The Invention of the Kaleidoscope is a book of poetic elegies that discuss failures: failures of love, both sexual and spiritual; failures of the body; failures of science, art and technology; failures of nature, imagination, memory and, most importantly, the failures inherent to elegiac narratives and our formal attempt to memoralize the lost. But the book also explores the necessity of such narratives, as well as the creative possibilities implicit within the “failed elegy,” all while examining the various ways that self-destruction can turn into self-preservation.
In her dazzling long poem 'The Invention of the Kaleidoscope,' Paisley Rekdal observes: 'I suppose / it is an accident anything is beautiful.' Whether accident or skill is responsible, the beauty of this collection is humane, touching, and yet also full of glitter and evanescence-like the haunted life of the radiant speaker we follow throughout the poems.
Sir David Brewster's invention of the kaleidoscope in 1830 provides the historical frame for one of Paisley Rekdal's brilliant new long poems, while a family narrative-elegized and eroticized by turns-provides the personal site, in 'Night Scenes,' for her second. One is lit up and adazzle, one muted by shades of memory and erasure. The Invention of the Kaleidoscope finds its greatest power in such mitigating oppositions.
Dazzling. Just as a kaleidoscope refracts and changes the object viewed, Rekdal's subjects and protagonists are often unable to tell themselves from the stories they've been told. Rekdal's news poems remind us that 'every simple form could be converted, / beautified by being combined.'
Stunning, heart-wrenching . . . These poems look unflinchingly at disappointment—loss of love, death, abandonment of hopes—and make it beautiful.
Fresh, intense and ultimately irresistible. The pages of 'Kaleidoscope' are littered with car-crash moments, places and voices that will make you wince and smirk and shake your head. Good luck trying to look the other way.
A book of striking reverie. Rekdal's work deeply satisfies, for it witnesses and wonders over the necessary struggles of human awareness and being.
A devastating personal reflection on love, early childhood, political unrest, and the problems of artistic transformation. . . . Dazzling.
Ultimately, the greatest success of 'The Invention of the Kaleidoscope' lies in the nature of its elegies. Even when the specifics are not famiiar to the reader, the speaker's elegizing is at once personal and general.
The multiple images in Paisley Rekdal's 'The Invention of the Kaleidoscope' may be testimony to her far-ranging mind, but the rhythms are what give her poems their distinctive flavor. Dip in anywhere, and your voice is in instant synch with hers.
Paisley Rekdal is associate professor of English at the University of Utah. She is the author of three previous poetry collections: The Invention of the Kaleidoscope, A Crash of Rhinos, and Six Girls Without Pants, as well as a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee. She is the recipient of the Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, the University of Georgia Press Contemporary Poetry Series Award, an NEA Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, and the 2011–2012 Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship.learn more