My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge

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9780061685163: My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge

My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge is a fierce and original collection—its generosity of voice and emotional range announce the arrival of a major new poet.

At the age of twelve, Paul Guest suffered a bicycle accident that left him paralyzed for life. But out of sudden disaster evolved a fierce poetic sensibility—one that blossomed into a refuge for all the grief, fury, and wonder at life forever altered. Although its legacy lies in tragedy, the voice of these brilliant poems cuts a broad swath of emotions: whether he is lamenting the potentiality of physical experience or imagining the electric temptations of sexuality, Guest offers us a worldview that is unshakable in its humanity.

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About the Author:

Paul Guest's first book, The Resurrection of the Body and the Ruin of the World, won the 2002 New Issues Prize in Poetry, and his second book, Notes for My Body Double, won the 2006 Prairie Schooner Book Prize. In 2010 Ecco will publish his memoir, One More Theory About Happiness. The recipient of a 2007 Whiting Award, he is a visiting professor of English at the University of West Georgia.

From The Washington Post:

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com By Mary Karr Real life has enough horror without adding ghouls and ghosts to the mix. Here's a scary fact you'll want to know about Paul Guest: At the age of 12, he was permanently paralyzed in a bike accident. That's the least interesting aspect of his work, but it did produce this startler, "User's Guide to Physical Debilitation," from a forthcoming book of his poems: Should the painful condition of irreversible paralysis last longer than forever or at least until your death by bowling ball or illegal lawn dart or the culture of death, which really has it out for whoever has seen better days but still enjoys bruising marathons of bird watching, you, or your beleaguered caregiver stirring dark witch's brews of resentment inside what had been her happy life, should turn to page seven where you can learn, assuming higher cognitive functions were not pureed by your selfish misfortune, how to leave the house for the first time in two years. It's both agonizing and funny for an invalid to joke about his "bruising marathons of bird watching." And Guest's humor often disarms me before he ambushes me with longing. Losing a potential love makes his joy in a mid-January burst of spring both funny and sad in this wry poem: The Lives of the Optimists So the jonquils are fooled into flaming up though it's January. The bricks soak in heat like ruddy sponges. Walking home, I hide within whatever's radiant. A bird whose name I've never bothered to learn sings its farewell to winter. It's January. Tomorrow we'll grieve. Or the next day, but not this thawed instant, not in this false blush of lilac. In my bones, the old scores with the earth are laid to rest and each dyspeptic grudge blossoms into frantic, sweet, careening love. In your bones, the tidal hymns of blood. This heedless smile once was yours. So too my hands, themselves fooled by the tilt of the earth, the white face of a star. Guest's twisting syntax, his poetic phrasing -- "tidal hymns of blood" -- and his wicked wit about "each dyspeptic grudge" make more palatable the grief of the lost love. It's her face that blinks past us, I think, disappearing in the white face of a star. "User's Guide to Physical Debilitation" and "The Lives of the Optimists" are from "My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge" (Ecco, 2008). Mary Karr has published four books of poems, most recently "Sinners Welcome."
Copyright 2008, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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