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Absinthe - 2004

  • Subtitle: New European Writing
  • Published Date: 2004

"While I was reading your poems, my tailbone went numb many times. I'm afraid, my dear friend, that you're a poet and nothing can be done about it. I'm expressing my immense sympathy." That's a quote from Zbigniew Herbert in a letter to poet Janusz Szuber which he reads, at her request, to interviewer/translator Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough. Tailbone numbing writing is a perfect description of the superb work collected in Absinthe. A dozen poets and fiction writers from 11 countries appear here in expert translations (with the exception of poems by the British poet Fiona Sampson whose work, obviously, appears in the original English). What distinguishes this journal overall is that there is nothing occasional here, not a single piece that seems remotely casual in intent or outcome. What numbs the tailbone is not merely the exquisite control demonstrated by each of these authors, but the overwhelming sense of responsibility this control suggests—every word, no, every syllable, counts in poetry and prose alike. While there is much variety in the subject matter treated and the style of the pieces collected here, what they have in common is a particular seriousness or authority that seems, to put it bluntly, unmistakably not-American. These are accomplished and successful artists, widely published and recognized in their own languages and countries. They deserve a wide and grateful audience in English, as well.

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Review Posted on January 31, 2005
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