Black Lawrence Press
January 11, 2010

An Imagination Shaped by Technologies

Rachel Galvin’s debut collection Pulleys & Locomotion is a hub for movement, immigration, and flight.  Alternating between lyrical extension and succinct prose poems, this book brings together science, philosophy, folktale, and half-remembered history.  Raised in Rochester, NY, the home of Eastman Kodak, Galvin has an imagination shaped by the technologies and metaphors of photographic and filmic vision.  Like a zoetrope, the spinning cylinder that led to early motion picture, the pages of Pulleys & Locomotion form a device that creates irresistible motion out of a succession of poems.  “Rely on your eye for illusion of motion,” Galvin writes in “How to Build Your Own Zoetrope.”  “Figures move naturally at fourteen frames / per second and if you have pictured me, / at this rate I will always run toward you, / years hence, luminous, blurred / with expectation.”  In conversation with figures as diverse as Emily Dickinson, Edmond Jabès, Roland Barthes, and André Kertesz, these poems teem with vitality.  Their sense of the contemporaneous is inextricable from history and dream: “News footage simulates the last century: / a woman running shoeless in snow, / her inaudible voice.” Audacious and musical, in a style that responds to French and Latin American poetic traditions, these poems will echo in the reader’s ear.  “Go, she says, Pour your palmful of water / from one hand to the other.

Pulleys and Locomotion is available from Black Lawrence Press and from Amazon.

About the Author

Rachel Galvin grew up in Rochester, NY, and has lived in Washington, D.C. and Paris. She has been a fellow at Hedgebrook, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a James A. Michener Fellow in Poetry at the University of Texas at Austin. Her poems, translations, and essays appear in journals including McSweeney’s, Drunken Boat, Gulf Coast, Humanities Magazine, and World Literature Today. She is currently a doctoral student at Princeton University.

Advance Praise

Rachel Galvin is a visionary poet.  With amazing subtlety, she can speak of the latest scientific discovery or the secrets of her next-door neighbor with the same level of intensity, of revelation.  Readers will be mesmerized to read this book. I know I was. Astonishingly original, Galvin’s is one of the voices my generation will be remembered by. –Ilya Kaminsky

…Intelligent and adventurous and musically alert at once, definitely in the stream of what Rexroth once called “the international lyric tradition,” by which, back to Apollinaire, Cendrars, the early Reverdy and forward in countless ways…. –Michael Palmer

What does it take “to unfurl a belief of this size,” asks Rachel Galvin.  The poems of Pulleys & Locomotion provide the answer: a sensibility animated equally by skepticism and wonder—equally at home in the backstreets of foreign cities and among the stars.  Pulleys & Locomotion is a capacious, riveting book. –James Longenbach

Rachel Galvin’s Pulleys and Locomotion, as the title clues us, is a moving book. The poems are in transit between immigration and flight, and indeed defy gravity along their vertical axes like the floating figures of Chagall. Whether revealing an imaginary room of blue sand, the folklore of a forgotten place, or an ordinary hummingbird’s truly surreal reality, these poems are alive with intense colors, clear edges, and continually resonating sound. –Susan Stewart

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