Essay Poems by Donald Wellman


In constructing this book, I have been thinking about the English language serial poem from Jack Spicer to Lisa Robertson. Some of my poems sustain themselves over considerable lengths. Different forms of superposition insert vertical dimensions into the flow of the text. For H.D. these layers were palimpsestic. For Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari these planes are filaments of desiring production. Other forces form liquid or lubricating layers between associated planes. Meaning appears to be suspended. Disorientation affects development at multiple turnings. If the energy of composition sustains itself,  even though as a result of multiplication, a poem may not articulate a satisfying conclusion, still, by other lights, it may feel complete, erotic, nostalgic, melancholic. Some of these poems are translinguistic. Others sacred. Their address to corporeality, raw. —Donald Wellman


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 138
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: December, 2017
  • ISBN: 978-1-939929-98-3


Essay Poems is Donald Wellman’s most ambitious volume of poetry to date. The verses absorb everything including several languages besides English (Spanish, Latin, German, French). His poetry evokes the universe seen from the all-encompassing point of view of Borges’ Aleph. The center slips away. There is no sense of personal identity. But someone emerges, with a liquid body. Information, quotations agglomerate and turn around in a dancing vortex propelled by a horror vacui. Allusions dart in every direction as the richness of the text overwhelms the reader. —Roberto Echavarren

Wellman is a wanderer, a wonderer, and well of knowledge, too. Probing, disturbing, disorienting, and melancholic, these are erudite and emotional essay-poem-collages. They loop and spin the reader in multiple directions from the mucilaginous body to fishing with handline and hook, or searching for a whisk in a Chinese store, a storm of stars, the throes of love,  the self is felt, reflected, distorted, and imagined. —Ros Zimmermann

These serial poems point the reader toward unexpected affinities between text and text, event and consequence, thought and being. Wellman’s enormous erudition penetrates into the essence of what matters in life and in the life of the mind. In the hands of a lesser poet, such an ambitious sweep would be doomed to fail: Wellman triumphs. —Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno

Wellman’s methodical chora, offering a unique philosophical-spiritual and literary approach, is a marvelously intelligent translation “of false / and fictionalized confessions,” beautifully wrought and suffused with a rueful gaiety that will break your heart. “A passageway to a parallel world,” everything one might fear and desire: dick, Zyklon B, resemblances, contiguities, and causations “between thought and prayer” can be found herein, one of the most compelling books you will ever read. —Andrew Levy

A finely crafted, bawdy, beautiful, heartrending and hilarious testament to the poetic vocation. Who would have suspected that the dick–not the Lacanian phallus but the humble dick, pink and shriveled, “wrapped in folds of uncertainty,” that “moldy wad… wound with red rubber bands”–could be the anchoring point of an elegiac mode? Only a poet of Wellman’s craft and erudition, that ring in every phrase and every line. —Bill Lavender


Donald WellmanDonald Wellman is a poet and translator. He has translated books of poetry by Antonio Gamoneda, Emilio Prados, Yvan Goll, and Roberto Echavarren. Albiach / Celan: Reading Across Languages is from Annex Press (Spring 2017). His Expressivity in Modern Poetry is forthcoming from Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. His poetry has been described as trans-cultural and baroque. His collections of poetry include Roman Exercises (Talisman House, 2015), The Cranberry Island Series (Dos Madres, 2013), A North Atlantic Wall (Dos Madres, 2010), Prolog Pages (Ahadada, 2009), and Fields (Light and Dust, 1995). As editor of O.ARS, he produced a series of annual anthologies including Coherence (1981) and Translations: Experiments in Reading (1984).


Additional information

Weight 11 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in