Till I Caught Myself
Triggered by an extended engagement with Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems, this poetic sequence performs a soul-searching excavation of a life’s formative moments and indelible memories. These travel from the shores of Phinney Bay to those of Yellow Island in the San Juans, from the heights of Mt. Si through the war-scarred streets of Braunschweig to the harbour of St. John’s, from the first documenta in Kassel in 1955 to the Louisiana gallery north of Copenhagen in 1992, with side excursions to the New Haven and New York City of the 1960s. If this is nostalgia, it is nostalgia laced with rue.
In Till I Caught Myself, Ruth Roach Pierson takes Charles Olson’s open form and runs with it – runs, swerves, swoops, and soars with it. And against it, as her exuberant trust in the imagination’s plenitude rewrites Olson’s chastening dictum (There may be no more names than there are objects. There can be no more verbs than there are actions) and insists that, on the contrary, “There can be more names than there are objects. There may be more verbs than there are actions.” Names, objects, verbs and actions all abound in this book, which begins by tracing “water’s myriad motions” through Newfoundland, Germany, and the Pacific coast, and then sweeps us up and carries us buoyantly along the open form river. With the freshness of first encounters, we explore landscapes that are geographical, cultural, and most especially internal, charting “the shadowy vastness of the inner self” and feeling the boundaries dissolve between printed word and vibrant, immediate experience. Catching herself, Pierson catches the “ebb / flow / surge / swell / flood” of the world we share and renews our sense of its wonders.
─ John Reibetanz, Author of Afloat
Bound by kinships, circumstance, and narrative both personal and historical, the poems travel and dwell as they slide between being, knowing, and doing. In Ruth Pierson’s Till I Caught Myself, she writes an assembly of place, relation, connection, and disconnection like “the oddments of the mappa mundi / I’m piecing together / are like the pebbles / and shells I pocketed”. Moving with perceptive reportage and poetic surety, Pierson evokes history and place and offers poems that are both “a chorography [and] an archeology”.
─ Hoa Nguyen, Author of Violet Energy Ingots