The Cataracts

Poetry by Raymond McDaniel

January 9, 2018 • 6 x 9 • 136 pages • 978-1-56689-493-7

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

From “Unfurl”:

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.

About the Author

Raymond McDaniel is the author of Special Powers and Abilities, Saltwater Empire, and Murder (a violet), a National Poetry Series selection.

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 info@coffeehousepress.org.


“McDaniel renders each poem’s discoveries with a worthwhile particularity.” —Publishers Weekly

The Cataracts is a book of blurred vision, a theme imbued into the spaces between the lines, into the memories of the narrator—memories that feel like a game.” —The Millions

“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

“[The Cataracts] never gives up hope that we might find answers to the existential questions that it simultaneously believes unanswerable. And with McDaniel’s keen insight, we just might.” —Arkansas International

“McDaniel is a clever poet, but one whose cleverness and acuity serve his poems rather than interfere with their emotional impact. This collection, rich with empathy and insight, is best savored slowly.” —Little Infinite

“Its pitch-perfect blend of colloquial language interwoven with beautiful prose and imagery is a dream-like meditation on sight and light (and its existential opposites). McDaniel wonderfully threads narrative throughout this collection, giving it substance with its immense, thought-provoking style and philosophical explorations. A must-read for those unafraid to delve into the reflections all around.” —The Ribbon

“Staying true to the title, each poem combines philosophy and poetic tools to deconstruct landscapes into multiple images, and then rearranges those images into something entirely new, as if engaging metaphysics to create revelations.” —New York Journal of Books