The Invisible World Is in Decline.


218 pages
ISBN 978-1-55022-747-5
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Thomas M.F. Gerry

Thomas M.F. Gerry is a professor of English (Canadian Literature) at
Laurentian University.


The Invisible World Is in Decline is an accretion, a continuation of Bruce Whiteman’s Leaves of Grass, or his Cantos, which he began in the early 1980s. This volume reprints Books I (1984), II–IV (1989), and V (2000), and unveils Book VI. The poems are sometimes sequences, often in prose. They frequently display multiple epigraphic quotations, titles that are quotations, allusions, claims to being palimpsests of and dialogues with a plethora of artistic texts. This long poem requires (at least) two readings.


The Invisible World Is in Decline is not a complaint, as the statement might suggest. The poems double-dutch over and under the binaries of self/not self; visible/invisible; forged/authentic; body/spirit. “The Forger’s Confession” section of Book V is a postmodernist’s tour de force, unsettling, haunting, unforgettable. And, surprisingly funny: “Sex burns hard and seems pure, but its absence from the fossil record is telling.”


As befits an evolving long poem, the parts do not come to rest. The poems of Book VI, though, beginning with “The Interior Love Poems” (a quote from Michael Ondaatje), tend towards love’s moments when the invisible world and the visible reconcile, harmonize, even: “Miraculous consanguinities irradiate the greater darkness. Infernal doubts embedded in the language of self-examination flower and wither in an instant. Each ineffable desire and need is embodied as though heaven were here and not a danger at all.” The last line of these interior love poems is “Merely to wake up is bliss.” On your second reading you will notice that dawn imagery occurs often in the earlier Books. This work is not only occurring, it is recurring.


Whiteman, Bruce., “The Invisible World Is in Decline.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,