A book of inquiry, Mark Irwin’s Shimmer queries how the worlds of poverty, terrorism, ecology, species extinction, mortality and race interface and affect one another through electronic reproduction and transmission. Not as spectacles but as events that often seem too familiar, many are featured on YouTube: a horse still alive, dragged to be slaughtered; a homeless mother with an infant; a terrorist disguising a bomb, a Vietnam veteran attempting to commit suicide, a mother, unable to speak, who communicates by drawing different colors.
Shimmer explores those places where metropolis and the natural world collide, where virtual technology attempts to convey the spirit. The incursion of electronic communication throughout society as a form of human language, has radically distorted and impacted notions of form and space in contemporary poetry, just as it has impacted the idea of what it means to be human.
Mark Irwin is the author of ten collections of poetry: Shimmer (2020), A Passion According to Green (2017), American Urn: Selected Poems (1987-2014), Large White House Speaking (2013), Tall If (2008), Bright Hunger (2004), White City (2000), Quick, Now, Always (1996), and Against the Meanwhile (1988). He has translated three volumes of poetry. His collection of essays is Monster: Originality in Contemporary American Poetry. His poetry and essays have appeared in many literary magazines: The American Poetry Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, Paris Review, Poetry, The Nation, New England Review, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Southern Review, and Tin House. Recognition for his work includes The Nation/Discovery Award, four Pushcart Prizes, two Colorado Book Awards, James Wright Poetry Award, Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, and fellowships from the NEA, Fulbright, Lilly, and Wurlitzer Foundations. His poetry has been translated into several languages.
Reading a poem by Mark Irwin is like watching time-lapse photography of an iris coming into bloom: interesting and beautiful things unfold very quickly. His imagery is as varied as the twin towers, the “digital haze” on our device screens, or sunlight passing through a jar of marmalade. Many of the poems have the urgency of incantations to summon what has been lost. Through all of his work runs a quiet, restless probing, a shimmer, where “the seconds fill us like a lake with rain." --C. G. Hanzlicek, Judge, 2018 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry