Ugly Duckling Presse

Or, The Ambiguities
Or, The Ambiguities

Karen Weiser

Poetry | $16 $14
Fall 2015
"Weiser’s figures of speech are gloriously two-headed and unpredictable" — Stephen BurtOr, The Ambiguities is a book of long poems that asks how we correspond with the dead. Written with and through various works by Herman Melville, the poems in this collection invent new visual forms in order to playfully enact Jack Spicer's idea that poems are "how we dead men write to each other."Excerpt ˇ


iv. Pierre

Then the treehouse burned. And continued
Unobliterable as the sea
To burn. The photo of it burning

Hangs on its wall, taken from high up,
But not that high. The firemen
Approach cautiously, minus the

Four-part regimented solace, that
Would repeat. If the act of
Painting is Drawing the boundaries

Of a fire, can I disappear
Into the initial combustion? If the
Act of painting stops time or at

Least its cornet of fronted tremendous,
I could disappear into the Encyclopedia
of Animal Life as the cherub’s sleepiest

Wet tusk. I could start with a dexterous
Periscope and end by feeling
Time, the largest block of it

I can conceive collectively:
Smell I the flowers, or thee?
See I lakes, or eyes?
Close ˆ

About the Author

Karen Weiser
Photo credit: Laurie Lambrecht
Karen Weiser is the author of To Light Out (UDP), Dear Pierre (Well Greased Press), Placefullness (UDP), and Pitching Woo (Cy Press). She was recently awarded a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation residency, a Process Space residency through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and a New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship in Poetry. She is currently working on the libretto for an opera ("You Who Made the Heavens Incline") about one of the first great composers, Kassia, a 9th century Byzantine nun, in addition to writing a young adult fantasy novel. She lives in New York City where she teaches and writes on 19th century American Literature.

Advance Praise

Who doesn’t love art that catches, like our soul gets caught in its material as we’re drifting. Text is dream and two dreams in one I think expose the machinery like Sappho always does, did. Karen’s Or, The Ambiguities is not like that or else exactly triggering my longing to read Pierre again been meaning to for ages but this is just such distressed work so good such poetry.—EILEEN MYLES
This book stuns and amazes. Its ambiguities, its ors are everywhere dispersed in crystalline surfaces, luminous depths. Subtly startling in each of its parts – spanning a formal and historical range in which graphic and grammatical presences include an I that “could disappear into the Encyclopedia / of Animal Life as the cherub’s sleepiest / Wet tusk.” Or negotiate lettristic precipitation and accretions of revelation and release. Or make poetry in spaces the size of very small manacled wrists where: “when the sun slows the little meager light of thought / into logic; / it . . . silvers this nook.” Poetry flourishes.—JOAN RETALLACK
Praise for previous work

In Weiser's hands, poems are language illuminated by grace, and the world, in light of such sudden sight, becomes 'The distance into versions of itself / whose miles begin to resemble pale maps / old photographs with studied shadow / inside each female self / composed like a nineteenth century diorama / all heft and movement of hands.' The meditative variation at play in this ambitious collection shines forth brilliantly, at any hour of the day or night.
—Susan Howe
Weiser’s best poems make stellar examples for T. S. Eliot’s famous claim that true poems can communicate before they are understood: “slam the book, put down the violin,” Weiser requests, “and warm your exhausted proboscis / in the trestle bed of an emotional fire.”—Stephen Burt, The Believer