Roget's Illusion

Roget’s Illusion

Written by:

Additional Formats
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9780399165467
  • 112 Pages
  • Marian Wood Books/Putnam
  • Adult


“Her poems, with their constantly surprising delicacy and their language rich with insight and a sensuous music, radiate real power and authority and animal presence.” —W. S. Merwin (U.S. Poet Laureate, 2010–2011)
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 more 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.


Praise for Roget’s Illusion
“In language both delicious and precise, poems by MacArthur Fellow Bierds inhabit the realm of illusion and the human need for clarity… Often using the form pantoum, a quatrain that repeats and spirals like a DNA’s double helix, and the moth as symbol, ­Bierds shows readers that language and illusion can be transformative and revelatory.  An important new book for readers interested in the intersections between science and art.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Research is Bierds’ great font of inspiration. By looking through the eyes of other avid seekers as well as her own, she achieves stereoscopic vision, then distills her discoveries to create richly textured and supple poems of startling suppositions and connections. . . Bierds’ fresh and agile inquiries into our perceptions attune us to how we use science and art ‘to venerate the living world / and keep the ghosts at bay.’”—Booklist
Praise for Linda Bierds
“With her sure prowess for crafting language that’s both fiercely attentive and delicately nuanced, Bierds time and again demonstrates her own exemplary gift for holding the world’s marvels up to scrutiny.”—David Barber, Boston Globe (poetry editor, The Atlantic)
“The autobiography of her imagination would be only half as intense were the writing less beautiful and clear, less perfect to pitch.”—Stanley Plumly
“Her poems reflect a double vision, set in history and yet released from it by imagination. Her research seems impeccable, but fortunately she is not confined by it; the facts keep giving way to intuition, intensely empathetic and hauntingly articulated.”—David Walker, Field
“Bierds writes with the authority, incisiveness, and magic of one who has mastered her craft. . . . These poems celebrate the wonders of life. First Hand is a nearly perfect book.”—Library Journal
“Resurrecting the past through language is resurrecting language itself. The language of Bierds’s poems smokes, flares, and flickers out, leaving an afterglow.”—The Bloomsbury Review
“She approaches each poem as Fellini approached film, with an infinite capacity for wonder.”—Jeff Encke, Octopus
“Bierds remarkable images are filled with nuance, echo with the conscience of all humanity.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Her true originality has no need of quirkiness to emphasize it, and the range of her interests, empathy, knowledge, and imagination is imposing.”—W.S. Merwin
“A poet of magnitude.”—Harold Brodkey
“Visionary.”—The New Yorker
“Radiant.”—The New York Times Book Review