Charles River

Charles River
Upper Limit Cloud/Lower Limit Sail


"Messianicity is not messianism ... even though this distinction remains fragile and enigmatic." (Jacques Derrida)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Eric Hoffman's "The American Eye"

Robert Murphy's Dos Madres Press has been bringing out some amazing books over the past few years, among them several titles by Michael Heller and Norman Finkelstein, Don Wellman's A North Atlantic Wall, and Peter O'Leary's stunning A Mystical Theology of the Limbic Fissure. One of their most recent is Eric Hoffman's The American Eye.

Hoffman, whose forthcoming biography of George Oppen promises to be a major event (and something many doubted could even be done), has situated these angular poems along the rough grain of American transcendentalism and pragmatism. They play beautifully with the language of Emerson and William James, torquing their pithy aphorisms into something provocative and strange. The second half of the book draws from Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club. (When I mentioned this to Menand, his response was “interesting”).

But these poems are sharp-eyed and agile and teeming with surprise. In “The Vast Practical Engine,” Hoffman’s language takes on uncanny overtones of George Oppen and William Bronk, delineating a continuity between these latter-day poets of epistemology, their 19th century predecessors, and his own concerns for the poem’s powers of reticulated consciousness, fueled by the precision of the imagination.

the world is certain
yet we cannot know
for certain its certainty
is all there is
to be known

things happen
and Truth is a thing

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