Theory of Mind, New & Selected Poems, by Bin Ramke,

reviewed in the print issue of Publishers Weekly.
Here is the complete review:

(Starred Review)
Since winning the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1978, Ramke has steadily released strong and strange books of poetry. He is the rare poet who seems to become more himself with each new book, rather than more like an imitation of himself. Nonetheless, perhaps due to the difficulty of much of his work, Ramke has remained a poet’s poet. This much-needed and compact selection from his nine previous books serves as a helpful introduction to this poet, whose work straddles aesthetic camps one never knew shared borders-this is language poetry with a Southern twang, or experimental writing with clear, dire subject matter. From the stark clarity of his first poems (“the only horse/ we owned died on Christmas Eve”), Ramke has journeyed toward wholly original aesthetic ground on which his own often fragmentary words share the page, even the line, with passages from obscure texts, definitions, even mathematics. Yet even Ramke’s oddest poems always keep a few subjects-fatherhood, knowledge of the self and the other, love, desire-at the forefront, wishing, at times, “To kiss. To move/ mouth against mouth.” And the new poems here are among Ramke’s best.
(reviewed July 20, 2009)
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Arthur Rimbaud’s The Illuminations, translated by Donald Revell,

reviewed in the print issue of Publishers Weekly.
Here is the complete review:
(Starred Review)
Celebrated poet Revell (The Bitter Withy) received the 2007 PEN USA Translation Award for his ravishing take on Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell. Rendered into English with utmost sympathy and flare, this bilingual edition of Rimbaud’s prose masterpiece is sure to receive comparable acclaim. Considered by many to be the infamous French wunderkind’s highest achievement, the book’s (mostly) prose poems present the still teenage poet’s acrobatic efforts to resist the stranglehold of habit, logic and bourgeois respectability: “I’ve strung ropes from steeple to steeple; garlands from window to window; golden chains from star to star, and I’m dancing.” Revell’s version is no more or less accessible than previous translations, and dips into the contemporary idiom are thankfully infrequent and unobtrusive. What distinguishes Revell’s work is its exquisite, carefully modulated musicality. His phrasing is rich and fluid (“The soft perfume of the stars and of the sky and of everything drifts down from the hilltop”) or crisp and strident (“Unsought air and unsought world. Life./ -Was that it, then?/ -And the dream grows cold”), in perfect keeping with the protean, inestimably influential original, making this among the finest of its English translations yet produced.
(reviewed August 17, 2009)
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