Blindsight

Overview

For the title of her newest collection of prose poems, Rosmarie Waldrop adopts a term -- "blindsight" -- used by the neuroscientist Antonio R. Damasio to describe a condition in which a person actually sees more than he or she is consciously aware. Like the dwellers in Plato's cave, what each of us apprehends is never more than tiny fragments of the whole, and it is only with our blindsight that we can stretch our perceptions and understanding beyond our physical limitations. "This is one reason," explains ...
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Overview

For the title of her newest collection of prose poems, Rosmarie Waldrop adopts a term -- "blindsight" -- used by the neuroscientist Antonio R. Damasio to describe a condition in which a person actually sees more than he or she is consciously aware. Like the dwellers in Plato's cave, what each of us apprehends is never more than tiny fragments of the whole, and it is only with our blindsight that we can stretch our perceptions and understanding beyond our physical limitations. "This is one reason," explains Waldrop, "for using collage: joining my fragments to other people's fragments in a dialogue, a net that might catch a bit more of the 'world.'" The collection -- the author's fourth with New Directions -- is divided into four thematic sections. The first, "Holderlin Hybrids," resonates against the German poet's twisted syntax, while using rhythmic punctuation in counter-point to sense. "'As Were,'" says Waldrop, "began with looking at the secondary occupations of artists -- for example, Mallarme teaching English, Montaigne serving as mayor of Bordeaux -- but this soon gave way to playing more generally with particular aspects of historical figures." The title section, "Blindsight," is most consistent in its use of collage, juxtaposing words and images to jolting, epiphanic effect. "Cornell Boxes," in contrast, has a formal unity, inspired by the constructions of Joseph Cornell, each prose poem "box" composed in a structure of fours: four paragraphs of four sentences each, with four footnotes.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Waldrop is the author of more than 15 collections of poetry and 20 books of translations (including Edmond Jab s's seminal The Book of Questions) and a professor at Brown University who has mentored an entire generation of poets. She takes her latest title from a neurological condition in which a person sees more than they are aware of-but adds an intersubjective twist. Addressing the various arcs of life and mortality, the book is intricately sectioned, with parts either dedicated to or containing epigraphs from peers and former students such as Charles Bernstein, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Cole Swenson, Jennifer Moxley, with individual poems within the sections dedicated to more of Waldrop's poet acquaintances, creating a complex layering of poetic connections and perceptions. "H lderlin Hybrids" is a sort of tribute to the German master, while the second section of the book, "As Were," experimentally recreates lives of figures such as da Vinci, Goethe and Mallarm . Waldrop also draws from contemporaries to create collaged poems indelibly marked with her own philosophical, and often deeply beautiful, language, infused with doubt: "taking your hand, or someone's/ for fear that writing/ though waiting for it, would/ make me a shadow,/ or from fatigue, worthy/ of the dark." (Oct.) FYI: Set for simultaneous release with the above title is Waldrop's Love, Like Pronouns, using similar forms to further address the various modes and conditions of love, connection and intimacy. (Omnidawn, $12.95 paper 128p ISBN 1-890650-14-5) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811215596
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 10/19/2003
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Read an Excerpt

BLINDSIGHT


By ROSMARIE WALDROP

A NEW DIRECTIONS BOOK

Copyright © 2003 Rosmarie Waldrop
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0811215598


Chapter One


IN A DOORWAY


FOR LISA JARNOT

1

The world was galaxies imagined flesh. Mortal. What to think now? Think simple. Matter? A lump of wax? An afterglow? Or does everything happen of its own accord? Perfect and full-bodied. No more. Observable. No longer. In your eyes or line of sight. Down all three dimensions of time. Or lock up the house. Or prophets.

* * *

Here I work toward. A kind of elegy. Here a strange ceiling. "Earth fills his mouth." I would look at you. And write you. A spell but slack at the edge. And in the door where I stand your voice goes. Hollow.

* * *

If what happened. (Happened?) Hand. Between palms. Grief. Death. Coffee with cream. Coffee. Arms, knees and free will. And shiny. Rainbows.

