Now available as a second edition with a new preface from the author, Will Alexander’s Towards The Primeval Lightning Field (O Books, 1998) is a work of “vertical philosophy” revealing the strata of cultures and language, like geological layers seen all at once. These essays comprise Alexander’s “search for origins outside the warrens of the visible,” revealing a singular imagination that moves with the force of a manifesto and the impossible dexterity of the unknown. Alexander’s virtuoso arpeggios of linguistic realms explore language and perceiving, and resonate far beyond the constrictions of the rational world.
Praise for Towards The Primeval Lightning Field
His work resembles no one’s, and is instantly recognizable. In part, he is an ecstatic surrealist on imaginal hyperdrive. He is probably the only African-American poet to take Aimé Césaire as a spiritual father…. [Alexander] is a poet whose ecstasy derives from the scientific description of the stuff and the workings of the world.
— Eliot Weinberger
If the quotidian amounts to little more than a dossier of unitary suffering, then Will Alexander’s visionary essays commence the ignition of evolution beyond inclemency. Césaire, Lorca, Cheikh Anta Diop, non-European philosophy and cosmology, alchemical and anti-statist traditions: all animate this work; its range is incomparable. André Breton wrote that for surrealism “life is elsewhere”; Towards the Primeval Lightning Field takes us in pleasure and terror along the way to that range, shimmering beyond grim power, “where the waters and suns are both kindled by splendour.”
— Barry Maxwell
Will Alexander is by far the most original poet working in the United States today. A major force in the dissemination of surrealism, there is absolutely no one who sounds like Alexander, and he, most emphatically sounds like no one else.
— Justin Desmangles, Amerarcana 5
This is a book of first philosophy. Whose telos is not the reconstruction of knowledge, but its (necessarily furious) production.
—Andrew Joron, from the Introduction
I love the way that reading Will is like looking into Cornell’s boxes: personal and isolate spaces evolve into a silvery science—and plunge through the eye of eternity. Cold black.
— Fanny Howe
Will Alexander is our alchemist. We are his raw materials.
— Andrei Codrescu
The desire in such writing is for a paradise of language, for the creation in language of a reality that uses particles that ignite new constellations as they foment interlocking nonsequitor constellations that ignite new constellations as they burst.
— Clayton Eshleman
Will Alexander’s Towards the Primeval Lightning Field transfigures “thought” into a weave of lexical magic.
— Philip Lamantia