Peter Huchel, translated by Martyn Crucefix, These Numbered Days – review


PN Review subscribers can read the review which appeared in PN Review 254 by clicking here.


Christopher Reid, A Scattering and Anniversary – review

My review in PN Review 153, but it’s only fully available to subscribers:

A New Divan – review

A New Divan celebrates the two hundredth anniversary of Goethe’s great West-Eastern Divan in which the poet expresses both a personal sense of creative renewal and his love of Middle Eastern poetry, particularly that by the fourteenth century Persian poet Hafiz.

In A New Divan, twelve major poets from the ‘East’ and twelve from the ‘West’ were each commissioned to write on one of twelve themes in Goethe’s collection. Only Khaled Mattawa and Don Paterson wrote in English. Other poems appear in both English and their language of composition. The English versions are by poets, usually working from someone else’s literal … Continue Reading

The Rain Barrel by Frank Ormsby – review

‘Untroubled’, the first poem in The Rain Barrel, is a kind of brief resume of the whole volume, and also I think one of its best poems. It stands out both for the speed with which it makes the mind move and for the way that even as it does so it sustains a powerful sensation of stillness, of remembered domestic serenity suspended between a remote violent past and violence to come:


Caesar is flattening Gaul
by the light of our Tilley.
My father has slept
with his mouth open
since the beginning of the war.
My mother is on a cleaning campaign
in the … Continue Reading

Reginald Gibbons, How Poems Think and Stephanie Burt, Don’t Read Poetry – review

How Poems Think by Reginald Gibbons (University of Chicago Press) $25.00

Don’t Read Poetry by Stephanie Burt (Basic Books) $17.99


If you subscribe to PN Review you can read my review of these books by clicking  here


Robert Desnos, A la Mystérieuse / Les Ténèbres, translated by Martin Bell – review

Review of Martin Bell’s translations of Desnos – full review only available to PN Review subscribers.

Dear Big Gods by Mona Arshi – review

Clifton’s poems [in Herod’s Dispensations] draw strength from their grounding in fact and from the directness with which he offers his voice or the voice of apparently real characters (like whoever speaks at the start of ‘Zhoukoudian’). Arshi writes with equal power but in a wholly different way. She creates micro-worlds of dream-like intensity, surreal distortion, fantasy and myth. This applies even to poems apparently based on real events, like the account of hoe a boy (her brother?) was attacked by wasps. Other poems in which she seems to speak to or about her brother after his death combine … Continue Reading

Harry Clifton, Herod’s Dispensations – review

The most spell-binding passage in Herod’s Dispensations is the first part of ‘Zhoukoudian’. This describes the finding of a ‘Peking Man’ hominid fossil in the Zhoukoudian cave system in China in 1929. The writing is a metrical and syntactical triumph, creating a suspense-filled imaginative hush within which glimpses of immediate life, vast reaches of time and metaphysical assumptions about man’s place in the universe play into and against each other. In the first few lines, time is the layers of geological time the archaeologists are digging through, the historical time that separates 1929 from now, and the immediate moment of … Continue Reading

Text / occasion – Pascoli, “Il gelsomino notturno”

On the level of discursive interpretation, the lovely ‘Il gelsomino notturno’ by Giovanni Pascoli offers significantly different ideas depending on whether you know about the circumstances of its composition. Here it is, first in Italian and then in the plain prose translation accompanying it in The Penguin Book of Italian Verse, introduced and edited by George M. Kay:

E s’aprono i fiori notturni
nell’ ora che penso a’ miei cari.
Sono apparse in mezzo ai viburni
le farfalle crepuscolari.

Da un pezzo si tacquero i gridi:
Là sola una casa bisbiglia.
Sotto l’ali dormono i nidi,
come gli occhi sotto le ciglia.

Dai … Continue Reading

Greek Lyric Poetry by M L West

It’s an interesting experience coming to M. L. West’s Greek Lyric Poetry after reading Stanley Lombardo’s and Anne Carson’s Sappho translations. With Lombardo and Carson, in any of the longer fragments and even in short phrases you find yourself reading English words that immediately strike home as living poetry. To be sure, something similar can happen in short snatches in West’s translations, as in these lines addressed to a bridegroom:

How handsome you are with your gentle eyes
and your lovely face all radiant with desire.

West was of course an extremely distinguished classicist, and I can’t judge the relative accuracy … Continue Reading