cover image Voyager


Srikanth Reddy, Univ. of California, $22.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-520-26885-2

Reddy uses as the source for his long-awaited second collection the controversial memoir of Kurt Waldheim, the U.N. secretary general who was found to have been a Nazi SS officer. All the language in Reddy's book comes from Waldheim's; Reddy's three sections comprise three erasures (in which all but a few words are deleted from the source text) of Waldheim's book by different methods. In the first, a series of clipped poetic lines is as much a hazy expression of an everyman's guilty conscience ("He knew the topography of injustice./ It had neither inside nor outside") as it is a specific indictment of global political life since WWII: "One would not wish this account to become a catalogue of the disappeared." Part two is a virtuosic and surprising prose narrative told by someone obsessed with the golden records sent up with the two Voyager space shuttles in 1977, "full of popular tunes and beautiful technological problems." In the third and longest section, a sequence of mostly first-person lyrics in Waldheim's voice beautifully mixes the personal and political concerns of the book: "He complained/ that I did not believe/ in his extraordinary world." The book closes with a series of epilogues that reveal something of the process by which it was composed. Taken together, these recastings form a highly ambitious book of political poetry that speaks hauntingly of our world. (Feb.)