I’m reading Alice Notley’s Culture of One, C. D. Wright’s One With Others, Edmond Jabès’ From the Book to the Book: An Edmond Jabès Reader (translated by Rosmarie Waldrop), Johannes Bobrowski’s Shadow Lands: Selected Poems (translated by Ruth and Matthew Mead), and Nazim Hikmet’s Poems of Nazim Hikmet (translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk). Jabes’ artistic struggle with how to speak in (a language of) silence in response to the Jewish Holocaust and to his own condition of exile from his native Egypt resulted in his poetics of the book. He compiled this reader himself and it’s an autonomous and fully-realized document comprised of aphorisms, commentaries, letters, fragments, and disembodied voices—an open field not limited by the conventions of any particular genre. In one of the letters, the speaker claims that “this book” is “written by death,” and “consecrates” a state of “absence.” This innovative “reader” is compelling to me because of its imaginative and bold orchestration of diverse elements that freshly and poignantly give voice to a subject matter that is always in danger of hackneyed renderings. The fact that it is a book-length project is also exhilarating for me in light of my own concern with the long poetic sequence, and its currency in the contemporary American poetry landscape.
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