Sphinx | Michael Palmer | New Directions
Poems Hidden in Plain Sight | Hank Lazer | PURH (France)
Exile’s Recital | Andrew Mossin | Spuyten Duyvil
The Sampo | Peter O’Leary | The Culture Society
Ask Anyone | Ruth Lepson | Pressed Wafer
Memory Cards: Thomas Traherne Series | Susan M. Schultz | Talisman House
I Rode with the Cossacks | Bill Corbett | Granary Books
Fugue Meadow | Keith Jones | Richochet
Self-Portrait as Joseph Cornell | Ken Taylor | Pressed Wafer
Dianoia | Michael Heller | Nightboat Books
Sowing the Wind | Ed Foster | Marsh Hawk Press
House of Lords and Commons | Ishion Hutchinson | FSG
Gap Gardening | Rosmarie Waldrop | New Directions
You Ask Me To Talk About the Interior | Carolina Ebeid | Noemi
Ravenna Diagram | Henry Gould | Lulu Press
Song of the Systole | Matthew Gagnon (ms.)

Snow and Dry Stones

From: Paul Nelson
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2016
To: Ruth Lepson
Subject: Snow and Dry Stones

Dear Ruth,

What a well-written, lucid and important account of Charles Olson you give in Letters for Olson! I saw your name and the names of other friends in the table of contents and flipped around in the book. Some essays are incomprehensible, or at least they were for me. Maybe I could read again, but some do not seem worth the effort.

Yorio Hirano! Yes, and your essay. That you give testimony from Diane di Prima is wonderful. This has been an issue with me and a younger poet who says "of course Olson was misogynist." This is related to one issue that prompted many Trump voters. When you go to ELEVEN on the racist meter for Romney, how can anyone take you seriously when you try for TWELVE on that meter for Trump? Or, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

YES to the poetry of our time that will survive! Yes to multiculturalism! Death to Yepez! (OK, not death, but maybe a bad limp or something.)

Anyway, thank you and Seasons Blessings.


Ask Anyone Review by Kevin Killian

As published on

Ruth Lepson’s “Ask Anyone” from Pressed Wafer Press is condensed a la Niedecker and must weigh something less than a postcard. It is the size of a Polaroid photo and features something of the sort on the front cover—actually a product of the camera obscura of the contemporary Boston-based artist Abelardo Morell, “Ten Sunspots on My Door.”

The book also comes with a musical treatment like the old days in San Francisco of poetry with jazz, so that Jack Spicer read with Dave Brubeck’s sidemen and Kenneth Rexroth made a new career out of it. It is still a “thing” here in the Bay Area and the eternally young Ruth Weiss can frequently be seen giving shows with a small ensemble. The East Coast, Ruth, is just as adept writing lyrics that lend themselves to musical treatment, and the skilled players respond to her swinging, modulated voice in a way that heaves everyone up to the top of their game. (The band is called, “Box Lunch.”)

Of the poems, everyone knows I’m a sucker for Ruth Lepson’s writing, and what a delight to have this book, small enough to fit into my back pocket and yet deeper than a well, a complicated blend of refreshment and piquancy. Like her compatriots Fanny Howe and John Wieners she is excellent at love poetry, and “Knowledge in Black” and “Relaxed” have the easy shine of poems you have known and loved for ages, and yet each of them in brand new, not only in fact but in feeling.

- Kevin Killian


August Kleinzahler

August Kleinzahler is called the pugilistic poet because he's critical of a lot of poetry, but he sent Bill Corbett, my publisher, a postcard saying "Ruth Lepson is the real deal. Tell her I said so." I wrote to thank him & he wrote back that "the pulse of [my new book,] ask anyone, immediately lifted his own. MOST invigorating. Always thrilling to find signs of life on a dying planet."

So you might want to consider buying it at or thru amazon or SPD or your local bookstore. Because Bill says August gives compliments like throwing manhole covers.

Fuse Poetry Review: “ask anyone” — Giving a Slant to Meaning

Written by Allen Bramhall /

Poetry is an argument consisting of syntax, sound, sense, and sensation. No, there’s no news in it. Poetry provides a place where we see language go somewhere, and we ride along with the human interest the words generate as they move along. Keep that elemental starting point in mind because it is key in appreciating the latest book by Boston area poet Ruth Lepson. Her poems embrace that argument, and they do so in a spare and modest way.

ask anyone seems like an exercise in reduction. Lepson’s poems intersect with small moments and particulars. The book’s design underscores that idea. It is a thin, white, squarish thing. The gray-scale cover photo shows circles of reflected light on a door — the magic of ordinariness. Author’s name and book title in tiniest practical font sit above the photo. The same tiny sans-serif font graces the pages within. Nothing splashy here.

Review by Jack Kimball

As featured on Jack Kimball's website:

There are ways to paint, it’s said, while attending to other things, other senses, for example, listening carefully to sax improvisation, feeling thirsty.

If you keep mixing enthusiasms you’ll be taking from one medium, giving to another as well as yourself — this sensual, sensible give-and-take seems the core of Ruth Lepson’s ask anyone, a libretto of 66 short poems. Seeing painting, teaching, writing, performing in this manner lets Ruth make her points with sweeping economy of means and argument. The poem “knowledge in black” visualizes a pun, “switchmen... questions / are green” sleeping “stationery things.”

Please read the full review: