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Other titles in the Kuhl House Poets series:
Ascension Theory (Kuhl House Poets)by Christopher Bolin
Synopses & Reviews
“This meditation,” writes Christopher Bolin in Ascension Theory,“is about appearing without motes between us: / it is practice for presenting oneself to God.” Bolin’s stark and masterful debut collection records a deeply moving attempt to restore poetry to the possibilities of redemptive action. The physical and emotional landscapes of these poems, rendered with clear-eyed precision, are beyond the reaches of protection and consolation: tundra, frozen sea, barren woodlands, skies littered with satellite trash, fields marked by abandoned, makeshift shrines, sick rooms, vacant reaches that provide “nodes / in every direction // for sensing // the second coming.”
Bolin’s eye and mind are acutely tuned to the edges of broken objects and vistas, to the mysterious remnants out of which meaningful speech might be reconstituted. These poems unfold in a world of beautiful, crystalline absence, one that is nearly depopulated, as though encountered in the aftermath of an unnamed violence to the land and to the soul.
In poems of prodigious elegance and anxious control, Bolin evokes influences as various as Robert Frost, James Wright, Robert Hass, George Oppen, and Robert Creeley, while fashioning his own original and urgent idiom, one that both theorizes and tests the prospects of imaginative ascension, and finds “new locutions for referencing / sky.”
"Terse, serious evocations of travels and landscapes-most of them in snowy regions-open out into spiritual yearnings, or else hint at harrowing, irrecoverable losses, in Bolin's deft if limited debut. At 'stations// in the arctic,' 'The only names/ are names// of ships'; 'Remnants of Ice-shelves' (a title) show 'weather-kites/ never reaching the ceiling of the glare,' and in a bittersweet love poem called 'Anniversary,' 'after each snowfall, it was as if something had opened the shells,/ in the limestone cliffs.' Bolin sometimes presents himself as an explorer, opening up an unfamiliar place-in the Himalayas or in Antigua (tropical sites serve as counterpoint to all that snow). Yet his quests can turn religious, too: 'in the absence of the Lord/ the apparitions cried-the shades in hell-the backlit gulls on sails.' Readers who seek poems of travel, imagined and real, and poems of ecological alertness, might find a lot to like, and readers who seek the numinous may find themselves in his 'practice for presenting oneself to God.' Bolin deploys many kinds of free verse, from ultra-short arrangements reminiscent of Larry Eigner to careful mid-length work that follows the line of the eye ('The fence has been shaking/ since the telegraph broke; nicking your legs'), to blocky verse-paragraphs that require smaller-than-normal type. Yet he ends up consistent-almost too consistent-in his sense of what a poem can do. "
Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Christopher Bolin lives in St. Joseph, Minnesota, and teaches at the College of St. Benedict / St. John’s University. He has published poems in jubilat, Lana Turner, Post Road, 1913: A Journal of Forms, VOLT,and Cura. He is a recipient of fellowships from the James A. Michener Foundation and the MacDowell Colony, and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
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