Terrible Woods by Paul Bray


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  • Kind: Perfect Bound
  • Pages: 327
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 978-1-933675-33-6


“There are many implicit Gnostic poets. Paul Bray is overt. By a fine paradox, he is a vital and vitalizing Gnostic.” —Harold Bloom

“Paul Bray is an absolute original, a demon of brilliant erudition and pitch-perfect music, straddling the hitherto incompatible worlds of narration and lyric to produce a poetry that simultaneously sings and tells and never fails to astonish.” —Paul Auster

“Welcome to Paul Bray’s magic cabinet of curiosities! The intrepid traveler who enters will find himself on a journey through a microcosmic universe crammed with poetic artifacts inspired by such diverse sources as ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, American folklore, Poe, Rimbaud, and Lovecraft. Be loyal to the nightmare of your choice, Bray tells us, and admirably follows his own counsel in these visionary poems.” —Victoria Nelson

“Unlike the common crowd of drab, neo-positivist collections so prevalent today, Paul Bray’s remarkable volume of sometimes shamanistic, always revelatory poems is a landmark of new vision. His unprecedented mix of colloquial speech, classic forms and ritual resonance sustains a measured and mysterious deeper tone, an unmistakably original poetic voice that speaks the Dantesque journey into the mythic forest of the book’s title. As ancient poets said, the many-branched sylvae of the world forests reveal an originating scene of prophecy as much as panic, both falling under the sway of the Great God Pan. That is Paul Bray’s amazing appeal—he is unafraid to gaze far into the past, while he looks forward, piloting a Coleridgean ship. Here musical rhythms and formal inventions constantly yield an energy American poetry too often lacks, namely the will to redress the loss of dream, the desire to recover mysterious, embowered, forested purposes. Call this poetry a kind of prayer, “something understood,” or a retrieval of lost spiritual possibility, this powerful new book of poems will shock the reader into recognizing the life-force at work in language, as if not known before.” —Angus Fletcher


Anatomy of Turnips (2)

Tuberous and swollen rooted
rutabaga hypocotyl
cankered with whispering lips
disclike or cylindrical
flattened cultivars
stored in pickle jars
in moist sand with deep black skin
moonlight seeps through moss within
lanquid brookside rushes
wormwood tendril blushes
concealed in the riot of parrot feathers
seared by a beak of light
a powwow of goblins in the night
hushed as it is served
potherbs, clusters of leaves
the Yellow Globe hors-d’oeuvres
with fresh crusty bread and butter
in winter’s opened purse of weathers
the Purple-top the garden radish
etched in dim Da Vinci red
crab-apples pocked by magpie beaks
the loosened hair drifts down her head
a purple lily floats on still
rapeseed-speckled water, curved. . .


PAUL BRAY was born in Washington, DC in 1951 and spent his childhood and adolescence in Maryland, Spain and Central America. He attended Bard College where he won the Wilton Moore Lockwood Prize for Most Distinguished Creative Writing. He holds a Ph.D. from the City University of New York and has taught at the College of New Rochelle, St. John’s University and Baruch College. He is the author of Ingens Sylva (Chroma Press) and Things Past and Things to Come as well as his as yet unpublished The Magonia Trilogy. His articles have appeared in Raritan, Annals of Scholarship, New Vico Studies, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, and elsewhere. He also wrote the chapter on William Cullen Bryant for the Encyclopedia of American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century. An ominous presence on the New York art scene of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Bray collaborated with Amos Poe (of Blank Generation fame) on the film Unmade Beds, and was the lyricist and lead vocal for the band Brains in Heaven.

Paul Bray, a long time resident of Santa Fe, passed away November 16, 2011.

Additional information

Weight 25 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × 1.25 in