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Transfer of Qualities
     

Transfer of Qualities

by Martha Ronk
 

Transfer of Qualities addresses the uncanny and myriad ways in which people and things, but also people and those around them, exchange qualities with one another, moving in on, unsettling: altering stance, attitude, mood, gesture. Each entry in the book probes the dissolving boundaries between those sharing space with one another; and the various cross-genres

Overview

Transfer of Qualities addresses the uncanny and myriad ways in which people and things, but also people and those around them, exchange qualities with one another, moving in on, unsettling: altering stance, attitude, mood, gesture. Each entry in the book probes the dissolving boundaries between those sharing space with one another; and the various cross-genres in the book—prose poem, creative non-fiction, personal essay—echo the theme of inter-dependence. Material things often seem amazingly alive and tropic—a puppet or toy, a plate, a rug underfoot, a dim photograph on the wall across the way—and this collection follows in the footsteps of other authors also obsessed with the boundaries between life and death, the moving and the still, the stone-like book and the vivid stirring within the pages. There are many authors behind Transfer of Qualities, but the major genie of the piece is Henry James whose musings on his own, The Sacred Fount, provided the book’s title and direction.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/23/2013
Ronk’s 10th collection takes as its central tenet the idea that people and objects engage in a deep kind of transference. That is, in any interaction with a thing, a person’s desires and thoughts are imprinted on the thing, and some aspects of the thing rub off on the person. This thesis of sorts is established at first with small prose poems that take their cues from Stein’s Tender Buttons, poems titled “The Cup,” “The Folded Muslin,” “Corroded Metal.” But the association with Stein stops there: “We wonder what, if anything, objects want, if our rearranging satisfies some hidden need not only of ours but of theirs. Things found in the gutter and rescued, we say, are given another life, but as what—to be looked at, handled, to be made into what one wills…” Ronk’s collection of “various objects,” books, photograms, people and portraits dominate the collection, which moves from prose to lineated poems, to essays, to brief passages of nonfiction, seguing into topics of representation, death, mourning, love, and intimacy with the physical world. “…breakable bowls, plates, pitchers, and vases. If a piece is old and it has been broken and mended, its fragility exposed by means of glue and cracks, it seems ever more profoundly touched by the sensual and uncanny.” (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Ronk’s collection of “various objects,” books, photograms, people and portraits dominate the collection, which moves from prose to lineated poems, to essays, to brief passages of nonfiction, seguing into topics of representation, death, mourning, love, and intimacy with the physical world.—Editors, Publishers Weekly

“Martha Ronk places before us a series of such freighted objects—objective correlatives, dialectical images, call them what you will. These are objects—material or written—which collapse time, reshaping the perspectives of their owners. It may seem strange to the contemporary reader that such an occupation still bears our attention, especially when objects in our grasp tend to epitomize disposability (how quickly the iPhones replace themselves!), but Ronk’s work clarifies just how rare and crystallizing these moments of recognition tend to be.”—Benjamin Landry, The Rumpus

Library Journal
"Nothing has an essence of its own, but is what it is only in relation to all that is around," writes Ronk (English, Occidental Coll.), winner of a PEN USA Award for In a Landscape of Having To Repeat. Her new collection is philosophical, asserting that people have no individual identity: they are shape-shifting entities composed of objects beside them, things that continuously affect their essence—which isn't an essence at all. Rather, it's an existence, and one constantly in flux. The collection includes poems, prose poems, and short reflections that resemble snapshots of those changes, illustrating the transfer that occurs between people, objects, and ideas, as is suggested by the book's title (taken from The Sacred Fount by Henry James). "People and even things are changed by what they touch," says Ronk, "just as cool objects can turn the skin cool." True, maybe. VERDICT Told as interior monologs, these are language poems about objects like streetlights and paperclips. Ronk uses few metaphors and instead relies on surrealistic musings which, although engaging in their own right, do not necessarily make this a strong collection of poetry.—C. Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781890650827
Publisher:
Omnidawn Publishing
Publication date:
04/01/2013
Pages:
88
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.40(d)

What People are Saying About This

Richard Deming
Ronk’s latest collection gathers together the everyday and the particular in order to think through—feel through—how it is that the material lives of things and objects make claims upon us and we upon them. These prose pieces offer again and again a subtlety and brilliance that leaves no thing short of voice and intensity. To read this work is to fall back into the world and all the ways it means its materiality.
Maggie Nelson
Martha Ronk’s Transfer of Qualities belongs to the same tradition as Stein’s Tender Buttons and Ponge’s Le Parti pris des choses, but Ronk’s homage to the “not-me” of objects, and of others, is suffused with an elegance, melancholy, and intimacy all her own. Her meditation offers quiet, multiple, and profound insights into intimacy, grief, and the “residue of lost time.” In the words of Henry James—patron saint of Transfer—this generous book is “disposed for human use and addressed to it." It truly gives, and "gives out."

Meet the Author

MARTHA RONK is the author of nine books of poetry, including Partially Kept (Nightboat Books), Vertigo (Coffee House), a National Poetry Series Selection, and In a landscape of having to repeat (Omnidawn), a PEN/USA best poetry book 2005, and Why/Why Not (University of California Press). She has also published a fictional memoir, Displeasures of the Table, and a collection of fiction, Glass Grapes and other stories (BOA Editions 2008); her poetry is included in the anthologies Lyric Postmodernisms (Counterpath Press), American Hybrid, (Norton), and Not For Mothers Only (Fence). She had residencies at Djerassi and The MacDowell Colony, and taught summer programs at the University of Colorado and Naropa; in 2007 she received an NEA Award. She worked as editor for Littoral Books and The New Review of Literature, and is the Irma and Jay Price Professor of English at Occidental College in Los Angeles, teaching Renaissance Literature and Creative Writing.

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