APPENDICES PULLED FROM A STUDY ON LIGHT
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A hybrid work comprised of poetry, photographs, and an essay with marginal annotations that mirror medieval glosses, Appendices Pulled from a Study on Light takes for its central myth the figure of St. Columba—a sixth-century Irish monk—while investigating concepts of originality and copying, and inscription and illumination. It is a book about vision, the recovery of lost forms of presence, and the latent connection between medieval illuminated manuscripts and poetry today.
Appendices Pulled from a Study on Light was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry, the Robert Kroetsch Award in Innovative Poetry, the Richard Snyder Memorial Publication Prize, the Madeleine P. Plonsker Innovative Poetry First Book Prize, and the New Measure Poetry Prize.
Geoffrey Babbitt writes with a Sebaldian sense of time and cycles, with the experimental soul that Geoffrey Hill was reaching for, and all the lyricsm of Komunyakaa; so what can this mean? It means that Babbitt is an original and fresh voice, one that tugs at you with the sense of the familiar and yet with nothing you can pin down. It means that while you can see grace notes in his work, there is nothing of any other poet in him, a one-off, a beautiful but unexpected shift of light. What he does here, with delicacy and subtle moves, is create a space for presence to manifest. He pries open the matters of belief, of the terror of the loss of faith, of the constant negotiation between the heart and the mind, between the intellect and that awe we all believe to be present in the daily moments of our lives and loves but can never find the words for. This book is a meditation that the reader will return to often and rediscover themselves and the world in fresh and promising ways. It is the offering from a man in deep, abiding love with poetry and all the hope it offers.
The margin of a halo is all the words preceding Genesis, the light by which to read the Light of this world. Geoffrey Babbitt is the mage and scholar of this margin, parsing it exactly into hours and into loves. There are sudden amplitudes in these poems. There is infinite patience. And arched over all, there is timely, tender regard. Not until I had read it all straight through did I realize that here was a book I’d been waiting for, watching for, twenty years and more. It’s thrilling.
Do we see by the light of the sun or by the light of the word? Do we see through or under or above, do we see ourselves over against the copy of our thought (the word), or because of our thought (the word)? God is a word that has long sought to bring humans light, a word as a way of looking that this book explores — “something shimmers/ and we cannot track/the source since its eye is carved by smoke,” writes the poet, yet the poet has found a way to drench these words in light, like a bright bird flitting along the line.
Like a light magician, Geoffrey Babbitt runs through the world illuminating all its people and its objects: Cranes and clocks, pipes, sheep, and Rimbaud, Pope Leo, and fishermen’s nets, and bright cherries. Like the illuminators of old manuscripts, Babbitt draws our eyes to the brightest image, glosses the word in bright sheaths. If his words were sparks, the whole world would be on fire—but fortunately, these words are electric arcs—even in great darkness, you will be able to see them.