The Guardian Reviews Timothy Donnelly's The Cloud Corporation

By Harriet Staff

Perhaps you've seen this already, but we'd like to point you to The Guardian's review of Timothy Donnelly's The Cloud Corporation (Wave Books 2010) -- the guy's gone international! The review's title almost says it all: "An outstanding collection by a modern American master." More from writer David Wheatley:

For lyric poetry of such high quality, these poems are remarkably uninterested in defending the privilege of the first-person singular: "in believing oneself to be just one / One made the first mistake." The illusion of transcendence is part of the system, since "to presume immunity / may be a symptom", as we read in "Partial Inventory of Airborne Debris". If that sounds pessimistic, this is a collection with an eye for all manner of contemporary hells, from wars by robot drone to gothic paranoia and the info-chatter that thuds through all our lives. Does Donnelly see poetry as the antidote to this white noise, or just one more form of it? The Cloud Corporation comes with an endorsement from John Ashbery, and Ashbery fans may be reminded of that writer's fondness for poetry as higher muzak. As in Ashbery's "The System", however, beneath the ubiquitous semblance of order the poet is busy probing the limits of reality and social control.

"New obstacles shall be established by the chairman of failure," Donnelly writes, as though the American sublime is being made to sit through a staff meeting at Stevens's Academy of Fine Ideas. Sooner or later the reader begins to suspect that the obstacles Donnelly places in its path are in fact what inspire and mobilise his work, with its urge "to calculate // what resists calculation, (…) to control what refuses / to cooperate". "The fascination of what's difficult / Has dried the sap out of my bones," Yeats complained, but for Donnelly the experience seems to have proved exhilarating, and so it should prove for his readers too. It would be excessive, though, to lumber The Cloud Corporation with Spinoza's injunction that all excellent things are as difficult as they are rare. The unanswered questions of Donnelly's poems come and go like mirages, but the aftertaste of puzzlement they leave is an enduring pleasure. As he writes in the sequence "Globus Hystericus": "That left me feeling in on it, chosen, a real fun-time guy, / albeit somewhat sleep-deprived; detail-oriented, modern, / yes, but also dubious, maudlin, bedridden, speechless."

If he is "speechless", then obviously it's not for very long. . . .

Read the full enthusiasm here.

Originally Published: January 25th, 2012