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of the 2003 Edges Prize: Where No One Spoke the Language by Daniel
Where No One Spoke the Language by Daniel Bourne is worldly in the best sense: drawing on the author's extensive time in Poland, the poems meditate on history and cross-cultural perspectives. With intellectual depth and range, Bourne's poems bring the reader into a larger consciousness about our place on the earth.
Sample Poems by Daniel Bourne
"Where No One Spoke the Language is a journey, a passion, a trial, a return to the scenes of a crime whose complexity is such that the judge, the jury, and the witnesses seem to keep changing roles just to keep up. Many of us know this story from a distance; Daniel Bourne knows it up close. We follow his faithful eye, the eye of an advocate for clarity, for seeing and hearing and bringing to our hearts those human moments that allow us to continue caring."—Gary Gildner
"I admire the sustained ethical grace of these poems, and the way the indignities committed against the places they describe - largely in Poland - (the poisoning and polluting of the landscape, political violence and despotism) are not commented on so much as revealed in the concrete details of the poems' worlds. The poet's acknowledgements of the sweetness and humanity that can exist amid suffering is part of what makes this book so compelling."—Lynne McMahon
The desire to buy a birthday card for a dead father. Our life on Doberman streets. Gas hogs stuck in the hot tar of used car lots. Our hope to protect the carp between our legs. Kites in anemic wind. A sense that we are all already dead. 'A bouquet of matches / black on their greasy stalks.' Blood on our door post. Sensing 'the swarm of hands inside / a Holocaust monument." The son of man drunk and stumbling home. Our words unable to clear customs. Hearing the vowels of ghosts. Not the cocoon, but the shroud. Dead languages seeming more moral than living ones. The Vistula's last perch. Wallpaper dark from the leak upstairs. 'A music dwindling, / disappearing for always.' What Daniel Bourne has done here is something I haven’t heard done yet—-Charles Simic’s surreal mode grounded, but with his knowledge of Eastern Europe. Remarkable and relentless, Where No One Spoke the Language achieves a voice of exile deeper than any I've heard from an American Poet since The Waste Land, but I am comforted that Bourne knows, and is among us. And as for the snob who sniffs 'oh--a political poem': the poet says, 'I'm sure some dawn his body / will be discovered lying face down / in a spreading pool of aesthetics. ...'"--William Heyen
"The pressure of political and social reality has honed these poems to a keen poignancy over the period of their telling–the years just before and just after the end of the Cold War in Poland, the late satellite state and newly post-Soviet nation. Where No One Spoke the Language maps an endurance of suffering on a national scale, as analogous palimpsest to the personal dissolutions of which Daniel Bourne is sympathetic witness and participant. Living, writing, and translating in this pressurized central European cultural milieu, the poet evokes its current gritty poverty and industrial pollution, but also the unexpected moments of beauty and humanity that spring forth unbidden from the detritus. Although he is a stranger here, the poet seems to embrace not exile so much as celebration of the language's 'baroque consonants,' as well as the nation's damaged legacy of 'soot, mist . . . desperate weeping . . . blood-painted icons . . . exhaustion of stone.' He is almost at home in his stranger's state, and his ability imaginatively to transform this experience helps to make the strange familiar, even for those of us 'who still rock / from the language of the cradle.' In these compassionate poems, Daniel Bourne speaks, across borders of linguistic and national difference, a profoundly human language for us all."-–Carolyne Wright
Daniel Bourne's books include The Household Gods (Cleveland State) and On the Crossroads of Asia and Europe, a collection of translations of Polish poety and essayist Tomasz Jastrun (Salmon Run). He teaches at The College of Wooster in Ohio, where he edits Artful Dodge.
ISBN 1932339582, 124 pages, $17.00