Tomaz Salamun, trans. from the Slovenian by Michael Thomas Taren. Black Ocean (SPD, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-939568-11-3
"Not a minute of my life/ was lost./ Tanks were there/ and altars in paper boxes./ White grass burned in white flames/ and I was on cocaine," writes Šalamun (1914–2014) to open this posthumous collection of previously untranslated poems from across his long career. Hallucinatory, hilarious, disturbing, and politically and socially volatile, the work of Šalamun (On the Tracks of Wild Game) long held a prominent place in the Eastern European avant-garde. The book contains a number of gems, and Taren's precise renditions capture Šalamun's signature style while diverging just enough from previous translators to keep the work surprising. The downfall of such a long book (perhaps related to it being posthumous) is that some of the poems simply feel unfinished. Šalamun's work operates under a dizzying array of cultural references, sharp juxtapositions of nonsense, and mordant humor—boundaries that are difficult to navigate and require a level of care and emotional intelligence that is lacking in some of the fragment-like, untitled works. That doesn't diminish the unwieldy power and scene-rifting surprises of Šalamun's best poems, which are thankfully abundant here. Fans will undoubtedly want to grab this, and those new to Šalamun will find it a relatively diverse and well-rounded introduction to his work. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/2016
Release date: 11/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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