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BookReviews

AgnesNemesNagy:Between
ChrisMurray

"I have no serious doubt," observed George Szirtes in his Introduction to The Night of Akhenaton,a selection ofherpoetry, "thatgnesNemesNagyisoneofthegreatindispensablepoets ofthetwentieth century." Agnes Nemes Nagy (19221991) was a Hungarian poet, author, political writer andactivist, whose life, as for so many of her generation, was defined by the Second World War, and particularly by the friends she knew who died in Auschwitz. Between by Agnes Nemes Nagy and translated by Hugh Maxton comprises the largest translated collection of Nagys work into English, andispublished byDedalusinDublinandCorvinainBudapest.

Angels are always terrifyinginNagyandoftenalliedtotreeandbranchsymbols.Herimageryingeneral is often 'offcentre' she wrote about the process of writing as I think it is the duty of the poet to obtaincitizenshipforanincreasinghordeofnamelessemotions.

OnboardshipcarriedStatues, Hugefacesunrecognised Onboardshipcarriedstatues Tostandontheisland. Betweennoseandears Perfectrightangle Otherwiseblank. Onboardshipcarriedstatues AndsoIsank 'ICarriedStatues'

TerracedLandscape'isaprosepiecewhichvisuallydescribesmovementthroughtimethroughthe poem's34separateplanesorterraces:

ZeroPlane.

Nownothingisvisible.Yetsomethingcontinues

Tosound,inafragmentaryfashion,breakingdown,

Swelling.Doyouhearit?Uptheresomewhere,

Toweringlittledomesliketheroofingofacity,unknownbellsinside

ZeroPlaneisthepoem'sintroduction,whiletheoverallstructureiscyclical,sothatthewhitenoiseatthe endofLevel34sequesbacktothebeginning,ZeroPlane.Notallthelevelsaredescribed,yetallthings acquiredepthandshape,everydayobjectsswellandbecome,theylosetheirflatness.Thisremindsme ofSylviaPlaths'Ilovethethingnessofthings,andofhowfamiliarobjectsbecomesoalienorso intimatetotheobserverthattheyacquireasymbolicimportance.

ThepoemLazarus

Roundhisleftshoulder,ashegotupslowly

EverydaysMusclegatheredinagony

Hisdeathwasflayedoffhimlikeagauze

Becausesecondbirthhassuchharshlaws

recallsLeonardBaskinsHangedMan,alithographfromtheFiftiesoftheHangedmanfromthe Tarotdeck,animagenotonlyoftorturebutalsoawarningthat

thepoetandartistmustconsistentlyengagewiththeworldwhateverthecost.

Betweenisdividedintoshortpoemsandcycles,twoessaysandsomeprose,withNagyherself contributingtheforeword.HughMaxtontalksofthetranslation/collaborationprocessatthebackof thebook,butbetweenintroandpostscripttheimagesandwordscreate,forthisreader,visual monuments,portalsintoamythosandanoftensublimeawareness.

HangedMan

AgnesNemesNagy,Between,(DedalusPress),translatedbyHughMaxton.

BookReviews AgnesNemesNagy:Between
ChrisMurray