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The Poems of Charles Reznikoff: 1918-1975 (1989)
Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976), the son of Russian garment workers, was an American original: a blood-and-bone New Yorker, a collector of images and stories who walked the city from the Bronx to the Battery and breathed the soul of the Jewish immigrant experience into a lifetime of poetry. He wrote narrative poems based on Old Testament sources. Above all, he wrote spare, intensely visual, epigrammatic poems, a kind of urban haiku. The language of these short poems is as plain as bread and salt, their imagery as crisp and unambiguous as a Charles Sheeler photograph. But their meaning is only hinted at: it is there in the selection of details, and in the music of the verse. Reznikoff was sincere and objective, a poet of great feeling who strove to honor the world by describing it precisely. He also strove to keep his feelings out of his poetry. He did not confess, he did not pose, he did not cultivate a myth of himself. Instead he created art-an unadorned art in praise of the world that God and men have made-and invited readers to bring their own feelings to it. In an age of ephemera, of first drafts rushed into print and soon forgotten, Reznikoff's poetry is a sturdy, well-wrought thing-"a girder, still itself / among the rubble." A timeless testament-impersonal, incorruptible, undeniably American-it will survive every change in literary fashion. Book jacket.
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