An Alchemist with One Eye on Fire.

AuthorOomen, Anne-Marie
PositionBook review

Work Title: An Alchemist With One Eye on Fire

Work Author(s): Clayton Eshleman

Black Widow Press

114 pages, Softcover $15.95


ISBN: 9780976844952

Reviewer: Anne-Marie Oomen

If readers want to escape from poetry bound in orderly imagery, fed by a clean narrative line with a tidy epiphany at the end, then this new collection is for them. These poems, in the author's signature style, are imagistically wild, narratively playful, downright brazen in the use of sound, and seriously engaged in the unconscious landscape that shapes behavior, makes artists, and both energizes and dehumanizes existence.

Eshleman evolved his distinctive voice and views in the sixties and seventies when he began the explorations that led to more than two dozen major works as writer, translator, and editor. His poetry springs from a rich engagement with an interior life (often based on dreams), deep explorations of a world literature that is both experimental in style and articulate of humankind's inner drives, and a wide range of historical views and studies, particularly primitive art.

In 1979, Eshleman (with Jose Rubia Barcia) won the National Book Award for the first comprehensive translations of the late Cesar Vallejo's Peruvian poetry. He has continued to translate important and often overlooked writers while simultaneously establishing his reputation as a poet who explicates language and thought through the individual's interaction with deep imagery of the subconscious, "other" consciousness, parallel consciousness, or "consciousness as the hump of a subconscious back" ("A Ferocious Fold"). In one of the...

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