Psychotherapist, Writer, teacher

Karen Weiser


Who doesn’t love art that catches, like our soul gets caught in its material as we’re drifting. Text is dream and two dreams in one I think expose the machinery like Sappho always does, did. Karen’s Or, The Ambiguities is not like that or else exactly triggering my longing to read Pierre again been meaning to for ages but this is just such distressed work so good such poetry.—EILEEN MYLES


This book stuns and amazes. Its ambiguities, its orsare everywhere dispersed in crystalline surfaces, luminous depths. Subtly startling in each of its parts – spanning a formal and historical range in which graphic and grammatical presences include an I that “could disappear into the Encyclopedia / of Animal Life as the cherub’s sleepiest / Wet tusk.” Or negotiate lettristic precipitation and accretions of revelation and release. Or make poetry in spaces the size of very small manacled wrists where: “when the sun slows the little meager light of thought / into logic; / it . . . silvers this nook.” Poetry flourishes.—JOAN RETALLACK

The epic sequence Dear Pierre that begins Karen Weiser’s new book of poetry, Or, The Ambiguities, is nothing short of a complete redistribution of the possibilities of reading anything straight. Calling to mind a century’s worth of experimentation with line, shape, and space, something in the devastating grief project of Weiser’s verse returns me to a central division in Mallarmé: on the one hand, decades ahead of his time with A Roll of the Dice’s groundbreaking use of space; on the other hand, working on A Tomb for Anatole, an unfinished cry for his lost son in fragmented, heartbroken bursts. We are habitualized to and absorb too many dichotomies in poetry. But perhaps none is more pernicious than the myth that lyrical feeling is antithetical to experimental language, to the poem of thought. Lyric and anti-lyric, erasure and elegy, all the critical terms imaginable have collapsed in Weiser’s descending and ascending text. What is deleted, sometimes a syllable or letter at a time, eventually reveals only further layers of feeling once unavailable to the indifferent silences hiding inside normative syntax. Dr. Johnson famously condemned Lycidas for stating ‘where there is leisure for fiction, there is little grief.’ Karen Weiser has written a mighty poem that settles in my mind the score for good. Hers is a fiction, triangulating overt references to haunted Melville and inescapable explosive echoes of Stein, that permits such grief as perhaps one never thought possible in lyric space. All of poetry’s pathos rises in the gaps and stranded letters of Karen Weiser’s work.

–Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor of Lithub

Or, The Ambiguities

​Ugly Duckling Presse

Perfect-bound. 96 pp, 6 x 9 in.
ISBN 978-1-937027-61-2
Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Distribution: SPD/InPress (UK)/PGC (Canada)