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Poetry review

Fully Loaded: The Poetry of Celia Dropkin

Celia Dropkin’s poems are erotically frank and emotionally unabashed, deeply engendered, relentlessly truthful. Like songs, they are terse and musical and carefully constructed to explode with maximum impact. They reveal the relationships between women and men in a way that was unprecedented in Yiddish literature.

Dark Refusals: The Poetry of Tadeusz Rozewicz

Tadeusz Różewicz is a poet of dark refusals, hard negations. He is a naked or impure poet (“I crystallize impure poetry,” he writes), an anti-poet relentlessly, even ruthlessly determined to tell the truth, however painful it may be. He scorns the idea of the poet as prophet and speaks from the margins—a stubborn outsider. “A poet is one who believes / and one who cannot,” he declares. He dwells in uncertainties and doubts, in the insecure, gray areas of life—skepticism is his native mindset—and strips poetry down to its bare essentials: words alone on a page. He is bracingly clear and shuns the floridities—the grand consolations—of the traditional lyric. 

Growing into the Psalms: The Poetry of Jirí Orten

I have been born on this earth for nothing else except to bear witness,
tied down by my weight, my heaviness, and my lightness.

Jiří Orten is one of the key Czech poets of the twentieth century. He belongs with his brilliant predecessors, František Halas, Vítězslav Nezval, and Jaroslav Seifert, and with other great poets from the war-torn precincts of Eastern Europe, such as Miklós Radnóti from Hungary and Zbigniew Herbert from Poland. Thanks to the good offices of Lyn Coffin, his devoted translator, I have been reading his poems for more than twenty-five years now, and I consider him one of the necessary poets from the first half of the century just past. He is a sustaining presence.