Imagine a book of hours condensed into a book of minutes: that is the project of these compact, lyrical prose poems. They locate the metaphysical within the domestic, moving seamlessly from philosophical speculation to aphorism to condensed narrative to brief love letter to prayer. In the space of one or two paragraphs they openly think about language, about existence, about beginnings and endings both large and small; not afraid to talk about God or love, their leitmotif might well be light.
One hears a dazzling array of echoes in Gemma Gorga's poems: Wallace Stevens, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hans Christian Andersen, Francis Ponge, George Herbert, and Emily Dickinson. Yet Book of Minutes feels very 21st-century in its range of diction: in one breath a poem talks about the soul, in the next, about diopters or benzodiazepine. In the space of a few sentences, or phrases, each prose poem creates a tiny world, a microcosm, one is always reminded, that is constituted by words.
Gemma Gorga is widely known and celebrated in her native Catalonia, where she has published six volumes of poems, but is almost completely unknown to English-language readers. This is the first volume of her work translated into English.
Sharon Dolin is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Manual for Living (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016). Her 2008 volume Burn and Dodge received the AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry.
Praise for BOOK OF MINUTES:
Gemma Gorga's Book of Minutes, in Sharon Dolin's beautiful translation, is by far the best book of prose poems I have read in the past decade. Like a house mirror, each prose poem here "retains the memory of all the souls who have gazed at themselves inside it." The result is spellbinding and surprising, as the voice of these poems searches for the mystery within the mundane. —Ilya Kaminsky
Gorga is a magician, her short, vivid prose poems perfect little houses where an instant, poignant to joyful, is captured. "The mouth is small" begins the last poem, but by then Gorga will have told you a story as big as the world. In Sharon Dolin's masterful translation, every page of Book of Minutes shimmers with life. —Jesse Lee Kercheval
Dolin's thoughtful and supple translation of Gemma Gorga's moving prose poem collection is a welcome and timely contribution to world literature. —Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Listen to Gemma Gorga on Lyrikline!
Translator Sharon Dolin will be signing books at the AWP confence in Portland, OR, on March 29th, 2019.
Translation by Sharon Dolin
Oberlin College Press, April 2019
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