A Sand Book, the fourth book of poetry from lecturer and performance artist Ariana Reines, draws from ancient and occult sensibilities to examine thoughtfully the afflictions of postmodern life. The 12-part epic takes on climate change, mass shootings, family trauma and sexual harassment, all in Reines's singular, deadpan poetic vernacular. The book opens with a seven-page poem titled "A Partial History" that catalogues myriad ways life in a digital culture has reshaped human behavior. Styled like an ancient document recently rediscovered, this opener is a powerful example of what makes Reines's poems so compelling: they have a way of divorcing readers from expected language and culture, creating a distance that allows reexamination of intimate knowledge from a new perspective.
For Reines, alienation is both method and subject. Many of her poems are confessional, at times even painfully so, detailing awkward sexual encounters and describing the painful manner in which acne is distributed across her face. Reines has always incorporated elements of vulgarity and body horror into her poems, insisting, as Julia Kristeva once did, that abjection has a necessary place in feminist literature. Gross as many of the poems in A Sand Book might be, Reines often embeds astute cultural criticisms within her cruder language, as in the line: "Logic is the world robbing you of your boner." Although this book is not for the squeamish or faint-hearted, readers will find a distinct charm in the experimental form and associational style of A Sand Book. --Emma Levy, bookseller at Third Place Books Seward Park, Seattle, Wash.