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Ocular Proof
Martha Ronk

2016 • 96 pp. 6 x 9"
Poetry / Poetry - American / Poetry - Women Authors

$17.95 Paperback, 978-1-63243-025-0

"Taking her title from Shakespeare’s Othello, a play that
questions the veracity of what eyes actually see, Ronk explores not only what each of us sees, but also how photographs modify sight as they simultaneously
capture, distort, frame, and encourage discovery."—
Publishers Weekly

Poetic investigations of the distortions and discoveries of photography and sight

Taking its title from Shakespeare’s Othello, a play that questions the veracity of what eyes actually see, Ocular Proof explores not only what each of us sees, but also how photographs modify sight as they capture, distort, frame, and simultaneously encourage discovery. These poems play off critical insights about the function of photographs and the power of visual imagery in the modern world and yet are decidedly personal. They address the unreality of one’s own life, the illegibility of the past and future, and our strong attraction to focused details such as “Kertesz photographing stairs extending past the small figure and out of sight.”

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“National Poetry Series winner Ronk (Vertigo) here offers an elegant, supremely intelligent investigation of photography both as document and as proof that we cannot fully capture the moment through art, memory, or any other means. What is represented in an Atget photograph, for instance, is not the tree itself but “more of what light and wind/ and Paris are in the exact year it was,” and an image may show scuffed stairs, even suggest the smell of dust, but can’t get at “the unlocatable bereavement left on the stairs to be carried up when you go.” What’s left? Our minds grappling with the world, as Ronk shows photographer and viewer grappling. VERDICT Highly recommended; this is both intellectually astute and lit-up, sharply observed verse.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Though photography, like poetry, may always perform an absence, Ronk has managed, in this vivid, evocative collection of reflections on the medium, to create charged presences—sunflowers in the dark, sleepwalking rooms, shadows anchored in place—it’s not they who are present, it’s the poetry that is, and to such an intensity that they are all still alive within it—and we find ourselves alive in it, too. Throughout, Ronk juggles a panoply of philosophical considerations so delicately that we don’t realize that we’re balancing on a pin.” —Cole Swensen, author of Noise That Stays Noise

From the Book:

A blurry photograph

The tree azalea overwhelms evening with its scent,
defining everything and the endless fields.

Walking away, suddenly, it slices off and is gone.

The visible object blurs open in front of you,
the outline of a branch folds back into itself, then clarifies—just as you turn away—

and the glass hardens into glass

as you go about taking care of things abstractedly
one thing shelved after another, as if they were already in the past,

needing nothing from you until, smashing itself on the tile floor,
the present cracks open the aftermath of itself.

MARTHA RONK is the author of 11 books of poetry, including Transfer of Qualities, long-listed listed for the National Book Award, and Vertigo, winner of the National Poetry Series. She has won a National Endowment Grant and the Lynda Hull Poetry Award. She has been a faculty member at Occidental College in Los Angeles and during fall 2015 at Otis College of Art and Design.

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:39:10 -0500