* * *

The words have detached. And spread throughout my body. Such reckless growth. Windbag! Want to see come full circle the wheel? To comment. My own commentary till I till. My own great-granddaughter's body?

* * *

Absence. But it cuts. Repeat. Furiously Yes then No. Even a fictional character catches a chill. Makes the heart. And cold penetrates. We do not fall off the surface. But you, planet earth. Grow. Even as we read. Fonder of the dark.

2

Electric bulb. How the words are. Suspended around you. And. Bones in the body.

* * *

In packets comes the voice. Often have I emptiness, it says. Emptiness is enough and as good as within. If your own strength carries your bones let emptiness. Lift them up to the sky. Often have I attempted the sky but it hears me not. The way corollaries are and the air. Transparent. Or not. Head wrapped in fog. But always always the earliest memory. Comes. Not as light but sluggishly. More visible must. More like a weather vane must memory. Then it revolves in feeling. In pubic hair. As if taking place.

* * *

Grass grows. But stalagmites too rise from below. Else out of order the world. And the more blurred, the more lost in thought. That water rises as the pipes burst we understand. Which is why the need and power to see an oak and think "oak." Is given us. And transparent flesh. And the eye, most dangerous of lense, is given. So that we should see and imagine and think and be out of the question. So that we might weigh our answers with scales. From our eyes fallen.

* * *

Nowhere among the living. He remains. No razor gathers.

* * *

Strange things happen and unexpected. Not that I to you. Want to expose myself. And flesh touching flesh cannot explain. Innumerable cells. Spreading inward.

3

Something else it is. To leave your house and cross the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Aegean, Pacific. So many were killed. And to stand each. In a doorway. And say I don't live here.

* * *

In the dark leaf nerve fibers spread out and from the brain. Scatter and like flames. From the spinal cord. Stinging. And stimuli from every. By ravenous hunger overcome. Transmitting backwards and forwards. "Nerves" more than seven. Dwarfs hi ho off to work. And farewell to the personal. Pronoun.

* * *

So Mohammed. Rinaldo. Barbarossa. As divided into fragments. The emperor Heinrich. I am however mixing up the centuries. But gloom there is. In every needle, thread, and cloth. Crossed the Alps and with his own voice sighed "some things ..." And his son Konrad of poison died. Hark ye the horn of the watchman at night. And hair. Away from the body grows.

* * *

Tendons. Muscles. Sweat. Interrupt their conversation. A man. A man by the sea. A woman. The earth and its inhabitants. Antigone. Antibody. Anathema. Discrimination, fine. What is a body? Moves. Passes water. Again and again.

* * *

When above the poem flames. And coal black the dream. Round the soles of your feet because. The earth pulls your body. More fiery through spheres plunged. But lovely it is the soul to unfold. And the sand burning.

4

The moon is a thin line and we see a thin line. By Thebes and thieves! let not our names be blotted out.

* * *

The things that enter one's skull. But a real skeleton. With key. And describing your eyes the dark.

* * *

Plainly a heavy heart. Can it bring about death? Impossible to understand. But when heavy the feet yet venture out. On a path you know as long. As you live you. Cannot die.

* * *

A horse stares unblinking. You slap a tree trunk as if. To imprint all that's the case. Or a snow goose high above the globe. Where are you?

* * *

Stripes. Blue lilies. You know your neck. (Not your mind.) Is damp with sweat. And like the more solid vase both. Not without limits.

5

Narcissus, clematis, ranunculus, rancor. All the forces of flesh. And spirit clash. Shrieking birds inside your body. As when you say both Yes and No instead of music. To your own questions. As if flesh were not. Grass death should for- get to mow. The ship anchored. In your head goes up. In flames and time backwards.

* * *

You should take everything. Except your shoelaces. To heart. Which moves within the flesh. And should.

* * *

My friend. Take care not to die. Not be torn to pieces. And let not because we're raw. Gods lash with waves our flesh. And its muscles and fibers and vessels and fat. And with this spell move on. If indeed life is. A dream it had better be. A good one. Which goes to the heart. Yet the world is all air. My luck to hear scholars debate the word "smoke" and not. Suffocate. Whereas imaginings take shape. As though in this world.

