Questions of Love: New and Selected Poems

Rika Lesser, Author . Sheep Meadow $15.95 (190p) ISBN 978-1-93135-760-9

Lesser has become an important translator from German and Swedish; this first Selected Poems from the New York–based writer (All We Need of Hell ) often shows her thinking about translation—living and thinking in more than one language, travel and how to approach a work of art. On the one hand, “Language/ study, first of all, means commitment/ to rules, keeping oneself within lines,/ not reading between them”; on the other, translation can bring “someone else's voice:/ Ringing and lucid, whispered, distant, true.” Lesser's attention to prior art includes not just the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke and Gunnar Ekelöf but also modern figurative paintings: her strongest new poems describe a disturbing set of canvases, collectively called The Girls , by Lena Cronqvist, in which Lesser sees alternate selves, and prays: “May they keep/ their heads—balanced... smiling heavenward.” The earliest poems reflect her undergraduate years at Yale and her debts to the confessional poetry of the 1970s; the latest describe the old age of Lesser's mother, the end of a transcontinental romance and the memory of mental illness, all in stark, disarming, sometimes plain lines: “You mentioned ex-/ ploring Vienna's ex-/ pat community I/ fell silent Protected/ from you by my mother/ until she dies.” (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/20/2008
Release date: 11/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
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