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American Poets Project
Louis Zukofsky Charles Bernstein
 

Louis Zukofsky: Selected Poems

edited by charles bernstein

 
Overview
About the Editor

Above: Louis Zukofsky and Charles Bernstein

 

With an ear tuned to the most delicate musical effects, an eye for exact and heterogeneous details, and a mind bent on experiment, Louis Zukofsky was preeminent among the radical Objectivist poets of the 1930s. This is the first collection to draw on the full range of Zukofsky's poetry—containing short lyrics, versions of Catullus, and generous selections from "A", his 24-part "poem of a life"—and provides a superb introduction to a modern master of whom the critic Guy Davenport has written: "Every living American poet worth a hoot has stood aghast before the steel of his integrity."

The most formally radical poet to emerge among the second wave of American modernists, Louis Zukofsky continues to influence younger poets attracted to the rigor, inventiveness, and formal clarity of his work. Born on New York's Lower East Side in 1904 to emigrant parents, Zukofsky achieved early recognition when he edited an issue of Poetry devoted to the Objectivist poets, including George Oppen and Charles Reznikoff. In addition to an abundance of short lyrics and a sound-based version of the complete poems of Catullus, he worked for most of his adult life on the long poem "A" of which he said: "In a sense the poem is an autobiography: the words are my life."

Zukofsky's work has been described as difficult although he himself said: "I try to be as simple as possible." In the words of editor Charles Bernstein, "This poetry leads with sound and you can never go wrong following the sound sense... Zukofsky loved to create patterns, some of which are apparent and some of which operate subliminally... Each word, like a stone dropped in a pond, creates a ripple around it. The intersecting ripples on the surface of the pond are the pattern of the poem." Here for the first time is a selection designed to introduce the full range of Zukofsky's extraordinary poetry.

Zukofsky photo © Dushan Hill, courtesy of Paul Zukofsky; Bernstein photo © Jill Kramer.

 
Louis Zukofsky: Selected Poems book jacket
Presented by The Library of America
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