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Encyclopédie of the Common and Encompassing is an illustrated collection of encyclopedic prose poems with a structure that is, from the Greek roots of encyclopedia, enkyklios, or circular. The collection operates as a hypertext in which poems and images are cross-referenced to create an interactive text rather than a front-to-back book. The structure is intended to dynamize the reading
experience and contest closed readings of poetry.
The text originated in response to Tomas Tranströmer’s statement that “each one of us has his own encyclopedia” and attempts to satisfy curiosity about what her/his encyclopedia would look like, what it would contain, and how it would describe those contents. The poems, connected with illustrations by Alf Dahlman, mirror the earnest declaration found in Rilke, Kabir, Whitman, and O’Hara; the story telling and surprise present in Bishop and Millay; and the necessary irreverence found in Stevie Smith, Bill Knott and Wislawa Szymborska. Campbell is a stand-up comedian, and you can see that the work is also very influenced by humor.
Encyclopédie of the Common &
Encompassing by Allison Campbell
Allison Campbell is a writer and teacher currently living in Southern
Mississippi where she is a PhD candidate at the University of Southern
Mississippi’s Center for Writers and associate editor of the Mississippi
Review. Her poems have appeared in such places as The Cincinnati
Review, Switchback, Witness, Rattle, Court Green, Harpur Palate, A
rmchair/Shotgun, VERSE online, The Pinch and big bell. She has guest
blogged for The Best American Poetry website and served as a special
portfolio guest editor for Story magazine. Her collaborations with illustrator
Alf Dahlman have appeared in Tammy, Drunken Boat, Story, and Palooka.
Just when we thought it was all
wall-to-wall Wikipedia, a new and
ingenious, intrepid, inventive romp
through knowledge appears.
Just when we thought it was all wall-to-wall Wikipedia, a new and ingenious, intrepid, inventive romp through knowledge appears—an encyclopédie that acknowledges Diderot and d’Alembert’s groundbreaking work—and then goes off entirely on its own. The genius begins in the carefully curated selection of entries and continues in an oddball bouncy prose full of unexpected specifics. Brilliant through and through.
From ‘Accident’ to ‘Zugzwang’ Allison Campbell creates an encyclopedia that is part delirious effervescence and part winter-afternoon melancholy with a spice rack of erudition and a generous dash of chaotic fun. She gives you the real meaning of “High Five” and believe me, Poetic Adventurers, this is information that you need. Every page is filled with lyric high jinks and a mind that is so free ranging that you will be surprised over and over.—Barbara Hamby
Campbell fiercely points out the paradoxes of the Self, with wry subtle humor and deadly serious wisdom. This voice is stitched together with the gorgeous artwork of Alf Dahlman, whose tumbling bodies and rubbed out faces chip away at the reader, perfectly.—Bianca Stone
Allison Campbell and her illustrator, Alf Dahlman, prepare and unprepare us for nothing and everything with these articulate and beautiful confusions. Like their estimable forbears, they let us stand at knowledge’s intricately wrought gates, where at any moment, the chains will fall, the iron wings open to admit us.—Angela Ball
Excerpts from Encyclopédie