Kevin Jackson’s versions (rather than literal translations) of the sonnet sequence written in exile between 1824 and 1829 by Poland’s greatest poet, Adam Mickiewicz, are both urgent and memorable. The originals are poems of intense patriotism and nostalgia; Jackson’s versions capture this and much more, including what he terms in his new companion essay, ‘Mickiewicz’s aching sense of loneliness and loss’.
Jackson wrote in his introduction to Anthony Burgess’s Revolutionary Sonnets that ‘pleasures both demotic and recondite abound in the pages’: the same might be applied to this striking sequence. In the spirit of Robert Lowell’s ‘Imitations’ he deliberately plays fast and loose with the literal sense of the poems, revivifying diction and tone. In so doing, he shows himself to be an unassuming and masterful guide and host to Mickiewicz’s original works.
“Really excellent – formally adroit, while still capturing the essential melancholy of the poet.”