Chapter Two


1

Penetrates to the bones. The cold. Inside which marrow. Over which we must a woolen blanket spread. Another person's body should lie. On yours and upside down the sun. But in the wind crows. The vane.

* * *

When down the stairs. And think "I'll make tea" or "Why is our happiness steeped in longing?" As if they were the same. A little darker then. So isolated in the mind a human figure. Sail boat. Elephant.

* * *

Mind's eye if concealed. Knife if sharpened. If I were a figment in somebody's head the pain could not be. This strong. Let not darkness fall. On the space of missing memory. Hard is it. To fill with lemons. With children too. Just air.

* * *

The windows the bells ring through. As if gates. Because still modeled on nature, on trees, the gates. And autumn wind. The image of the moon in water. Has been blown away. Out of all the molecules and atoms rise higher and higher buildings. Muting the air.

2

Movement however. How does it come? Do I think I'll spread my legs before I spread my legs? Whom (whose legs) do I imitate? May a woman. From the mess of her life look up and say: let me be. Like the heroine in a novel?

* * *

As long as her legs are covered with fine hair and rain. Falls mixed with hail. Her ankle measures up against any Albertine, Anna, Hester, Molly, Dorothea, Emma, Sonja, Natasha, and Mme. Chauchat. Is only herself a woman? Is manifest as a view of trees her nature? Is she hiccuping?

* * *

Iron rail. Of thumb. Not to stumble where your boldest. Dreams stand between.

* * *

Such is the sight of the sea. Reverses time. And he thought he'd only have to cry "Mother." Under water. And his love. No purer a tango in the starry night, if I may say. Than his purpose to hold close her body.

* * *

Is there love on earth? Difficult to think about. What is deep inside. But lovely the envelope of the body. Because it envelops. I discover late in life the ancients. Had already studied diseases of skin.

3

To bleed in body and heart and fall among particles. Does this please the Gods? The Angel of Death is abroad. The soul I believe must leave its house in the morning lest. Howling dogs cavort among orifices. And the voice of. So many birds.

* * *

In a major key: dear old body how you pass. In August. From one year to another. Like a telescope through the Milky Way. I know you well but a sharp pain cuts. Through my stomach. And sinks like a stone down to the bottom. And is not an idea. And the moon I see enter the window. I don't without good reason compare. Floods the plain.

* * *

This I know. The scales flash silver under the knife and the pike. Ceases to think. And Heine is covered with the Hebrew for blanket. But my body aches from. The mare I ride through the night. In my dream we did not sit together.

* * *

Butterflies however fluster me. As they flutter. Almost unreal. All my desires it is true. Are presumptuous. Would I like to be a comet? They are swifter than birds and flower in fire. But skin is only external. And one thing touches another. More than air moves about in waves.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from BLINDSIGHT by ROSMARIE WALDROP Copyright © 2003 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Holderlin Hybrids 1
I In a Doorway 3
II In Early November 12
III Evening Sun 21
IV Unaccountable Lapses 30
V At the Sea 39
As Were 49
Leonardo as Anatomist, Repeatedly 51
Vesalius as Apprentice, Fabrication 53
Montaigne as Mayor, in Motion 55
Hernando de Soto as Writer, Intrepid 57
Goethe as Type, Morphological 59
Mallarme as Philologist, Dying 61
Tatlin as Tower / Erect 63
Kafka as Son, Irrevocably 65
Stein as Exact Resemblance, Exact 67
Musil as Potential, Aloof 68
Zukofsky as A, to Follow 70
Blindsight 73
Acquire Within 75
Urgent Silt 77
Profit 79
Latent Settlement 81
This 83
Instead of Splinters 85
Certainties 87
Lens 89
Mensurations of the Moon 91
Antibody 93
Images 95
Cornell Boxes 97
Enigma Box 99
Ice Box 101
Jack in the Box 103
Star Box 105
Letter Box 107
Cinder Box 109
Box Camera Box 111
Tool Box 113
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