Posts Tagged 'american literature'

Hemingway’s Blank Verse

Hemingway by David Levine[Blank Verse]

”                         ”
       !             :                  ,                 .
              ,            ,            ,                 .
      ,              ;                              !
                     ,
1916

This is Hemingway at his poetic best. Half a step behind ee cummings and more convincingly modernist than anything Ezra Pound published in his Cantos, there is an unexpected pathos brimming from this verse.  He turned seventeen the year he wrote it, proving that juvenilia has its moments. Years later, John Updike would ape it in a sonnet composed of elegantly spaced commas, question marks and other typewriter-based punctuation. The effect is lighthearted, clever, ironic. Each comma is placed for maximum effect, the language is simple yet direct. Far from adhering to poetic creeds of the time (Imagism, Futurism, Autism, etc…), the verse is defiantly original both in its idiom and its form. One wonders if the world couldn’t use a few more poems of such transparency, bogged down as we are with the angst-ridden verse so much in vogue since Blake. As Oscar Wilde once put it, “All bad poetry is sincere.” Harold Bloom remarked in The Western Canon that this phrase should be engraved above the gates of every university in America.

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American Yiddish Poetry

yiddish workmen's circleBefore we proceed with publishing our original verse, we’d like like to take a minute to plug one of American poetry’s lesser known schools: its Yiddish poets. A major volume, American Yiddish Poetry, edited by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav, has been republished recently by Stanford University Press. This is one of two important anthologies representing what has been called “probably the most coherent segment of twentieth-century American literature not written in English.”  The other, regrettably out of print, is called The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse. Here is an article by Harold Bloom that evaluates the achievements of both. Below is a sample poem (alas, from the Penguin volume) to whet your appetite.

Epilogue

Because the papers meanly ignore me—
They think my luncheon menu’s not fit to print—
Small wonder girls don’t give me a tumble
And day by day my stock goes down.

And every day my debts get higher.
Vainly my ten fingers stretch out for patrons.
It’s lucky Martel’s isn’t beyond my reach
And coffee—black—is still a nickel.

If coffee goes up, I’ll go and hang myself,
And how many poets are as classy as me?
But while the coffee’s cheap, my marvelous songs
Will bring happiness to our people and our tongue.

Zishe Landau, translated by Irving Feldman


Contrasting Views

"Literalism is a feature of boorish translators." Cicero "The clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase." Nabokov

The Faerie Queene

"John Ashbery said reading the Faerie Queene was like reading an endless beautiful comic strip." Kenneth Koch

Sigmund Freud

"Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."

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