Illustrating the Machine That Makes the World: From J. G. Heck's 1851 Pictorial Archive of Nature and Science

Overview


In this book-length series, poems with titles such as “Illustrating the theory of interference” and “Illustrating the construction of railroads” are paired with nineteenth-century engravings depicting phenomena from geology to astronomy to mechanics. Yet the poems relate to the images in an oblique rather than a direct way. Poteat uses this framework to construct a mysterious and engaging book that inhabits many worlds at once, bridging the real and the imagined, the ...
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Overview


In this book-length series, poems with titles such as “Illustrating the theory of interference” and “Illustrating the construction of railroads” are paired with nineteenth-century engravings depicting phenomena from geology to astronomy to mechanics. Yet the poems relate to the images in an oblique rather than a direct way. Poteat uses this framework to construct a mysterious and engaging book that inhabits many worlds at once, bridging the real and the imagined, the traditional and the experimental, the surreal and the ordinary.

As each diagram and scene gives rise to a poem that intertwines the life of German artist and printer J. G. Heck—imagined, as little is recorded—with Poteat’s own, the book reveals a preoccupation with landscape that encompasses both the precision of Heck’s carefully labeled sine waves and brass devices as well as the eeriness of his depictions of skeletal hands or dogs tearing apart a wounded boar. Poteat’s intense interest in the natural world is set against a sense of a world behind the world, where each living thing is properly named and the Spirit glows purposefully above the forest, ready to heal if asked in the correct manner.

From “Illustrating how to catch and manufacture ghosts”: Tonight there is no wind. Even the heat / is on its knees, and the moths laying eggs / on the side door are not being honest / with themselves. Though their enterprise / is beauty, the eggs will not last through / the rains, and so it goes. / A slug, fresh as cinnamon, steps through / the snuffed coals of my stove.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"His first collection, Ornithologies, charted a lyric landscape of birth and memory, which is to say, nostalgia...Illustrating the Machine is a very different journey, into the imagined world of the eponymous text. What makes it so seductive, and so satisfying, is that Poteat—the lyric intelligence behind these haunting, often spectacularly beautiful poems—never quite leaves that earlier world behind." —Pleiades

"A fearless and beautiful use of language, purely original and fiercely rooted in nature and the web the organic world forms with memory, emotion and the deepest part of ourselves — when we let it." —Style Weekly

"I find Joshua Poteat's poetry as moving as any being written today. His first collection, Ornithologies, was wise and piercing and beautiful, and Illustrating the Machine That Makes the World is every bit its equal. From the illustrations and inquiries of the book's opening pages, haunted by change and loss and the mysterious enterprises of every living creature, to the playful vanishing act of its final section, Poteat pays heed to literature's oldest and greatest calling: to tell the truth about things."--Kevin Brockmeier, author of The View from the Seventh Layer

"Joshua Poteat’s new collection is a brilliant, unsettling, unclassifiable, and consummately strange sequence. Poteat possesses something of Joseph Cornell’s zeal to reconfigure but enshrine the ephemeral, and to make from the odd detritus of the past works that are at once exhilarating and elegiac. When we open Poteat’s Cabinet of Wonders, we encounter the work of a true original."--David Wojahn, author of Interrogation Palace

"Poteat’s book, a fascinating and ambitious project, succeeds—arguably like the best literature—in not only catching hold of us through a beautiful and skillful use of language, but through depicting, even creating, a possibility of redemption." —Blackbird

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820334141
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Series: The VQR Poetry Series
  • Pages: 88
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Joshua Poteat’s first book, Ornithologies, won the 2004 Anhinga Poetry Prize, and his chapbook, Meditations, won the Poetry Society of America’s 2004 National Chapbook Award. He has received awards from American Literary Review, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and the Arts, Nebraska Review, and River City.
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Table of Contents


acknowledgments ix

illustrating the illustrators 1

one
Apparatus to show the amount of dew on trees and shrubs 5
Illustrating the theory of twilight 7
Illustrating the theory of interference 9
Illustrating the resistance of the ether 10
Illustrating the seventeenth century 11
Illustrating the destroyers 13
Illustrating the snow line 14
Illustrating that objects on earth can throw shadows into space 16
Apparatus for determining the specific heat of bodies 17
Illustrating the echo in arched rooms 19

two
Illustrating the thirteen transits of Mercury in the nineteenth century 23

three
Illustrating an answer to a question through the order in which a bird reveals letters by eating the grains set on top of them 39
Illustrating the chinquapin oak 41
Illustrating how to catch and manufacture ghosts 42
Illustrating the construction of railroads 44
Illustrating the manner of communicating vibrations to the air 45
Illustrating 47
Illustrating 49
Illustrating the theory of winds 51
Illustrating the theory of ebb and flow 52
Illustrating the machine that makes the world 53

appendix one
the illustrators 57
the theory 58
the interference 60
the resistance 61
the seventeenth 62
the destroyers 63
the snow 64
objects shadows space 65
for specific bodies 66
the echo rooms 67
Ill 68
the ebb 69
Ill 70
the machine 71

appendix two 73
notes 81

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