As I do each summer, I’ve been on the road this year, first touring the UK for the Poetry Translation Centre’s Mexican Poets’ Tour, and eventually making my way—via Mombasa, Los Angeles, and Texas—to Bujumbura, Burundi. As always, I carry an extra suitcase to accommodate books I’m reading and reviewing. These are a few of my favorites from this summer: some of them travel with me, others I devoured so quickly I left them at home, all of them are noteworthy. Congratulations to their authors, translators, editors, and publishers. I hope they make their way into the hands of many readers.
A Definitive Edition & Two Beautiful Reissues
César Vallejo’s The Complete Poetry (U California P, $65) sets a high bar for international poetry collecteds, with its bilingual presentation of all Vallejo’s poetry alongside an intelligent and balanced commentary by Mario Vargas Llosa, Stephen Hart, and Efrain Kristal. Clayton Eshleman’s translations are superb, proving that Vallejo is a poet of staying power and increasing relevancy.
New Directions continues their beautiful reissues of modern classics, with the slender, pocket-sized Everything and Nothing ($9.95), by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Yates, Irby, Fein, and Weinberger, and The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas ($14.95). In his succinct introduction to the latter, Paul Muldoon summarizes Thomas’ enduring appeal, “When we tear away the tabloidian tissue there is revealed a poet who has overcome so much—his influences, his being under the influence—that our impulse to reach for him when our own sense of the world is obstructed or obscured turns out to have been well founded”
Homero Aridjis’ latest book in English, Solar Poems (City Lights, $17.95), translated by George McWhirter, continues in the same vein as his later work: the poet still writes with an intense lyricism, but the regular insertion of politics—Aridjis has worked day jobs as a Mexican ambassador, as representative to UNESCO, and as spokesperson for several environmental initiatives—often seems more intrusive than natural. Durs Grunbein’s The Bars of Atlantis (FSG, $35) is as intelligent and cosmopolitan as his poetry; a perfect companion to FSG’s Ashes for Breakfast, it already ranks among the best of books of prose by poets to be released in 2010. It’s translated by John Crutchfield, Michael Hoffman, and Andrew Shields. Lily Hoang’s The Evolutionary Revolution (Les Figues, $15) is a great addition to the TrenchArt Maneuvers Series, both conceptually dense and continually interesting, as it answers questions like “What if evolution was decided by committee and revolution by mere chance? What if man was a subspecies?” The second issue of The Folio Club ($7.95), edited by Robert Pranzatelli, showcases the second of Onsmith’s cover illustrations celebrating bibliophilia. Its interior continues to develop the magazine’s concept of well-crafted narrative prose. Robert Walser’s The Microscripts (New Directions/Christine Burgin, $24.95)—read our excerpt here—is one of the most beautiful books published this year. As elegant as their other much-hyped release, Anne Carson’s book-in-a-box Nox, but more reserved, its heavy stock paper resembles that of a museum catalogue. Susan Bernofsky’s translations and the scans of Walser’s tiny stories are both incredible: the awe factor is deservedly present.