to show the reader the essential poems of another reader

Not a bad goal for an anthology. Raúl Zurita & Forrest Gander discuss their anthology Pinholes in the Night at the Los Angeles Review of Books.

FG: I was trained as a geologist. I really admire Tapscott’s anthology, and also the newer one edited by Ilan Stavans. Both continue to be important to me. And to open either of them is like looking toward a mountain. They are impressive eruptions, forceful and riveting. But this particular anthology, Pinholes in the Night, stripped to the “essential,” was selected by a man who, gravely ill and about to go into a high-risk surgery in a hospital, didn’t hesitate to leave out certain friends, or the favorites of critics, or the standard bearers for all the other anthologies — encountering this anthology is like finding the dense vein of corundum in that mountain you were looking at before. It’s the quick. The vein that cuts through all the other layers.

RZ: Panoramic anthologies — and the two you mention are — always prove to be abstractions. Whatever the concept is that sustains them: a language, a period, a territory, an aesthetic trend. An anthology of surrealist poetry, for example, more than introduces the poetry, it gives the stamp of approval — and the reader will automatically do her own synthesis. The poems she will remember will conform to an anthology of the anthology, and what finally emerges is a single poem. The panoramic anthology is nothing until it becomes the opposite of a panorama, until it becomes an intimate moment. Pinholes in the Night is that anthology of an anthology. When I chose exactly the poems that I chose, I did not try to create a panorama, but rather I wanted to show the reader the essential poems of another reader. It’s simply one South American reader showing one North American his way of living and possibly dying.


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