Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy

Keith Waldrop, Author . Univ. of California $19.95 (201p) ISBN 978-0-520-25878-5

Waldrop has long been a major force in American avant-garde poetics, and this substantial new volume is big news indeed. Comprising three sequences—each almost a book in itself—plus an epilogue, it is an extended philosophical meditation on what are, broadly, the major themes of all poetry: perception, the imagination, the body, and how the human inner life interacts with the larger world. In mostly short, jagged free verse pieces, Waldrop goes at these lofty concepts head-on in accessible, if cerebral, language. The speaker of the first sequence, itself composed of six sets of lyrics, lists and a longer poem, attempts to prove the claim that “I saw... everything/ that was happening on earth and can/ describe the hum of clouds.” The second sequence is a set of discrete poems made up of sentence fragments and aborted thoughts that strive toward completion and correspondence: “Most suicides/ in May, June, July. Unusual/ heat drives most toward God. A/ cul-de-sac.” The last is, again, a set of sets of poems, the most compelling of which, called “Carriage—a Transition—” pours lyric bursts down the page. The volume concludes with a longer poem called “Epilogue: Stone Angels” that meditates in a Rilkian mode on cemetery statues, which “are/ the opposite of perception: we/ bury our gaze in them.” These poems are similarly entrancing. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/16/2009
Release date: 03/01/2009
Open Ebook - 216 pages - 978-0-520-94329-2
Hardcover - 201 pages - 978-0-520-25877-8
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