“Schwierige Zeiten” / “Difficult Times,” a poem by Bertolt Brecht (tr. by Ron Slate)


Standing at my desk
I see the elder tree in the garden through the window
And make out something red in it, something black
And instantly recall the elders
Of my Augsburg childhood.
Then for several moments I seriously deliberate
Whether to go to the table
For my glasses, so that I might see

Non-Fiction: on Italy and Cigarettes, a Poet in Stalin's World, and the Afterlife of Elvis

Fumo: Italy’s Love Affair with the Cigarette by Carl Ipsen (Stanford University Press)
Comrade Huppert: A Poet in Stalin’s World by George Huppert (Indiana University Press)
The Death and Resurrection of Elvis Presley by Ted Harrison (Reaktion Books/University of Chicago Press)

on Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In 1973 Elizabeth Bishop wrote a blurb for Sandra McPherson’s first book Radiation. She described her former student’s poetry as “a delight and refreshment in the tedium of irony, confession and cuteness of contemporary verse.” According to Brett C.

on One Toss of the Dice by R. Howard Bloch (Liveright / W.W. Norton)

On the death of Stéphane Mallarmé in 1898, 22-year old Paul Valéry wrote an homage to the poet who had pointed the way to new possibilities for poetry. “Je sera la tombe de ton ombre pensive,” he wrote, “I will be the tomb of your pensive shadow.” Fifty-one years later at age 73, a year before he died, Valéry was still extolling his master in an essay published in 1944.

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