Black Lawrence Press

Pulleys & Locomotion

Pulleys & Locomotion

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.”


  • "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
  • "…[I]ntelligent 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

Rachel Galvin

Rachel Galvin is an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Humanities Center of The Johns Hopkins University. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University, where her  dissertation won the Sidonie Clauss Memorial Dissertation Prize. Her current book project, a comparative study titled Poetry and the Press in Wartime (1936-1945), argues that print journalism offered an unexpected model for wartime poetry and poetics during the tumultuous period spanning from the Spanish Civil War through World War II. In a second project, Hemispheric Poetics: 20th-Century Poetry of the Americas, Galvin contends that poetry of the long twentieth century must be understood in hemispheric terms. Galvin is studying how poets interpret the idea of “the Americas” as lands and nations, showing that their poetics develop through dialogue across linguistic and geographical distances. Essays are forthcoming in The Blackwell Companion to Translation Studies, Le Magazine littéraire, and the Wallace Stevens Journal.

Rachel was a Michener Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and a Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Hedgebrook.  Her poems and translations appear in journals including Colorado Review, Drunken Boat, Gulf Coast, McSweeney’s, and The New Yorker. She is the author of a chapbook of poems, Zoetrope (2006), and a book of poems, Pulleys & Locomotion, was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2009.  That collection is  being translated into French and Spanish, and a dossier of poems will be featured this year in the Buenos Aires journal, Diario de Poesía, translated by Mariana Di Ció. Hitting the Streets, Rachel's translation of Raymond Queneau’s Courir les rues, is forthcoming from Carcanet Press (2013). Her new collection of poems, Lost Property Unit, was a finalist for the 2011 National Poetry Series and Alice James Book's 2011 Kinereth Gensler Award.

Galvin Author page

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