Hannah Weiner's 'The Book Of Revelations'
A new annotated edition
Hannah Weiner’s The Book Of Revelations was composed in 1989 or shortly thereafter in a notebook given to the poet by her friend and artistic collaborator Barbara Rosenthal. This new virtual edition, assembled, annotated, and introduced by Marta L. Werner, offers a facsimile of the notebook’s pages, a diplomatic transcript of the work, and a searchable text transcript of the notebook, along with extensive notes and commentary.
A visually arresting, even iconic, document, The Book Of Revelations encourages speculation about the interplay of graphic and scriptural economies in twentieth-century poetry. Moreover, and perhaps more crucially, The Book Of Revelations bears witness to a moment in Weiner’s work when the “clair-style” we see at its apex in The Clairvoyant Journal reaches its outermost limits: while the economy, compression, and tendency towards ellipsis emblematic of Weiner’s earlier works persist in The Book Of Revelations, the dialectical tension inherent in those works is largely abandoned. At this juncture, vestiges of a former, more purely lyric style suddenly reappear, as if Weiner were seeking transient asylum in the old, incandescent melodies of works like The Code Poems while simultaneously reaching out towards a new “measure.” In The Book Of Revelations, the metrical experimentation that marks all of Weiner’s writings leads to an imagination of language’s ultimate latening and annihilation: “there’s nothing to write about.” In the strangely exilic space the notebook inhabits, we find Weiner experimenting with a form of glossolalia, a poetry heard at the moment of its enjambment with the outside. Here, writer and reader meet in their common experience of language as at once startlingly alien and profoundly intimate.
The primary materials of The Book Of Revelations are accompanied here in Jacket2 by several pieces of critical commentary: “The Landscape of Hannah Weiner’s Late Work: The Book Of Revelations,” a reading of the notebook’s stylistic features and recurring themes; “Notes on this Edition: The Book Of Revelations,” a textual introduction offering a description of the editorial methodology guiding the presentation of the work; and a number of appendices that detail Weiner’s use of misspelled, alternatively spelled, and invented words; neologisms; part-words and uncertain transcriptions; proper names; and literary and cultural allusions.
Note on the title: The unconventional capitalization of the word “Of” in Hannah Weiner’s The Book Of Revelations has been retained here. Although we cannot be certain that the capitalization is intentional, Weiner did type the title on the white label she then affixed to the notebook’s cover. The tension between the typed, all-caps title and the handwritten pages in which a capital rarely appears is provocative. — Marta L. Werner