In dense and formally playful essays, poet Sleigh (Far Side of the Earth) explores how “private life, historical circumstance, and art converge” and “what it means to say ‘I’ in a poem, in all its psychological, historical, political, and aesthetic ramifications.” In his opening essay Sleigh draws on his own experiences of bodily wasting and brushes with death (he has a chronic blood disease) to read between the lines of Plato’s Phaedo. Another autobiographical essay reflects on his parents’ East Texas drive-in movie theater while analyzing the relationship between technological and poetical thinking; here Sleigh invokes Heidegger, Auden, Lowell and Yeats and recalls memories of his father hooked to a dialysis machine, en route to striking insights into technology, magic and the divine. He traces notions of the self from Anne Bradstreet to Emerson, Whitman and Eliot, noting that “the self in American poetry has usually been dependent on some sponsoring transcendental source.” To richly suggestive effect, Sleigh combines child psychologist D. W. Winnicott’s ideas about infantile absorption in play and T. S. Eliot’s theories of “impersonality” to comment on the act of poetic communication. Sleigh concludes by focusing essays on specific writers and their works, treating among others Frank Bidart, Elizabeth Bishop, Randall Jarrell and Seamus Heaney.
—Publishers Weekly (Apr. 2006)
What is the meaning of "I" in poetry? In his first collection of prose, poet Sleigh (Far Side of the Earth), who teaches in the graduate writing program at Hunter College, delves into this issue by viewing the writing process from a variety of angles. In the title essay, it is unclear whether Sleigh is the Ghost, the Interviewer, both, or neither. He follows with autobiographical essays discussing his drug use, his incurable blood illness, and his family, all of which has influenced his writing. In the second part of the book, he attacks the idea of an easily knowable first-person narrator, showing how even an ostensibly confessional writer like Robert Lowell shapes and edits the self that is presented to readers. Finally, Sleigh discusses the work of other poets, some overtly confessional, others who tend to conceal themselves. In this readable and absorbing work, he does what any good poetry critic should do-he makes the reader want to read more poetry. Highly recommended for all literature
—Library Journal, Amy K. Weiss, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara, April 2006