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This review is taken from PN Review 23, Volume 8 Number 3, January - February 1982.

GOOD FAITH AND BAD Helmut Maria Soik, Rimbaud under the Steel Helmet (Red Hill) S4.00.
Gerhard Fritsch, Between Evening and Night (Menard) £1.50.
Rocco Scotellaro, The Sky With Its Mouth Wide Open (Red Hill) $3.00.
Mohammed Dib, Omneros (Red Hill) S3.00.

Of the four books under review, three come from Red Hill Press, based in California, and all three are well-produced in parallel text. But the largest and most lavishly laid out is in fact the worst: the volume by Helmut Maria Soik. George M. Gugelberger's pretentious, name-skimming introduction gives the game away as it blithely states that 'H. M. Soik wrote his way through the various stages of the modern "isms".' Quite. For there are Brechtian mannerisms (the Chinese persona of Tu Fu), Expressionist mannerisms (the gasping lineation of 'Resistance'), and much demotic jargon about the revolutionary force of sex and illiteracy. Although stridently 'non-elitist' in tone, almost all these poems are about other artists. The contradiction indicates the nature of Soik's complacent bad faith. The cover depicts a nude figure crouched above skulls. If one of them belongs to Rimbaud, the hunched figure can only be Soik. One need not ask what he is doing.

Leaving the Red Hill volumes aside for the moment, I would like to consider another volume of poems in German, those of the Austrian Gerhard Fritsch, who took his own life in 1969. With immense, long-winded aplomb (even though the poems are short, they are still long-winded) Fritsch unfolds a melancholy so total and quietly predictable as to be almost self-parodistic, almost the work of a depressed Schweik. The lines from 'The Power of Legend' which state that 'into each house we build/we gaily build its ruin' are emblematic of his ...


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