Linda W. Wagner: On "Testimony"

Reznikoff’s late sequences of poems, Volumes I and II of his Testimony, accumulate these factually-based accounts into moving collections. Repeatedly Reznikoff's pace in the poems adds immeasurably to the effect of control, of re-counting, that the poet seems to be aiming for. Many of these testimonies are heart-breaking. Most of them reflect the chaos of the modern urbanized world Reznikoff imaged in his first poems. But because they are phrased in longer lines, with more details and more interrelationships presented as context, they are easier to read and absorb than were his early short lyrics.

[. . . .]

Reznikoff manages our responses so that we know exactly what he wants us to know, when he allows us to know it. Because we are led so simply, given traditional scenes that our past experiences mark as positive or negative, the full effect of his contrived ironies--for they mark nearly every one of the testimony poems—is usually devastating.

[. . . .]

[B]ut it seems to me that what is equally important in this masterful series of poems, the testimony volumes I and II, is Reznikoff's craft, his ability to shape our responses so that his recounting is dramatic, for all its subdued and objective tone. We read Testimony because we are caught in its plots and characters, because we are moved by each accounting, because Reznikoff doesn't let us forget the implication he so carefully never states.


Title Linda W. Wagner: On "Testimony" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Milton Hindus Criticism Target Charles Reznikoff
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 24 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication "Charles Reznikoff: Master of the Miniature"
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