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This report is taken from PN Review 163, Volume 31 Number 5, May - June 2005.

Charles Reznikoff on West Eighth Street Mordecai Rosenfeld

When I read Judith Chernaik's complaint that Charles Reznikoff was among those who enjoyed 'far too little recognition in Britain' (see her tribute to Milton Kessler in PNR 155, January-February 2004), I opened Volume I of The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff, 1918-1936 (Black Sparrow Press, 1976) and began to read.

After about half an hour I reached Section III, Poems 1920, which begins with an introductory note: 'Poems was published by Samuel Roth at the New York Poetry Book Shop, 49 West Eighth Street, in 1920.' Those 1920 poems are grim, every one of them:


Old men and boys search the wet garbage with fingers
and slip pieces in bags.

This fat old man has found the hard end of a bread
and bites it.


Her work was to count linings -
the day's seconds in dozens.

I live in Greenwich Village, on West 12th Street, and when I finished Section III (just 30 poems on but nine pages), I walked a few blocks to 49 West Eighth Street, curious to see what I would find. It is an old red-brick, four-storey building with a shoe store on the ground level and apartments above; each upper floor has an air-conditioner that protrudes out of a white-trimmed window.

The shoes that they sell at ...

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