Into the Heart of European Poetry

Into the Heart of European Poetry

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John Taylor's brilliant new book examines the work of many of the major poets who have deeply marked modern and contemporary European literature. Venturing far and wide from the France in which he has lived since the late 1970s, the polyglot writer-critic not only delves into the more widely translated literatures of Italy, Greece, Germany, and Austria, but also discovers impressive and overlooked work in Slovenia, Bosnia, Hungary, Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands in this book that ranges over nearly all of Europe, including Russia.

While providing this stimulating and far-ranging critical panorama, Taylor brings to light key themes of European writing: the depth of everyday life, the quest of the thing-in-itself, metaphysical aspiration and anxiety, the dialectics of negativity and affirmation, subjectivity and self-effacement, and uprootedness as a category that is as ontological as it is geographical, historical, political, or cultural. The book pays careful attention to the intersection of writing and history (or politics), as several poets featured here have faced the Second World War, the Holocaust, Communism, the fall of Communism, or the war in the former Yugoslavia.

Taylor gives the work of renowned, upcoming, and still little-known poets a thorough look, all the while scrutinizing recent translations of their verse. He highlights several poets who are also masters of the prose poem. He includes a few novelists who have fashioned a particularly original kind of poetic prose, that stylistic category that has proved so difficult for critics to define. Into the Heart of European Poetry should be of immediate interest to any reader curious about the aesthetic and philosophical ideas underlying major trends of contemporary European writing. In a day and age when much too little is translated and thus known about foreign literature, and when Europeans themselves are pondering the common denominators of their own culture, this book is as indispensable as it is engaging.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 420 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 33.02mm | 453g
  • AldineTransaction
  • Somerset, United States
  • English
  • 1412807972
  • 9781412807975

Table of contents



Exalting What Is (Jacques Reda)


The Chromatic Prose of Josep Pla's Gray Notebook
The Pursuit of Shimmering Instants (Luis Cernuda)
A Spanish Penelope (Francisca Aguirre)


Haunting Absence, Intense Presence (Eugenio Montale)
Songs of a Life (Umberto Saba)
Childhood as Sacrifi ce and Annihilation (Alberto Savinio)
A Dark Degree of Suffering: Livia Svevo's Memoir of Her Husband
The Solitude of a Master Empathizer (Cesare Pavese)
Appearance, Apparition, Aspiration (Giorgio Caproni and Giuseppe Ungaretti)
A Cornucopia of Italian Poetry (Camillo Sbarbaro, Vittorio Sereni, Andrea Zanzotto, Luciano Erba, Bartolo Cattafi, Lucio Mariani, Luigi Fontanella)
Between the Horizon and the Leap (Alfredo de Palchi)
A Quest for Continuity and Communion (Mario Luzi)
The Nexus of Contradictory Verities (Roberto Bertoldo)
Unresolved Betweenness (Milo De Angelis)
How We Would Live (Giovanna Sicari)


A Generous and Courageous Lucidity (Edvard Kocbek)
A Much Delayed Letter from Ljubljana (Veno Taufer, AlesDebeljak, and others)

Bosnia and Herzegovina

A Letter from Sarajevo (Miljenko Jergovi, Vidosav Stevanovi, Aleksandar Hemon, Velibor oli, and Svetislav Basara)


Pleasure and the Deeper Ambivalence (Radmila Lazi)


Intricacies of Exile (Georgios Vizyenos)
Invoking Saint Alexandros Papadiamantis
A Bayeux Tapestry a la grecque (Stratis Myrivilis)
The Innate Passion and the Apotheosis (Odysseus Elytis)
From Sorrow to Celebration (Andonis Decavalles)
A Chromatic, Obsessional Poetics (Miltos Sachtouris)
Erotic Knowledge, Self-Knowledge (Dinos Christianopoulos)
Poetry, Anti-Poetry, and Disgust (Elias Petropoulos)
The Mentor of Pyrgos (Elias Papadimitrakopoulos)
Eros and Other Spiritual Adventures (Veroniki Dalakoura)


My Life as Someone Else's (Kapka Kassabova)


Milk Teeth Biting Granite (Attila Jozsef)
The No-Man's Land of the Nameless (agnes Nemes Nagy)
Holding Hungary's Broken Peony (Sandor Csoori)
Good-Bye Mother (Peter Esterhazy)

