SELECTED POEMS 1923-1967 by Jorge Luis Borges


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Although Borges sees himself first as a poet and only then as the writer of the stories that have made him famous, till now his poems have been all but unavailable in English and usually in garbled translations. While it is unlikely that their appearance now will eclipse the fiction, translator/editor/ collaborator di Giovanni has recruited high-powered poets and relayed the author's sternly modest instruction that ""despite my poems the translations must be good."" Merwin, Mark Strand, Updike, Richard Wilbur, John Hollander, and Richard Howard are among those who have done their best to comply, ventriloquizing a fair facsimile of Borges' voice. The poems, however, are not equally good and the reason lies mainly in the fact that Borges reached poetic maturity in the course of their writing. The earliest are traced with a youthful sententiousness -- tombstones, ""universal night,"" and the proud ruefulness of lost illusions -- and it seems to have taken awhile to achieve a stable balance between romantic pomp and solemn abstraction. There is a gradual easing of strain and steady progress toward a compression which is striking, for example, in the two versions of the poem ""Limits."" The first has a slow elegaic pulse which only the terse clarity of the second reveals as slackness. Some of these are important, as Borges suggests, chiefly as disclosures of his personal moods and predilections; but we really already knew all we needed of that and the greater value of this collection is the development it reveals and the clear autonomy that the later poems achieve.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1971
Publisher: Delacorte