Alien Candor: Selected Poems, 1970-1995
Black Sparrow Press, 1996
Perhaps America has always been best perceived through alien eyes. Surrealist reporter, revolutionary speculator, partisan of poetics, intellectual provocateur. Romanian emigre Andrei Codrescu, a bedbug in his adopted land's Sleep of Reason, has ingrained his trenchant, idiosyncratic critical view, his nimble wit and sparkling ironic intelligence, into the weave of our national text. In fact it's hard to imagine the culture of the American millennium without him.
Codrescu's activities as a public radio commentator (for NPR), editor (Exquisite Corpse), novelist (The Blood Countess), movie star (Road Scholar) are well documented. His poetry is undeservedly less well known.
This chronological selection, edited by the poet himself, liberally culls from a body of work that includes more than a dozen hard-to-find small press poetry volumes. It's fronted by a useful autobiographical reflection, in which Codrescu sets the stage for his poems: walking us through his years of revolution and passion in New York in the Sixties, evoking benign and exalted emanations of a liberated pleasure-dome San Francisco in the Seventies, charting darkening and deepening notes picked up later among North Coast redwood forests, and tracing the "sober rage" of more recent years of argument and reportage. The distance between the two figures of engagement, embattled critic and involved poet, Codrescu reminds us, has for him always been considerable: "My own work has had its own lyric momentum and mysterious drive that has little to do with the quarrels in question". Andrei Codrescu has always been poet first of all.