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The Game of Boxes: Poems

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  107 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The second collection by Catherine Barnett, whose “poems are scrupulously restrained and beautifully made” (Edward Hirsch, The Washington Post)

Everyone asks us what we're afraid of
but children aren't supposed to say.
We could put loneliness on the list.
We could put the list on the list, its infinity.
We could put infinity down.
--from “Fields of No One to Ask”

In Catherine Bar
Paperback, 88 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Graywolf Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-29 of 231)
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Jee Koh
Of Catherine Barnett's James Laughlin Award-winning book, April Bernard, one of the three judges, wrote, "With subtle and cumulative force, The Games of Boxes builds a complex poetic structure in which fundamental questions about motherhood, trust, eroticism, and spiritual meaning are posed and then set in motion in relation to one another."

There is a danger here of mistaking mere repetition for "cumulative force," for what is most obvious in reading this collection is the limited range of poet
Karlo Mikhail
Very nice. Won over by the plainspoken and restraint side by side with the playfulness and the repetition. Love the sequence pertaining to childhood / motherhood anxieties, less so the vague sensualism of the latter verses.
Exploring corners and planes of thought

Catherine Barnett has found her voice and it at times is reassuring while at other times disconcerting, yet no matter the direction each poem takes, the result is a flow of words that imprint on our minds and from there grow into our own permutations - seeds planted from the mind of the poet grow into thoughts tangential to our own experiences. That is what good poetry should do and Barnett makes that journey one we wish to revisit often.

There is a selectio
Spare, intense, erotic. These are startling and resonant poems that I am still savoring long after reading.
Christina Rau
The speakers in Catherine Barnett's The Game Of Boxes vary among the innocent child, the adult in duty, the unsure woman, and the third person observer. That variety offers a renewed look at the world with every poem. Most poems show her mastery of minimalism, using specific nouns to elicit tone without needing the backstory, the excess words, or the title to speak for the poem. Though some poems veer into enigma, most become clear when considered in the space of the collection.

Most of the poem
D.A. Gray
Receiving this turned out to be pleasant surprise.

Barnett seems to find the sublime in the subway, in a discussion of religion, alone, or in a simple game played with the speaker's son. In addition to the slice of life moments, Barnett has 14 poems each titled "Chorus," which switch to third person and give these poems the feel of a Greek drama, the chorus being the collective refrain of the play.

I think the collective feel keeps each from staying pigeonholed as 'confessional' poetry -- we're ch
Andrea Blythe
It took me a while to connect with the poems in this collection. Some poems I had to reread several times until they began to click (though I think the distance had more to do with my headspace than with the poetry. Once it did click, though, I discovered poetry that took the everyday and commonplace and didn't so much as elevate it, as roll around in it, feeling the sharp and soft edges and appreciating them for what they are.

The collection is split in three sections.

The first, "Endless Forms
Literary Review The
Catherine Barnett
The Game of Boxes

By F. Daniel Rzicznek

"The Game of Boxes" was reviewed in The Literary Review
"Loss Control" Fall 2012

As a writer, I create yearlong, but because of my position as an instructor of English composition, summer remains my season of “play,” three months when I treat writing like a full-time job. The giddiness of this freedom echoes back to my distant but distinct existence before summer jobs like golf caddying, dishwashing, bagging groceries, and even, one summer, un
Susan Rich
Catherine Barnett is a poet you need to read if you are of this century but also a little bit lost in the past. This is a beautiful book that invites the reader into a crystalized world --- written --- I can only suspect --- long past midnight. The poems are meditations on urban life told with perfect pitch of high and low culture. the game of boxes ( starred review in Publisher's Weekly)is my pick this week.


Down at the grocery store, tacked to the board
flapping in the wind,
the business
Three perfectly competent series of poems that somehow don't ever quite impress. There's a really strong idea, for example, in the way the "Chorus" poems work in the first section-- the poems in that section explore the bond between mother and child (or son). Here, then, "Chorus" are the poems from the boys point of view, and they are appropriately high spirited, aloof, adventurous, and a little scary. But they don't go anywhere with it; the poems never fully bubble over but instead revisit the ...more
I love this!

Everyone asks us what we're afraid of
but children aren't supposed to say.
We could put loneliness on the list.
We could put the list on the list, its infinity.
We could put infinity down.
--from “Fields of No One to Ask”
Charlotte Pence
Simply put, one of my favorite poetry books that I've read lately. Surprising. Haunting in a delicious way.
Apr 19, 2013 Jeff added it
I don't want to dedicate stars here because I don't want to bash a poet on her highly-touted second work. And I know she won the Academy of American Poets Award and I know the other reviewers seem to be in love here, but I was pretty unimpressed by this work.

Nothing challenges, nothing is unique or traditional. It reads like someone who wanted to write what she always thought poetry was but never considered what it could be.

I feel bad writing this, don't want to knock someone around here. So I
Mark Bruce
Lovely little book that teeters on the precipice of abstract poetry without ever quite going over the edge. Of an optician, she writes: "She has custody of my eyes/and the way my eyes see..." In another poem she describes how a science student makes a model of the heart "until it looks like the model of a coat he might hang/ on a hangar with other missing coats." E Rey once in a while she does stoop to using those Latinate words which indicate the poet is still unconsciously trying please her pr ...more
I read the whole book in one sitting. Then I read it again the next day. This is something I rarely do with poetry books, but I think that as the first two sections are written as contained sequences, they read better as a whole. The poems are beautifully and carefully made, very satisfying to read and surprising how much energy and life they hold inside them. I love this book. I'll read it again and again.
"The night is covered/in books and papers and child" is representative of the writing and subject matter of this good collection of short poems. I do not find these poems exactly lyrical, but they do open some nice, ambiguous spaces in a longer sequence like "Sweet Double, Talk-Talk." At certain moments, Barnett almost breaks into the dream-like, compacted brilliance of a Jean Valentine. Those are good moments.
This book has three distinct sections. I didn't care for the first (a mother's imagined voices of a kind of Lost Boy tribe), loved the second (a jaded loved caught by an erotic fascination), and thought the third was okay (a competent but unexciting case of urban ennui).

A better than average collection.
I think I need to read this book a few more times before I can give it a decent review. The poems are easy to read, but they have a density to them. Some of the themes in the book include abandonment, loss, and love, both the purely sensual kind and the kind of a mother given to a child.
Sep 25, 2012 Nicole rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
These made me nostalgic for things I've never experienced. The quick transition from motherhood in the first section to lust in the second section really threw me off but I liked the twisted timeline of sorts.
David Sam
Seemingly simple verse that explodes in meaning and emotion.
Gerry LaFemina
Strong book of lyric poems, the long poem in the middle that chronicles the complexity of feelings for another through acute and agile word play is particularly lovely!
Nov 13, 2012 Aran rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
I wasn't entirely convinced until the middle section "Of All Faces"-- slim, sexy, slightly-rhymey.
Award-winning, but I failed to understand why.
Jaclyn Norkus
Jaclyn Norkus marked it as to-read
Aug 06, 2015
Liz marked it as to-read
Jul 27, 2015
Amy Pence
Amy Pence marked it as to-read
Jun 09, 2015
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