What I Saw

In an essay titled “Nature,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that in nature, “We return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life, — no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite spaces, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.” Throughout his latest collection of poetry, titled What I Saw, Jack McCarthy partakes in the same miracle of transubstantiation, becoming a transparent eyeball himself as he floats through the material world and records his observations with precision and clarity. From this perspective, McCarthy bears witness to a myriad of events: Adam and Eve inventing the concept of love, chipmunks making booty calls, elephants gone mad, a child drifting away on a leaky boat, a red sweatshirt gone missing, Hannibal Lecter singing the praises of fava beans and chianti. His poetry evokes our humanity and frequently draws attention to the mortality that we all share. He writes of animals and literary figures, poetry and wandering. He’s profound without being pretentious, a plain-spoken observer of the human animal. From McCarthy’s perspective, we’re all traveling somewhere, even when we appear to be stalled or meandering.

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