Sunday, 9 June 2013

CBe 2013 5 / D. Nurkse, A Night in Brooklyn

from ‘The Present’:

And she who was driving said,
We know the coming disaster intimately but the present is unknowable.

Which disaster, I wondered, sexual or geological? But I was shy:
her beauty was like a language she didn’t speak and had never heard.

Then we were in Holyfield and it was the hour when the child
waves from a Welcome mat, his eyes full of longing, before turning
inward to his enforced sleep. We waved back but we were gone.

I rashly said in January that I’d do a blog post about why CBe is publishing each of this year’s books, so here we are again, but really for this one there should be no need. Starting with small presses, and more recently with Knopf, Nurkse has many books in print in the US and publishes regularly in both US and UK magazines. There is no good literary reason why his work hasn’t been introduced to the UK by a mainstream publisher – in the way that, for example, Faber (and Secker before them) has published Charles Simic, or Cape has published Sharon Olds. I did suggest this to editors at both those places, and in each case there was admiration for the work but a no to publishing. In 2011 CBe published one of Nurkse’s early books, Voices over Water, to which rights had reverted to the poet himself, and it was shortlisted for that year’s Forward Prize. A Night in Brooklyn, published in the US by Knopf, is his most recent book. I’ll leave the rest of the post to some of the US reviews:

Philip Levine, Ploughshares: ‘The voice behind these poems is certainly Nurkse’s, but more often than not I feel it’s that deepest voice we hear rarely if ever and then only in poems, the voice of those closest to us, those we love and care for and who–because they are human–remain mysteries: “All my life I have been dying, of hope and self-pity, / and an unknown force has been knitting me back together.” No one is writing more potently than this.’

Richard Hoffman, Solstice: ‘A Night in Brooklyn is a rich and deeply textured investigation of the intersection of memory, imagination, and history. It offers its humane and elegaic vision with the tonal range of a mature artist who has forged a voice by turns sorrowful, passionate, whimsical, and reflective. This is the finest book yet of one of our finest poets; no serious reader of contemporary poetry can afford to overlook it.’

New York Times: ‘These are not easy poems, but they don’t play tricks on the reader, either. Stay with one and it will unfold into a meditation on birth, death, longing or loneliness.’

Tina Chang, Brooklyn Poet Laureate: ‘Walking through these poems is like having a mythical landscape lit with as much brilliance as there is deep shadow. Filled with sensual beauty and fierce urgency, these poems usher the reader through “the doors, the stairs,/ the streets, the endless city”.’

And click here for a link to Nurkse talking about the book, and five poems from it, on the Gwarlingo site.

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