Timothy Donnelly’s poetry exists at the interstices of philosophy and the literary arts. In many ways, his work draws from the rich artistic inheritance of the Modernists. In much the same way that Mina Loy engaged the work of Freud through her experiments with grammar and syntax, and like Marianne Moore’s ongoing consideration of the philosophy of William James in her poems, Donnelly uses the artistic repertoire of poetry to make arguments about the nature of metaphysics and epistemology. Yet the philosophical claims that Donnelly sets forth in “What Is Real” are not so much rhetorical as experiential. We are made to understand these ideas about being, materiality and perception through the beauty of the metaphors, the power of Donnelly’s imagery, and the texture of the language itself.
Timothy Donnelly is the author, mostly recently, of The Cloud Corporation, winner of the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Award, and The Problem of the Many, which will be published by Wave Books this October. He teaches in the Writing Program of Columbia University’s School of the Arts.