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An energetic exploration of the expanse of language translated and otherwise transformed
In Renditions Reginald Gibbons conducts an ensemble of poetic voices, using the works of a varied, international selection of writers as departure points for his translations and transformations. The collection poses the idea that all writing is, at least abstractly, an act of translation, whether said act “translates” observation into word or moves ideas from one language to another. Through these acts of transformation, Gibbons infuses the English language with stylistic aspects of other languages and poetic traditions. The resulting poems are imbued with a sense of homage that allows us to respectfully reimagine the borders of language and revel in the fellowship of idea sharing. In this tragicomedy of the human experience and investigation of humanity’s effects, Gibbons identifies the “shared underthoughts that we can (all) sense:” desire, love, pain, and fervor.
About the Author
Reginald Gibbons is the author of eleven poetry collections. His Creatures of a Day was a finalist for the National Book Award. His book Saints won publication in the National Poetry Series. Volumes of his selected poems in translation have been published in Spain, Italy, and France. His novel Sweetbitter won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and he has also published a book of very short fiction, An Orchard in the Street. Gibbons is also the author of a book on poetic technique, How Poems Think. He has won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Center for Hellenic Studies, as well as the Folger Library’s O. B. Hardison, Jr. prize and other honors and awards. His work has been included in Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize anthologies. He teaches at Northwestern University, where he is a Frances Hooper Professor of Arts and Humanities.
“If poetry is our chief means of breaking bread with the dead, as Auden suggested, then Reginald Gibbons’ Renditions is the best kind of feast you can imagine. Here Gibbons speaks to Mandelshtam about heaviness and tenderness, those two sisters, here he walks with Montale under the light of lemon trees, here we watch him read aloud the great dead poets in his own voice while gusts of rain platter against our glass hearts, like happiness.
Why? Because Gibbons is a master of variousness, he excels in many different tonalities at once, as if each is a different tongue. Though his favorite, perhaps, is the language of nuance and delicacy, of lyric precision. So his Vallejo teaches us fire by walking, impossibly, down the same long street with a loaf of bread, for a hundred years now, and his Cernuda teaches us, tenderly, to see that what is mysterious is in fact claritas: ‘the way two unannounced leaves can be / proof of the world’s breath.’ This is a genuinely gorgeous, generous collection: across time and space, this one-man chorus sings the way Pasternak recommended when he whispered that poets should go across the borders, smashing those borders.”
“This collection might also be called ‘Liberties’: Reginald Gibbons has taken passionate liberties with the poems he loves, from many languages and many centuries. In a devotional ventriloquism, he throws his voice into the voices of Wang Wei, Sophocles, Pindar, Tsvetaeva, Mandelshtam, Neruda, and a host of others. Ancient themes of justice and injustice resonate through his modern forms, and the volume gathers in the final ode to an extended, eloquent, and furiously contemporary curse on a recognizable tyrant. For Reginald Gibbons, poetry is collective: he has turned his debts into song.”
"...This book is full of deep respect for poets and the languages and cultures from which it borrows, emphasizing the shared connections in poetic tradition, even as it reimagines that tradition." – Publishers Weekly
— Publishers Weekly
Featured in Library Journal‘s “Books and Authors To Know: Poetry Titles To Watch 2021”
— Barbara Hoffert
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