Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric and English Geoffrey Babbitt recently read from his first book of poems, Appendices Pulled from a Study on Light, published in February by Spuyten Duyvil. The reading was held in the Blackwell Room and was open to the community.
“Babbitt is an original and fresh voice, one that tugs at you with the sense of the familiar and yet with nothing you can pin down,” says Chris Abani, the 2014-15 Trias Writer in Residence. “While you can see grace notes in his work, there is nothing of any other poet in him, a one-off, a beautiful but unexpected shift of light.”
In a range of form and modes — from the lyric poem to the lyric essay, an essay-in-verse to prose poems, visual elements to marginal annotations — Babbitt explores the story of St. Columba, St. Finnian, and their sixth-century feud that began over a copy of a book of psalms. From the “central myth” of St. Finnian and St. Columba, Babbitt begins to “meditate on those figures and concepts of originality, copying, inscription, illumination, vision, and what poetry is capable of doing to recover lost forms of presence.”
While researching illuminated texts in graduate school, Babbitt says he grew “obsessed with medieval manuscripts, in particular books of hours, which were so important in the history of the development of the book as a technology.”
Engaging with that idea of history, Appendices “includes marginal annotations to mirror medieval marginalia in manuscripts,” Babbitt says, while exploring “the way in which there is a latent connection between the manuscripts of medievalism and the poetry of today.” In paying homage to the illuminated manuscripts of the medieval age, both with the story of the saints and the formal variation, the book is also “an ode to the physical page, to the ‘bookness’ of books.”
In Abani’s words, Appendices “is a meditation that the reader will return to often and rediscover themselves and the world in fresh and promising ways. It is the offering from a man in deep, abiding love with poetry and all the hope it offers.”
Babbitt’s poems and essays have appeared in North American Review, Pleiades, Colorado Review, DIAGRAM, Notre Dame Review, TYPO, Tarpaulin Sky, The Collagist, Interim, Western Humanities Review and elsewhere. Raised in Boise, Idaho, he studied at Connecticut College and earned his Ph.D. in creative writing at the University of Utah. He joined the HWS faculty in 2012 and currently coedits Seneca Review.