Los Angeles Review of Books, 2016
"Mine would be a perpetual crabwalk, personal, a winding detour, like my experience,” the poet Joshua Weiner tells us—with characteristic understatement—of what he hopes to achieve in this wonderfully observed memoir of Berlin as the city reckons with the ever-increasing flow of refugees from the Middle East. Weiner brings his poetic eye and sensibility to each of his encounters over two trips to the German capital, from the pubs and public squares to interviews with refugees and wide-ranging intellectual discussions with other artists and thinkers.
The “problem” of the refugees—so commonly seen on the front pages, so commonly glossed over as a result—becomes a matter of deep personal inquiry for Weiner as he crisscrosses the city, trying to understand what’s happening, what ought to be happening, what people of good conscience can do and abide. Weiner is an unfailingly reliable, perceptive, and good-humored guide, and by its end Berlin Notebook (and the people who live within its pages) achieves what all good books achieve: it brings us closer to life as it is really lived in a tumultuous time and place—as Weiner memorably describes it, “one step from the border between meaningful connection and the economy of the lost."
--Jeff Himmelman, contributing writer, New York Times Magazine
The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Bookended by two exquisite long poems--pocket epics in the manner of Tranströmer's Baltics or Oppen's Of Being Numerous--Joshua Weiner's new collection is a rare accomplishment. Weiner offers a consummately searching admixture that reminds us that history and politics cannot pretend to rationality or linearity; they cannot even be stratified. Weiner has a near-prophetic ability to instruct and warn us, whether he is writing in the gentle voice of Whitman or the grim consequences of the contemporary war on terror. The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish is a book of moral seriousness and unflinching ambition.
From the Book of Giants
University of Chicago Press, 2006
Joshua Weiner’s new book is a wonderful example of how politics and art can come together in a way that is wholly unexpected. In a strange, bold amalgam of domestic narrative, political allegory, and lyric inventiveness, Weiner looks at politics from the vantage of a disaffected householder who has bizarre, visionary tendencies. The public and private spheres have completely collapsed into each other, and every attempt at solace, honest communication, or honorable action is being relentlessly undermined by the threat of death, by public lies, and by wholly inflexible ideologies that are always and everywhere diametrically opposed. But these poems in their prescience also transcend the category of political poems: they are works of original perception, poetic skill, and genuine strangeness. This is a wonderfully mature and original book.
The World's Room
University of Chicago Press, 2001
Two powerful qualities lift Joshua Weiner's wonderful first book, The World's Room: music and moral generosity. These poems are a true pleasure to read aloud, and they have great human empathy. Weiner's cheerfully candid, fresh voice, his innovative but unfussy way of putting a poem together make me want to read more by the maker of this memorable, distinguished and disarming book. —Robert Pinsky
At the Barriers: On the Poetry of Thom Gunn
University of Chicago Press, 2009