Sunday, January 13, 2019


Geoffrey O'Brien's Marsh Hawk Press book, The Blue Hill, is reviewed in Hyperallergic. Go HERE for entire review, but here's an excerpt:
"As O’Brien tells us in the notes, he drew his information from Bengt Ankaroo’s academic history, Witch Trials in Northern Europe, 1450-1700, which details the tradition of the Bläkulla, or blue hill, an island in Sweden’s Kalmar Strait and a suspected site of Sabbath occult gatherings. Public executions of 20 suspected witches took place at the site. As much as O’Brien’s work resonates with the recovery work of contemporary documentary poetics, his handling of the material testifies to his investment not in evidence but in innuendo. Paraphrase is particularly important here. Little direct description of the Sabbath makes its way into the poem. Rather, O’Brien shows in increments how the phrase “the blue hill” begins as suspicion and builds into all-consuming construct in the mind of the collective. All the allegorical potential remains intact. While O’Brien paraphrases the academic history of occult persecution, the poem points to the role paraphrase and hearsay play in the accumulative constitution of myth. Each section follows the pattern above. The repeating name of the place underscores the obsessiveness of the subject, enabling O’Brien to convincingly show the link between heresy and hearsay.
"In the end, The Blue Hill situates paraphrase as something other than a method or exercise. With each section, O’Brien returns to the affective weight of being called, treating the urge to rephrase as his calling. It is this ecstatic sense of second-sight that allows a book so painstaking in its craft to yield such visceral pleasure."

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