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Curves to the Apple
New Directions, $16.95 (paper)
Collecting three influential volumes of Rosmarie Waldrop’s prose poetry—The Reproduction of Profiles (1987), Lawn of Excluded Middle (1993), and Reluctant Gravities (1999)—Curves to the Apple stands as a testament to the poet’s thirty-year inquiry into language and philosophy and solidifies her stature as one of the leading voices in contemporary American poetry. Throughout the trilogy, Waldrop employs the prose poem as “an alternate, less linear logic” to test, explore, and map the “conflicting, but inextricable, claims of body and mind, feeling and logic.” Often extending out of—or in tension with—Wittgensteinian propositions and the scientific complications of quantum physics, Waldrop’s poetics of inquiry is enacted in sentences that deftly slide on a continuum between language and reality, the quotidian concrete and philosophical abstract. “Way down the deserted street,” she writes, “I thought I saw a bus which, with luck, might get me out of this sentence which might go on forever, knotting phrase onto phrase with fire hydrants and parking meters, and still not take me to my language waiting, surely, around some corner.” Waldrop further dramatizes this play between opposites through the poems’ first- and second- person singular pronouns—which “do not so much represent characters as frame the synaptic space between them.” It is in this space where desire and philosophical dialogue are transmuted one into the other and where Eve’s apple and Newton’s apple are collapsed into the gravitational attraction of binaries—two bodies, two minds, two voices—separated by a great emptiness. In this attempt to navigate the gap between “I” and “you,” self and other, self and world, Waldrop’s nimble poetics of “gap gardening” provides the emotional and ethical center of the three-book sequence, though ultimately that “extra space between us” seems impossible to bridge: “Your space was framed so differently from mine,” Waldrop writes, “that it located your ‘here’ around the curve of the horizon, unreachable by even my longest sentence.”
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