The Opening Ritual

by G.C. Waldrep

$19.95

The conclusion of G. C. Waldrep’s trilogy exploring chronic illness.

In The Opening Ritual, G. C. Waldrep contends with the failure of the body, the irreducible body, in the light of faith. What can or should “healing” mean when it can’t ever mean “wholeness” again? And what kind of architecture is “mercy” when we live inside damage? These are poems that take both the material and the spiritual seriously, that cast their unsparing glances toward “All that is not / & could never be a parable.”The collection concludes with a sequence of truly grand meditations on spiritual consciousness—in one the poet notes how, in the stillness of contemplation, the world begins to hum and resound with music. The Opening Ritual attends to and fashions its song from that music.

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Published: November 2024
Format: Paperback

Out of stock

ISBN: 978-1-961209-14-5 Categories: , ,

A dazzling lyricist of dawnlight and psalms, G.C. Waldrep inhabits a contemporary devotional mode to explore the flesh as a site of pain yet an instrument of beauty and ecstasy. In the richly scriptural cosmos of The Opening Ritual— simultaneously hermeneutical and reflexive— the Holy Spirit is a vowel, and pain is a mineral we store in our bodies. This book is not for the faint of hearts as Waldrep embraces both doubt and healing as components of “faith’s torsion.” The Opening Ritual glows like a bronze retablo and sings like a golden harp, blessing its earthbound subjects with heavenly inspiration. Karen An-hwei Lee

In The Opening Ritual, G.C. Waldrep’s third collection in a trilogy centered on illness and healing, “prophecy has implicated the body.” Much like the poem, the body holds its entire trajectory at once, refusing to collapse wound and suture, illness and remission. With a future that is becoming increasingly hard to face, Waldrep reminds us that “the reparations the body seeks / rest in time,” and so does its preparations. These poems do not promise to heal what cannot be healed; instead, pain and relief harmonize on the poet’s animal tongue. Like no other poet I know, Waldrep returns the word to its origin in ritual, a “place of coming & becoming,” where care is not an impossible cure, but a poultice of words we would otherwise be unable to hear. —Sasha Steensen

C. Waldrep’s The Opening Ritual beholds transcendent structures of faith through the glass of the particular and the eccentric. In poems that are in themselves devotional exercises, the poet sloughs off the excrescence of the contemporary moment to reveal a far vaster “sadness of time.” A pilgrim wanderer through historic and prehistoric landscapes, Waldrep opens himself to all forms of thought and association, drawing a pattern of thinking from patient sensual observance: from the barely visible and audible, the latent image, the hidden window. All is put at the disposal of the spiritual life.

The collection concludes with a sequence of truly grand meditations on spiritual consciousness – in one the poet notes how, in the stillness of contemplation, the world begins to hum and resound with music. The Opening Ritual attends to and fashions its song from that music. —Sasha Dugdale

If it’s true, as Kierkegaard once posited, that we can only understand life backward but are doomed to live it forward, then our whole lives happen inside an inscrutable now we can never really perceive. Such is the crisis of G.C. Waldrep’s The Opening Ritual, where lips “silky like ground pearls mixed with oil” whisper into the hopeless enterprise of naming what can be named before it slips back off into air or mud. “I have not written sufficiently of earth, and of the things of earth,” Waldrep says, recalling—or repudiating—Rilke’s Ninth Duino Elegy (“Praise the world to the angel, not the unutterable world…”). A short poem here called “Saint Sauveur” ends in two of the most memorable stanzas I’ve read in ages, kaleidoscopic in their irreducible clarity, while other poems (“I Am the Vine,” “Suite for A.W.N. Pugin”) sprawl epically, digress, worry themselves into uncanny incantations buckling their own lyric into something like—dare I say it—purpose? The Opening Ritual is the kind of furiously curious, unabashedly ambitious poetry book I want to show everyone, to prove such books can still be written. “I am fully present, but also insufficiently,” Waldrep writes. How has it never been said? —Kaveh Akbar

In The Opening Ritual, G.C. Waldrep concludes a trilogy of collections exploring chronic illness—the failure of the body, the irreducible body—in the light of faith. What can or should “healing” mean, when it can’t ever mean “wholeness” again? And what kind of architecture is “mercy,” when we live inside damage? These are poems that take both the material and the spiritual seriously, that cast their unsparing glances towards “All that is not / & could never be a parable.

G.C. Waldrep is the author of seven previous full-length collections of poetry, most recently The Earliest Witnesses (Tupelo/Carcanet, 2021); he currently serves as Professor of English at Bucknell University.

Additional information

Weight 0.45 lbs
Dimensions 7 × 8.5 in