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Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (New California Poetry) Paperback – March 2, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Waldrop has long been a major force in American avant-garde poetics, and this substantial new volume is big news indeed. Comprising three sequences—each almost a book in itself—plus an epilogue, it is an extended philosophical meditation on what are, broadly, the major themes of all poetry: perception, the imagination, the body, and how the human inner life interacts with the larger world. In mostly short, jagged free verse pieces, Waldrop goes at these lofty concepts head-on in accessible, if cerebral, language. The speaker of the first sequence, itself composed of six sets of lyrics, lists and a longer poem, attempts to prove the claim that I saw... everything/ that was happening on earth and can/ describe the hum of clouds. The second sequence is a set of discrete poems made up of sentence fragments and aborted thoughts that strive toward completion and correspondence: Most suicides/ in May, June, July. Unusual/ heat drives most toward God. A/ cul-de-sac. The last is, again, a set of sets of poems, the most compelling of which, called Carriage—a Transition— pours lyric bursts down the page. The volume concludes with a longer poem called Epilogue: Stone Angels that meditates in a Rilkian mode on cemetery statues, which are/ the opposite of perception: we/ bury our gaze in them. These poems are similarly entrancing. (Mar.)
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Review

"Waldrop has long been a major force in American avant-garde poetics, and this substantial new volume is big news indeed. . . . Entrancing." Starred Review--"Publishers Weekly"

"These poems demand a certain reverence."--"Bookforum"

"A complex, absorbing work."--"Providence Sunday Journal"

"Impressive."--"Poets & Writers Magazine"
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Product Details

  • Series: New California Poetry (Book 27)
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (March 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520258789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520258785
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Simply one of the best volumes of poetry this (admittedly young) century has produced, and knowing full well that such predictions are perverse, I will confidently predict that the same will be said of Transcendental Studies at the end of the century. It is beautiful, moving, probing, complex, simple. Is it experimental? Well, I guess, but as Waldrop has noted himself, these are the same experiments he and others have been engaging in for 40 or more years. Far more to the point, it's wonderful.
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Format: Paperback
Many of the poems in this collection seem formulaic, the familiar trope of flipping an adage, reversing its more common meaning, so you end up with a mystifying kind of koan. The general effect is to feel off balance when reading his work; you’re always somewhere in the act of falling. The effect is to convey a surrealistic landscape.
Much of the book is a string of randomly gathered short sentences. One yearns for a thread of connection but often doesn’t find one. Yet there are moments of insight and beauty that can be haunting, “perceptions dim as memories” comes to mind.
He writes as if common concepts create more confusion than consensus. Here’s what he says about the concept table. “I see a table…..I am reminded of another table. I place table beside table. Separate worlds. In what sense are we talking?’ If we are to take Waldrop literally the word table conveys such divergent concepts that language is deemed almost useless. If these constructs are truly divergent, how might one come to understand where to put one’s dinner setting? Why not throw it against a wall and see what happens. Sure language has its limitations, conveying a concept like table, would not seem not to be one of them. If you like abstract poetry that stimulates the reader in truly divergent directions, there’s not enough thread for it to be otherwise, then you might like Waldrop, if not, best try a more conventional poet.
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