The Earliest Witnesses
Poetry. Waldrep's seventh collection begins where his prior collection, FEAST GENTLY, left off: This / is how the witness ends: touch, withdraw; touch again, according to the opening poem in THE EARLIEST WITNESSES. If these are poems of witness, then they are also testators to the craft of seeing: eye-proofs of an epiphenomenal world. Can you see this, the ophthalmologist in A Mystic's Guide to Arches asks over and over again. Sight becomes both the facilitator and impediment of desire, in collusion with language itself. She said, When you say pear, I see p-e-a-r for a second before I see, in my mind's eye, a pear, Waldrep carefully records in West Stow Orchard Poem (II)]. The desire-poems in THE EARLIEST WITNESSES want the thing itself, its image of the mind, and the language that transmutes both thing and image into song.
Praise For The Earliest Witnesses…
“The Earliest Witnesses suggests the dividing line between the mortal and the eternal is not death, but the body, and an insoluble problem troubles this nexus insofar as the body is occupied by thinking—it recognizes the difficulty of simultaneously standing both in and beside the world, but, remarkably, it recognizes also that fully inhabiting this difficulty is the beginning of peace: ‘For we too know wheels, & are known of them. / … Alongside some music we had made. Or just after.’ This is beautifully intelligent, beautifully achieved poetry.”
“I have been an avid reader of G.C. Waldrep through seven collections and nearly twenty years. The Earliest Witnesses puts in stark relief the way his lightning mind, caught between God and the body, finds in poetry the battery to hold and express the voltage. As always, his linguistic palette and image-making are electric. What is new? The poems here are more naked and more fierce; in them I feel the charge of crisis: of faith and of earth, psyche and flesh. ‘I have a fever and its name is God,’ he writes. I walk with him.”
Tupelo Press, 9781946482488, 130pp.
Publication Date: January 1, 2021