The Sunday New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, the New Criterion and the New Yorker regularly review poetry, generally a specialized affair featuring writers like Helen Vendler or Dan Chiasson known as poetry experts.
New York Times daily book critic Dwight Garner stands out as one of the few generalists who give attention to poetry.
His review Wednesday of Molly McCully Brown's first collection, "The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded," made me want to immediately find the book.
Brown's poems are a historical look at the Virginia institution that from 1910 through the 1950s involuntarily sterilized mentally defective patients. That kind of eugenic abuse was common at state mental hospitals. Another practice, unmentioned by Garner, was lobotomy.
Most of Brown's book is made up of first-person narratives that tell the stories of individual patients, giving voice to their humanity after they had been discarded by their families.
She also writes autobiographical poems about growing up near the institution, renamed the Central Virginia Training Center.
Garner says that Brown, who has cerebral palsy, displays a haunting affinity for the long-forgotten patients, who were often dropped off at the mental hospital in the dead of night.
With historical imagination and a gift for clear yet memorable writing, Brown sounds like a young poet who deserves a wide readership. In giving attention to such writers, Garner is carrying out his critic's duty to the fullest.