The stunning conclusion to a 40-year poetic project
In the tradition of earlier modernist long poems like Ezra Pound’s Cantos and bp Nichol’s The Martyrology, The Invisible World Is in Decline: Book IX is full of startling poetic music and imagery while addressing concerns to which every reader will respond: the life of the heart as well as life during COVID-19, love as well as death, philosophy as well as emotion. The poems are deeply responsive to what an epigraph from Virgil calls “vows and prayers,” i.e., those things that we desire and promise. Like previous books of Whiteman’s long poem, Book IX is largely in the form of the prose poem. But the book also contains a moving series of translations in traditional form of texts taken from songs by composers like Schubert and Beethoven, songs that are by turns tragic, meditative, lyrical, and touching. The concluding section focuses on an obsession that poets have had for 2,500 years: inspiration, in the form of the nine Muses. At the heart of this book is what Whiteman calls “the bright articulate world,” something visionary but accessible to every thoughtful reader.
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Bruce Whiteman is a well-known poet and reviewer who lives in Peterborough and teaches part-time at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. His book reviews have appeared widely in Canada and the U.S. His long poem, The Invisible World Is in Decline, has been appearing in installments since 1984.
Published: April 2022
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.
“The project as a whole (a long poem that covers almost 40 years and stretches over nine books!) is a pensive record of time and change; and this concluding book is full of poignant images.” — Toronto Star
“There is so much going on, line by line, in Whiteman’s Invisible World that it is hard to believe it could ever be in decline. Through nine volumes this serial poem teeters on the abyss, seems sure to fall into the infinite maw of self-pity, then rescues itself by an act of acro- or aerobatics — with language as gymnast, rhythm, the pilot — and sheer fortitude in control.” — Robert Hogg, poet
“The shadow of the pandemic lies over the book, the sense of isolation that lockdowns caused chiming well with the more general sense of decline, specifically what Whiteman sees as a decline in the numinous presence of the world of the gods, that informs the book, and, I imagine, the entire work.” — Elliptical Movements blog
“Bruce Whiteman makes audible the disorientation of pandemic isolation, cultural forgetting, and the absence of the real presence of others in these haunting and aphoristic prose stanzas.” — Sharon Thesen, poet
“Whiteman (our pandemic Virgil) writes the real that is ‘in decline’ back to full and complex life, tracing the crucial gods that live in the details of being a poet among a lost people, the romance of writing poems as the city sleeps, in watching spirited dogs run, and in those red wine memories of past lovers, those elusive, flickering flares we hurry past these days to run headlong into blue screens, fiery trysts, or amateur astrology, all of which are attractive trap doors. Yes, there is a hell of unmeaning out there, a world being unmade by unassailable forces, so we need every poet we have making the world visible again … and Whiteman’s symphonic cycle is ending, so I can only say in selfish vein, play on, Bruce, play on!” — Justin Million, author of EJECTA: The Uncollected KEYBOARDS! Poems (Apt. 9 Press)