Odd Bloom Seen from Space

Odd Bloom Seen from Space

2016 Iowa Poetry Prize



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2017
92 pages, 6 x 8 inches
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9781609385040
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9781609385057
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“In these poems, Welch is an attentive watcher who has ‘lived most of my life alone.’ From the little distance he cultivates, he manages a detailed view of the big picture. He is sometimes at the seashore, where he can observe children at play, seals ‘lifting their backs / upon the water,’ and wonders, ‘is there a story to each wave that crosses the sea?’ He looks to the distant shores of Greece, both for its timeless myths that are the roots of Western thought, and perhaps for more personal connections. This is classical poetry set in our time, with room for ‘Owls and their Michael Jackson / hooting in the trees’ and ‘reading Anna Karenina / on a Kindle.’ The ‘odd bloom’ of the title is an astronaut’s vision of the towers collapsing on 9/11, though Welch sees it ‘peripherally, which is what this is, some side-line / reflection’; history seems to happen to other people, in other places, affording Welch his detached viewpoint from which a kind of unbiased truth might be reported. Finally, for all its subtle sarcasms, this is a deeply earnest book, one sensitive soul’s reckoning with a troubled age.”—Craig Morgan Teicher, judge, Iowa Poetry Prize

“In language gemlike, shining, Timothy Daniel Welch invokes the labors of Hercules, an odd bloom seen from space, a mother’s death, fishing, snow, and an ode to a nose, to embrace the vagaries of memory and the mysteries of time and the universe, in poems that continually seduce and surprise. ‘Imagine a book of poems catching fire in the afternoon,’ and you will know this book of marvels, this marvel of a book.”—Ronald Wallace, author, For Dear Life

“In rich and heartbreaking lines, Welch gives meaning to our designs—cubist, elliptical, often erotic. ‘There’s beauty in wanting more / time to be young, to sing and seize it in a photograph or / music video before it goes from us.’”—Sandra Alcosser, author, Except by Nature

“Like the grand subject of Timothy Daniel Welch’s poem ‘Nose of Least Comparison,’ Welch’s debut book is wonderfully distinct, handsomely made, and exhibits those historical pressures and markers that make for a very particular and brilliant consciousness. The reader of Odd Bloom Seen from Space is in for surprise after surprise. Not once could I figure where Welch was taking me at the start of a poem, and the pleasure of this poet’s sure-handed, illuminating guidance is immense. This is a book that earns such trust and affection, for its intellectual honesty, format expertise, capacious heart, and occasionally roguish wit. Truly, I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s one of the best debut books I’ve read in many years.”—Erin Belieu, Florida State University

These poems speak an odd nostalgia for what turns on, in, and alongside the world. A tragedy of loss, a miracle of eroticism, or a comedy of road kill, Odd Bloom Seen from Space looks at the self amid the ashes of fleeting exultation and uncertainty. The speaker tells stories with wild candor on matters of heroic inadequacy while searching through his obsessive questions for greater meaning.

But it’s in the act of discovery, through the hero’s immediate ancestry, that Welch’s debut collection confronts big questions about family, music, art, and memory. Like a contemporary Diogenes who pursues meaning one small gesture at a time, Welch comes to learn truth is a “brutal commerce,” beauty is “white legs / upon which she shed her childhood,” time is “Michael Jackson / hooting in the trees,” and “Love is gradual, a bottle / by sips, a bottle / poured onto the floor.” There is wisdom to be gained from these inventive pursuits, but in the end it’s not what is said, but how it’s said with terse rhetoric, deep imagery, and surprising humor that makes Odd Bloom Seen from Space such a gorgeous, original, and baffling collection.

Excerpt: 

On the Isle of Erytheia”

 

My virginity, like a herd of red cattle

I drove for seventeen years,

 

was dumb and almost

 

beautiful—

I spent my time tending

 

to the animals in me.  I remember their tails,

those tender curls, and

 

the long nights

following strays to the rim

 

of town and faltering, spooked

 

by a train whistle or the start

of an engine.  Some place, this

 

Erytheia, for skinny boys

without a sense of butchery—

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