"Stickball on 88th Street is a sequence of poems written in the voice of a boy finding his way on the streets of New York in the late Thirties. Willis Barnstone, one of America's major poets and translators, has given us an almost Joycean portrait of the artist coming of age as he moves from pre-adolescence into young manhood. Through his eyes we encounter a mysterious, greater world in the wilderness of the big city. Each poem in this unfolding narrative, lucid and astonishing, humorous or sad, exalted or tragic, takes us from one experience to another: street games, the beginning of friendships, first love, the labyrinth of family relationships, religious questions, fears and joys, all told in a young and wondering voice (a voice subtly informed with the wisdom of the elder poet). The poems are a vivid glimpse into a Depression America on the threshold of a World War and the record of the interior journey of a boy encountering those elements that would shape him into the artist and man he is to become. This is a marvelous book and a testament to the enduring power of love and imagination at the heart of poetry."
“Willis Barnstone has a problem: he’s too good. Everything he writes, from his invaluable The Other Bible, a compendium of holy texts no writer should be without, through his brilliant translations and beautiful poems, is a breathtaking achievement.
“Four of the best things in America are Whitman’s Leaves, Herman Melville’s Whale, the sonnets of Barnstone’s Secret Reader, and my daily Corn Flakes--that rough poetry of morning.”
Jorge Luis Borges
“Willis Barnstone is, like a mature Holden Caulfield in J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, a singer of the secret epiphanies that grace all our everyday lives. We all have shining moments that pierce us in the midst of our commonest pursuits, but for most of us habit, forgetting, or other tyrannies of the quotidian quickly muffle them. But Willis, whose memory is an ocean without a shore, remembers the fleeting intensities most of us forget. And the art of his precise words, the combination of emotion and formal rigor in his poems, gives them life again in ways we can share.”
Michael Holquist, The Dialogic Imagination