Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Poetry magazine, May 2007

Along with the call for submissions from those who have not been published in the magazine before, the May 2007 issue of Poetry has some fascinating things in it. It starts off with a bang with two poems by Bob Hicok, including the splendid "O my pa-pa." Susan Stewart contributes the sonnet "A Boy's Voice," and Maurice Manning's "A Blasphemy" is also quite strong, and is followed by two poems about sleepless nights with a small child by my friend Geoffrey Brock.

Then there's Michael Hofmann's review of the new Collected Poems of Zbigniew Herbert. I said there are fascinating things in the magazine, and this review is fascinating—not because of what it says about Herbert (we all know he's a great poet, don't we?) or what it says about the history of Herbert translation into English (although it's kind of interesting to find out that the previous translators have not done this book because of conflicts with Herbert's widow) or even what it says about the new translations (according to Hofmann, "Alissa Valles's Herbert is slack, chattersome, hysterical, full of exaggeration, complacency, and reaching for effect").

No, it's fascinating to watch Hofmann write a review that most people will remember because of what it reveals about the reviewer himself. As I'm not reviewing his review, I don't have to provide a list of adjectives like those Hofmann uses to dismantle Valles. I'll let you decide.


Anonymous said...

The review makes me want to never read another word of Hofmann, and to look up and find out all I can of Valles, to give the gal a chance.

Andrew Shields said...

Since reading the review, I have stumbled across Valles's translations of other Polish poets -- or maybe it was the same other Polish poet, I just saw the name in tables of contents of journals and did not make a list. One of them was in the New England Review, I believe.

So if I find the references without trying, then Hofmann did not do his homework. If he had, he would not have implied that Valles was a nobody who did not deserve such an important commission.

Anonymous said...

As a counter to the Hofmann piece, I enjoyed a review
by Mark Rudman in Bookforum (found via a link from poet Greg Rappleye's blog). He (Rudman)is much kinder to the 'newcomer' Valles, even seeing her work as 'fresh', I believe he said.
Looking back at my copy of the Jan. '07 Poetry, I now see that my introduction to Herbert actually came via Valles. Apparently she was\is good enough for Poetry Magazine...Speaking of which, I see another name in that edition I now recognize. Thanks for introducing me to Reda!

Andrew Shields said...

Do you read French, Jeff? If so, get yourself a volume of Réda's poems. If not, I can send you some others. More work is forthcoming in Smartish Pace.

Anonymous said...

I don't, unfortunately.
Though, poetry can be hard enough already to read in English...