Poetry | $17 ($15 direct from UDP)
Perfect-bound. 152 pp, 6 x 8 in.
Publication Date: 2010
Read Press Release (PDF)
Envisioned in the form of a scrapbook, Ventrakl folds poetry, prose, biography, translation practices, and photographic imagery into an innovative collaboration with the 19th/early 20th century Austrian Expressionist poet Georg Trakl. Like Jack Spicer’s After Lorca, translation is the central mode of composition in this book, and it is also the book's central theme, which Hawkey explores in a surprising array of different genres and modes of writing. What evolves is a candid and deeply felt portrait of two authors—one at the beginning of the 20th century, the other at the beginning of the 21st century, one living and one dead—wrestling with fundamental concerns: how we read texts and images, how we are influenced and authored by other writers, and how the practice of translation—including mistranslation—is a way to ornament and enrich the space between literature and life.
"Christian Hawkey's brilliant Ventrakl puts Trakl's tragic life squarely into the poetic equation, testifies to the enormous change that has come over lyric poetry in the twenty-first century."
—Marjorie Perloff, The Los Angeles Review of Books
"Ventrakl will speak resonantly to anyone who has fallen for the work of someone long dead and wants desperately to reach out both to it and to its creator."
—Laird Hunt, Bookforum
"Ventrakl is beautifully paced and brilliantly drawn."
—Quinn Latimer, Frieze
"This book manages to be at the same time an overheard emotional utterance … and a discourse on language, identity, politics, and the making of life and of art. The book is a 'ventricle,' having to do with the heart."
—Karla Kelsey, The Constant Critic
"This book offers a pulsing afterlife precisely because it doesn’t pretend to give us the “real” Trakl of the past. We get a Trakl rendered for our times."
—Dan Rosenburg, The Kenyon Review
"Beyond all notion of tribute and homage, I sense a hidden undercurrent of anxiety trembling in the interstices of this book: What does it mean, Hawkey appears to be asking between the lines of every page, to discover oneself to be the kindred spirit of a man whose life appears to have been bracketed by eternally insatiable hungers, violence and despair?"
"Christian Hawkey explores the concept of translation in a way that feels both new and perfectly ageless in Ventrakl."
—Amy Henry, Rain Taxi
"The poets of World War I wrote against the jingoistic propaganda and popular support for the war at home. But we are in a very different age now when governments insist on making wars that significant numbers of their citizens are against. Ventrakl is an invaluable attempt to say what this feels like."
—David Kennedy, Stride
"I think this is a book we’ve needed for a while: one about ages of communication, manifestation, making, taking, needing, motivation, depression, terror, resonance, resounding, finding, nameless spaces: a mode somewhere between any mode at all, and yet one with immense tenderness and magick language shaking in its grace."
—Blake Butler, HTMLGIANT
“Hawkey approaches his subjectfrom every angle under the sun, ever-deepening the stakes of identification and translation, ever-reveling in the glory of strange & beautiful language.”
“[T]he visionary dream image, so loved by earlier translators like Wright and Bly, is replaced by a drive toward cognition and reproduction — a drive impressive in its refusal to come to conclusion or even to a point of rest.”
—Marjorie Perloff, Los Angeles Review of Books
"…propelled by a fomentation of high emotion, a mixture of malaise and exhilaration…bursts and lurches from phrase to phrase, empowered by its own momentum"—American Book Review
“Christian Hawkey’s latest and arguably best book, Ventrakl, is a ghost story—not in the flashlight-under-the-face, seated-around-the-campfire sense, but rather in the hauntological, Derridean one.”–Kathleen Rooney, Boston Review
“In Christian Hawkey’s dossier-like Ventrakl, Hawkey ‘tracks’ the dead poet Trakl through a series of texts, intertexts, countertexts, translations, translation games, interviews, photographs.”–Joyelle McSweeney, Montevidayo
Spooky, truly moving, Ventrakl’s poems gimme the chills. Its veiled protests notwithstanding, this is original art. Unprecedented invention: adroit, and magisterial.”–Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle, Montevidayo
“When Hawkey converses with Trakl…their two voices alternate, interrupt, invert, wander and disappear into a third voice, the ‘between-voice,’ pointing to and away from itself simultaneously as we follow a mind’s trajectory.”–Kelli Anne Noftle, The Offending Adam
“Ventrakl is both a haunting book and, more interesting, a book that is haunted. Georg Trakl obviously looms over every bit of the work here, but Trakl’s own ghosts—his family, also complicate the spook landscape here…” –Ryan Sanford Smith, White Walls/Black Ink
“Latin phrases are not to be tossed around lightly, but this book is ‘sui generis’—matchless and amazing.” –Kathleen Rooney, No Tells
“As an exploration of the intricate relationship between writers and between texts, as well as of the processes involved in writing and translating, this is an invaluable volume. It also, by telling the truth but telling it slant, serves as a beautifully quirky companion to Georg Trakl’s poetry and ought to introduce him to a whole new readership.” –Catherine Hales, Poetry Salzburg Review
This title made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional support was provided by Creative Capital.
NEWS AND REVIEWS
Christian Hawkey is the author of three previous books of poetry. His first book, The Book of Funnels, appeared in 2004 and won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. His second book, a chapbook called HourHour, includes drawings by the artist Ryan Mrozowski, and was published by Delirium Press in 2005. Citizen Of, his third book, was released by Wave Books in the spring of 2007, and received enthusiastic reviews from numerous magazines and online journals, including Time Out New York, Octopus, Silliman's Blog, and the New Yorker. His poems have appeared in Conjunctions, Volt, Denver Quarterly, Tin House, Crowd, BOMB, Chicago Review, Best American Poetry, and Conduit, and his art criticism has appeared in frieze and Meatpaper. He has received awards from the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Fund, and in 2006 he received a Creative Capital Innovative Literature Award. In 2008 he was a DAAD Artist-in-Berlin Fellow. He is currently an Associate Professor at Pratt Institute, where he teaches the practice of writing poetry in the Writing Program.