Edited by Carolyn Forché and James Reidel with an introduction by Carolyn Forché
A Stahlecker Series Selection
Poet and Translator Daniel Simko (Autumn Sonata: Selected Poems of Georg Trakl) emigrated with his parents to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia after the 1968 occupation, and lived here until his death at the age of 45 in 2004. A poet of lyrical intensity and emotional precision, a reader steeped in the traditions of European art and philosophy (he writes poems to the memory of Samuel Beckett and Thomas Bernhard), a writer aware of the impositions of violence on expression—having walked the occupied Slovakian streets with his father, shouting at the soldiers in tanks, he was beaten on his first day at school in the U.S. by boys who could not understand his English—Simko remained reticent about publishing. Thanks to his literary executor, Carolyn Forché, and Jim Reidel, Simko’s poems are finally available in an American collection, The Arrival, which maps a striking choreography of travel, memory, and the body.
The poem, for Simko, is a means of longing, of heading headlong while thinking back. What he says of longing is true of the poem: “it is a score for voice.” The power of the lyric poem is not to capture the individual but to recover voices from the edge of disappearance. “All night you have been tearing maps in your sleep. / Your autobiography,” he writes, teaching us that what survives is not the self but the actions of the self, the words uttered. “I am among you / singing. We / are growing / into words.” The Arrival reaches us with a wisdom that suggests it has always been here, a book we have been carrying in our bag all this while without realizing and yet all the more secure for the knowledge inside.