"Lesser has become an important translator from German and Swedish; this first Selected Poems from the New York–based writer (All We Need of Hell) often shows her thinking about translation—living and thinking in more than one language, travel and how to approach a work of art. On the one hand, Language/ study, first of all, means commitment/ to rules, keeping oneself within lines,/ not reading between them; on the other, translation can bring someone else's voice:/ Ringing and lucid, whispered, distant, true. Lesser's attention to prior art includes not just the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke and Gunnar Ekelöf but also modern figurative paintings: her strongest new poems describe a disturbing set of canvases, collectively called The Girls, by Lena Cronqvist, in which Lesser sees alternate selves, and prays: May they keep/ their heads—balanced . . . smiling heavenward. The earliest poems reflect her undergraduate years at Yale and her debts to the confessional poetry of the 1970s; the latest describe the old age of Lesser's mother, the end of a transcontinental romance and the memory of mental illness, all in stark, disarming, sometimes plain lines: You mentioned ex-/ ploring Vienna's ex-/ pat community I/ fell silent Protected/ from you by my mother/ until she dies."—Publishers Weekly
Rika Lesser is the author of three earlier collections of poetry, Etruscan Things (1983), All We Need of Hell (1995), and Growing Back (1997). She has been the recipient of the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship, fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Translation Prize of the Swedish Academy.
Distributed for The Sheep Meadow Press
6.5 x 9, 176 pages