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To See the Earth Before the End of the World
Ed Roberson

Wesleyan Poetry Series

2010 • 180 pp. 5 illus. 6 x 9"

$15.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-6949-3
$19.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7101-4

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“In poems that proceed snakelike across a page or in traditional flush-left frames, Roberson's images and ideas are starling and complex, often difficult in... [continued in Reviews below]”—Karla Huston, Library Journal

Generous, visionary new work by this major American poet

In To See the Earth Before the End of the World Ed Roberson presents us with 120 new poems, each speaking in his unique voice and seen through his unique eye. Earth and sky, neighborhood life and ancient myths, the art of seeing and the architecture of the imagination are all among the subjects of these poems. Recurring images and ideas construct a complex picture of our world, ourselves, and the manifold connections tying them together. The poems raise large questions about the natural world and our place in it, and they do not flinch from facing up to those questions.

Roberson’s poems range widely through different scales of time and space, invoking along the way history and myth, galaxies and garbage trucks, teapots and the history of photography, mating cranes and Chicago's political machine. This collection is composed of five sequences, each developing a particular constellation of images and ideas related to the vision of the whole. Various journeys become one journey—an epic journey, invoking epic themes. There are songs of creation, pictures of the sorrows of war, celebrations of human labor and human society, a respect for tools and domestic utensils that are well made, the deep background of the past tingeing the colors of the present, and the tragic tones of endings and laments, a pervading awareness of the tears in things. Most of all, there is the exhilaration of a grand, sweeping vision that enlarges our world.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“In poems that proceed snakelike across a page or in traditional flush-left frames, Roberson's images and ideas are starling and complex, often difficult in their dreamlike qualities. His lines have been accurately described as syntactically double-jointed and labyrinthine—and, as with any maze, readers must find a hold an outside wall to guide them through Roberson's sometimes surreal vision of the earth. That 'hold' may be the earth itself….”—Karla Huston, Library Journal

“Ed Roberson’s labyrinthine, syntactically double-jointed lines work at a nervous, disconsolate pitch, peculiar insight and curious angle at the forefront of the tutorage they bring. His most compendious volume to date perhaps and certainly true to its title, To See the Earth Before the End of the World moves in many directions, often all at once, a 360-degree jitterbug waltz of a book.” —Nathaniel Mackey, author of Splay Anthem

“In this dreamy collection, human features stand out as distinct then blend into the nature of the world surrounding them. We can’t always tell plant from animal from mineral, and Roberson reminds us that in the end, as in poetry, such distinctions are moot.”—Camille T. Dungy, author of Trophic Cascade

From the Book:

Man With Three Degrees
(for Tony Halfhide)
When he opened the door on the passenger side
and it spoke that need-oil croak of a greeting,
he said, “This ain’t good, y’know. You ain’t got
no ladies keepin’ it oiled fa ye..?”
speaking to things in that Trinidadian
straight to it talk when he speaks.
I never have a defense in his no
dressin’ it up court. “Y’don’ need much.”
his mantra: he don’t eat the meat,
no dressing on the vegetables.

I’ve always admired how right he is
all t’while he never say so ‘less he’s ask..
“Truth don’ take much word; most of
your time it take seein’.
I work only so I have time not to
work…Y’don’ need much.”
The only thing I ever heard him say
him need – women, cars, alla that, no –
was to look at the ocean.
“I have to be where I can see the ocean.”


Winner of the Voelcker Award (PEN America) (2016)

Author Photo

ED ROBERSON is the author of eight books of poetry. He is the recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award and the Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, and his prior books have won the Iowa Poetry Prize and the National Poetry Series. Having retired from Rutgers University, Roberson currently lives in Chicago where he has taught at Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago.

This project is supported in part by an award from
National Endowment for the Arts

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 14:10:08 -0500