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The Secret Reader
501 Sonnets
Willis Barnstone

Available only as an ebook.

University Press of New England
1996 • 440 pp. 6 drawings. 5 1/2 x 9 1/4"

$12.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-152-9

Ebook available from your favorite ebook retailer, including Kindle, iBooks, and other formats, and many libraries.

Willis Barnstone offers an amazing sonnet sequence on his double life -- and distinguished career -- as a scholar and an artist.

In a voice at once luminous and brooding, humorous and grave, Willis Barnstone offers an amazing sonnet sequence on his double life -- and distinguished career -- as a scholar and an artist. While translating the poetry of Borges in the mid-70s, he rediscovered the sonnet's dramatic potential: "It was as if I had discovered the secret of flight, how to let myself go, with faith, fear, and all the forces I could summon up to intensify the clarity of the moment."

Thus began what he calls his "eighteen-year drunk on the sonnet." These five histories are testimony to a hugely ranging vision informed by a keen awareness of the great sonnet tradition in English and in other languages. Sensations and experiences from a lifetime among many cultures on many continents inspire sometimes sparkling, sometimes somber, but always piercingly honest meditations: a tea commune in China, "the sky of awful smoke" at Auschwitz, a New York heat wave, a Tangier prostitute, the suicides of his father and brother, Greek seas and skies. The lyricism of the language, the antic humor, and the unblinking scrutiny of difficult questions through a fierce but loving lens make this collection more than the signature of a singular mind: it represents a major revitalization of a dormant poetic form.

From the Book:

Thirty years of poems on scraps and blue
books. Once on a Greek island I had no
paper at all, wrote on my arm and drew
twelve lines, then glided like a UFO
(filled with a troop of angels) to the beach,
jumped in the sea. Verse washed out. Any isle
or thing will do. And so I scribble each
odd revelation, stuff it in a file,
and host each visiting new poet star
who beams us with fair words. Since writing's far
from peddling art, I should dump vanity,
sadness and greed. Good to create alone,
pure as a germ! Do I hurt? No. I'll be
a will-less barn stone, cool and on my own.
- Any Island or Cave Will Do

Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature, Spanish, and East Asian Cultures at Indiana University, WILLIS BARNSTONE has written more than 40 books of poetry, scholarship, translation, and memoir, including Sunday Morning in Fascist Spain: A European Memoir (1995), With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires (1993), The Poetics of Translation (1993), The Other Bible (1984), and two books nominated for the Pulitzer Prize: China Poems (1972) and From This White Island (1959).

Mon, 9 Apr 2012 11:53:56 -0500