From Publishers Weekly
Clearly and intensely focused, this 14th collection from Eshleman flows among styles of critical analysis, narrative, image and verse and invents a new form of phenomenological ekphrasis in the process. Eshleman centers the work on concrete and beautiful descriptions of cave paintings. His musings on the nature of metaphor, and its roots in the primal act of creating a figure, may not be radically groundbreaking, but they find a clarity that is as much of Plato as of Lascaux: "An animal drawn on a wall/ puts a window into that wall." "Notes on a Visit to Le Tuc D'Audoubert" includes jottings and figures, a sort of record of the first perceptions of a resonant space. But the book's real strength lies in the honesty of its attention to the deep, fearful, mortal stirrings of poetic consciousness, as well as about the visionary and beautiful ones: "The main thing that kept me going was a blind belief that if I worked through the sexism, self-hate, bodilessness, soullessness, and suffocated human relationships that encrusted my background, I could tear down the `House of Eshleman' and lay out a new foundation in its place." Eshleman founded and edited the journals Caterpillar and Sulfur, did magisterial translations of Aim Cesaire and won a National Book Award for his translation of Cesar Vallejo's Complete Posthumous Poetry. This latest foray proves a disarming opening to the cave and allows for a reading experience that is almost collaborative.
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This arresting diptych of verse and philosophical prose charts a twenty-five-year obsession with the prehistoric cave paintings of southwestern France. The region's enigmatic art work, dating from the Upper Paleolithic era, has been a constant muse for Eshleman, whose wildly discursive style mirrors the superimposed scenes of animal herds and shamanistic figures that populate the cave walls. Breathless accounts of cave exploration appear in counterpoint with poems in eerily primordial voices. Although his thesis that all art results from the separation anxiety between human and animal is unpersuasive, there is an impressive exuberance to his efforts to trace back to this common source everything from Greek myth to Allen Ginsberg. For Eshleman, it seems, the artist's imaginative predicament is something of a cave itself, both maze and refuge.
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