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My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge: Poems
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My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge: Poems

by Paul Guest
 

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My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge is a fierce and original collection—its generosity of voice and emotional range announce the arrival of a major new poet.

At the age of twelve, Paul Guest suffered a bicycle accident that left him paralyzed for life. But out of sudden disaster evolved a fierce poetic sensibility

Overview

My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge is a fierce and original collection—its generosity of voice and emotional range announce the arrival of a major new poet.

At the age of twelve, Paul Guest suffered a bicycle accident that left him paralyzed for life. But out of sudden disaster evolved a fierce poetic sensibility—one that blossomed into a refuge for all the grief, fury, and wonder at life forever altered. Although its legacy lies in tragedy, the voice of these brilliant poems cuts a broad swath of emotions: whether he is lamenting the potentiality of physical experience or imagining the electric temptations of sexuality, Guest offers us a worldview that is unshakable in its humanity.

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Sun-Times
“Guest takes the reader on a path like few contemporary poets offer.”
Mark Strand
“A beautiful, breathless torrent of language that is dark or insightful or funny or any combination thereof, but always on the mark, always riveting. . . . My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge is a terrific book. ”
Jorie Graham
“Astonishing.”
Publishers Weekly

Paralyzed in a bicycle accident at age 12, Guest as an adult has turned his serious anger, his irrepressible energies and his sex drive into an instantly recognizable and passionate style. This third collection (his first from a New York trade house) comes with a blog and the promise of a memoir, which should raise the profile of these poems. On the one hand, the zigzag free verse portrays the poet's frustrations, "twenty-one years/ into the telling of a poor joke,/ made of pain, nerves snuffed like wicks": "No music but smashed guitars/ would be enough." On the other, the poems race, churn and tumble over themselves with a welcome, often R-rated, power of invention. Guest (Notes for My Body Double) might be Percy Bysshe Shelley crossed with Nick Flynn, or Neruda fused with Dean Young, at once perpetually dissatisfied and breathless with anticipation. A poem called "Audio Commentary Track 1" brings in "stuporous public sex/ at skating rinks and professional wrestling matches," along with "lethally ascetic Canadian monks," then explains, "To me each convulsive sob sounds like joy." Guest's fast-paced, sometimes even offensive third volume could be a poetry hit. (Dec.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061685194
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/06/2010
Pages:
81
Sales rank:
1,323,372
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge

User's Guide to Physical Debilitation

Should the painful condition of irreversible paralysis
last longer than forever or at least until
your death by bowling ball or illegal lawn dart
or the culture of death, which really has it out
for whoever has seen better days
but still enjoys bruising marathons of bird watching,
you, or your beleaguered caregiver
stirring dark witch's brews of resentment
inside what had been her happy life,
should turn to page seven where you can learn,
assuming higher cognitive functions
were not pureed by your selfish misfortune,
how to leave the house for the first time in two years.
An important first step,
with apologies for the thoughtlessly thoughtless metaphor.
When not an outright impossibility
or form of neurological science fiction,
sexual congress will either be with
tourists in the kingdom of your tragedy,
performing an act of sadistic charity;
with the curious, for whom you will be beguilingly blank canvas;
or with someone blindly feeling their way
through an extended power outage
caused by summer storms you once thought romantic.
Page twelve instructs you how best
to be inspiring to Magnus next door
as he throws old Volkswagens into orbit
above Alberta. And to Betty
in her dark charm confiding a misery,
whatever it is, that to her seems equivalent to yours.
The curl of her hair that her finger knows
better and beyond what you will,
even in the hypothesis of heaven
when you sleep. This guide is intended
to prepare you for falling down
and declaring détente withgravity,
else you reach the inevitable end
of scaring small children by your presence alone.
Someone once said of crushing
helplessness: it is a good idea to avoid that.
We agree with that wisdom
but gleaming motorcycles are hard
to turn down or safely stop
at speeds which melt aluminum. Of special note
are sections regarding faith
healing, self-loathing, abstract hobbies
like theoretical spelunking and extreme atrophy,
and what to say to loved ones
who won't stop shrieking
at Christmas dinner. New to this edition
is an index of important terms
such as catheter, pain, blackout,
pathological deltoid obsession, escort service,
magnetic resonance imaging,
loss of friends due to superstitious fear,
and, of course, amputation
above the knee due to pernicious gangrene.
It is our hope that this guide
will be a valuable resource
during this long stretch of boredom and dread
and that it may be of some help,
however small, to cope with your new life
and the gradual, bittersweet loss
of every God damned thing you ever loved.

My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge. Copyright © by Paul Guest. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Jorie Graham
“Astonishing.”
Mark Strand
“A beautiful, breathless torrent of language that is dark or insightful or funny or any combination thereof, but always on the mark, always riveting. . . . My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge is a terrific book. ”

Meet the Author

Paul Guest is the author of three poetry collections, The Resurrection of the Body and the Ruin of the World, which won the 2002 New Issues Prize in Poetry; Notes for My Body Double, which won the 2006 Prairie Schooner Book Prize; and My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge. The recipient of a 2007 Whiting Award, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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