Synopses & Reviews
Poetry. G.C. Waldrep, always a startlingly original, appealing poetic voice, uses music theory and history to explore the interweaving of language and music. In fiercely intelligent, passionate verse, the poet seeks the delicate point between the voice of a singer (music) and that of a poet (language). An archicembalo (pronounced ark-e-Chem-ball-o) was a complex sixteenth-century instrument, a successor to the harpsichord. The book is structured after a gamut, a nineteenth-century musical primer. Originally a single note on the scale, a gamut later came to mean a whole range-as in a singer or actor's ability to "cover the whole gamut."
"Often breathtaking in its erudition, at other times imbued with a forceful simplicity, tricky in its sensibility yet clearly driven by affection, this third collection from the prolific Waldrep (Disclamor) might be the best book of prose poems to appear in a long while. The poems' titles modeled after the format of old American musical instruction books mostly inquire into definitions of musical terms: 'What Is a Key Signature,' 'What Is a Motet.' An archicembalo is a keyboard instrument that plays microtonal music, with more than 12 notes per octave. The fine distinctions and unfamiliar harmonies such music contains reappear in Waldrep's curious paragraphs, packed as they may be with odd words and non sequiturs: 'Sardine of the breath, phoretic flicker. From the bandstand click of a heel like a tooth.' They also pay attention to human action and need. They have jokes ('Bad parties are in evidence everywhere'), anecdotes about children (Waldrep often thinks about names children give things), even embedded anthems: 'What is union, time's whistles and bells, the whole commodious diapason behind which a third nation lingers.' Readers estranged at first might well stick with it. For all the confusing pleasures of Waldrep's phrases, they contain valuable instruction, too." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
G.C. Waldrep's first book of poems, Goldbeater's Skin, won the 2003 Colorado Prize for Poetry, judged by Donald Revell. His second collection was Disclamor (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2007). Waldrep holds degrees in American history from Harvard and Duke universities and an MFA from the University of Iowa. His work has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Campbell Corner Foundation, and Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, as well as a Pushcart Prize. He has had residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, Ucross Foundation, and elsewhere. He was a 2007 NEA Fellow in Literature. He lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where he teaches at Bucknell University and directs the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets.