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The Cataracts

The Cataracts
Poetry by Raymond McDaniel

Poetry as Escher: shifting perspective, a landscape that doesn’t stand still, and questions that fold in on themselves. 

January 2018

6 x 9 | 144 Pages
Trade Paper

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at

All orders will ship in January.

ISBN: 978-1-56689-493-7.


Available on backorder



“Your souls, if you have them,
depart without having spoken.
They issue reels and loops
of thread, filaments lengthened
by longing, coming apart
in the sky like the tails of a shower.”


“A registering, a remembering, a naming, a seeing behind and beyond seeing: The Cataracts is a book of blindness and insight, offering a tenderly, sometimes painfully, scrutinized world.  With gorgeous catalogs, reticulated narratives, and aphoristic summings-up, McDaniel offers a mode of neo-Stoic inquiry into ethics and epistemology, of ‘logopoeia,’ the dance of the intellect.  Here too are sharpened senses, alert to ‘the emerald blur’ of a richly greened world, to ‘the sea the stupid wall exists to stop,’ to trip-wired words and moonlit reflections. McDaniel is an astute, generous poet of human stupidity and longing, and his is a mature, ramifying sensibility, alive to the profound tension between the many and the one, the pressure of multitudes and the requirement to declare oneself. These poems both name the wounds and refuse easy balm. As the title of one stunning long poem has it, ‘This Is Going to Hurt.’” —Maureen McLane

“Raymond McDaniel has always been the most brilliant of poets—razor sharp in intellect, take-no-prisoners in form. What is new in The Cataracts is a broader, more hospitable ease with the legible forms of feeling, with even—remarkable!—the partial lineaments of narrative. Make no mistake: this is narrative-with-leverage; the poet’s dazzling mind-play is perfectly intact. Among the other gifts these poems have to offer is a penetrating inquiry into the physics, the metaphysics, and the brutal socioeconomics of sight. From its ravishing title poem to its most excoriating political critiques, this is a book for which I am profoundly grateful.” —Linda Gregerson

“A cataract is both a waterfall and a medical condition in which the natural lens of the eye clouds. Both senses of the word are employed throughout this remarkable book of radical disorientation, in which every position the reader attempts to hold—whether physical, intellectual, ethical, or spiritual—quickly dissolves into its opposite, or apposite, possibility. McDaniel mines the ways in which we shape visual and written narratives to obscure the meanings we find morally inconvenient or intellectually uncomfortable. How is it that the intensity and desperation of our gaze to better penetrate the world’s essence just makes experience more impenetrable? How is it that narrative, simply by organizing meaning, becomes the individual’s most necessary tool of survival over time? McDaniel’s gorgeous poems meditate upon these questions, obsessed with the possibility that we might finally capture what continually eludes us, if only we look harder, think more clearly. The questions that haunt this wonderful book will draw readers continually—and gratefully—back into The Cataracts’ pages.” —Paisley Rekdal