Paul Auster's penetrating and charged verse resembles little else in recent American poetry. This collection of his poetry, translations, and composition notes from early in his career furnish yet further evidence of his literary mastery. Taut, densely lyrical and everywhere informed by a powerful and subtle music, this selection begins with the ...
Paul Auster's penetrating and charged verse resembles little else in recent American poetry. This collection of his poetry, translations, and composition notes from early in his career furnish yet further evidence of his literary mastery. Taut, densely lyrical and everywhere informed by a powerful and subtle music, this selection begins with the compact verse fragments of Spokes (written when Auster was in his early twenties) and Unearth, continues on through the more ample meditations of Wall Writing, Disappearances, Effigies, Fragments From the Cold, Facing the Music and White Spaces, then moves further back in time to include Auster's revealing translations of many of the French poets who influenced his own writing - including Paul Eluard, Andre Breton, Tristan Tzara, Philippe Soupault, Robert Desnos, and Rene Char - as well as the provocative and previously unpublished "Notes From A Composition Book" (1967). An introduction by Norman Finkelstein connects biographical elements to a consideration of the work, and takes in Auster's early literary and philosophical influences. Powerful, sometimes haunting, cool, precise, and limpid, this view from the past to the present will appeal to those unfamiliar with this aspect of Auster's work, as well as those already acquainted with his poetry. Readers will agree that Auster's grasp on language and the world around him is not only questioning, but mysterious and very human, perceptive, and always compelling.
Publishers Weekly, 2004-02-02 Before embarking as a novelist, young Paul Auster (City of Glass) published poetry in a variety of small journals and magazines. This handy volume collects all his verse from the late 1960s through 1980. It's poetry very much of its period, oriented toward French mid-century thought and modes. A pale, defeated imagism presides, as visions of whiteness and woundedness unspool from line to line. Things vanish out of the world (a key section is called "Disappearances") and hands clench onto the empty space where they've been. Many of the poems treat the paradoxes of perception and epistemology: "He is alive, and therefore he is nothing/ but what drowns in the fathomless hole/ of his eye,// and what he sees/ is all that he is not." The scholar Norman Finkelstein provides an illuminating introduction, tracing connections between allusions in the poetry and actual events in the young Auster's life, such as the collapse of his parents' marriage and his attendance at riot-torn late '60s Columbia University. To add heft to the slim book, a number of Auster's translations from the French are included, mostly of the surrealist communist poets of a previous era (Breton, Tzara, Eluard) who attained a new popularity when the events of May `68 made them, literally, poster boys for the New Left in Paris. As a translator, Auster is always effective when he employs a small vocabulary, and his work on Tzara is genuinely impressive: "I know I carry the song in me and I am not afraid/ I carry death and if I die it is death." Otherwise Collected Poems remains a curiosity, a tantalizing look at the work of a poet whose breakthrough led him away from line breaks and into the actions of prose. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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