Friday, April 10, 2009

"The Poetic Optometrist": A Review of To See the Earth

Thanks to Michael Leong for this review of To See the Earth, appearing in the current issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review: Here's the first paragraph:



Like an optometrist using a phoropter (that mechanism
which allows multiple lenses to be clicked in and out
of place), Metres optimizes our vision as we see the world
refracted now through this poem, now through that one.

Poetry is an optic, a technology that affords us a better visioning and understanding of the world. William Wordsworth knew this when he famously proclaimed in “Tintern Abbey,” “We see into the life of things.” Louis Zukofsky knew this as he laid down the principles of Objectivism in his influential essay “An Objective”: “(Optics) - The lens bringing the rays from an object to a focus... inextricably the direction of historic and contemporary particulars.” And this is Philip Metres’ crucial wager in To See the Earth, an impressive debut collection which helps us see our teeming, globalized world with the clarity of a keen poetic intelligence. Indeed, Metres’ finely crafted poems act as necessary correctives to the tunnel vision of provincialism and the myopia of presentism by bringing into view a range of shifting spaces, perspectives, and temporalities: we see Amsterdam from the point of view of an Iraqi refugee; we see a post-Soviet and McDonalized Moscow interspersed with meditations on Vietnam (the poet’s father served there as a Naval advisor during the Tet Offensive); we see ancient Japanese scrolls in dialectical tension with a panoramic photograph of Hiroshima after the bomb. ...

To keep reading, click here.

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