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The Blue Tower Hardcover – October 4, 2011

3.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Intrusion: A Novel
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The work of this “eminent, still-wild spirit of Central Europe” (Publishers Weekly) continues to electrify. In The Blue Tower, language is remade with tenderness and abandon: “Rommel was kissing heaven’s dainty hands and yet / from his airplane above the Sahara my uncle / Rafko Perhauc still blew him to bits.” There is an effervescence and a sense of freedom to Tomaž Salamun’s poetry that has made him an inspiration to successive generations of American poets, “a poetic bridge between old European roots and the American adventure” (Associated Press). Trivial and monumental, beautiful and grotesque, healing, ferocious, mad: The Blue Tower is an essential volume.

From the Back Cover

“Šalamun remains a great postwar central European poet . . . avoiding always the obvious and the prosaically meaningful, making sure that nothing can make poetry happen, and that poetry in turn can become more important than history or politics or mere philosophy.” — Colm Tóibín, Guardian

“One of the indispensable poets of the era . . . a poet who one feels has a heart so open and an ear so pure, he might have answers in even the darkest times.” — Jorie Graham

“All of [Šalamun’s poetry] has provocation and imaginative intensity and aesthetic risk.” — Robert Hass

“Šalamun shifts from political bite to humorous self-deprecation to quotidian observation to anarcho-whimsy in a single stanza . . . The poems win the reader with their incomparable exuberance.” — Forrest Gander

“In the manner of a Zagajewski or Ristovic, his poems manifest a wry, depreciative humor, alternately acerbic and playful; a gift for remarkable images and detail, both surreal and quotidian; and an acute sensitivity to the astounding variety of the world and history.” — Boston Review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547364768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547364766
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,455,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This small collection of poems is marked "Translated from the Slovenian by Michael Biggins with the author." So presumably the word choices are the best possible equivalents of their originals. But for a poet who uses words so abstractly, in almost random surreal images, the very act of translation takes away much of the necessary confidence that we are actually reading what the author wrote. Here is a brief example from the poem "Diran Adebayo":

Crete is valvoline. When the pony shuffled off.
I lie on a carpet. A German Shepherd is a tulip.
Diran! A flower blooms for itself. You don't remind me

of him, you remind me of yourself. For Péru you point to a
bow for cricket and you pump, and pump, and pump, and rise. I am your
African lumpul. Diran! The earth has been trampled . . .

Eastern European proper names pepper the poetry, but are they only of private significance to the poet, or are the references that would have meaning for his countrymen? He seems to travel beyond the Balkans, to North Africa, Italy, Portugal, Paris, America, Southeast Asia, but I cannot find a common concern in his wanderings. A few phrases coalesce into nuggets of meaning, but they are almost immediately contradicted by what comes after. Occasionally the conjunction of ideas is so bizarre as to be intriguing: "My bench goes to confirmation and hosts pistachios" or "In my taxes a rabbit jumps / into the bull's eye of a cornea." But the poems that they come from (in this case, "All the Instruments Have Collapsed") do not readily make sense as a whole, even as the sum of surreal associations.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The more and more I read contemporary poetry, the more I am struck by my own personal need for a poet to have a solid command of rhythm. Without this skill I find myself pretty disinterested; isn't it true that anyone can write their sentiments/reams of thought and throw in a few interesting images here and there?

Unfortunately I found this to be the case with the The Blue Tower. Could it be the translation? Maybe, in fact it very well might be. In any case, though, this confusing morass of references to other poets, other schools of poetry, etc etc did absolutely nothing for me. I don't think Mr. Salamun has been done justice. The blurbs from Jorie Graham seem mysterious to me--while she is also a "postmodern" poet, her work stands on it's own.

I don't find it rewarding to slam other poets, tough as this game is, and success being mighty hard to come by. But if I was Tomaz Šalamun I would be pretty angry at my translator.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love ultra modern poetry, even if some of it doesn't make any logical sense. As an artist, I can create visuals of the strange and varied associations, but nothing in this slight book engaged any of my senses. I repeatedly came to the end of a verse with no idea what they were trying to convey and not even an image to associate with the words. At first I wondered if something was lost in translation or if cultural associations I didn't understand were to blame. I tried again and again to find some thread of understanding. After several nights of reading and rereading the work, I had to admit that no amount of sleuthing would reveal anything worthy of further contemplation.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is probably really good poetry. The author mentioned in the acknowledgments page that he was thankful to "The Santa Maddalena Foundation," which I found out is some writers/poet's retreat hosted by a wealthy Italian noblewoman widow who adores pugs and Ralph Fiennes (really, though, who doesn't?). She invites a few writers and poets every season to spend a few months at her luxurious-yet-intimate villa and just recharge and write and enjoy being around other writers and poets. I'm reasonably well-read and of all the names listed in her past guest lists, I know not a single one; in fact I only know about Fiennes. Despite their obscurity to me, I am assured by every single source available that the Baroness Beatrice Monti della Corte von Rezzori only invites the very best, those writers and poets at the very top of their game, those who are bringing the very best to the literature table. In 2002, Tomaz Salamun was her guest and this book of poems clearly dates from that time.

With all that in mind, I tackled his book.

Knowing the poetry's source didn't help at all.

This is obscure poetry, and I say that having immersed myself in modern poetry and owning a bookshelf of poetry from important names nobody seems to know. It's not narrative or even descriptive; it's more like modern art, that splash-on-the-canvas that is supposedly evocative of emotions and unfelt sensation. Images assault the reader like a machine gun's magazine, completely unrelated images that just pile on and on--a hen considers red shoes, there's a flash of knitting factories being shut down, we wonder about a sultan's location, and suddenly there are unicorns, all within 30 lines of sparse poetry. Every piece reminds me of watching a day's worth of commercials.
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