Peering inside eyeballs, pondering the paradox of absent stars, and meditating on street scenes by André Kertész, these poems squint sidelong at our ways of seeing the world. Through playful poems about photography and visual perception, Hollett dissects auroras and quarks, atmospheric phenomena, potatoes, bomb craters and peat bog cadavers. This darkly comic collection is shadowed by entoptic paparazzi, haunted by peripheral visions. Born of attentive walking and looking, of footsteps and snapshots, it bears witness to art history and alluvial light, portable keyholes, the pandemic, climate change, and the sheer strangeness of seeing everyday things with ecstatic eyes.
Praise for Optic Nerve:
“If Elizabeth Bishop and Pablo Neruda had collaborated on a book called The Art of Looking, it might read something like this luminous and assured debut collection from Matthew Hollett. Here is the poet as photographer, framing and reframing each image so that the reader might see it anew. I’m struck by how alive these poems are, animated by light and wind, frost and ocean, music and cinema and spider’s web. As soon as I finished reading this collection, I immediately wanted to start it again.” — Jen Currin, author of School and Hider/Seeker
“Optic Nerve is a dazzling and timely collection. Hollett writes as if from beneath the skin of the everyday, as if with super-powered vision.” — Sara Baume, author of Seven Steeples
“Who knew having your brain poked through your eye holes would be such a good time? With disarmingly honest curiosity, these poems scrutinize open wounds of all kinds—a scratch, a bulldozed building, and a cloudless sky—and remain buoyant. Optic Nerve teaches us that anything can be a light show if you know how to look. It’s ekphrasis at its best.” — Mary Germaine, author of Congratulations, Rhododendrons