Figured Dark


Poems by Greg Rappleye
978-1-55728-852-3 (paper)
November 2007


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Greg Rappleye’s Figured Dark is a collection of contemporary lyric and narrative poems, set in an American landscape, which takes as its implicit theme the journey of the soul from darkness into light.

The voices in the collection call across a vast landscape of myth, memory, and horrific wreckage. In the title poem, speaking of the phenomenon of fireflies rising at night from a southern field, he writes, “I could read this down to a million tiny bodies, / blazing the midnight trees,” but the reader is left to wonder whether any extravagant numbering can account for the massed starlings, dreamy raptors, dome-lighted Firebirds, flaming bodies, junk cars, and deadly archangels that come to ground in Rappleye’s world, where the spiritual exhaustion of Odysseus is visited upon Brian Wilson, and the young John Berryman seeks recompense from a wily family in northern Michigan.

These poems are by turns wise, elegiac, ironic, and wickedly funny. This is a poet who refuses easy categories. If these poems are anything, they are affidavits of a heart at work, building out of darkness a kind of wild redemption, hard-earned in the real world.

Figured Dark is part of the University of Arkansas’s Poetry Series, edited by Enid Shomer.

Greg Rappleye is corporation counsel for Ottawa County, Grand Haven, Michigan. He’s the author of two poetry collections, Holding Down the Earth and A Path Between Houses, and two chapbooks. A past Bread Loaf Fellow in poetry, he has won a number of awards, including a Pushcart Prize, the Paumanok Poetry Award, and the Brittingham Prize, and he was the first runner up for the 2007 Dorset Prize.

“Oh the fine, brawling, pungent observation of these poems: ‘the smog-brown sea,’ ‘the baggies-drooping sea’; Homer would be exhilarated and appalled. Greg Rappleye revives the language and revives our powers of seeing. Figured Dark is shot through with light.”
—Linda Gregerson, author of Waterborne and Magnetic North

“Rappleye’s poems in Figured Dark come from an imagination without peer. There is nothing predictable about them. As Pound urged his heirs to, Rappleye does make it new, plumbing the palpable ordinary, with a dazzling diversity of images, and through a window we’ve not looked into before.”
—Dan Gerber, author of A Primer on Parallel Lives and A Voice from the River

Figured Dark is a lovely book, heart-stopping, at moments, for its directness. The poems feature a conversational and lyrical plainness. Greg Rappleye fires and tempers metaphor, talk, cultural and literary allusion, and emotion so skillfully that readers can look through to the heart of the matter—the odd details of living and what goodness remains after death’s insinuations. ‘What does the body want? / To be a crucible says the body,’ the poet writes. Figured Dark is crucible.”
—Carol Frost, author of The Queen’s Desertion