So jagged is the rhinoceros

Finished reading Gary Sullivan’s lovely translations of the poems of Ernst Herbeck, just out from the ever-fair Ugly Duckling Presse. Although apparently much loved in his native Austria, Herbeck seems to have been hardly translated into English, except by Gary, perhaps because of the stigma of having spent his life in a mental institution. His poems are small and startling oddities. I read the first poem “Morning” and right away was smitten. I’ll just quote it here since it’s small.

Morning

In fall the wind-of-fairies align

as in the snow the

manes beat.

Blackbirds whistle afield

in the wind and eat.

The poems give me the strange feeling of watching a scene come in and out of focus — things seem blurred and jumbled, then suddenly a precise image snaps into view, settling the rest around it. They mesmerize. Those who know Gary’s own work know he has an exquisite ear for language. He’s done a great service in bringing these to us.

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