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In the Shape of a Human Body I Am Visiting on Earth: Poems from Far and Wide

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From Rae Armantrout to Adam Zagajewski, In the Shape of a Human Body I Am Visiting the Earth is a chorus of voices from around the globe and across generations. A compendium of some of our beloved poems from our favorite poets, this slim anthology is the perfect companion for cafes, road trips, bathtubs, shuttle expeditions, and any other situation in need of the genuinely human. Included are freshly translated masterpieces--originally published in Poetry International--from poets such as Pablo Neruda, Rainer Maria Rilke, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Charles Baudelaire, along with new work from contemporary practitioners such as Kay Ryan, Jane Hirshfield, Derek Walcott, Kwame Dawes, Valzhyna Mort, and James Tate.

197 pages, Paperback

First published August 15, 2017

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About the author

Ilya Kaminsky

51 books376 followers
Ilya Kaminsky is the Poetry Editor of Words Without Borders. His awards include a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine and first place in the National Russian Essay Contest. He is the author of Dancing in Odessa which won the Dorset Prize.

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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
774 reviews5,341 followers
March 14, 2022
In the shape of a human body
I am visiting the earth;
the trees visit
in the shapes of trees.

-Malena Mörling, ‘Visiting’

This might just be the anthology we all need. This collection knits a global community with poetry to remind us of our shared humanity that is transcending—and despite—borders and nationalism. Edited by Ilya Kaminsky (if you haven’t yet read Deaf Republic yet, do yourself a massive favor), Dominic Luxford and Jesse Nathan, this anthology of international poetry expands the heart with a universal joy of championing humanity in the face of hardship, love that fulfills our brief and temporary existences, and searching for meaning in a chaotic existence. This should be on everyone’s bookshelves to pull down on occasion and flip through when you need to find a will to live that you can tap at any moment like an extra life stored up in a video game. It is full of familiar favorites that are a direct pathway to tears as well as many new poets I came to love at the suggestion of this volume. Plus it is short and pocket sized, being the perfect lifeline that we have always it is.

This is dawn.
Believe me.
This is your season, little daughter.
The hor mercurial rainwater
Makes a mirror for sparrows.
It’s time we drowned our sorrows.

-Eavan Boland, ‘Night Feed’

I think it’s safe to say the last few years have been brutal both emotionally and to our species and planet. Grief has crashed over society like a tidal wave with a global pandemic and periodic reports of nationalistic and racial violence as well as a recently sprung war have only added their weight to our collective sorrows. ‘In the dark times, will there also be singing? asked Bertolt Brecht. His answer: ‘Yes, there will be singing / About the dark times,’ and this is the perfect quotable embodiment of how poetry is such a primed and perfect platform for witness and response to the news of the world. That is found in these nearly 200 pages of poetry from names around the globe, a witness to the perils of life and a response to live beautifully amidst and despite them. Published in 2017, this collection predates any current front-of-your-mind news, but it’s aim is still—and sadly might always be—relevant as humanity suffers from the recurring growing pains of living. As stated in the introduction, this anthology felt necessary in the sad state of the world ‘when nationalism runs rampant…when walls are built and countries are bombed and banned, we believe it is important to continue the literary dialogue.’ Beyond that, the editors write ‘we aspire to create the book that we ourselves most wanted to read,’ and that alone captures the accessibility and compulsive euphoria this collection bestows.

I want to exist among the continuous verbs,
In the roots that sleep
Among the foundations of the first houses.
In death I want to be
soldier of undiscovered innocence,
crucified by history
on a glass cross through which
in the distance flowers can be seen.

-Nikola Madžirov, ‘The Cross of History’

Poetry has always been there for me and this is a collection of pillars in poetry you need when you are more in need. ‘Where there is no cure,Jeanette Winterson, ‘poetry helps us to live with the problem.’ The list of poems, poets and translators is impressive and, despite its slim size, it holds a cosmos of emotions to taste and share in. In short, snag a copy of this. It’s what you need right now, trust me.

If we weren’t so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving
and could maybe do nothing for once,
a huge silence might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves,
of threatening ourselves with death;
perhaps the earth could teach us;
everything would seem dead
and then be alive.

-Pablo Neruda, ‘Keeping Still’
Profile Image for b.
11 reviews14 followers
October 16, 2018
I was four poems away from finishing this book when I accidentally SOAKED it in juice. I threw my copy away, but cared so much about the poems I read that I just took the book out of the trash to dry it off and cut out and save the poems that resonated most with me that weren’t totally destroyed.

My favorite collection of poems I’ve read in recent times. Haunting and profound and restores my faith that at the center of the world is beauty worth saving. Looking forward to buying another copy to thumb through someday!
38 reviews
April 30, 2021
Favorite poems :

Visiting (Mörling)

[“I once was a child am a child...”] (Chang)

The Craft Talk (Armantrout)

[“The poet said to his soul...”] (Roda)

The Trap (Alcosser)
72 reviews
September 4, 2019
I haven't read much current poetry.
This is an amazing collection of beautiful poems from all over the world.
I don't think I read every one of them. I wish I had kept the book long enough to put part of one in this review.
Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews

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