“The real has many faces,” suggests G. C. Waldrep in his book-length poem Testament, which takes up Mormonism, race, and his own spiritual practice. The book is also Waldrep’s stream-of-consciousness response to three poetic texts—Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip, Carla Harryman’s Adorno’s Noise, and Alice Notley’s Alma, or The Dead Women. Capitalism, notions of gender, and language itself are critiqued and examined throughout. “Capitalism swaggers / outside language in the chrome shadow of / something like an enormous, gleaming motorcycle / we aren’t sufficiently afraid of. Not yet.” Erudite and glittering, Waldrep’s language consists of Ashberian non sequiturs that are sonically lush and often nature-related: “The cherry tree, being alive—full of spring sap— / took some time to catch. When it did, / it burned like a torch, with an audible whoosh.” In dialogue with the historic tradition of the American long poem, Waldrep’s contribution to that tradition is elliptical, political, and memorable.
This book review originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2015.