cover image The Earliest Witnesses

The Earliest Witnesses

G.C. Waldrep. Tupelo, $18.95 trade paper (130p) ISBN 978-1-946482-48-8

The reverent seventh book from Waldrep (Feast Gently) is a moving meditation on the distinctions between the corporeal and incorporeal, and the space where the two might overlap. The work opens with the lines “I strode into the woods in a brute faith, certain the forest/ would give me what I needed,” perambulating and reflecting on his physical surroundings and internal landscape. “The eye is always a lame master,” the speaker remarks as he contemplates vision as a metaphor for what can and cannot be perceived. The titles of many of these poems reference their settings, from “Blue Heron, Marlborough” to “Pentecost, Risby,” and the delightfully titled “On Being Mistaken for ‘Part of the Art’ at the Mattress Factory Museum in Pittsburgh.” Wherever the poet goes, the ethereal is interwoven with the tangible and described in strikingly rich language: “The grapes on the table glitter in the humidifying pleroma: feast of argon, feast of tin. Tear the veil away, earth’s nude calendar of saints.” Elsewhere, he admires the religious inquiries of 20th-century French philosopher Simone Weil and declares that time is something “the body registers dimly in its cathedral of cells,/ its telomeres, its intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglia.” Waldrep’s poems sing with a metaphysics and lyricism that is distinctly original and fiercely sublime. (Jan.)