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"A" Paperback – 1 Oct 1993

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Product details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press; New edition edition (1 Oct. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801846684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801846687
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.3 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,253,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"I have been reading away at `A' since Doubleday brought out an edition of its first twelve sections... in l967. I have found it alternately and in no special order strange, beautiful, mad, touching, unreadable, readable, elusive, fascinating. Now I have all 800 pages in hand... I see no reason to change my mind--except to say that in sum I respect and am moved by it all... the labor of one quiet, stubborn, possessed man's lifetime. It is a big poem in all senses.... Its place is in the great line of American personal epic begun in Song of Myself and stretching through the Cantos, Paterson, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction, Maximus, and The Dream Songs. It should be read." -- Joseph Cary, The Nation

"He is a master of the allusive word collage wed to the cadence of music and the rhythms of the sounds themselves." -- The Reader's Review

"The contents page of this extremely useful edition notes that the first section of the poem (there are 24 in all, which number echoes for me significantly the human measure of a day) was written in 1928, when the poet was 24 years old. The last writing is dated 1974 ('A' 23), so that one has the range of 46 years--without question a life's commitment, in all possible respects to what does come and go of a day, and what does stay put--as value, as measure, as possibility.... Zukofsky's art, in this work, is without equal. No poet of our time can so sound the resources of language, so actuate words to become all that they might be thought otherwise to engender" -- Robert Creeley, New York Times

"The most hermetic poem in English, which they will still be elucidating in the 22nd century." -- Hugh Kenner, New York Times

About the Author

Louis Zukofsky was born in New York City in 1904 and lived there nearly all his life. A close friend and younger contemporary of William Carlos Williams, e.e. cummings, and Ezra Pound, Zukofsky was a poet of ceaseless experiment, as well as a fiction writer, translator, essayist, anthologist, critic, scholar, and teacher. He died in 1978. His Complete Shorter Poetry is also available from Johns Hopkins.

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Round of fiddles playing Bach. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Being of a compulsive nature, a flaw of mine is that I can never bring myself to stop reading a book having once started, no matter how unrewarding or painful the process. Perhaps though, by writing a public review giving reasons, I might be able to summon clarity of will enough to stop reading this one. I took a poet's recommendation that this was righteous work, and the promise of the opening pages, and now I am mired waist deep in its shambling, quotidian glossolalia, and have been for some months. Objectively considered, to persist with further wading through the 800 pages of this impenetrably viscid anti-epic, would be a waste of precious consciousness cycles that might be better assigned to pursuits that might yield actual insight, or even pleasure. All the same, I cannot bring myself to just banish this book to the outer darkness of the charity shop heap, for the author's purpose was righteous, and in its way, admirably fearless. Although there is little to enjoy or enlighten in `A', I can't bring myself to doubt that there is also art there; that what he was trying to do needed to be tried, and that just maybe future poets will read the signpost Zukofsky so relentlessly planted, and follow it to their own fruitful pastures.

What is Zukosky then? He's a bricks and mortar, steel and coal, rain and shine, kitchen sink, confessional stream of consciousness, proletarian, Jewish everyman kind of a family guy, with a love of Bach that brings occasional sunshine to the proud and plain, gritty urbanity, which he inhabits and dispassionately reports on. A worthy project. But then! Take some scissors, and chop it all up, a la William Boroughs, but without the junkies and alien mind-parasites, shuffle and reassemble for maximum dislocational effect. Voila!

It needed doing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Not for everybody, it's true, but... 21 Jun. 2000
By Mark Scroggins - Published on
Format: Paperback
Zukofsky's "A" isn't for the timid--it's long, after all--and it's not for those who don't want to give their minds and ears a workout--in other words, it's difficult, and doesn't sound like...well, like Robert Pinsky, or Robert Frost. But for readers who are patient enough to let the peerless music of the verse sink in, and who don't demand that poetry give them a prepackaged "message," "A" offers a wonderful range of pleasures. It's a long poem in as many forms as you can imagine, from Shakespearean sonnets, to letter-perfect canzoni, to phonetic translations from the Hebrew. It's a poem that tracks 50 years in the life of its writer and 50 years of American history, from the Depression through the space race. It makes the most wonderful sound of any book in English since Joyce's *Ulysses*.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Zukofsky Opens Ears and Minds 30 Aug. 2000
By "chax" - Published on
Format: Paperback
Not only is this justifiably regarded as one of the most important long poems of the 20th Century, it is one of the most enjoyable of them. People say Zukofsky is difficult, but he's not so difficult if one listens: "The ears have it." Zukofsky says a poem offers pleasure by means of "sight, sound, and intellection." That's one key in to this work. Another is to notice that this is perhaps the first American long poem, at least in its first half or more, that offers a leftist/Marxist perspective. Another is that it lets us see an important Jewish poet finding his place as American and modernist/postmodernist. These are real dramas that can be found in *A.* Another key to reading *A* is to enjoy Zukofsky's intense pleasure in everyday, family life. There are ways in which this great poem is accessible to all readers. Finding one's way in can require patience, but more than anything, it simply requires an act of listening with open ears and mind.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
excellent, reflective, broad in scope 22 Feb. 2001
By Geoff - Published on
Format: Paperback
This poem is incredible.
"A" is a must read for any reader serious about poetry, literary aesthetics, or modern thought. Zukofsky incorporates immense ideas into his work, and keeps the reader challenged. But though the poem is highly cerebral, it's not just a poem for scholars and academicians. It's emotional and beautiful as well as stimulating. Even if you don't have the time or energy to read all of "A", read bits and pieces of it. You will be caught up in the language. You will be amazed. Read it at leisure, study it, or keep it on your bookshelf for years at a time. You will most definitely get something out of it. Readers who like "The Cantos" will most likely enjoy this as well. It is fantastic.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Undiscovered gem. Found it in a good bookstore, hadn't seen it before. It is wide,wise, and massive,ambitious and also personal. 7 Feb. 2013
By M. hooper - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Found it in a good bookstore,hadn't seen it before. Decided to order it. It is wise,wise,massive,ambitious and personal. It Sings?
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Important long poem 27 Feb. 2013
By An File Dubh - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not reviewing the book itself, since much has already been written about 'A'. The volume itself a nice edition of the full poem, with notes and intro. The cover could be slightly more interesting, I suppose, but it's grown on me.
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