Hieroglyphs of the Inverted World
Author: Rob Halpern
Publisher: Kenning Editions (2021)
Rob Halpern’s new sequence of poems speaks to social, environmental, and personal crisis—from white supremacist violence and wildfires raging just north of San Francisco, to the death of his father—all of which are tempered by the joyful birth of his daughter, whose new life offers relief in the darkness. He calls the poems “hieroglyphs” with a tip of the hat to Marx, for whom the “hieroglyphic” appearance of the world translates “the secret” of our catastrophe. But as Halpern notes, “the secret of the thing may well be that there is no secret.” Here, investigation, analysis, and healing converge, as Hieroglyphs of the Inverted World tests the promise and the failure of cultural production, specifically lyric poetry, in the midst of disaster. In his afterword to the book, Halpern asks, “Can the moment arrested by the poem’s burnished amber show us something we don’t already know about the world?” And if not, what is the social function of the poem? Perhaps the question is unanswerable, but this book attempts a response.
The book concludes with a new essay by Halpern, “For a Hieroglyphic Poetics.”