In the wake of last year's Robert Hass–edited haiku collection, HarperCollins continues to milk the global poetry market, with mixed results. The `modest and hedonistic` claim of this cheerfully context-free anthology is to `furnish word-treats laid out in a row of continents.` Word-treats there are, in spades: the urbane melancholy of the Brazilian Carlos Drummond de Andrade, the sweet pop lyricism of the Japanese Shuntaro Tanikawa, the anguished starkness of the politically engaged Pakistani Faiz Ahmed Faiz. But the discovery of these jewels is rendered suspect by what we native speakers of English can divine from the (considerably more extensive) Anglophone selection. There's one Sylvia Plath poem here, and it's `Lady Lazarus`; the brief Elizabeth Bishop section includes `One Art.` If the selection criteria for more far-flung literatures are equally canonical, what more offbeat treasures must have fallen by the wayside? To judge from the relative absence of comments on the translation (and complete lack of any testimony from the translators themselves), the process of translation must be as straightforward as making toast: put in a poem and up it pops in another language, golden brown. The editors' introductions have a way of betraying, through sheer overwriting, an unintentional criticism of the project—or even of themselves. As Paine's
foreword sends readers forth on a `word-sea of undulating rhythm,` we are exhorted to `take our pills along.` Another editor, eulogizing the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, admits: `My impression of his poems has always been that of a geometrical figure pressed into the marshmallow of my brain.`
Overlong, overdone, and overwrought.