The Transcendental Circuit:
Otherworlds of Poetry
From the “golden age of poetry blogging” to the debased age of Trump, this collection of essays and meditations by the poet, critic and novelist Joshua Corey explores contemporary poetry from its margins: the pastoral, the fictional, and the mystical. A noted critic and theorist of the importance and persistence of the pastoral in current writing, Corey argues for the centrality of poets like Lisa Robertson, Francis Ponge and Robert Duncan to an emerging post-pastoral tradition that confronts the eroded boundaries between nature and culture in the time of the Anthropocene.
The hinge and heart of the book is a selection from the author’s correspondence with the late Reginald Shepherd, in which the two poets challenge each other to think more rigorously and generously about the emerging field of twenty-first-century American poetry. Other essays consider the poet’s role in a time when the public and private have seemingly exchanged places; the title essay constitutes a defense of poetry but also a critique of the dangerous desire to transcend particulars of historical and embodied existence. Corey writes engagingly about the peculiar genre of “the poet’s novel” and his own attempts to work in that form, while the last essays—meditations on materialism, postmodernism, and ethics—blur the boundaries between criticism, theory, and poetry itself.
The success of Corey’s transcendental truth-telling lies precisely in his circuitry, the movement of his electrical intelligence, which sends sparks shooting through so many current poetic concerns and debates. … written with remarkable verve and responsiveness … a writer who understands how important the fate of poetic language is in a “post-literate” society.… Circuit indeed.
—Norman Finkelstein, Contemporary Literature
Focusing on modernist and contemporary variants on the pastoral—for Corey, our key poetic genre—and on the Baroque (increasingly our poetic mode), this collection all but bursts with original and controversial readings.… Throughout, unity is provided by Corey’s superbly witty and trenchant critical voice.
Principal stops on this magical mystery tour include the pastoral, that seemingly outmoded shepherds-and-shepherdesses idiom now paradoxically central to our postmodern moment of ecological disaster … what use is poetry, what does it do in an age when language itself is being ground down into ever more debased political tweets?