Zurau Aphorisms – Franz Kafka
In the last months of his life, Kafka wrote out each one of these brief aphorisms on a separate page, each like little infinitely folded wings. Open them and be opened.
The Garden of Eden – Ernest Hemingway
Although it was heavily cut by his editors (I still want to see that original manuscript), what remains is a compelling story of three people pulled into a drama that asks questions of gender, fidelity, and the ghosts that shake us until we shake them.
Ariel – Sylvia Plath
A book bound to be on any such list, this really is Plath at her scorching best. Her original version, since restored and published, begins with the word “love” and ends with the word “spring,” a far and luminous cry from the popular image of Plath as dressed in only shadows.
Poeta en Nueva York – Federico Garcia Lorca
Composed in 1929-1930, but not published as a book until four years after the poet was murdered by Franco’s fascist henchmen, this is a tremendous howl of a man’s and a history’s ghosts. With his words and his subsequent silences, Lorca reminds us that fascism is nothing but the small mind’s fear of the myriad beauties of this world.
Sebastian im Traum – Georg Trakl
At age 27, the great Austrian expressionist was asked, because of his medical training, to care for wounded soldiers howling in a storm-whipped barn on the Eastern Front. After suffering a breakdown, he died of an overdose. “Wild wolves have broken through the gates,” he wrote, in a war that asks us, still, what wolves broke in, what wolves broke out.
Joseph Fasano is the author of four books of poetry–The Crossing (2018), Vincent (2015), Inheritance (2014), and Fugue for Other Hands (2013)–and the forthcoming novel The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing (Platypus Press, 2020). His honors include the RATTLE Poetry Prize and the Cider Press Review Book Award. He serves on the Editorial Board of Alice James Books and teaches at Columbia University and Manhattanville College.