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He is best known for his Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases but among filmmakers Roget is better known for his explanation of the optical illusion that still bedevils them Why does a wheel moving forward always seem on film to be running backward? For Linda Bierds the illusion also refers to our relationship to language to our belief that words hold something than their definitions Why do we strive to articulate the world even as we know this is a shifting and illusory pursuit? Why do we continue to seek perfection pursue beauty yearn for immortality? Roget’s Illusion offers no answer It simply shows the striving

10 thoughts on “Roget's Illusion

  1. says:

    Longlisted for the National Book Award and written by the author of The Profile Makers and a MacArthur genius award winner who visited my campus recently to read her work and do conferences and a workshop with our poets That occasion led me to read this book though I had already bookmarked it to read because I had very much liked The Profile Makers which I learned was ekphrastic poetry or poetry about art or using one form of art to try to try to explain another form of art The Profile Makers was about photography Other examples? William Carlos Williams wrote his poem Landscape with the Fall of Icarus about Brueghel's painting The Fall of Icarus and WH Auden also wrote Musee Des Beaux Arts about that painting Roget's Illusion also has a lot of ekphrastic poetry but there is a wider scope here that includes ekphrasis Roget's Illusion is about the relationship between naturalistic or scientific inuiry and linguistic inuiry It's what is sometimes called academic poetry the domain of university creative writing programs dense lyric poetry but I found it and her through her reading of it passionate engaged and fascinating It's about inuiry about curiosity about the human capacity for always wanted to know how things work for explanationRoget is of course best known about writers and readers for his 1852 Thesaurus his inuiry into words language But scientists know him for his scientific inuiry into a common phenomenon how spinning spoked wheels would appear to move backwards Why is that? So Bierds writes about Roget writing about that and about that phenomenon too but she is really about the impulse to inuiry itself which of course also happens in poetry So Roget is a good guy for exploring the intersection of science and language And Bierds loves science and art and poetry as inuiry into the world And at the heart of this enterprise is not the answers but the striving for them that impulse to know that like Icarus always falls somewhat short of its divine goal but is admirable in its own right Poems in this collection explore in addition to Roget the art of Durer the Font de Gaume Cave Paintings Nicolaas Tulp Pietro Longhi Walter Sickert and the writing of Virginia Woolf but also of scientists Michael Faraday who contributed to our understanding of electromagnetism and electrochemistry George Steller a botanist Pasteur and Darwin It's dense thoughtful work about the relationships between science art and language And music Her last poem is about in part Wagner's Tristan But remember this is finally about poetry Bierd's careful way through language to try her own inuiry to understand and communicate with us her understandings of these other forms of inuiry and their often intricate interrelationships She uotes for her last poem Virginia Woolf I am imagining how it would be if we could infuse souls? Seems like she mostly accomplishes this Dense academic sure but it's finally about things beyond what we can truly say all this inuiry seems like After all the erudite rendering it seems like Roget's Illusion is about mystery

  2. says:

    I'd selected this poetry collection on a whim and found myself delighted with the line precision and Bierds' exuisite use of historical research Part One and Part Two were by far most appealing The third while dense approached too close the present and took away from the pure essence of Durer and his science All in all a thoroughly enjoyable collection

  3. says:

    These poems left me cold and disappointed Linda Bierds' words are detailed and thoughtfully crafted but also somehow self conscious clinical and rigid A few turns of phrase here and there pulled me in but mostly I felt like a fidgety bored child listening to a lecture

  4. says:

    I confess I neither understood nor related to most of the poems in this book

  5. says:

    Tooacademic? for my taste Didn't draw me in emotionally