The Currency

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The Currency Press Release


Reckoning with and making a reckoning of what it is to look at the world and try to understand it, Paul Otremba’s evocative debut, The Currency, investigates the intricacies of human emotion and sensation. With John Keats and the Greek philosopher Gorgias as tutelary spirits, The Currency holds what is current—what is both moving and present—to the light and revolves it, displaying its shades and shadows.

The finely-sculpted poems of The Currency animate the world of art and architecture, from Caravaggio and Frank Gehry to the contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan and the filmmaker Jean-Pierre Limosin. Exploring such works of art for how they lead us to pause for thought and breath, for how they infuse mind and body in equal measure, helping us keep and pass the time we spend, Otremba poignantly articulates the hues of familial life. One ghazal traces colors, Rothko- like, through a boy’s life; another poem traces the speaker’s fascination with doctors to a childhood encounter with his physician father. Art and life intermix seamlessly and you, like the book’s speaker, will feel “I almost heard them move, / the figures beneath the photographs’ gloss.”

Praise for The Currency:

“Paul Otremba’s remarkable first book, The Currency, is an intriguing foray into lyric epistemology that tries to come to ter ms with the implacable, paradox-ridden nature of knowledge and experience. These are deeply felt, deeply meditated poems guided by a sensibility highly attenuated to the physical world. In their openness to friendship and love and in their fearless directness, they remind me of the work of Larry Levis and Jon Anderson. Like Levis and Anderson, Otremba promises to be an influential and important voice for his generation.”

—Michael Collier

“I have made a place, Paul Otremba quotes Mark Rothko describing his layered surfaces – which, like this poet’s, are both austere and lush, cool and soulful. These poems are exhilaratingly achieved, and it seems exactly right that Keats should be the book’s presiding spirit; Otremba’s poems are both suffused with feeling and everywhere marked by signs of a restless, shaping intelligence. The combination makes this work bracing, and achingly alive.”

—Mark Doty

“This restless, critical mind is informed by a kind of Keatsian disinterestedness and a proclivity for elegantly rendered physical detail that is reminiscent of Rilke. Through lyric meditations on language, visual art, and the particulars of memory, Otremba achieves an enthralling marriage of intellect and emotion in this accomplished debut.”

—Kara CanditoThe Potomac

“Otremba’s are poems of rigorous looking. In most, a speaker coolly observes a work of art, a person or animal, the poems’ tensions emerging in part from the speaker’s struggle for knowledge and connection.”

—Bruce Snider, The Rumpus