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Virginia authors present poetry, fiction, politics and memoir to kick off the new year.

Because existence is uncertain, his narrators relentlessly name the knowable world, as if cataloging can protect us against our own disappearance. He brings us closer, not merely through a rich inventiveness, but through the narrative position itself, which is reverent of all it observes.

In "Nocturne: For the Night Workers of the South," he is a night watchman at an asylum, where "when it rained,/spotted-moth larva would tunnel from the wet plaster ceilings/and drink the patient's ears." In "Our Memory, the Shining Leaves (Waterford Fair Civil War Reenactment)," while watching a faux battle, he focuses on a boy who "searches the field after the skirmish/looking for a trace of what he saw (gold button: hank of hair:/glass eye in a raven's mouth)."

This is not a poet who needs a soapbox, but one who begs a small and gentle witness to the largest questions of existence. And his world is our world — built on a type of loss that the South can "understand: each thing is of itself./Each thing is its end." The poems in "Ornithologies" deserve a national audience. Read them to discover why. Poteat graduated from the master of fine arts program at Virginia Commonwealth University (1997) and is married to the poet Allison Titus. They live in Church Hill. — Darren Morris

You will not find any fancy balls or cornfields in the 214 pages of "June of the Corn Huskers Ball" (BookSurge, $14.99). You will, however, find one family's history, espionage and hidden treasure.

Primarily set in the finer parts of Richmond, this book is a passionate and quick read. Mitchell's wealthy Richmonders and their employees are deeply involved in everything: each other, politics, Nazi plots and procreation. One wonders how the three generations of Whitleys get anything done. They are deeply involved in affairs, embezzlement schemes and rampant cheating. They are well-to-do, not well-behaved.

June is recovering from a failed relationship with another woman when her aunt reveals her hidden genealogy and sordid family history. On the same day, more family secrets and criminal activity are uncovered. The plot becomes interesting when the characters struggle with their newfound identities, but deadens in its overuse of quotes and clichés. "June of the Corn Huskers Ball" is full of action but is delivered in an overly casual style. However, the Utopian future of this family makes it all worthwhile. B.K. Mitchell has worked on four novels and lives in Virginia. — April A. Brown

In his ninth book, "How America Got It Right: The U.S. March to Military and Political Supremacy," (Crown Forum, $25.95), Virginia war maven Bevin Alexander dashes through the entire breadth of American history in 250 pages in an effort to prove that the United States is the only beacon of wisdom and goodness in an otherwise evil — or at best wishy-washy — world. Relying on specious and circular arguments, Alexander presents American history as if it were a long series of military battles, and he concludes that what's good for America is what's best for everyone else.

Beginning with a celebration of the indomitable pioneer spirit, Alexander paints a black-and-white version of history with a mile-wide brush. He dismisses the genocide of American Indians in a single sentence as "not reflecting credit on the government or the pioneers." He calls slavery "a huge blind spot," which he later asserts is rectified entirely by the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.

Assuming as a given that the American way of life and everything political, military and economic that is required to maintain it is absolutely good, Alexander minimizes or ignores any negative impact of U.S. policies at home and abroad, and he expresses indignation at those who question his position.

"How America Got It Right" is so simplistic and fervent that even readers who share Alexander's politics may find it a waste of time. Readers looking for a thoughtful, persuasive analysis of America's role in the world will not find it here. — Mary Mullins

Charlottesville resident Susan Garrett writes about her mother, Alice Benedict Jackson, through the lens of an adult daughter piecing together a collage of memories, photography, history and speculation in "Quick-Eyed Love: Photography and Memory" (Southern Methodist University Press, $22.50).

Traveling back to the Philadelphia of her girlhood, Garrett zooms in on the personal and back to the universal, as she tries to make sense of her mother's life in the context of a previous generation and the options available to a single woman in the era of World War II. Making a living as a photographer, Garrett's mother skates outside the periphery of success while longing for the comforts of domestic life. Equal parts ordinary and extraordinary, she rubs shoulders with the famed Alfred Stieglitz and just misses the opportunity to display a photograph on the cover of the debut issue of Life magazine. Garrett does not sentimentalize or judge her mother; rather, she places her memories in a historical context that gives her unsung life and photography an element of the eternal.

Defying the memoir genre by not placing herself at the center of her own story, Garrett ruminates on the ethics of war photography, the moral influence of photographs in journalism and the transition of photography from a pragmatic device to a whole new genre of art. While not attempting to create an exhaustive history of the craft, Garrett is still thorough and never shies away from the science of the camera or the photograph, peppering her text with black-and-white photographs that have left the deepest and most meaningful impressions in her memory. A beautiful elegy from daughter to mother, "Quick-Eyed Love" is also a homage to the photograph, shot with words. — Valley Haggard

Also recently released by Richmond authors: the novel "A Searching Heart" (Burkeshire Press, $14.95) by Judith E. Vido; "Children's Choices: What Would You Do?" (Thumbs Up Press, $12.50), for young teens, by Sherry Sheffield; and "Forget-Me-Not, Forget-Me-Never, Remember the Fun We Had Together: Reminisces and Memories of New York" (Jay Street Publishers, $13.95), photos and letters by Katherine Barrett Baker.


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