[NOTE. The following commentary was written to accompany a series of poems commisioned & prepared for "Trans-Poetic Exchange: A Colloquium on Haroldo de Campos and Octavio Paz's poem ‘Blanco’” at Stanford University, January 29-30, 2010.
[The post-Holocaust fate of Yiddish writing is something that’s troubled my mind since the murders of the last century appeared to have decimated both language & culture. Avrom Sutzkever (1913-2010), who fought as a partisan during the years of the khurbn, was one of the outstanding survivors with many kudos & honors in his later years, but the secular mysticism & near surrealism/realism of some of his work wasn’t easy to grasp as he came over to us largely in that more ethnic context & in a translated language not his own. W
[The following is an excerpt from a long poem, “The Ganges,” which runs around a hundred pages & is itself a third of a giant book entitled The Combustion Cycle. The book contains two other poems, “Concerning The Henbane Bird,” & “On Solar Physiology,” the former in the voice of a hummingbird, the Andean Hillstar, & the latter spoken in the voice of an Angolan shaman. As for “The Ganges,” Alexander tells us, “it pours from the voice of an untouchable.” Of Alexander himself I’ve written elsewhere: “Will Alexander, more than any of our other American contemporaries, is the inheritor of an ecstatic surrealism derived from European sources, colored by factual & scientific particulars, & drawing with great intelligence & passion from an international avant-garde & from the negritude writings of Aimé Césaire & others, for whom he acts as a true successor.” His use here of historical & appropriated materials is also worth noting. (J.R.)]
[Part One of the Quartermain essay can be found here on Poems and Poetics. His complete view of Eye of Witness will appear early in 2015 in the twentieth issue of Lou Rowan’s Golden Handcuff’s Review, a major repository of poetry & poetics moving from one century & millennium to another.]
[Following his remarkable translations of the great Persian poet Hafez, Squires has embarked on an assemblage of translations from Old Irish, “the oldest vernacular poetry in Europe.” Its relation to what John Bloomberg-Rissman & I have been assembling as outside & subterranean poetry should also be noted. (J.R.)]