The stone says it on which the phrase is carved: gnothi seauton, know yourself. Written in a book hidden in the temple of the goddess, book of which only fragments remain, we have Heraclitus: phusis philei kruptesthai, nature loves to hide. The word, kruptesthai, to be hidden, is where this word so intricately endeared to Kylan Rice’s wondrous, labyrinthine, collection of essays emerges from—a crypt, an encryption. And it is as if from in between these two ancient shards the bright-dark dazzle of this book arises. Or does it descend?—deeper into mind, into memory, into the earth itself. It is a lie, but I want to believe it, that trick and truce (that imperfect rhyme) derive from the source. Then the trompe l’oeil still life that fools the eye into thinking real what isn’t, makes peace with the world hiding underneath appearance, that essence, that dark quiddity, we fear we never reach, even as we live within it. Here, ironies function as nervous conduits, and the profound risk this book bravely takes, is to trust that somehow the whole coheres, all if it, the world. Even the lives we do not lead continue to live themselves inside us. Emerson says, “For all symbols are fluxional; all language is vehicular and transitive, and is good, as ferries and houses are, for conveyance.” Kylan Rice is often on the road in these pages, on the highways of the Mountain West, and overseas in foreign lands. He is bringing us with him, such is the generosity of these pages, this mind, not to take us far from home, but to bring us closer. “My job is to channel a channeling,” he says. Part mystic, part sober-eyed skeptic, but poet through-and-through, Rice invites us into the mystery of our lives, helps us point at what is hidden, opens the crypt, gives us a hand as he helps us climb in.
author of Arrows and
translator of Stone-Garland, Six Poets from the Greek Lyric Tradition
Entering this book is like walking into one of those second-hand bookstores where the books are piled to the ceiling and each stack obscures another stack behind it and you are struck, once your eyes adjust to the dusty light, with the vertigo of being at the edge of the infinite; Melville is here, and Keats and Dickinson and Simonides and Leibniz and Dante and Hölderlin, as well as a dozen seductively arcane volumes on cryptography and God and trompe l’oeil. Or it’s like entering an abandoned Baroque ballroom in which a thousand mirrored tops spin, making the gilt surfaces flash in every direction, so that for a moment you feel suspended from the ceiling. Or it’s like driving across America in an old car, watching the actual weather unfold outside your window, and talking all night with your companion, a poet-essayist whose talk is a kind of music you stay awake to hear, who has in his pocket the keys to a secondhand bookstore and a secret ballroom where, years ago, he set a thousand tops spinning on the floor.
Kristen Case, author of Principles of Economics,
editor of 21|19: Contemporary Poets in the 19th Century Archive
Kylan Rice lives in North Carolina. His writing has been published in a variety of literary journals, including Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and West Branch, among others. He studied poetry at Colorado State University and UNC-Chapel Hill, and has served as editor-in-chief for The Carolina Quarterly.