“Toxic masculinity” has become a hot topic in debates over gender and culture, yet one might not think to turn to contemporary poetry as an arena rife with this discourse. And yet, in his uncompromising debut collection, García lays bare the routines of abuse that often repeat themselves over generations: a father walks out on his family; his son becomes a father (twice over by 21) who then treats the women in his life miserably. The result is a speaker who is deeply flawed, often unlikable, at times despicable, yet whose voice is marked, paradoxically, by silence: “my throat / a casket closed and rusted shut.” In response to this silence, the speaker must confront his own urge to flee. When he is discovered cheating on a girlfriend, the speaker’s frailty is revealed: “the shell of me, hung / from a metal hook behind the door, trembling.” Elsewhere, the speaker cleans the apartment while his partner sleeps and recalls his father cooking dinner and crying. In these ways, García’s speaker exposes his own vulnerability and, perhaps, moves toward redemption.
—Diego Báez, August 2018
Boxing fans know Hauser from his extraordinary biography Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times (1991) and from this annual series, which details the previous year in boxing and typically includes some always-meaty profiles. This year’s edition opens with a dual profile of two charismatic boxers of the 2000s, Jermain Taylor and Kelly Pavlik. Both held titles, and both succumbed to the pitfalls that often await successful young boxers: too much fame and money too soon, and a support team unable or unwilling to say no when things start veering out of control. This piece is Hauser in a nutshell: compassion, character, and context. He also includes some lighter reminiscences, such as a story about the time Ali awoke to an elephant in the yard of his Michigan home. There’s also a conversation Hauser had with Russian boxer Wladimir Klitschko in which they discussed Pythagoras and agreed it is probably a rare topic among boxers and the journalists who follow them. On the more reportorial front, he explores concussion-based CTE as it manifests itself in boxing and looks at the curious doings of state boxing commissions. As always, an annual delight.
—Wes Lukowsky, August 2018