cover image The Tortoise of History: Poems

The Tortoise of History: Poems

Anselm Hollo. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (98p) ISBN 978-1-56689-444-9

In this posthumous trove of brief, zestful poems, Hollo (1934–2013), a prolific poet and multilingual translator, relates the “incredible ONSLAUGHT of being,” seemingly dashing off each of these frenetic, fragmented vignettes in a fit of wild gusto. He’s capable of filtering even the most mundane phenomena through his playful mind: one poem features a woman in an antique store chiding her dog, and another consists of a single line, identical to its title: “b u g s k i l l e d o u r t r e e.” Yet within Hollo’s exuberance is an awareness of mortality: “Dear hearts it is late in the game// and how will the untold be told?” The last section of the collection consists of what Hollo describes as “an intuitive display” of the work of the ancient Greek poet Hipponax, crude, delightful renderings of the disjointed originals. He interprets one snippet as “her nose a bell/ with snot for a clapper,” and an ageless nugget of wisdom is rendered as “unfunny he who drinks his lunch.” Hollo’s quirky and disarming joy remained intact until the end: “I print your messages/ dear friends/ and feel the love and/ accept it with/ all my heart and brain which/ still feel like they’re working.” (Aug.)