Exploring Rights strikes new ground, exploratory and questioning of our roles and ethical choices, in a poetry that defiantly and playfully confronts ‘post-truth’ culture and the prospects of humankind’s survival.
Endorsements for Ragg’s new collection:
Exploring Rights could not be more timely but is not only that: this book has the sustaining resonance of true works of art. This is formidably intelligent yet also tender and approachable poetry — a poetry of care, linguistic brio, philosophical range, sharp assessment, and occasionally savage indignation. Ragg modulates expertly between dispassionate attention and impassioned song. In Ragg — an Auden for our moment — delicate lyricism and discursive command co-exist. Exploring Rights registers our modernity and its human (and more-than-human) challenges, from Europe to China to the US to the Arctic. Ragg is a varied maker — a wizard of sampled documents, archival materials, legalese, spam, bots. Ranging from Catullus to Himmler to our era of surveillance, Ragg’s many-tongued verse shimmers with a complex intellectual and sensual music. Ragg tests his art on the most difficult yet urgent question: how and whether to pursue ‘the luxury of the poem’ in these days.
Maureen N. McLane
Anthem at Morning
How wonderful it would be
in this brightest of mornings
to walk in the clear light
not of possibility
but purpose and to sing
in that same clear light
of the purpose that
in all possibility is today.
[from A Force That Takes]
The Empress of Peonies
So Empress Wu Ze Tian
the petals of the peony,
buxom as Tang women,
By the waters of Luoyang
the faceless Buddhas stand.
But the rock, black rock,
carved of a single sculpture,
in which the pattern
of peonies appears,
It is a natural formation,
at least they say
And I have wondered
if poetry now
is the appearance
of peonies – the pretence
of peonies – in a world
of rock, black rock:
knowing it is neither those
nor superstition of locals.
For we must speak more
quietly – and – slowly
in a world of keyboards
and carnage indistinguishable
in the field hospitals
(military and civilian),
speak – softly – for the faceless,
the woman within the Empress
so softly the buxom peony.
[from Holding Unfailing]
Great Length Impeccable Finish
Too many phrases impacting, imploding.
Too many meteorites no larger than footballs,
phutting in the dormant corners of the moon.
The wine swirls through the glass which
swirls through my hand: languouring red cherry,
leather and barnyard, fragrant sous bois.
It is the statement of its past. Even wine can
be made with irony, or too total techniques.
It is the aesthetic that leaves nothing to chance.
I said too much at the start, wrote little,
unravelled the mysterious selvage, hawked up
literary fur balls, left dirty poems on the porch.
I dispelled the volatile shaking too much.
My oxidized life was sun-burnt, overripe.
This bottle-barrelled pen… let it ferment itself.
[from Exploring Rights]
This is a complex and intently-reasoned collection which addresses historic and contemporary issues with unflinching attention. There is mordant wit, formidable energy, and a relish for analysis of various appetites. A prevailing and chilling concentration is sustained throughout. These poems witness the urgency of recording and understanding our past and present human darknesses.
.Edward Ragg was born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1976 and, since 2007, has lived in Beijing, China. He won the 2012 Cinnamon Press Poetry Award and his first collection of poetry was A Force That Takes (Cinnamon Press, 2013).
Edward’s second volume, increasingly engaged with contemporary China, was Holding Unfailing (Cinnamon Press, 2017): praised for its ‘intriguing, supple poems that range across the world and across the landscapes of the mind’ (Sarah Howe). Edward’s third collection was Exploring Rights (Cinnamon Press, 2020), a more formally and stylistically experimental work challenging ‘post-truth’ culture: noted for its ‘linguistic brio, philosophical range, sharp assessment, and occasionally savage indignation’ (Maureen N. McLane).
Edward’s poetry has been anthologized in the 2014 Forward Book of Poetry (Faber & Faber, 2013), Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam (Eyewear Publishing/Cinnamon Press, 2012), Jericho & Other Stories & Poems (Cinnamon Press, 2012), Visiting Wallace: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Wallace Stevens (Iowa University Press, 2009) and New Poetries IV (Carcanet Press, 2007). His poems have appeared in Aesthetica, Acumen, Agenda, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Cordite Poetry Review, Critical Quarterly, Envoi, Orbis, Other Poetry, Papercuts, Poetry Quarterly, PN Review, Seam, The New Writer, Three Line Poetry and other journals.
Edward is also a critic: author of Wallace Stevens and the Aesthetics of Abstraction (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and co-editor of Wallace Stevens across the Atlantic (Palgrave, 2008). He is co-founder, with his wife Fongyee Walker, of Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting and became a Master of Wine (MW) in 2019.