Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination and the Construction of the Underworld

By Clayton Eshleman (2003)
This arresting diptych of verse and philosophical prose charts a twenty-five-year obsession with the prehistoric cave paintings of southwestern France. The region’s enigmatic art work, dating from the Upper Paleolithic era, has been a constant muse for Eshleman, whose wildly discursive style mirrors the superimposed scenes of animal herds and shamanistic figures that populate the cave walls. Breathless accounts of cave exploration appear in counterpoint with poems in eerily primordial voices. Although his thesis that all art results from the separation anxiety between human and animal is unpersuasive, there is an impressive exuberance to his efforts to trace back to this common source everything from Greek myth to Allen Ginsberg. For Eshleman, it seems, the artist’s imaginative predicament is something of a cave itself, both maze and refuge.

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