Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

In addition to poetry, Charles Reznikoff (REHZ-nih-kahf) wrote fiction and verse drama and was active as a translator, historian, and editor. His novels include By the Waters of Manhattan (1930), a title Reznikoff also used for a later collection of his poetry, and The Manner “Music” (1977). The novels, as well as his historical work such as Early History of a Sewing Machine Operator (1936), are, like his poetry, sharply observed but detached, nearly autobiographical accounts and impressions of family and working life. Although thematically much of his fiction may be compared with the “proletarian” literature of the 1930’s, its spareness and restraint give it a highly individual stamp. Reznikoff also wrote a historical novel, The Lionhearted (1944), which portrays the fate of English Jewry during the reign of Richard the Lionhearted.

Reznikoff’s verse plays, such as Uriel Accosta: A Play and a Fourth Group of Verse (1921) and “Chatterton,” “The Black Death,” and “Meriwether Lewis”: Three Plays (1922), extend his interest in the individual in history along dramatic lines. The plays make use of choruslike recitations both to convey offstage occurrence and to develop character much in the manner of the classical theater.

Reznikoff was the editor of the collected papers of Louis Marshall and a translator of two volumes of Yiddish stories and history. Much of his work in law was in writing and editing for the legal encyclopedia Corpus Juris. His few prose comments on the art of writing poetry are contained in a slim volume of prose titled First, There Is the Need (1977).