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 Ekelof, but also modern figurative paintings: her strongest new poems, a sequence titled "The Girls," describe a disturbing set of canvases 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.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Questions of Love: New and Selected Poemsby Rika Lesser
“...This time, and in a very different place, the poet ventures upon a much more perilous dig, framing an archeology of the self which requires not only testimony but evidence, not only comment but construction. She disinters along ‘boundaries of pain’ which Dickinson, her surest mentor, identifies as ‘capacious as the sea.’ Great
“...This time, and in a very different place, the poet ventures upon a much more perilous dig, framing an archeology of the self which requires not only testimony but evidence, not only comment but construction. She disinters along ‘boundaries of pain’ which Dickinson, her surest mentor, identifies as ‘capacious as the sea.’ Great accuracy and great tenacity were required to write these poems,in which a significant amount of going under is…undergone. Readers, as well as the writer, must ‘in the destructive element immerse’; but by trusting Lesser’s method (relentless questioning, dogged reversion to the charge, ironic skepticism as the prolegomenon to any future therapeutics) even as she follows her great predecessor in evidential texts, we ascend with her into radiance....”—Richard Howard on Rika Lesser’s work
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Meet the Author
RIKA LESSER is the author of three earlier collections of poetry, Etruscan Things (1983), All We Need of Hell (1995), and Growing Back (1997). She has been the recipient of the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship, fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Translation Prize of the Swedish Academy.
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