• "These ambitious poems aim to encompass a mass of intellectual and cultural bric-a-brac....acute and powerful."

 

  • "Its best poems both describe and embody these paradoxes in richly textured language... The book suggests that American poetry remains vigorous."

 

  • "Vellum... moves through moments of historical anecdote, appreciations of artworks and arcane literary references in search of something true... Vellum promises energetic delights."

 

  • "What sheer energy moving horizontally across each line and down the page! Donovan’s lines never buckle or break, never slip into prose. They carry us down long corridors of sensory details, and a confident music persists."

 

  • "Matt Donovan’s first book Vellum displays a mature voice, the voice of someone who has lived and paid attention. There is a hungry intelligence at work here, one that is never flaunted, always shared."

 

  • "Donovan’s fine poetry illustrates how he uses references to bridge seeming gaps between the artistic and the mundane. This is a gift that the best poets possess, that of transcending the limits to the imaginations of many, of seeing the wonders and beauty of the everyday and putting it into words."

 

  • "Brimming with poems that are quietly powerful, Vellum marks the arrival of a commanding new voice."

 

  • "Ornate elements from European art and bruised blue-collar lives from middle America (Toledo, New Mexico, Trenton, and elsewhere) form the poles around which Donovan's lyrical debut revolves. "There's something to be said for the pattern ruin makes," he explains, and his own patterns combine ruin and splendor in the manner of great mosaics, with dozens of noun phrases, lists, memorable names of things, adjacent and conjoined in his long unrhymed lines. "A Blues About Wanting in the End" finds, in a tree destroyed by beetles, all manner of elegy and suffering: "the wood honeycombed, scar-sprawled & furrowed;/ the tangle of channels where the larvae have hatched." "An East Toledo Map of Ash" includes "pastel plastic hangers,// cans, a punctured hose, a framed sketch of orchids streaming from black grass,// black bags cinched with twine." Another poem begins with an epigraph from a medieval historian, and ends in northern New Mexico, where the poet lives now, and where he finds sources of "joy: knitted V-neck cardigans; coyote fence posts// looped with wire; a pair of work boots snared in the telephone lines." Chosen for publication by Mark Doty (who contributes a foreword), Donovan's detail-packed, even bejeweled poems resemble, in spots, those of Amy Clampitt and Albert Goldbarth. Though Donovan's odes may not find the formal complexities of the former, nor the comic variety of the latter, the sheer vigor of his noticings could make him a poet to watch."