Charles Reznikoff

Charles Reznikoff's "Amelia": A case study by Richard Hyland

Richard Hyland, Distinguished Professor, Rutgers Law School, Camden, New Jersey, has compiled the fullest account of the sources of a Charles Reznikoff poem, together with a detailed commentary on the Amelia Kirwan case and the poem Reznikoff wrote based on this case. Many of Reznikoff's poems, especially those in Testimony, are based on legal records. But there has been little research on the exact relationship between the legal record and the poem, with the general assumption that Reznikoff used only language from the legal records, cutting away but not adding any of his own words. The key to Reznikoff's aesthetic is his selection and condensation of the source materials. 

Surely Reznikoff is a paradigmatic poet for all documentary and source-based poetry of the 20th century and exemplary for many of us who use appropriated or found material in our work.

"Reznikoff's Nearness" -- recording of Royaumont talk in 1989, introduced by Emmanuel Hocquard, translated by Pierre Alferi

Without house and ground (PoemTalk #56)

Charles Reznikoff, ‘Salmon and red wine’ & ‘During the Second World War, I was going home one night’

Charles Reznikoff

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Peter Cole, Michelle Taransky, and Henry Steinberg join Al Filreis in this episode of PoemTalk to discuss two poems by Charles Reznikoff. One poem is something of an ars poetica, even though, as Peter points out, its status as metapoetry makes it an unusual effort at statement for Reznikoff, who wrote more often as he did in our second poem, which tells of — and apparently means — only what it is and tends to resist larger conclusion.

Without house and ground (PoemTalk #56)

Charles Reznikoff, 'Salmon and red wine' & 'During the Second World War, I was going home one night'

Charles Reznikoff

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Peter Cole, Michelle Taransky, and Henry Steinberg join Al Filreis in this episode of PoemTalk to discuss two poems by Charles Reznikoff. One poem is something of an ars poetica, even though, as Peter points out, its status as metapoetry makes it an unusual effort at statement for Reznikoff, who wrote more often as he did in our second poem, which tells of — and apparently means — only what it is and tends to resist larger conclusion.<--break->

The first poem is known as “Salmon and red wine” and it appears as section 23 of Inscriptions. The second poem is known also by its first line, “During the Second World War, I was going home one night,” and it is section 28 of part 2 of a series called By the Well of Living and Seeing — a work published in 1969 in a book that brought together that series along with The Fifth Book of the Maccabees. The recording we discuss of the first poem was made at the Poetry Center of San Francisco State University in 1974, although it was written sometime between 1944 and 1956. The recording of the second poem was made when Reznikoff appeared as a guest on Susan Howe’s radio program in 1975. It is a memory of the 1940s.

When Charles Reznikoff was a guest on Susan Howe's radio show

Recordings of Susan Howe's WBAI (NY)/Pacifica Radio programs are available at PennSound as the result of a collaboration with the Archive for New Poetry at the University of California, San Diego. Our digital copies were made from recordings housed at the archive.  On May 13, 1975, Howe went on the air with her guest Charles Reznikoff and the outcome of this session was a show titled “Poems for the Jewish Holidays.” As of today, thanks to the work of Anna Zalokostas, PennSound is making this recording available in segments, one segment each for a poem or passage Reznikoff read, following Howe's introduction.

[] introduction by Susan Howe (1:11): MP3
[] Fable ["Inscriptions No. 50"] (0:36): MP3
[] “One of my sentinels, a tree” ["Inscriptions No. 3"] (0:11): MP3
[] “I have not even been in the fields” ["Rhythms II No. 1"] (0:13): MP3
[] “Blurred sight and trembling fingers” ["Inscriptions No. 48"] (0:18): MP3
[] “Heart and Clock” [excerpt, from "Separate Way No. 1"] (1:03): MP3
[] “Our nightingale, the clock” ["Jerusalem the Golden No. 61"] (0:12): MP3
[] “The clock” ["Jerusalem the Golden No. 62"] (0:12): MP3
[] “My hair was caught in the wheels of a clock” ["Jerusalem the Golden No. 63"] (0:08): MP3
[] “Hardly a breath of wind” ["Inscriptions No. 12"] (0:17): MP3
[] “After I had worked all day at what I earn my living” ["A Fifth Group of Verse No. 19"] (0:22): MP3
[] “Te Deum” ["Inscriptions No. 22"] (0:28): MP3

"Authentic texts"

Translation is trade without commerce

Adrián Esparza, "One and the Same"
Adrián Esparza, "One and the Same"

Displacement. Chosen and unchosen migrations. Free and unfree trades. How displacement is also a kind of placement, an unfamiliar vantage point from which to renegotiate terms, terrains, parameters, possibilities. Translation is willing and willful displacement. In moving a word, phrase, line, sentence, stanza, paragraph, idea, framework from the space of one language to the space of another, something utterly transformed is created, and something that is still very deeply (though not essentially) the same as what it was to begin with (which was not immobile in the first place). Alchemy

In a conversation, Sesshu Foster recently referred to the space of translation as “no-man’s land.” I’d agree and also add the idea of “every person’s land,” in the sense that no one and everyone might belong there, or perhaps that the very concept of “belonging” no longer pertains—the question is one of moving through space, rather than claiming it. Of using the terms imposed upon us (as Adrián Esparza uses the typical Mexican blanket sold to tourists, for example) to subvert the intentions of their imposition. To unknit the weave that would bind us.

Newly released reading of Rezi's "Holocaust"

Abraham Ravett took this photo of Charles Reznikoff in Rezi's NYC apartment in December 1975.Abraham Ravett took this photo of Charles Reznikoff in Rezi's NYC apartment in December 1975. Ravett was making his diary-film Thirty Years Later (completed in 1978). He included in it film he made of Reznikoff reading from his long poem Holocaust and we at PennSound have now extracted the audio of the reading from the film. Go here to a special PennSound page and find the audio segmented and some notes by Ravett.

Holocaust verse

The blog, "Writing the Holocaust," as of this morning has just two blog posts, one for March and one for April. But it's of interest to me nevertheless. April's is a longish entry giving "some cautions on writing Holocaust poetry." It begins with Charles Reznikoff and makes reference to Holocaust verse by Snodgrass, Rich, C.K. Williams, et alia.

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