First Walk after Cancer. New ugly house (too big) with girl on porch cradling lacrosse stick; a Spanish lady, lost? Speaking Spanish to Bluetooth in her ear; tied rods of rebar webbing a bridge under repair; dude in red shorts, running-Hey, it's t that warm! red wheelbarrow; white chick of seductive frame; ruined sw, wet street; sun meeting my face like a brother in a hospital room; laborers from China in hard hats and uniforms traversing embassy foundation, just a giant hole; Israeli grounds next door, cordoned off with cable, cameras at all corners; cops in car across the street, 7-Eleven coffee cooling on the hood; lost glove in bare tree; blue jay; my favorite shoes: green lights everywhere, seen, if t understood. At the heart of Joshua Weiner's new book is an extended poem with a bold political dimension and great intellectual ambition. It fuses the poet's point of view with Walt Whitman's to narrate a decentered time-traveling collage about Rock Creek, a tributary of the Potomac that runs through Washington, DC. For Weiner, Rock Creek is the location of myriad kinds of movement, streaming, and joining: personal enterprise and financial capital; national politics, murder, sex, and homelessness; the Civil War and collective history; music, spiritual awakening, personal memory, and pastoral vision. The questions that arise from the opening foundational poem inform the others in the collection, which range widely from the dramatic arrival of an uncanny charismatic totem that titles the volume to intimate reflections on family, illness, and dream visions. In The Figure of a Man Being Swallowed by a Fish , Weiner has discovered a new poetic idiom, one that is stripped down, rhythmically jagged, and comprehensively philosophical about human limits.
Joshua Weiner is professor of English at the University of Maryland. He is the author of The World's Room and From the Book of Giants and the editor of At the Barriers, all published by the University of Chicago Press.