Reviewer’s Notes

Bruce Smith

When Emily Dickinson was asked where she thought poetry came from she replied “Philology and Cherubim.”  Michelle Bonczek Evory’s book seems to hold both language and angels in mind with the clear emphasis on the poem being delivered from sources both immediate and accessible.

Naming the Unnameable strikes the right tone for students and for instructors in that it enters the “poetry mind” in the act of making. It’s a creative writing text. It’s not interested in interpretation but the making of original poems. The text is clear in its goals, and its emphasis is with process and discovery oriented learning rather than, say, historical or critical learning. The preface states that it connects both to the “now” and to “the knowledge of what came before so we feel connected to poetry’s tradition and participate in its lineage.” Clearly the emphasis is on the now, the practitioner’s immersion in the craft and the making of poems from personal experience. The emphasis is on “spontaneity and freewriting.” I’m convinced that Michelle Bonczek Evory knows her stuff and I’m persuaded that she’s in touch with the New of the title’s New Generation.


Bruce Smith was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He is the author of six books of poems, The Common Wages, Silver and Information (National Poetry Series, selected by Hayden Carruth), Mercy Seat, The Other Lover (University of Chicago), which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, Songs for Two Voices, and most recently Devotions, a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the LA Times Book Prize.  He received the 2012 William Carlos Williams Award.  His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Partisan Review, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, and many others. Essays and reviews of his have appeared in Harvard Review, Boston Review and Newsday.  He teaches at Syracuse University.