On Charles Reznikoff’s Birthday

Charles Reznikoff reads a William Carlos Williams poem on a Brooklyn bus, “sometime in the mid ’60’s” – photo c. Modern American Poetry – photo uncredited

Allen’s great modern master hero, “Objectivist” poet Charles Reznikoff, (1894-1976), was born on this day, August 31st, in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Here are the extraordinary resources of PennSounds and its Charles Reznikoff page to help you celebrate this fact (readings from 1967 in New York, and 1974 in San Francisco, interviews with Reinhold Schiffer, and with Susan Howe (on Poetry Today, her 1975 radio show), Abraham Ravetts’ recordings, made in 1975, of him reading from Holocaust (more on that particular project can be found here)).

Here is a memorial reading for Reznikoff that took place in New York at the Poetry Project (St Marks Church) in 1976, shortly after his death. Eighteen poets (among them Allen) get to read from his work and fondly eulogize him (Allen, reading from “Five Groups of Verse” (1927), can be heard, approximately thirty-four minutes in – he’s followed by Peter Orlovsky reading a section from Holocaust, followed by Susan Howe. Other readers that evening included David Ignatow, Stanley Kunitz, Ron Padgett and Anne Waldman)

Allen presents here his “Suggestions for Readings in Charles Reznikoff..according to hardness, objectivity, vividness – selected epiphanies”:

These, as he notes, are page-references to the old two-volume Black Sparrow editions of Reznikoff’s Collected Poems. A new single volume edition has now for some time been available

Both Modern American Poetry here and the EPC (Buffalo) provide further links – such appraisals as this and this by the novelist Paul Auster, Charles Bernstein’s review of the Collected in The Brooklyn Rail, and notes and reviews on Testimony: The United States, 1885-1890 (along with Holocaust, Reznikoff’s other long documentary poem).

Stephen Fredman’s A Menorah For Athena is also worth looking at (a full-length study of Reznikoff that includes a section on Allen), from the University of Chicago.

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