Vasko Popa

Vasko Popa, trans. from the Serbo-Croatian by Charles Simic. New York Review Books, $16 (160p) ISBN 978-1-68137-336-2
Dark and fabulist, tender and unsparing, and sparkling with folklore and fractured modernity, Popa’s poems offer allegories at once global and deeply Slavic. “You pace back and forth/ Along your private infinity,” he writes, departing from the socialist realism that surrounded him. Simic, who has been translating Popa (1922–1991) for almost three decades, calls the poet’s work “a mix of native and foreign influences and the product of [his] own ingenuity.” This selection organizes work from across Popa’s lifetime into 11 sections, outlining an oeuvre at home among unreal objects, fantastic animals, bleak poverty, disturbing games, trembling mortality, and the insidious specter of larger, darker motivations driving nearly everything. “What’s up now,” he asks in “In the Moonlight:”—“It’s as if flesh snow like flesh/ Is beginning to stick to me.” He demurs: “I don’t know either/ It’s as everything is starting again/ With an even more terrifying beginning// You know what/ Can you bark.” While some of the later poems lack the inventiveness of his middle and early work, this offering nevertheless reveals an icon of the 20th century, torquing language and time back toward something fearful and animalistic. (June)
Reviewed on : 06/13/2019
Release date: 06/25/2019
Genre: Poetry
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