In his debut collection Praise Nothing, Joshua Robbins orients us both to the need for seeking greater spiritual awareness and the disappointments of such seeking, as in the lines “Nothing / is new here under the sun / beating down in mid-April / where no one is looking for the infinite.” Throughout an array of locations, from the silo-dotted plains of Kansas to the hippie-infested waters of India’s Sangam or even a ladies’ room at a local Wash ‘n’ Shop, Robbins reminds us of the importance of the way the internal landscape of the psyche interacts with the actual physical place in which the seeker may find himself. We travel the via negativa through suburbs and strip malls, stopping briefly outside a church, “beneath / the sky’s after-services light, [where] everything / had the consciousness of the angelic.” These are God-haunted and God-questing poems that do not result in easy or comfortable affirmations and realizations.
Excerpt: "Robbins’ writing is like the empty air that opens over soy fields. It’s clean, no-nonsense. 'Pure' maybe, in a lapsed Christian’s cosmogony. Damn effective too; it’d be hard to imagine a line like 'a five dollar bill pressed/into my sweaty palm, then a fumbling/of button fly, and his tongue/a close rhyme of desire and cold sky' being handled with more aplomb. So too with 'dug a hole into Kansas silt loam/and dropped into it the plastic baggie/with his ashen remains. Nothing then/but distance in every direction.' Limpid is the word maybe, or perspicuous. Which is not to imply that Robbins is prosaic; no, his clarity is necessary to accentuate the material’s solemnity." Click here to read the full review.
Excerpt: "Stepping into the world of Praise Nothing is like getting lost in a forsaken prairie of violence, AM gospel radio, 1950s R&B, strip mall laundromats, trailer parks and truck stops. Joshua Robbins is foremost a storyteller, working in a formal but simultaneously colloquial style, with many poems structured in the traditional tercet stanzas of Dante, yet peppered with diverse pop figures like Buddy Holly and Janis Joplin and small-town entertainments like drinking where 'empty tallboys glint' and 'hotboxing' in a 'junk-crammed singlewide.' ... Robbins, a finalist for the 2013 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize, is afraid of neither formal structure, colloquial language nor the often dark world around him." Click here to read the full review.