The God of Indeterminacy Essay - Critical Essays

Sandra McPherson

The God of Indeterminacy

Sandra McPherson’s tenth book, THE GOD OF INDETERMINACY, is no disappointing rerun, but a new departure. This collection of poems once more pits McPherson’s dexterous imagination against the daily and repetitive, but its unusual focus makes of it a clear incisive statement rather than a collection of observations. More hopeful than much of McPherson’s work, this collection invites us to envision a new metaphysics.

McPherson’s special skill has always been the blending of two actions into one so that each becomes a comment on the other, and so that the surface of the poem crackles with the unexpected intersections between the two. Here the main presence in the book is a series of quilts, but individual poems meld the quilting activity with blues singing, gardening, and other elements of daily living. Quilting in these poems becomes a kind of redemptive transformation that records and interprets history. The quilts are fascinating in themselves; McPherson became curator of a quilt show to further her research for these poems. Such quilts as the actual suit-and-tie quilts referred to in “Suit and Tie” may make the reader want to look into the subject. The quilts and the blues singers that animate these poems provide an exciting texture.

But the real appeal of these poems is the attempt to define a feminine—not so much a feminist—metaphysic, through detailed analysis of how and why the quilts have so much to say about history. It is not their symmetries that interest the poet so much as their quirks, their deviances. It is in these that she is looking to define her metaphysics, not as a Plantagenet eternal order, but as evidences of a kind of power in change or a changing presence. As she says in “Ode for the God of Indeterminacy,”“O godas migratory as a swan or a goose,/ be mine.”

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. LXXXIX, April 1, 1993, p.1403.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, March 22, 1993, p.75.

The Yale Review. LXXXI, October, 1993, p.138.