Gathered within its pages are some of the finest poems from around the planet written in the 20th century. And it claims to encompassfor what it is worth (what is the value of any mission statement?)Words Without Borders’ mission statement, which includes the ultimate aim to introduce exciting international writing to the general and literary publictravelers, teachers, students, publishers, and a new generation of eclectic readersby presenting international literature not as a static, elite phenomenon, but a portal through which to explore the world.
There are poems of eros and lament and praise. There are prayers, erotic poems, protest, moments of meditation, elegies, litanies. There are pages from novels (which some argue were in fact prose poem sequences). There are poets of surrealism, futurism, Acmeism, Negritude and numerous other movementsbut my hope is that you will leave all these labels aside and read these poems for what they do to our language, our emotional and spiritual lives. Perhaps you will want to share them with friends, to call friends on the phone and recite a stanza or couplet to them. I know: I have done so myself.Consider this my phone call to you, from Wislawa Szymborska’s The Joy of Writing.
Where is a written deer running through a written forest?One of the benefits of having poets blurb a book is, of course, their comments are so, uh, poetic. As is Edward Hirsch’s take on this anthology: It is a modern book of wonders, of airy correspondences and earthly dialogues, of faraway voices and unlikely global encounters, of borders magically crossed and deaths transfigured, of candles lighting each other, like souls. It is inexhaustible.
Whether to drink from written water
which will reflect its mouth like a carbon?
Why is it raising its head, does it hear something?
Propped on four legs borrowed from the truth
it pricks up its ears from under my fingers.
Silencethat word, too, is rustling on paper
and parts the branches caused by the word forest.
And Carolyn Forche observes: This brilliantly assembled gathering of world voices reads as a symphony of utterance beginning to end, an international conversation of the highest order, regarding the questions and concerns of humankind, beyond borders and all other such barriers, real or imagined.