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Transfer of Qualities
Martha Ronk

2013 • 88 pp. 6 x 9"
Poetry - American / Poetry - Women Authors / Poetry - Nature

$17.95 Paperback, 978-1-890650-82-7

Ronk’s collection of “various objects,” books, photograms, people and portraits dominate the collection, which moves from prose to lineated poems, to essays, to brief passages of nonfiction, seguing into topics of representation, death, mourning, love, and intimacy with the physical world.—Editors, Publishers Weekly

Transfer of Qualities addresses the uncanny and myriad ways in which people and things, but also people and those around them, exchange qualities with one another, moving in on, unsettling: altering stance, attitude, mood, gesture.

Transfer of Qualities addresses the uncanny and myriad ways in which people and things, but also people and those around them, exchange qualities with one another, moving in on, unsettling: altering stance, attitude, mood, gesture. Each entry in the book probes the dissolving boundaries between those sharing space with one another; and the various cross-genres in the book—prose poem, creative non-fiction, personal essay—echo the theme of inter-dependence. Material things often seem amazingly alive and tropic—a puppet or toy, a plate, a rug underfoot, a dim photograph on the wall across the way—and this collection follows in the footsteps of other authors also obsessed with the boundaries between life and death, the moving and the still, the stone-like book and the vivid stirring within the pages. There are many authors behind Transfer of Qualities, but the major genie of the piece is Henry James whose musings on his own, The Sacred Fount, provided the book’s title and direction.

Reviews / Endorsements

“Martha Ronk places before us a series of such freighted objects—objective correlatives, dialectical images, call them what you will. These are objects—material or written—which collapse time, reshaping the perspectives of their owners. It may seem strange to the contemporary reader that such an occupation still bears our attention, especially when objects in our grasp tend to epitomize disposability (how quickly the iPhones replace themselves!), but Ronk’s work clarifies just how rare and crystallizing these moments of recognition tend to be.”—Benjamin Landry, The Rumpus

Martha Ronk’s Transfer of Qualities belongs to the same tradition as Stein’s Tender Buttons and Ponge’s Le Parti pris des choses, but Ronk’s homage to the “not-me” of objects, and of others, is suffused with an elegance, melancholy, and intimacy all her own. Her meditation offers quiet, multiple, and profound insights into intimacy, grief, and the “residue of lost time.” In the words of Henry James—patron saint of Transfer—this generous book is “disposed for human use and addressed to it." It truly gives, and "gives out."—Maggie Nelson, Author of The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning

Ronk’s latest collection gathers together the everyday and the particular in order to think through—feel through—how it is that the material lives of things and objects make claims upon us and we upon them. These prose pieces offer again and again a subtlety and brilliance that leaves no thing short of voice and intensity. To read this work is to fall back into the world and all the ways it means its materiality.—Richard Deming, Author of Listening on All Sides: Toward an Emersonian Ethics of Reading

From the Book:


You hate yourself when the object that defines you, or at least you
think it does, is lost or broken. It makes perfect sense: you are the
one who is lost and it’s your own fault, having left it behind in
a stranger’s room for where else but in the room of a stranger
would you leave it, inadvertent, shoddily careless, the enemy of
attachments. Or it is that you run through the room in a hurry—slow
down you hear someone say—rushing out the door, knocking it into
a thousand pieces, glass shattered on the floor, the frame twisted,
a strange disfiguration replacing the face—the photographic paper
marred by shards—and it’s not only the having done it that one
must live with—one’s own arm thrown carelessly through the air—
but the evidence of what was meant to be.


Nominated for the National Book Award for Poetry (2013)
Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year (2013) Commendation
One of NPR's Best Books of 2013

MARTHA RONK is the author of nine books of poetry, including Partially Kept (Nightboat Books), Vertigo (Coffee House), a National Poetry Series Selection, and In a landscape of having to repeat (Omnidawn), a PEN/USA best poetry book 2005, and Why/Why Not (University of California Press). She has also published a fictional memoir, Displeasures of the Table, and a collection of fiction, Glass Grapes and other stories (BOA Editions 2008); her poetry is included in the anthologies Lyric Postmodernisms (Counterpath Press), American Hybrid, (Norton), and Not For Mothers Only (Fence). She had residencies at Djerassi and The MacDowell Colony, and taught summer programs at the University of Colorado and Naropa; in 2007 she received an NEA Award. She worked as editor for Littoral Books and The New Review of Literature, and is the Irma and Jay Price Professor of English at Occidental College in Los Angeles, teaching Renaissance Literature and Creative Writing.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:18:19 -0500