Catherine Bowman,
(Gibbs Smith, 1993)

It is sad to see this book out of print. 1-800-Hot-Ribs is simply one of the best debuts of an American poet in decades.

Catherine Bowman can work a sestina with breathtaking ease and mastery. This is particularly remarkable, considering that few poets bother with such structure these days. "The Bed" is not only the best lesson on how to write a sestina, it is one of the best American poems of the '90s.

When she is not writing sestinas, Bowman offers us glimpses of her southern heritage that are real enough to taste and smell right from the page. Poems such as "Hurricane Season" and "King Arthur" are as good as American poetry gets.

Nonetheless, this book won't be found on the shelves at Barnes & Nobles. That is because she does not use words with 13 syllables, she does not advertise her sexuality or write in riddles that can only be torn open by Helen Vendler and Harold Bloom. 1-800-Hot-Ribs is not an academic excercise. It is poetry. And poetry doesn't seem to win many Pulitzers these days.

I'll take Catherine Bowman over the newest Nobel laureate any day. 1-800-Hot-Ribs belongs in the class of Phil Levine, Lawrence Ferlinghetti or John Ashberry. That is to say, it belongs in every home across the country.

- Rambles
written by Gianmarc Manzione
published 29 March 2003

Buy it from