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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry


Rosmarie Waldrop

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To purchase Blindsight

Title: Blindsight
Author: Rosmarie Waldrop
Genre: Poetry
Written: 2003
Length: 114 pages
Availability: Blindsight - US
Blindsight - UK
Blindsight - Canada
  • Two sections -- Blindsight (1998) and Cornell Boxes (2001) -- were previously published as chapbooks

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting, often effective style, but much remains elusive

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
American Book Review . 9-10/2004 Thomas F. Dillingham

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The complete review's Review:

       Blindsight collects four poetry-sequences. The sequences are prose-poems, but the style and approach varies in each.
       The first and longest section is of Hölderlin Hybrids, and, as might be expected, sharp, short sentences and word-clusters dominate. At its extreme, a section goes:

Tendons. Muscle. 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.
       Elsewhere, sentences are allowed to play out more, but a Hölderlin-like abruptness prevails.
       The second section, As Were, imagines the other lives of artists -- Leonardo da Vinci as anatomist, Montaigne as mayor, Mallarmé as philologist, Kafka as son, and the like. The most approachable of the poems, based as they are on the at least vaguely familiar, they offer the thrill of recognition as well as creatively imagined visions of these figures.
       Blindsight offers a sequence of prose poems of similar length, but without clearly being anchored to the familiar remain the most elusive. The first stanza of "Certainties", for example, goes:
A frame supports what would, on its own, collapse. Apple trees pilfered from a novel, the firmest possible squeeze of the hand. the same skin in and out. But we can laugh to dissolve the already. Though there are things that elude us, there for the money.
       Appealing, but perhaps that frame isn't all that sturdy.....
       Finally, Cornell Boxes (as in Joseph Cornell's boxes) presents 'boxed' poems, each with four stanzas, each with four sentences and with four footnotes. While largely accessible -- and in poems such as the John Hawkes-homage, "Jack in the Box" very effective --, the footnotes, in particular, prove a bit confounding, more outgrowths or little spurs than traditional explanatory notes.

       Waldrop's poems read well, but too much seems wilfully kept at a distance. Waldrop notes that "major sources" for the collection include everything from Angela Carter's Saints and Strangers to Hans Reichenbach's The Philosophy of Space and Time, but the connexion is not made obvious to the casual reader. It's perhaps a sign of success, that she's covered her influences so well, and yet so much is so obviously referential that the reader may well feel left out.
       An interesting but not entirely satisfying collection.

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Reviews: Rosmarie Waldrop: Other books by Rosmarie Waldrop under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Rosmarie Waldrop was born in Germany in 1935 and has lived in the United States since 1958. A well-known translator, she is also, along with her husband Keith Waldrop, the publisher of Burning Deck Press.

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