This landmark volume of correspondence by the objectivist poet, Charles Reznikoff, sheds light not only on the difficulties of an artist trying to keep afloat in the modern, materialistic society of the heady 20’s and 30’s, but also on the relation of poetry to a wider culture during this eventful and turbulent period.
One of Reznikoff’s main correspondents is the teacher, writer and Zionist activist Marie Syrkin, who married Reznikoff in 1930. During their courtship Charles reveals his ambivalent feelings regarding a poet’s ability to win his family’s bread: “I expect my love for you to feed my work — and my love for my work to feed you.”
Another recipient of Charles’ letters was his friend Albert Lewin, the film producer, writer, and director. Working for Lewin in Hollywood, Reznikoff first limns in his letters to Syrkin a glamorous, “Arabian nightish” world but concludes that the life of the poet will remain his chosen one: “My instrument is the poem – and of course I rarely succeed. But I try to write some verse every day.”
This wonderful “Self-portrait of the Poet” gives an invaluable account of an important young artist eking out a living in a storied era.
The son of Russian garment workers, Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976) was a blood-and-bone New Yorker, a collector of images and stories, who walked the city from Bronx to Battery and breathed the soul of the Jewish immigrant experience into a lifetime of Poetry.