Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence Summary

Anselm Hollo

Notes on the Possibilities and Attractions of Existence

Anselm Hollo was born in Helsinki, Finland, and is now a Writing and Poetics professor at Naropa University in Colorado. Respected as a poet (winner of a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship) and as a translator (winner of a PEN Award for Translation), his works nevertheless seem relegated to the small literary publishers with names like Toothpaste Press, Coffee House Press, Smokeproof Press, and Weed/Flower Press. This retrospective features writings selected by the poet himself, taken from the decades of his life from his thirties through his sixties.

Some of his poems are incredibly poignant, such as "The Charge," in which he talks about the task of burying his father's ashes. Others of the selections, arranged chronologically based on dates of publication, are unexpectedly witty. In "The Empress Hotel Poems," for example, he laments having to translate other men's words into English and wonders why they do not learn the language, but he elicits a laugh when he says that if they did, he would not be earning money translating. The works are in free verse, and there is one example of Haiku from 1968. This is a scholarly work in the sense that Hollo provides notes on the poems at the end of the book.

This compilation may have limited appeal for average readers. In spite of some interspersed highlights, many of the poems are hard to understand, with words that do not invoke any imagery or coherent meaning.