Phosphorescence of Thought

Peter O’Leary. Cultural Society (SPD, dist.), $17 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-0-9773401-9-4
Exuberant and intellectually rewarding, alert at once to a panoply of sciences (especially ornithology and ecology) and to religious discovery, the first book-length poem (his fourth book overall) from the Chicago-based O’Leary (Watchfulness) should enchant and fascinate readers of many descriptions. O’Leary’s lines—some ornate (“Little once-abundant mystery streamer”), some pared-down (“held/ to the body/ of the bird”)—follow a wren on a tour of Des Plaines, Ill. That tour becomes, in Whitmanesque fashion, a guide to the whole of creation, with its intricately sublime, interdependent systems of water and air, plants and animals, and with its human beings, building, classifying, harnessing and sometimes destroying what predates our kind. Wrens and other birds (especially falcons), with their power to travel, to see from above, connect heaven to earth, intellect to body, human to wholly alien experience; O’Leary’s language, in turn, connects the recondite, the expert and the contemporary (“Cuneal wren. Boytroidal mind”) to the sacred, “the visions conjured in its hymns.” Spanning the globe, exploring Greek myth, accompanying astronauts into space (where “there are not boundaries to what you are seeing”), or getting literally down to the earth, this poem incorporates many forms, many exclamation, many vocabularies. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/28/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
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