German-Speaking Countries

Dark Struggles for a Utopia of Language (Ingeborg Bachmann)
In Search of Presence (Peter Handke)
The Poetry of Thomas Bernhard
Intriguing Specimens of Humanity (Veza Canetti)
A Delicate Touch (Peter Altenberg)
The Fertile "Crisis Years" of Rainer Maria Rilke
And How Hope is Violent (Paul Celan)
Seeking the Self, Seeking Beyond the Self (Hans W. Cohn)
A Radical Path to the Ordinary (Elke Erb)
A Noble Brightness (Peter Huchel)
The Poetry of W. G. Sebald
Facing Up to Unspeakableness (Robert Walser)

A French-Judeo-Spanish-Polish Interlude

Idioms of Remembering (Marcel Cohen and Micha Gowiski)


Questions of Fulfi llment (Czesaw Miosz)
Metaphysics and Lyric Factors (Piotr Sommer, Krzysztof Kamil Baczyski, Tadeusz Roewicz, and others)
Brief Crystallizations of Plenitude (Adam Zagajewski)
Searching for the Materia Prima (Marzanna Kielar)

Russia and the Former Soviet Union

Anna Akhmatova and her Magic Choir (Dmitry Bobyshev, Joseph Brodsky, Anatoly Naiman, Evgeny Rein)
On the Ledge (Joseph Brodsky)
Subjective Realism and Lyrical Urgency (Tatiana Shcherbina)


Of Home and Hereness (Jaan Kaplinski)
Peeling Back the Veneer (Jaan Kross)


Finnish Poets and their Greek Dichotomies (Pentti Saarikoski, Tua Forsstro;m, Paavo Haavikko, and others)


A Poetry of Acceptance (Rolf Jacobsen)

The Netherlands

Discovering "The Dutch Fiftiers"

Back to France

A French Stage Costume for the Matter of Britain: Florence Delay and Jacques Roubaud's Graal Theatre
The Gold of Ripe Fruit (Yves Bonnefoy)

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Review quote

"An intelligent companion to much twentieth-century and contemporary European poetry, and some prose.... [John Taylor] offers the non-specialist a series of practical starting points from which to explore contemporary European poetry."

--Times Literary Supplement

.." uncommonly broad survey of postwar Continental writing. Expatriate belle-lettrist Taylor is a longtime, widely published interpreter of modern European literature for North American readers.....A few pieces focus on big names (Montale, Bachmann, Brodsky, et al.), but most introduce writers who are notable in local contexts but little known outside. Those eye-openers are the book's greatest strength.....A long, helpful bibliography is included. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers, all levels."

--M. Kasper, Choice

"In his extremely interesting introduction, John Taylor notes that because European poetry also comprises 'poetic prose' texts that are difficult to classify, then his book will include studies of writings that are normally considered to be prose. This critical perception becomes particularly fertile in the essays themselves."

--Veroniki Dalakoura, Avgi

"An American, long resident in France, John Taylor is one of the critical wonders of the Western European world. Awesomely knowledgeable and invariably fair-minded, his book [Into the Heart of European Poetry] presents essay-length considerations of contemporary poets from Luis Cernuda and Yves Bonnefoy to Radmila Lazic and Marzanna Kielar."

--Dennis O'Driscoll, "Tuesday Top Ten," The Book Depository

"Taylor's anthology is a celebration of particularity. Its 405 pages (. . .) should be read in snatches to absorb the factual information, to savour the quotes, to rethink the interpretations. The bibliography, listing individual collections and English translations, can be used as a time-and-language capsule a quick-to-find and easy-to-understand version of voyages that once compelled explorers to venture across the known world towards the map's margins. Nowadays, instead of dragons, we should dread our monoglot habits."

--Elzbieta Wojcik-Leese, Poetry Wales, Autumn 2009

"(An) exploratory enthusiasm felt in almost every essay. To us Taylor (. . .) miraculously crosses time and space to suddenly appear in Milan, Ljubljana or Salonica, pulling out not only Bonnefoy, Kaplinsky, Brodsky, Celan, Zagajewski, Nemes Nagy, Sebald, Kassabova, Pavese or Montale, but also Erba, Kocbek, Papadimitrakopoulos, Kielar, the 'Dutch Fiftiers'. . ."

--Elzbieta Wojcik-Leese, Poetry Wales, Autumn 2009
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About John Taylor

John Taylor has lived in France since 1977. A frequent contributor to the Times Literary Supplement, Context, the Yale Review, the Antioch Review, the Michigan Quarterly Review, and Chelsea, he has introduced numerous European writers and poets to English readers, often for the first time. Some of his works include The Apocalypse Tapestries, a book of poetry and prose based on the famous tapestries in the Chateau of Angers, and Paths to Contemporary French Literature (Volumes 1 and 2).
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