In a stunning cycle of persona poems, Daneen Wardrop offers us a panoramic view of the inner lives of those forgotten among the violence and strife of the American Civil War: the nurse and the woman soldier, the child and the draftee, the prostitute, the black slave, and the Native American soldier. Each one speaks out to be seen and heard, bearing witness to the mundanity of suffering experienced by those whose presence was ubiquitous yet erased in the official histories of the War Between the States. Cyclorama takes its name from the theater-sized, in-the-round oil paintings popular in the late nineteenth century, and with each poem, Wardrop adds a panel to her expansive, engrossing portrait of the bloodshed and tears, the tedium and fear experienced by the Civil War living and the dying. With pathos and lyric force, she brings sharply into focus perspectives on an unfathomable experience we thought we already knew and understood.
from "Women's Sanitary Corps"
Sister, I link arms with you
as we enter this log-steepled tent,
white on the outside,
but on the inside the deep maroon
of thick-spackled, internal things.
How can it be
so simple here? Bed,
man-- bed, man--
where the pain leaves
no room for anything else.
My mouth is dry.
No, stay with me,
boys need us
with their nocturnal eyes,
not predatory but grieving,
as good animals the body,
not ready, not able to be ready.
La, where did they put
their good body?
This long poem, pitched in so many American voices, is a powerful summoning-back . . . . . Cyclorama keeps our dead with us, alongside the living souls we carry in our unfinished civil war. Daneen Wardrop is a rare poet of conscience.
“Daneen Wardrop has done deep research in the life and times and art of the U.S. Civil War and transformed it into exuberant and moving poetry. She speaks as women spies, soldiers and officers, kids exploring the ruins of Jefferson’s Monticello, a prostitute who keeps a flask tucked in her crinoline, Union musicians who find themselves playing ‘Lorena’ with Reb musicians, and so much more. Wardrop’s music makes you proud of the American language. Cyclorama is one of the most stunning books of poems I’ve seen in years. I can’t wait to see what Wardrop will do next.”
“Daneen Wardrop gives us her own Cyclorama not as answer but as stunningly sympathetic example. Whereas a person following a perspective to the horizon might, in the painted cyclorama, run into the canvas on which it’s painted, a reader enters into the pages of these poems and finds that the words give way to some intimacy that history should preclude. But the poet knows different. Tracing in their own voices—mimicry that is here a form of valor and virtue—Wardrop gives image back to all those wounded and wounding. Such traces tend to be lost, just a thread in an archive. Wardrop takes such threads and in her hand finds a selvage that—pulled on gently—reveals the whole garment: those interwoven lives whose voices exist without our knowing inside our own speaking. Cyclorama gives us this primary poetic gift: that we enter it, and what it shows in its pages, not only makes history real to us, but in doing so, makes us more real to ourselves.”
“Prepare yourself, as you read Cyclorama, to hear voices that will stay in your head long after you’ve put the book down, voices that seem to rise up from the depths of history. It’s the women speakers here who haunt me the most as they record the horrifying loss of life and limb that circles these women like a cyclorama and at times engulfs them. Line by memorable line, Daneen Wardrop revives and adapts the form of the dramatic lyric to move from striking descriptions—of Civil War battles and wounds, places, and events—to unforgettable moments of quiet revelation.”
The University of Iowa
“When Wardrop touches her own psychological nerve she touches the reader’s nerve. Now see the finely-developed craft: the cadence of storm-clenched days, the diction of tumult and solitude, and a lyricism that holds all . . . Daneen Wardrop places the reader square in the center of her panoramic panels and bids us experience the scenes 360°. What a glorious way to enter these histories."
from the foreword
In her stunning new collection Cyclorama, Daneen Wardrop applies the unique artistic resources of poetry to the task of social history... In short, Cyclorama is a beautifully rendered book, as rich in its philosophical underpinnings as it is finely crafted. Wardrop is certainly a poet to watch.