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The Arrival

The Arrival

by Daniel Simko, Carolyn Forche (Other), James Reidel

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Poet and translator Daniel Simko emigrated with his parents to the U.S.A. and lived here until his death, aged 45, in 2004. Steeped in the traditions of European art, Simko remained reticent about publishing. Thanks to his literary executor, Carolyn Forché, this first collection, in the language Simko grew up into, showcases his gift for the unexpected, exact


Poet and translator Daniel Simko emigrated with his parents to the U.S.A. and lived here until his death, aged 45, in 2004. Steeped in the traditions of European art, Simko remained reticent about publishing. Thanks to his literary executor, Carolyn Forché, this first collection, in the language Simko grew up into, showcases his gift for the unexpected, exact phrase. The Arrival maps a haunting choreography of travel, memory, and the body so gently you will feel you have been carrying this book around with you all along.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Simko's posthumous English-language debut is a long-awaited event for those who have known about his haunting poems. Simko was born in Czechoslovakia in 1969 and moved to the U.S. after the Soviet invasion of the country in the late '60s. He lived much of his life in New York—writing, participating in the literary scene, and translating an acclaimed volume of the poems of Georg Trakl—and died in 2004. Now, his executor, the poet Carolyn Forche, has shepherded his poems, which he was reluctant to publish in his lifetime, into print. Like Charles Simic, though devoid of Simic's playful humor, Simko's poetry has as its backdrop a hazy, surreal sense of life in a war-torn Eastern European landscape: “I have mentioned fists, and departures,/ the dumb choreography of the blind.” These poems are fragmentary but always sharp, their emotional weight clear. Simko probes the self, looking through pinholes for glimpses of other people: “I wake up/ and you come/ with a shawl/ black with stars.” And, like Frank Stanford, another poet whose influence has spread posthumously, Simko writes with haunting precision about death: “I am entering you the way an angel enters a scythe.” This book will be a bittersweet discovery to many who will wish this poet had more time. (Nov.)
Library Journal
A powerful sense of loss echoes through Czech-born poet/translator Simko's first American collection. Some poems center on Holocaust survivors, others serve as memorials, but all resonate with the power of the said and unsaid. Like HD's poems, they resemble palimpsests in which what is written nearly conceals work about other places, other times, an almost mythical past. Simko, who left Czechoslovakia at age ten, shortly after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, writes poems about the rupture of the past but makes them universal. He emphasizes the music of the line ("The crows roving overhead are too silent to be crows") and incorporates lists that dwell upon the unusual and ethereal ("moth-wing, bat-light, a journey home"), creating poems so exquisitely crafted that the occasional flat line stands out. Throughout, the lines and poems build upon one another, enveloping readers until they sense how "The mortality of things/ is so abrupt." The result is searing, lingering long after reading "like a fingerprint in the mind's shadow." VERDICT Beautiful, intense poetry for those who prefer lyric verse with a passionate interiority and sense of mystery as in the work of Jane Hirshfield and Linda Gregg.—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., IN

Product Details

Four Way Books
Publication date:
Stahlecker Selections
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.40(d)

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Read an Excerpt

The Arrival

By Daniel Simko

Four Way Books

Copyright © 2009 Estate of Daniel Simko
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-884800-92-4

Chapter One

DEPARTURES I am already changing the address. The one hung, pinned, or crucified against the wall, the one broken over a shrub. But I am not afraid. I am entering this room for the last time. I am entering you the way an angel enters a scythe. WINTER MUSIC It has grown simpler. It has grown into a map of hard fields, the worry of a hand holding a knife. It seems, after all, that you have come to care for nothing. Not even the voices rising into slow music beneath the ice. It seems that you have been occupying yourself with nothing in particular. It seems your address has changed, or not changed. Or changed again. Perhaps it is time to rise and write it down:

the address, the phone number, a clear description of your face-

Perhaps it is time to get dressed, and step out into the blunt argument of the morning ... the same desire to go on living with someone who is not there. Cold light against your forehead, solitude in place of a body. HOMAGE TO GEORG TRAKL In the bird-light, in the dream-light, messages of the dead drift through windows. What house is this? What grass? Orion inbound, tattooed against the north wind. Think of it. Think of the last grievance, the incomprehensible need to go on. Perhaps now you can recall the pale ideogram of your body, which is the moon's, rowing itself behind the clouds into past tense. Or combing the hair of the dead, as they lie, absolutely still, as though someone was about to take their photograph. And after all, this is why you came here. This is why even apples fell into sin. This bread, this wine, have silence in their keeping. This is how it begins. Weaving the blood through the wrists of the damned. This is how it continues: The cold, the snow, the slight trembling in your hands. One silent candle shines in the dark room. A silver hand extinguishes it. JANUARY Hell bent blue moon, yellow eye of dust. Cold irreparable desire. I have been trying to explain something all night. I am no longer sure of the subject. St. George, the defender, freezes over. There is still something I want to say, but not here. I want to lie down with the snow. I want the wild lilies to break their silence. STILL LIFE: A TREATMENT Vase, plate, picture, and cup: places of darkness, places of kindness. Clothes once touched hanging over a chair. The frayed poplars, huge bodies of nothingness, addressing the dark windows, or the few avoiding the police. But what's the use? Thousands of miles away the Danube is a sketch of glass against the mined woods-a face, a grape, a kernel. I am writing your names down for the last time. I am writing your names in secrecy. Be silent ... Be silent ... A peach glows reddish on the table. A slice of apple falls into a glass of clear wine. Whiteness is all. You are snow. DEPOSITION Yes, I know. It seems I have been talking a long time without making much sense. I have mentioned fists, and departures, the dumb choreography of the blind. Some invective, I suppose. In the photograph, presented under dubious circumstances, you appear to be waving, I mean holding your hands up. And that fist of ice, the knife-blade, and broken glass are all a rude joke. But of course you didn't know- the dogs, the snow coming down on our bodies which weigh nothing. Which are grievances. As for the address, there is none. What was I saying? All right. Continue. FAR Bells, coming in a mile off. The North Star reticent against the Danube Bridge, phrases falling on the cold metal. The same bare poplar, the lonely spruce weave in the late October wind. Or as I imagine them now, looking at them from the promenade, years younger, the same mildly uncertain expression spreading over my face. I have come to love this city, this one thing I could not keep. The groves and vineyards that forgive me for leaving, and the people who do not. And if this is a poem of childhood, then it's also the darkness within a glove. Or in a trumpet, that the man playing the circus all night finally puts down. He has been unable to push it out. Until he turns into music. CODA All night you have been tearing maps in your sleep. Your autobiography. The crows rowing overhead are too silent to be crows. The sky shows its overbite. It must be raining. There is no place to go but home. AT 4 A.M. So, what can you do with it all? You can simply take it, and throw it against a wall. You can pretend it's not there. You are raising your hand to the page again. You are signing a name which is not yours. You are bending over the page. All that is behind you now. Still, it is impossible that you have been here. It is in your file. You could not be writing these lines to remember.


Excerpted from The Arrival by Daniel Simko Copyright © 2009 by Estate of Daniel Simko. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

DANIEL SIMKO was born in Czechoslovakia and came to this country shortly after the events of 1968. He is the translator of Autumn Sonata by Georg Trakl, which won the Poets’ House Translation Award in 1988. In 1989-90 he held a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, and was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

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