Anselm Hollo – The Tortoise of History

So pleased to announce this – a posthumous volume of poems by Anselm Hollo

“In this posthumous collection, avant-garde poet Anselm Hollo displays his spare, sly lyrical greatness. The poems are fragmentary, with echoes of William Carlos Williams, finding pathways between the ancient Greece and Wild Bill Hickock – both the American and the European alive in him at all times. This is Hollo at his witty, inventive best.”

Publishers Weekly is likewise delighted:

“In this posthumous trove of brief, zestful poems, Hollo (1934-2013), a prolific poet and multilingual translator, relates the “incredible ONSLAUGHT of being” , seemingly dashing off each of these frentic, fragmented vignettes in a fit of wild gusto. He’s capable of filtering even the most mundane phenomena through his playful mind – One poem features a woman in an antique store chiding her dog, and another consists of a single line, identical to its title – “b u g s k i l l e d o u r t r e e ” . Yet within Hollo’s exuberance is an awareness of mortality – “Dear hearts it is late in the game/ and how will the untold be told?”. The last section of the collection consists of what Hollo describes as “an intuitive display” of the work ofthe ancient Greek poet Hipponax, crude, delightful renderings of the disjointed originals. He interprets one snippet as “her nose a bell/with snot as a clapper”, and an ageless nugget of wisdom is rendered as “unfunny he who drinks his lunch”. Hollo’s quirky and disarming joy remained intact until the end – “I print your messages/ dear friends/and feel the love and/accept it with/all my heart and brain which/ still feel like they’re working”.

Wild Bill Hickock

Anselm Hollo

Here’s the title poem:

The Tortoise of History

The tortoise of history
keeps stomping along

it carries
on its back

all the prophets,
“great men”

It is almost blind
but its legs still work.

Here’s a typically witty two-liner (ok, it’s a three-liner):

Why Not 

put the book mark
at the wrong page

Here’s that bitter-sweet “awareness of mortality”:

Don’t Tell Me 

Don’t tell me you can’t
love the dead
sometimes I love the dead more
than the still living

there was a time
one sounded as
as any so-called media

(in my case
shortwave radio person
for ten cold war years)

and they all
old amigos
young apprentices
do still sound that way

not the same but
just that way

And again:

Blue Moon

Being dead, Steve Carey, wonderful poet
can’t sign his Selected Poems
to me

These days I find myself
ordering only books by poets
who are


Order, then, The Tortoise of History, from Coffee House Press, Anselm Hollo  – “being/dead”, but being very much alive!

and order too, from Coffee House, Anselm’s other wonderful books, notably the memorably-titled Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence, his Selected Poems from 1965 to 2000

Not from Coffee House, but worth checking out, Caws and Causeries – Around Poetry and Poets, a book of his prose (essays), from La Alameda Press

Also from La Alameda, the (as ever) elegantly-designed rue Wilson Monday 

Anselm on the Allen Ginsberg Project – see our April 2012 posting – here 

– and our transcript of two of Anselm’s NAROPA classes (on the poetic fragment and on some modern masters) here and here

And here’s a gem – Anselm,in 2007, at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota (“The Bat of Minerva” – interviewed by Peter Shea), giving, at  some length, an autobiographical account , (including the reading of three poems –  “Helsinki 1940,”, “Guests of Space” and,  (first line),  “If we could miniaturize prairie dogs….”)

Dear Anselm

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