by Deborah Flanagan
“Saints, scientists, and escape artists pirouette out of Deborah Flanagan’s smart, smoky pages as you turn them slowly, never wanting the dream to end.”— David Kirby
Winner of the Snowbound Chapbook Award, chosen by Christopher Buckley
Deborah Flanagan’s prizewinning new chapbook is populated by a menagerie of historic personages — celebrities and scientists, political and artistic luminaries, including George Washington, Houdini, Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, Francis Bacon, Casanova, and Lord Byron’s daughter, the mathematician Ada Lovelace. Juggling voices as she romps among her personae, the poet revisits and revises our complicated connections to the past in ways orthodox history can’t possibly do: coding and decoding her stories while bursting out of the boxes into which we try to fit meaning.
from “The Voynich Manuscript”
I visit Dr. Subtle, Ben Jonson’s quintessential alchemist. A Renaissance man — astrologer, geographer, dabbler in magic — he communicates with angels. He’s an expert in cryptography; I bring him the Voynich manuscript: Give me the code, I need to find what lurks beneath the surface of the page. “I’ll have this back to you in a week,” making a toast and shouting, “Maktub!” He asks if I’m ready for the rapture. I nod, sipping blueberry schnapps, Sometimes there’s a God so quickly. Dr. Subtle winks, “This manuscript is the happy hunting ground for minds that have lost their balance.” Meaning disintegrates into flakes of dry ink. This isn’t what I want to hear.
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“By turns witty, ironic, absurdist and spiritual, these poems have a gravity that commends them and our common struggle to ‘connect the body back to the earth / with the soul’s light.’ Flanagan … handles the conflict of science and faith (or lack of faith) with great skill, and cast within the personas of her subjects she gives us a genuine struggle for understanding in memorable language.” — Christopher Buckley
“These poems throw sparks. To read them is like dozing in front of an analog TV in the wee hours and waking to wonder whether you actually saw these images or imagined them. Saints, scientists, and escape artists pirouette out of Deborah Flanagan’s smart, smoky pages as you turn them slowly, never wanting the dream to end.”— David Kirby