Poetry. In a time of ecological crisis, Peter O'Leary finds in mushrooms "an elaborate pattern," a circulation of energy, a strange Kingdom with the power to alter consciousness. From the opening line "Earth is best," each proposition takes root in the terroir of soils, in the woods and meadows of the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest. On each foray, we find hidden systems bearing fruit, "crowning from the duff of white pines / and birch trees," extending upward from "loam's rich undying gloom." Equally, these poems bloom from a rich mulch of linguistic inheritance, a compost of ancient texts and esoteric knowledge, searching out old words of exquisite exactitude and resonance. As readers, our attention quickens as we join the hunt, discovering elemental pleasures on every page, sometimes with the prickling onset of psychedelic consciousness. And like fungi, these poems work to break down false oppositions, returning us to a reciprocity between death and life, panic and joy, anxiety and euphoria, tocsin and cure.
Peter O'Leary is the author of five poetry books from The Cultural Society-THE HIDDEN EYES OF THINGS (2022), EARTH IS BEST (2019), THE SAMPO (2016), PHOSPHORESCENCE OF THOUGHT (2013), and LUMINOUS EPINOIA (2010)-as well as two books of literary criticism, including Thick and Dazzling Darkness: Religious Poetry in a Secular Age. He was born in 1968 in Detroit, where he was educated by the LaSallean Christian Brothers. He studied literature and religion at the University of Chicago. He lives in Oak Park, Illinois, and teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at the University of Chicago. With John Tipton, he edits Verge Books.