by Bob Perelman
Virtual reality is a computer-generated environment that seems real butisn't; Virtual Reality, the book, makes clear that the experiencepredates the technology. These brilliant and often hilarious poems exposethe rotten scaffolding of the ideologically generated "private" world,and reconnect its elegances to their social and intellectual consequences."It's / 1991-at least it was, once / upon a time-and communism is / dead,leaving capitalism, the word, the // movie, the whole ball of idiomatic /wax, with nowhere to go, nothing // to mean. The free world belongs / ina language museum now, along / with free love and free verse."
Most poets define poetry by creating it. Bob Perelman creates it bydefining it, and is thus one step ahead of all the poets under the sun,one step closer to colliding with Zeno's vanishing point, to mergingcoyote with road runner, to winning the hand.
- John Ashbery
Perelman's new collection is sharp-eyed ironic investigation of poeticlanguage in the global information net of the 1990's. "To write thehistories with / any accuracy is to write backwards, / true to thefalsity of experience." Among several stunning long works in VirtualReality, "The Marginalization of Poetry" explores some points of contactbetween criticism and its "abject object," poetry. Underneath thesideways moments here where odd distinctions are emblems. Perelman'smemories and desires may be quotations converted to running gags,irrational sense-experience, sometimes uncommon nervousness: most oftenluminous.
- Susan Howe
There are no complete thoughts. There are, however, comprehensive ones,the mind panoramically scanning a present where each detail exposes astruggle, contradictions, compromises, all glazed over in the latestcolors. No one expresses these thoughts more richly or more acutely thanBob Perelman, whose work never lets the reader forget the difficultywithin each decision even as it celebrates the possibility of decisionmaking as the essence of ethical action. With a wit whose ancestryincludes Catullus and Pope as well as Berrigan and Frank O'Hara, Perelmanhas emerged as our most sharply edged political poet.
- Ron Silliman
There was no refamiliarizing . . . . / We could almost see / our handsseizing towers, chains, dealerships, / the structures that drew the maps,/ but there was no time to / read them, only to react . . .
These lines from the title poem of Virtual Reality give us precisely thefeel of living inside the "global information net" which is latetwentieth-century America. In a series of stunning and various poems, BobPerelman provides us with the story of our everyday lives. This is poetryas social text, a lyric at once deeply personal and yet directed outward,as a form of political critique. Virtual Reality won't let us get awaywith anything: it forces us to See It New.
- Marjorie Perloff
Publication date: September 1993
Out of Print