A
Literary Saloon
&
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.



Contents:
Main
the Best
the Rest
Review Index
Links

weblog

crQ

RSS

to e-mail us:


support the site


buy us books !
Amazon wishlist



In Association with Amazon.com


In association with Amazon.com - UK


In association with Amazon.ca - Canada


In 
Partnerschaft 
mit 
Amazon.de


En 
partenariat 
avec 
amazon.fr

the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry



What Poetry Is

by
Harry Mulisch


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase What Poetry Is



Title: What Poetry Is
Author: Harry Mulisch
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1978 (Eng. 1982)
Length: 39 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: What Poetry Is - US
What Poetry Is - UK
What Poetry Is - Canada
  • Dutch title: Wat poëzie is
  • Translated by Claire Nicholas White
  • This is a bilingual edition, the text presented in both Dutch and English

- Return to top of the page -



Our Assessment:

B : fine but brief

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       What Poetry Is is a seventeen-stanza poem, with each stanza broken into five lines (or parts of lines). Printed in this chapbook edition with the original Dutch text facing Claire Nicholas White's translation, it is a very short text, the English version amounting to less than a thousand words.
       In it, the poet reflects on what poetry is -- and on trying to reflect on what poetry is. One of the fundamental problems he faces is that as:

              with pain
     or with lovely desire

Only when it is there
     do I know what it is.
       Mulisch's approach is fairly straightforward, and often familiar. Thus, for example, poetry is considered: "so unattainable / it is like the rainbow."
       The poem is built up as argument and demonstration. Mere rhyme, wordplay, even emotion don't make something poetry for Mulisch. Indeed, effort is something he wants to stay away from, emphasising early on: "Nothing becomes poetry. / Something is poetry."
       He leads the reader to observations such as:
Nothing is more silent
     than poetry.
       And finally sums up:
Poetry in other words
     is the gilded tongue of silence.

Unimaginable when absent,
     self-evident when present.
       It's a fine piece, and the presentation -- i.e. the inclusion of the Dutch original -- exemplary. White's translation is good; comparison with the original allows readers to see what liberties she has taken (so, for example, the transposition of the final words of the poem, making for a slightly different effect).
       A single poem, What Poetry Is is a bit little, amounting only to a thin chapbook. But, as the only available translation of any of Mulisch's poetry (and also on its own merits), it is certainly of some interest.

- Return to top of the page -



Links:

Harry Mulisch:
  • The complete review's Harry Mulisch page
  • SchrijversNet Mulisch page, with links to bibliography and other information
  • Official Harry Mulisch site -- fancy and pointlessly elaborate, annoying to navigate
Other books by Harry Mulisch under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature at the complete review
  • See Index of Poetry
  • See Index of Bilingual editions under review

- Return to top of the page -



About the Author:

       Dutch author Harry Mulisch was born in 1927. One of the foremost post-war European authors he has written numerous international bestsellers. Ridiculously few of his works are available in English.

- Return to top of the page -


© 2004-2008 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links