“An effluvial rush of memory, desire, data, and metaphor . . . It’s bracing to encounter a mind so voracious, so unapologetic in its intelligence.” —New York Review of Books
A book-length poem set in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, from a writer whose work offers “something few poets ever discover: a vision of the whole world” (Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker)
Robyn Schiff’s fourth collection is an ambitious book-length poem in three parts set at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s information desk, where Schiff long ago held a staff position. Elaborately mapping an interconnected route in and out of the museum through history, material, and memory, Information Desk: An Epic takes us on an anguished soul-quest and ecstatic intellectual query to confront the violent forces that inform the museum’s encyclopedic collection and the spiritual powers of art.
Novelistic in its sweep, frantically informative, and deeply intimate in its private recollections, Information Desk: An Epic wayfares with riveting lyric intensity through an epic array of topics and concerns, including illusion, deception, self-deception, complicity, lecherous coworkers, the composition of pigment, the scattering of seeds, ideas, and capital, and insect infestations spreading within artwork. Along the way, Schiff pauses to invoke three terrifying muses—parasitic wasps—in desperate awe of their powers of precision and generative energy. Information Desk: An Epic undertakes a hemorrhaging ekphrastic journey through artifice and the natural world.