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ISBN: 978-1934703-72-4
Categories Poetry

Pulleys & Locomotion

Publication Date: September 2009


Rachel Galvin’s debut collection Pulleys & Locomotion is a hub for movement, immigration, and flight.  Alternating between lyrical extension and succinct prose poems, this book brings together science, philosophy, folktale, and half-remembered history.  Raised in Rochester, NY, the home of Eastman Kodak, Galvin has an imagination shaped by the technologies and metaphors of photographic and filmic vision.  Like a zoetrope, the spinning cylinder that led to early motion picture, the pages of Pulleys & Locomotion form a device that creates irresistible motion out of a succession of poems.  “Rely on your eye for illusion of motion,” Galvin writes in “How to Build Your Own Zoetrope.”  “Figures move naturally at fourteen frames / per second and if you have pictured me, / at this rate I will always run toward you, / years hence, luminous, blurred / with expectation.”  In conversation with figures as diverse as Emily Dickinson, Edmond Jabès, Roland Barthes, and André Kertesz, these poems teem with vitality.  Their sense of the contemporaneous is inextricable from history and dream: “News footage simulates the last century: / a woman running shoeless in snow, / her inaudible voice.” Audacious and musical, in a style that responds to French and Latin American poetic traditions, these poems will echo in the reader’s ear.  “Go, she says, Pour your palmful of water / from one hand to the other.”


Rachel Galvin is a visionary poet. With amazing subtlety, she can speak of the latest scientific discovery or the secrets of her next-door neighbor with the same level of intensity, of revelation. Readers will be mesmerized to read this book. I know I was. Astonishingly original, Galvin’s is one of the voices my generation will be remembered by.

-Ilya Kaminsky

…[I]ntelligent and adventurous and musically alert at once, definitely in the stream of what Rexroth once called “the international lyric tradition” by which, back to Apollinaire, Cendrars, the early Reverdy and forward in countless ways…
-Michael Palmer

What does it take ‘to unfurl a belief of this size,’ asks Rachel Galvin. The poems of Pulleys & Locomotion provide the answer: a sensibility animated equally by skepticism and wonder-equally at home in the backstreets of foreign cities and among the stars. Pulleys & Locomotion is a capacious, riveting book.

-James Longenbach

Rachel Galvin’s Pulleys and Locomotion, as the title clues us, is a moving book. The poems are in transit between immigration and flight, and indeed defy gravity along their vertical axes like the floating figures of Chagall. Whether revealing an imaginary room of blue sand, the folklore of a forgotten place, or an ordinary hummingbird’s truly surreal reality, these poems are alive with intense colors, clear edges, and continually resonating sound.

-Susan Stewart

About the Author

Rachel Galvin

Rachel Galvin is the author of Pulleys & Locomotion (Black Lawrence Press, 2009), a chapbook titled Zoetrope (Editores Chätaro, 2006), and Elevated Threat Level (Green Lantern Press, 2018), which was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and Alice James Books’ Kinereth Gensler Award. Her translation of Raymond Queneau’s Hitting the Streets (Carcanet, 2013) was “Paperback of the Week” in The Guardian, named one of the “Best Poetry Books of 2013” by the Boston Globe, and won the 2013 Scott Moncrieff Prize for Translation. Decals: Complete Early Poetry of Oliverio Girondo, which she translated from the Spanish with Harris Feinsod, was published in 2018 by Open Letter Books. Her translation of Cowboy & Other Poems by Mexican poet Alejandro Albarrán Polanco will be published by Ugly Duckling Presse in 2019. Rachel has also published translations from the Spanish of César Vallejo and the French of Jacques Bens, Paul Fournel, Jacques Jouet, Arthur Rimbaud, and Olivier Salon. Her poems and translations appear in journals including Boston Review, Colorado Review, Fence, Gulf Coast, MAKE, McSweeney’s, Narrative, The Nation, The New Yorker, PN Review, Poetry, and Tupelo Quarterly. Rachel is the author of a work of criticism, News of War: Civilian Poetry 1936-1945 (Oxford UP, 2018), and co-editor of Auden at Work (Palgrave, 2015). She is an associate professor at the University of Chicago and a founding member of Outranspo, an international creative translation collective (www.outranspo.com).

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