Magazine article World Literature Today

Polishing October: New and Selected Poems

Magazine article World Literature Today

Polishing October: New and Selected Poems

Article excerpt

Verse George Gömöri. Polishing October: New and Selected Poems. Clive Wilmer & George Gömöri, tr. Beeston, Nottingham. Shoestring Press. 2013. isbn 9781907356834

Upon hearing that George Gömöri has lived in England since 1956, someone remarked that Gömöri was hardly Hungarian anymore. This shows an understandable ignorance of émigré writers not only of that generation but of much younger writers like Tamas Dobozy. For them, as for William Faulkner's characters, "The past is never dead. It is not even past."

This is evident from "Daily I switch languages," the epigraph to Polishing October, in which Gömöri claims that he can write in English of abstractions but only in Hungarian of "words that compose the sunset, make it glow." But as he says in "Christmas 1956," there's "no way back" to his native country and would not be, as he says in a later poem, for another thirty-three years, when his hair had begun to whiten.

Two sections, "Poems for Mari" (his wife) and "Chagall's Tomb," have, on the whole, a softer emotional tone than the bulk of the collection. The poems to his wife are muted; those in "Chagall" tease out miniature narratives embedded in the work of other artists and writers like Miklós Radnóti, Casanova, and Nostradamus- sometimes, as in the last case, using them to comment on current trends. …

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