5. Drag the Darkness Down, a novel by Matt Baker. Good picaresque Arkansas novel in the vein of Portis and Donald Hays (from whom the title comes). There is a world beneath the surface of this novel, a world of secrets and mystery. Odom Shiloh is trying to bring his sister home. His head is full of stories about the Shiloh family, put there by his father. I'm reminded of Wayne Johnston's The Divine Ryans at times because of the sense of a character running simultaneously from and towards discovery. Baker's got real promise.
6. Opening Up the Trees, a poetry chapbook by Jason Venner.
7. Oxide Songs, a poetry chapbook by Jason Venner. I met Venner at a reading at which we were both features, at the Soundry, in Vienna, VA. He graciously gave me copies of these two books of prose poems. Good stuff. Trees has a nice swath of poems about Venner's time in Prague. Very compelling. Songs, though, opens up with a solid emotional underpinning. These poems ache their way to the truth.
8. The Apple that Astonished Paris, by Billy Collins. Collins' first book. Many of these poems read like children's verse. There are a handful of standouts--enough to make a solid chapbook. One of the main problems is the lack of emotion; Collins skims over anything profoundly touching. This is something I've been told he has overcome in later work, though I can't say, myself; I've read only the odd poem here or there.