Reviewed in Publishers Weekly
Finalist for the 2021 Best Book Award in Poetry
In Renditions, Reginald Gibbons conducts an ensemble of poetic voices, using the works of a varied, international selection of writers as departure points for his translations and transformations. The collection poses the idea that all writing is, at least abstractly, an act of translation, whether said act “translates” observation into word or moves ideas from one language to another. Through these acts of transformation, Gibbons infuses the English language with stylistic aspects of other languages and poetic traditions. The resulting poems are imbued with a sense of homage that allows us to respectfully reimagine the borders of language and revel in the fellowship of idea sharing. In this tragicomedy of the human experience and investigation of humanity’s effects, Gibbons identifies the “shared underthoughts that we can (all) sense:” desire, love, pain, and fervor.
Yes, bread that’s poisoned. And not even one sip of air.
How hard it is for the wound of life to be cured.
Joseph himself, sold to Egypt as a slave,
could not have been more heavily grieved.
Then under the sky-swarm of stars, Bedouins come.
They quiet their horses. Then in turn, with eyes closed,
each invents some chanted fragment of their day
of epic nothing, that only brought them boredom,
for among such riders, little’s needed to inspire—
in the dunes, one man lost a quiver of arrows,
others traded some geldings for a mare—events are
only a mist that thins and disappears.
But if—if—such songs are sung out to the end
with all the heart, with all the breath in the lungs,
almost everything vanishes . . . And what remains
is the desert vastness, the stars, the one who sings.
–Osip Mandelshtam (1913)