Cover image for Archeology of the circle : new and selected poems
Archeology of the circle : new and selected poems
Weigl, Bruce, 1949-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
222 pages ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3573.E3835 A89 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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With Song of Napalm, Bruce Weigl established himself as a poet of incomparable power and lyric fury whose work stands as an elegy to the countless lives dramatically altered by war. Archeology of the Circle brings together the major work of one of America's greatest poets. Collected here for the first time, from eight volumes of poetry and spanning two decades, the poems in Archeology of the Circle also include Bruce Weigl's most recent work, which takes a dramatic turn toward a hard-bittenand sensuous lyric. Out of the horror of individual experience, Bruce Weigl has fashioned poetry that offers solace to disillusionment and bears transcendent resonance for all of us. Archeology of the Circle illustrates Bruce Weigl's remarkable creative achievements and signifies his own personal and spiritual salvation through his writing.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A collection of new work and a retrospective selection together afford an overview of one of the best American poets shaped by the Vietnam War. An air cavalryman in that conflict, Weigl writes astonishingly atmospheric poems about the scary, the boring, the appalling, and the pathetic moments of an ordinary soldier's service in "the green war," as he calls it. He also writes of his contact with Buddhism during the war and later, of moments of shame and pain in his life that include sexual abuse by a stranger when he was seven, of the sorrows and hard work of his immigrant grandparents, and of the struggles of oppressed people he has met in Central America. The Vietnam experience made him keenly, sometimes desperately aware of suffering, so that once he found himself squatting "like I'd learned in Dak To / on the seventh floor window ledge / across from the park of the homeless." Much as it attracts him, he seems not quite to believe that Buddhist enlightenment is possible, which makes the tenderness with which he writes of his son resonate with redemption. The 17 new poems in Archeology of the Circle reappear in After the Others in the company of 25 more, some of which show a new interest in Native American concerns; and others, a new gratitude for love. This is the powerful, seldom easy work of a very distinctive poet. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

The first five volumes covered in Weigels Archeology (1976s Executioner to 1988s Song of Napalm) dwell on Weigls firsthand experiences of Americas southeast Asian war, returning obsessively to combat terror, witnessed atrocities and cravings for underaged prostitutes. However laudable his brutal honesty, lines like I was barely in country soon become tiresome. Weigls best poems come from his three 1990s volumes (particularly from After the Others, represented in Archeology with selections marked as New Poems) where he begins to distill his themes of disgust and horror within non-Vietnam contexts. Weigls most grimly powerful poems, all found in Archeology, are The Impossible, an account of being forced, as a seven-year-old boy, to perform oral sex on a strange man, and The Nothing Redemption, a disgusting vision of a young man whose hole/ was plastered closed with his own excrement in an attempt to disqualify himself from military service. Snowy Egret (from 1985) and Carp (a more pressurized rhyme sonnet from 1996s Sweet Lorain) are convincing documents of regret for mindless boyhood destruction of animal life. The complex and unsettling Pineapple (appearing in both volumes) is a recollection of a womans seductive behavior in a supermarket fruit aisle; tinged with lust and violence, it somehow reaches its dark climax in the narrators refusal to respond to the womans advances. That poem and other notables in After the Others (such as the squalid The Singing and the Dancing and the desperate Anniversary of Myself) make that book the most consistently rewarding effort from this still evolving poet. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One     PIGEONS There's a man standing in a coop, his face is wet, he says he's too old: "You can't give them away they just come back." I follow him to the cellar. Latin blessings on the wall, sauerkraut in barrels, he puts his arm around my waist begins to make a noise, pigeons bleeding. We're both crying now he moves his tongue around pulls feathers from his coat. A fantail he says, the kind that hop around, don't fly well.     MINES     1 In Vietnam I was always afraid of mines: North Vietnamese mines, Vietcong mines, American mines, whole fields marked with warning signs. A bouncing betty comes up waist high-- cuts you in half. One man's legs were laid alongside him in the Dustoff: he asked for a chairback, morphine. He screamed he wanted to give his eyes away, his kidneys, his heart ...     2        MONKEY     1 I am you are he she it is they are you are we are. I am you are he she it is they are you are we are. When they ask for your number pretend to be breathing. Forget the stinking jungle, force your fingers between the lines. Learn to get out of the dew. The snakes are thirsty. Bladders, water, boil it, drink it. Get out of your clothes: You can't move in your green clothes. Your O.D. in color issue clothes. Get out the damp between your legs. Get out the plates and those who ate. Those who spent the night. Those small Vietnamese soldiers. They love to hold your hand. A fine man is good to hard. Back away from their dark cheeks. Small Vietnamese soldiers. They love to love you. I have no idea how it happened, I remember nothing but light.     2 I don't remember the hard swallow of the lover. I don't remember the burial of ears. I don't remember the time of the explosion. This is the place curses are manufactured: delivered like white tablets. The survivor is spilling his bed pan. He slips one in your pocket, you're finally satisfied. I don't remember the heat in the hands, the heat around the neck. Good times bad times sleep get up work. Sleep get up good times bad times. Work eat sleep good bad work times. I like a certain cartoon of wounds. The water which refuses to dry. I like a little unaccustomed mercy. Pulling the trigger is all we have. I hear a child.     3 I dropped to the bottom of a well. I have a knife. I cut someone with it. Oh, I have the petrified eyebrows of my Vietnam monkey. My monkey from Vietnam. My monkey. Put your hand here. It makes no sense. I beat the monkey with a sword. I didn't know him. He was bloody. He lowered his intestines to my shoes. My shoes spit-shined the moment I learned to tie the bow. I'm not on speaking terms with anyone. In the wrong climate a person can spoil, the way a pair of boots slows you down ... I don't know when I'm sleeping. I don't know if what I'm saying is anything at all. I'll lay on my monkey bones.     4 I'm tired of the rice falling in slow motion like eggs from the smallest animal. I'm twenty-five years old, quiet, tired of the same mistakes, the same greed, the same past. The same past with its bleat and pound of the dead, with its hand grenade tossed into a hooch on a dull Sunday because when a man dies like that his eyes sparkle, his nose fills with witless nuance because a farmer in Bong Son has dead cows lolling in a field of claymores because the vc tie hooks to their comrades because a spot of blood is a number because a woman is lifting her dress across the big pond ... If we're soldiers we should smoke them if we have them. Someone's bound to point us in the right direction sooner or later.     I'm tired and I'm glad you asked.     5 There is a hill. Men run top hill. Men take hill. Give hill to man. * Me and my monkey and me and my monkey my Vietnamese monkey my little brown monkey came with me to Guam and Hawaii in Ohio he saw my people he jumped on my daddy he slipped into mother he baptized my sister he's my little brown monkey he came here from heaven to give me his spirit imagine my monkey my beautiful monkey he saved me lifted me above the punji sticks above the mines above the ground burning above the dead above the living above the wounded dying the wounded dying above my own body until I am me. * Men take hill away from smaller men. Men take hill and give to fatter man. Men take hill. Hill has number. Men run up hill. Run down hill. Copyright © 1999 Bruce Weigl. All rights reserved.