There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling Presse as part of their Eastern European Poets Series— will be confounding to those accustomed to poetry that holds its reader’s hand. These poems do not. They are elliptical and strange and offer very few concrete signifiers. They contain poems like this:

if it opens it won’t take root and only then could you touch the facelessness, it drizzles in your ear, tapping, leaf drop at the first step, it spreads its fingers on the membrane, catches its breath to defend itself and walks on, down again, down again, because death is not here, wall-zone is air-zone is an obstacle, like a breach sunk flat, a second step

If this block of words seems like nonsense, well, you’re not wrong. But it could mean something specific. It’s the reader’s job to give it meaning. This may feel burdensome, but these poems are asking the reader to be their co-creator. It’s an obligation you accept when you continue to read them. In this duty, you are as important as the poet. There are clues, but you get to put them together. Lucky you.

Djurdjević’s poems are referred to as avant-garde, a label that seems both vague and lazy. His work does qualify as such, but to lump it in with everything else under the umbrella term doesn’t offer one much of an idea of what to expect. Then again, the term avant-garde might be enough to engage curious readers and weed out timid ones. Of course, Morse, My Deaf Friend will not likely win over new poetry fans. There are plenty of people who are comfortable ignoring poetry, and, to quote Frank O’Hara, bully for them.

Clearly Djurdjević is not concerned. Rather, he offers the adventuresome reader a chance to see what can be found in this puzzle. And who am I to say that my reading or yours or anyone’s is best? There’s a smidgen of loyalty we owe the text, otherwise it’s every man for himself. Read into these what you will. It’s part of the experience.


Comments are disabled for this article.

....

Morse, My Deaf Friend
By Miloš Djurdjević
Translated by Miloš Djurdjević
Reviewed by Vincent Francone
32 pages, paperback
ISBN: Chapbook
$10.00
The Odyssey
The Odyssey by Homer
Reviewed by Peter Constantine

Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.

–(The Odyssey, Book I, line 10. Emily Wilson)

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs. . .

Read More >

I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

Read More >

Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

Read More >

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >