November 1, 2016 at 3:13 pm

Claire Bateman is ‘The Most Exciting Talent in the USA of Poetry’: Mark Halliday

On Thursday, Nov. 3, the Ohio University Creative Writing Program hosts Visiting Poet Claire Bateman, for a reading at 7:30 p.m., at Galbreath Chapel.*

By Morgan Cappel, intern for the Office of Special Programs

The poet Claire Bateman’s most recent collection of poetry, Scape, is enamored of the world. For her, there are two dimensions: this one, in which we are breathing at this moment, and the one that we suspect is just outside of us, and she has affection for both. Her poetry, though, is usually about finding the second, the Numinous-Luminous, although we think that we only reside in the first. Sometimes her poems are almost fantastical, then, coming to us from the other dimension, where existence is more spiritual, more lucid.

Claire Bateman

Claire Bateman

Bateman takes us on this journey in her books Scape, Locals, The Bicycle Slow Race, Friction, At the Funeral of the Ether, Clumsy, Leap, and Coronology. She has taught at Clemson University, the Greenville Fine Arts Center, and various workshops and conferences, and she is the Creative Writing Department’s Resident Poet this year, on the strength of her body of work, and on the beauty of a poem like “Simultaneous Sky,” which begins:

Hadn’t we always sensed that we were abiding
at the bottom of something enormous?

Most of us figure that this “something enormous” is our sky, but Bateman views it as another world entirely, concealed behind the everyday blue. She continues:

So when the invisibility tarp was lifted,
and we beheld the sky occurring
everywhere at once,
a luminosity calibrated to our thirst.

Bateman has so extravagantly yet so precisely conceived this other sky that we can understand it and even forget how ineffable it was to us before. The sky is “everywhere at once” in her world but, without Bateman’s poetry, we don’t often think of it this way. And when the poem goes on to describe the experience of being in the sky, we’re enveloped in it, and we are:

pealing, pearling, filtering down
through branch-sieves and slant gaps
between cast-iron stair-steps
stained with cloud light
and scoured by noon.

The sky, something of the everyday for us, becomes transcendent in Bateman’s layered, lovely language, and we’re everywhere at once, too. Because for Bateman, whom OHIO’s Mark Halliday calls “a visionary comic-religious poet” and “a unique dreamer,” being human is the truly transcendent experience. In her poetry, she urges us to wander with her through the other dimensions of this world that we don’t normally have entrance to, and I encourage you to tag along, fall along, in wonder.


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