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Rough Cut
12 Poems by Girzh Reznikov
Considered by Ronald Bruce Meyer


There are ideas worthy of poetry in each of these twelve samples. "Speed," for example, sets its scene at the Daytona Beach racetrack. But some expressions, such as "wings of heaven" and "water of life" are perhaps too trustworthy, and therefore unworthy. A skipping rhythm, such as "Very slow we move along the ocean shore" is interrupted by an odd caesura. And "Traces of car races casting shadow of speed," a line with much promise, breaks down over an absent article.

It is the same with the others. "I will go toward big empty buildings," trips at the transom and falls on the verbless question "How I got there?" The verse earnestly yearns to display the very derelict it demolishes. "What monotonous day produced?" heartily attempts end-rhyme, with fair fidelity to meter, but the heartiness must murmur through defective text, such as "Your poor and wretched and frighten soul" and "But body rushes like waterfall."

In "On dirty mosaic in my bathroom," "In early days of my life," "From abandoned well my life is running," and "Breeze was so gentle" we sense something silent from the very first line: a missing word. Short enough to pass for haiku, "Wind blows in," fizzles on a non-sequitir ending. "On an inflamed sheet of cloud" and "I am on the trail to the old house" are fruit-bearing trees, but the fruits are spotted and bruised with faulty rhyme and abrupt interruptions.

It is "Nothing remains" that stands out as an impressionist painting panting to be finished. The reader can nearly hear and see the sounds and sights the poet pursues, but frustration lays like paint drips on the canvas. The music sours with the sound of broken sentences. As do all twelve poems, this one lingers on unlively thoughts, using language like a rough-cut diamond.

Powerful poetry can be cheerful or not: what matters is whether the sentences sing. The sounds in these poems feel foreign to the Anglo ear. It is as if the poet butts, but cannot break, a ceiling separating his ideas from their proper expression. That is a ceiling that can be pierced only by feeling the language in which one writes.

The poetry of Girzh Reznikov has merit. But an inexpert use of language lays like rough stones before rolling rhythms; it sounds like crackles and pops from a smoothly spinning, old vinyl disk. The greatest truth can look like a lie without exquisite expression. It is not enough to master what you mean. In poetry, one must first master the language. It is rare for a poet brought up in a different culture to sound authentic when singing a foreign song.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance writer.

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