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The Horse Has Six Legs: Contemporary Serbian Poetry [Paperback]

Charles Simic

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only Lacking More... 18 Jan 2000
By EriKa - Published on
Simic has selected a fine array of poetry for this volume. The only problem is that the volume suffers from lack of ambition. There are simply not enough poets represented nor poems representative of Serbian writing. Otherwise, I loved this book, but I felt it needed to be more expansive.
Overall this is an excellent overview. Particularly I note the poet Ivan Lalic (and the exquisite poem "Love in July") and also the poet Novica Tadic who employs rather disturbing and disconnected imagery in his poetry. Most interesting (and well known) is the poem entitled "Jesus." Brief but thought provoking.
Deserving of praise, this volume, as stated, needs to be of greater length.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely. 3 Feb 2004
By Robert Beveridge - Published on
Charles Simic, ed., The Horse Has Six Legs: An Anthology of Serbian Poetry (Graywolf, 1992)
This is one of the better anthologies of verse I've come across in quite a while. Simic, a native Serbian himself, has an obvious love for his subject and, one would assume, a greater knowledge of history and cultural context than a translator going in fresh with this material. As any translator worth his salt will tell you, these qualities are the difference between a translation with falls flat and one which breathes; word choice is everything.
The "name" here (to Western audiences, anyway) is Milorad Pavic, whose novel The Dictionary of the Khazars was a literary sensation in the late eighties, translated into many languages and finding the bestseller lists of a number of western countries. But once you've been drawn by the name, linger over the rest of the work here. The whole collection shines with a sophisticated grasp of the surrealist ethic which much of modern American poetry is lacking; many of the poets here, such as Vasco Popa and Ivan Lalic, would stand at the same level of achievement as Eshleman, Willis, or Stroffolino on the short shelf of sacred books, where modern surrealism is concerned.
If there is a quibble to be had with the book, it's that it's simply too short. Simic does explain this in his foreword (he only included the translations he's most satisfied with as a poet as well as a translator). Thus, we have to be happy with what we have and hope he releases a volume 2 some time in the future. *** ½
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful collection of poetry! 17 Jan 2001
By CoffeeGurl - Published on
There isn't a better collection of poetry with magical realism than this one! I marvel at Charles Simic's ability to translate such complicated and beautiful poetry. I love all of the poems in this book, especially Desanka Maksimovic's "Bloody Fable," Vasko Popa's "Proud Error," and "There Smoke, Sooty Smoke," from a collection of Women's Songs. Do you love poetry with surreal and dark messages? Then I suggest that you get this incredible book!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, powerful poetry from the dark hot heart 11 Feb 2013
By William Timothy Lukeman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can only add to the praise offered by the previous reviewers: this is a superb anthology of Serbian poetry that deserves wider recognition. Selected & translated by the equally superb poet Charles Simic, these poems are dark jewels plucked from the black earth, still crusted with dirt & blood & myth. There's an organic, primordial quality to so much of Eastern & Central European poetry, something deep in the marrow that seems to stretch back before recorded history. Even the earliest poems here, dating back several centuries, have a Surrealist, fairy tale essence that's frighteningly modern, as if informed by all the horrors of war & betrayals that were still to come.

Yet there's also a fierce & terrible wonder to these poems, almost a streak of black humor at times, that grips the reader & just won't let go ...

From "Darkness" -

Darkness was born in the forest. I found it there
when from the shady ravine I crawled on all fours.
I trembled together with the white flower by the pond.
The last light sadly flowed
through the tops of the fir trees.

From "A Feather Plucked from the Tail of the Fiery Hen" -

Oh I'm both dread and happy disposition,
conflagration over all things.
Under my fire-wing
lies the mad world.

I'm the fire that gives the Egg its shape.
I'm the fire that shapes.
I'm fire.

From "Love in July" -

The taste of rain on your lips,
Summer golden and dark.

Most highly recommended!
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