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Against the Meanwhile: 3 Elegies
     

Against the Meanwhile: 3 Elegies

by Mark Irwin
 

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Mark Irwin’s boyhood near the nuclear laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, haunts his poetry. This book of three elegies explores the nature of remembered time and space—personal, historical, geological—against the progression of time—evolution, germination, cell division, nuclear fission, the decay of memory and feeling. This, the poet says,

Overview

Mark Irwin’s boyhood near the nuclear laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, haunts his poetry. This book of three elegies explores the nature of remembered time and space—personal, historical, geological—against the progression of time—evolution, germination, cell division, nuclear fission, the decay of memory and feeling. This, the poet says, is a kind of “fossil record” of science’s impact on the modern world. Entropy (the tendency of atoms towards disorder) becomes a god, a blueprint for possibility. Disorder—frenzy, darkness, chaos—leads to evolution and evolution to order, harmony, and beauty. A star burns and sunlight falls on the world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The specter of nuclear holocaust serves as a backdrop against which Irwin's ( The Halo of Desire ) central themes are brought into sharp relief. The time-honored symbolism of the cycles of nature evinces death and rebirth, but redundant and mundane imagery is redeemed by striking combinations of scientific and esthetic perceptions. For example, Irwin's point that all entities in the universe are interconnected, made of the same elements but given different forms, would be hackneyed were it not for the vivid and imaginative illustrations he finds within the world of nature. And so, in the first elegy, ``The Wisdom of the Body,'' he splits open a cocoon and discovers ``a thick and formless jell / the caterpillar gone, / dissolved to a fetal pool of white. / Its center diminished to everywhere. / We too once moved in a sleep like nothing / when liquids giving form / spelled out time's possibility. / So too when put in the earth / the body gives up shape.'' (October)
"When Hegel spoke of poetry as 'the sensuous radiance of the idea' he might well have bee referring to Mark Irwin's extraordinary new volume of poems Against the Meanwhile. These meditations on loss serve as elegies for places, people, and memories given up to history, to passage, to faithlessness. Geological and evolutionary time loop through these poems, weaving together the historical, the personal, and the natural, providing a dazzling perspective that is unique in American poetry."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780819511515
Publisher:
Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
10/05/1988
Series:
Wesleyan Poetry Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
79
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.25(d)

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What People are Saying About This

David St. John
“When Hegel spoke of poetry as ‘the sensuous radiance of the idea’ he might well have bee referring to Mark Irwin’s extraordinary new volume of poems Against the Meanwhile. These meditations on loss serve as elegies for places, people, and memories given up to history, to passage, to faithlessness. Geological and evolutionary time loop through these poems, weaving together the historical, the personal, and the natural, providing a dazzling perspective that is unique in American poetry.”
Norman Dubie
“These three long elegies are major clusterings of lyric outcry. Irwin reminds us that the rising water is supported by a falling water. The field of epiphany, here, is unlikely, pure, but lawful of a physical world. It is a splendid book.”

Meet the Author

MARK IRWIN was graduated from Case Western Reserve University (B.A. 1974, Ph. D. 1982) and the University of Iowa (M.F.A. 1980). An associate professor of literature and philosophy at the Cleveland Institute of Art, he has also taught at Case Western Reserve and the University of Akron. He received a Discovery/ The Nation award in 1984. Irwin is the author of The Halo of Desire, and the translator of A Notebook of Shadows, by Philippe Denis, and Ask the Circle to Forgive You: Selected Poems of Nichita Stanescu, 1964-1979. His home is in Cleveland.

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