by G.C. Waldrep
Winner of the WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AWARD in 2019.
“This is a book of visions, one that gives us a sound heard in extremity . . . This is a last moment, when no story we pretend to tell of ourselves ever will suffice. Only the lyric will, its belling of a spell. I love Waldrep’s work.” — Ilya Kaminsky
“The poems in G.C. Waldrep’s collection, feast gently, transcend any fixed ideas one might have about craft: form, technique, style, voice, tone—and makes pointless anything one might say in prose about poetry. In this work, each poem, each line, each choice made seems predetermined, absolute, definitive. Yet, while the decisions are crucial, they’re made to seem of no consequence at all. There is no ‘arbitrary’ in this poetry: there is only the evident, which we had never seen until this poet brought it to us from wherever it’s been hiding….” —Laura Kasischke, Poetry Society of America
“With roots in daily life, these long-lined meditations from poet and historian Waldrep (Testament) reach from the sensory to the sublime and back. Waldrep’s poems trouble the edge of knowing, and many take place at night or in shadow: “In darkness I move around my house/ as a blind man might, touching/ the walls, the furniture, small objects,/ my own body.” The collection moves much like this speaker, exploring daily spaces rendered uncanny, if not enigmatic, and aware that even the most familiar things are ontologically distinct from the speaker’s experience. Waldrep, who allows that “Sometimes touch is better/ than illumination,” revels in the space of partial knowledge. He writes poems of interiority, inviting the reader to the slow but expansive terrain of cognition. But, here, interiority is a way of reaching out to find what of the world can be grasped by the senses and arranged by careful thought. And the world reaches back: “What does the snow learn?/ The shape of the flesh, the shape of the heat of the flesh/ and its offal./ The sun is a distant body.” Waldrep’s poetry details a kind of brushing against the self, the way mystery threads through observation.” —Publishers Weekly
“How can a poet in the 21st century still speak in tongues? How can a poet—in any century—NOT do just that? Here is my evidence: GC Waldrep is a poet interested in wooing the reader with the very hum of his words. But what are words for such a poet? What happens to our words when bees disappear and ‘we are the smoke, we are only the smoke’? What happens to speech when our friends die? At that brink, at his friend’s funeral, Waldrep finds ‘a verb of motion, the map / in which the body is wrapped.’ This is devastating, yes, but also revealing. Revealing of what? Of another—altogether more magical—direction our speech can take. When his own grave illness finds him, what does Waldrep see? ‘My breath was a glass / inside of which a single blossom hangs.’ This is a book of visions, one that gives us a sound heard in extremity ‘a poverty of music unstrung from the body…with a sailor’s knife.’ This is a last moment, when no story we pretend to tell of ourselves ever will suffice. Only the lyric will, its belling of a spell. I love Waldrep’s work.” — Ilya Kaminsky
“For several books now, G.C. Waldrep has been writing poetry that inhabits the tensions between faith and matter, flesh and mind, fullness and nullity. Feast Gently is a lavish new iteration of his visionary work. In language that is always exultant, the poems in this beautiful and demanding book inquire into the body itself—the prismatic entity that manifests as the lyric body, the civic body, the spirit body, and the achingly physical body. What’s newly urgent in these poems is the knowledge that the body’s vulnerability is probably the fulcrum of its joy. As a speaker in one poem claims, ‘Sometimes touch is better / than illumination.’ Still, here is a poetry of illumination, rapture, and rapt attention.” —Rick Barot
“An ecstatic sobriety and holy dread permeates these poems, beginning as they do with a ‘rapture of the bees,’ saturated as they are by the American blood jet of sensuous contact with the flesh, ‘Frangible and inconvenient,’ that is ever and continuously the inadequate sign of spiritual facts the speaker and his ‘anti-psalm’ is helpless not to pursue. Rarely have I encountered such intransigent songs of devotion, as baroque in their way as the songs of Donne, philosophical and heartfelt; the thought is kingly and the language thingly, a living envelope for and not a description of, the real.” —Joshua Corey
Winner of the WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AWARD in 2019.
In his most autobiographically transparent (and most comical) collection to date, Waldrep explores the intersections between body and spirit, faith and action. These are lyrics of incarnation, of method and meat-hood, of illness and the vicissitudes of love, earthly as well as heavenly, occupying the space between desire and gratification, between pain and praise.
|Dimensions||6 × .5 × 9 in|
from “Candleweb, Thaw”
In prelude the night moves
its stiff sentience away
from the windowsill you call
Marry me, a story the sky
diffracts as if it were
a telegram, unbuttered toast.
We are not sentinels
here, in this unfolding larch
of wax crowns riven
with cropmarks pissed
listlessly by winter
wolves. A movie concludes
with a call from the stagestruck
set of Pentecost
unplowed & lightly elemental,
O my unbuttoned birds
the monster rains moan &
how we bandage them …