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Atmosphere Conditions (New American Poetry) Paperback – October 1, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This volume, selected by Nathaniel Mackey for the 1998 National Poetry Series awards, is likely to be among the more challenging collections the casual reader of poetry will encounter. Fractured grammar, fragmented images, assertions, and hesitations all shape the curious landscape of Roberson's verse; at times, it is difficult to say precisely what this is all about, except the experience of being black and trying to create poetry in America at the present moment. Roberson's rhythms owe something, it seems, to straight-ahead jazz and the revival of spoken poetry in poetry slams, and readers who have enjoyed similar efforts may appreciate this poet's visions of "a black hole/ some speak of as astronomical/ but you know as maybe your next breath/ against air's wall of mirror without image/ which itself is a mark a meteor/ of absence." For larger collections.AGraham Christian, formerly with Andover-Harvard Theological Lib., Cambridge, MA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: New American Poetry (Book 35)
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Green Integer (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557133921
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557133922
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,778,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By [d]awn lonsinger on January 30, 2005
This book will leave a splinter in your bedroom, jar you obvious. Roberson is provocative, hinges together surprising, insistent subjects--the experience of being black with the unpredictability of the cosmos; atmospheric forces with the force of psychological cruelty; Hiroshima's shadows with New York subway art--and the result is unhinging, the couch riven underneath the gravity of "none of the faces finishes / its song," for "gravity is in plainer language / where everything sinks in." Boldly political, Roberson asks what occurs to a person when presence is absence, whole the same as hole? When "location costs / when race costs schools / cost cost costs you / your choice?" These poems, which at times seem as if they are one long poem, loom "the very person of difference / fallen into / the hole of appearance."

Roberson occupies fragments (formally and thematically), as if to simultaneously create and navigate the dislocation / disarticulation, which he, almost literally, embarks upon, "the crossless river." Again and again the language of being withheld from, contained in, of loss, surfaces: "A design in the halls that keeps failing;" "disappearance / into landscape;" "The polymaths of obliteration;" "blood homed in on the / heart's press;" "this nullification in the same / -ness of the unrelieved...;" "all my dances / lean against falling;" "I seem to know / what to do in the ashes."

While reading, I felt as if I was in a state of matter between states of matter, where heat & pressure transmogrify the natural, somehow articulate the tirelessly tread upon, the mitigated.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tuor on January 30, 2005
Ed Roberson works on a near prelinguistic level here: only essentials, as in essence or ephemerality - this last a dominant concern of the book traced through images of burning, ash, streaking meteors, dis/appearing figures and invisible but palpable personal histories. Strikingly, syntax seems to be inessential to communication, although many groping grammar-poor word clusters might leave readers feeling shut out of the deep well of private perception Roberson generates this work from.

In his political/social poems, he seems to boil vast times & spaces of injustice down to several pages. Many poems here involve these themes somehow, but they are barely graspable in Roberson's idiolect. It's as though he's crushed all the blackness of pain (and vice versa) down to some scintillating verbal diamonds internally, then, with a further pressure, has crushed the diamonds into poems.

These are not epiphanic or revelatory pieces as such: rather, you are swarmed by fragments of suggestive language, scenes "in parallax" so extreme as to extend weirdly into a warped version of our world - or, perhaps, a hyperaccurate version stripped of any distraction that clouds the sight. Reading poems individually is unsettling, but reading them as continuous phrases of the larger book leads to a slow-formed sense of settling in right beside Roberson when he says, "And, mammal, in the river sweat of these dreams/I float asleep naked on my back."

This is how Roberson wants us to take him: in a stance of his choosing, in utterances given the urgency of what surfaces in that strange half-awake, half-asleep drift where sometimes dreams strike us with a purified truth.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By not a poet on January 29, 2005
Roberson's broken line makes me think of splintered bones in bodies, mending in grotesque and unseen ways. The book's a little confusing for me. Reading the poems in narrow units doesn't help, but with a bigger frame in mind, you may find the book hitting some switches inside you. So bash your head against the book and it'll give off some light but chances are good you won't recognize the things you see. This is probably a good thing. Honestly, I don't know.

Half a eureka moment (for me) came when I read the poem, "Strata." The ideas of slavery, boats, waters, fracturing, wholeness and Osiris circle one another. "ol hannah's osiris / and what rivers / and mississippis mean to us" Osiris, once god of water and rivers, and later, lord and judge of the dead, was once human until his death by dismemberment. Pieces of his body were cast into the Nile. Skipping ahead: his body was reconstructed and he became immortal.

Though this might be vague and a stretch: the book seems to undergo/accomplish something similar in/with language and experience. and history (?).
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