A major work by an essential American poet, published in full for the first time.
Available again for the first time since 1978—and complete in one volume for the first time ever—Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony is a lost masterpiece, a legendary book that stands alongside Louis Zukofsky’s “A” and William Carlos Williams’s Paterson as a milestone of modern American poetry. Taking as its raw material the voices of witnesses, victims, and perpetrators discovered by the author in criminal court transcripts, Reznikoff’s book sets forth a stark panorama of late 19th- and early 20th-century America—the underside of the Gilded Age, beset by racism and casual violence, poverty and disease—in a radically stripped-down language of almost unbearable intensity. This edition also includes Reznikoff’s prose studies for the poem, unavailable to readers since the 1930s, and a new introduction by essayist Eliot Weinberger.
A brutal American epic.
—Charles Simic, New York Review of Books
[Testimony] is perhaps Reznikoff ‘s most important achievement as a poet. A quietly astonishing work . . . at once a kaleidoscope vision of American life and the ultimate test of Reznikoff’s poetic principles . . .
Reznikoff ‘s astonishingly engaging and quietly powerful work has been steadily gaining a passionate following. . . . Testimony is a chronicle of industrial accidents, domestic violence, racism. It tells the story of America’s forgotten, those who suffer without redress, without name, without hope; yet the soul of these States is found in books like this; the acknowledgment of these peripheral stories turns a waste land into holy ground.
He showed a moment from everyday life in an attempt to evoke an emotion.
—Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Documentary poet and author of Poetry in America.