GABRIEL ROSENSTOCK: SELECTED POEMS
Translations by Paddy Bushe
Cló Iar-Chonnachta Indreabhán
ISSN 1 902420 95 0
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|GABRIEL ROSENSTOCK: SELECTED POEMS|
This is a handsomely-produced volume of poems by an experienced and accomplished author. The book itself consists of approximately 190 pages of work, totaling fifty-four poems of varying lengths, printed in the original Irish with facing-page translations. The poems are set out stylishly, making them easy to read, and they are unaccompanied by illustrations or explanatory notes. There is a short introduction to the author and his work — more than 100 books, predominantly in Irish — written by Robert Welch.
Given Rosenstock's long and prolific career, it is unsurprising to find that the poems chosen for this volume differ considerably in their style and form. A wide spectrum of metrical formats and stanzaic patterns characterize the volume, yet throughout all of these variations can be heard a consistent and easily recognizable voice. That voice is an intellectual one, eager, searching, at times struggling to define and re-define experiences and reflections of many sorts. It is a voice for which language itself represents a peculiar mixture of opportunities and limitations. As he expresses it in his poem SPRACHE (LANGUAGE), which I'll quote here — ironically enough — in English:
And when Frank Corcoran writes to me from Hamburg the medley is wonderful: Tipperary Irish (I know, it's extinct) German Maynooth Latin ( I know…) Italian and a few marginal notes of faltering glissando. I know how he feels. These days to say nothing any way reasonable is difficult in any language ... issaki no kaki ku'u muku wo yurushi oku as Yoshiko Yoshino might sayAlthough Rosenstock's manner throughout the book is typified by striking analytical energy, verbal poise and an engaging portrayal of personal charisma, the actual emotional range of the poems is somewhat narrow. The nearest most of the poems come to a sense of wonder is the confession of confusion in the face of un-resolvable options. Situationally, the poems frequently exist on a plain of ideas across which people traverse, but only upon which knowledge of them is sought by Rosentock's narrators. Here, in a poem entitled A VIEW, is an example of how this interest in passion is withdrawn into contemplation and reflection. Notice how the narrator moves from the point of view of an observer upon others to one upon himself:
You were stark naked looking for your contact lens and I bent down to help you and you, blind as a bat, never even noticed that it wasn't any little gleam under chair or table that was urging me on but your strange new shape crawling on all fours like an animal lost in the woods and the beast had almost broken out in me when your sight was restored to you.Still, if the poems are not funded primarily by deep feeling and sensation, they are never cold or distant, and there is throughout a robust interrogation of the world in both its quotidian and higher spheres. It is an interrogation given added appeal through the author's breadth of knowledge and skilled craftsmanship.
|reviewer: John Ballam.|