For lovers of poetry this collection is a rare gift. It opens the door into a world of verse almost completely unknown to English- speaking readers. Although the Uzbek classical tradition— or at least the Turko-Persian literary matrix from which it sprang— has long been accessible to both experts and intrepid amateurs, Uzbek modernism is truly terra incognita. The movement stems from impulses common to all “mod-ernisms” — a reaction to the perceived exhaustion of language, a wariness of the ideologies implicit in certain artistic forms— yet the Uzbek national experience has given it a distinctive shape. Uzbek poets have not lost touch with their literary past, but rather seek to reinvigorate the old, applying traditional imagery and themes in surprising new contexts. Perhaps because the style does not represent an utter rejection of earlier traditions, Uzbek modernism has not fallen into the traps common to much contemporary verse. It is not experiment-for-experiment’s-sake. It is not self-referential to the point of opacity, instead, it reminds the reader of the unexpected beauties of the mundane. It champions the ordinary person’s capacity for love, for patience, for insight. It gazes through daily life into the divine.
Today’s Uzbek poetry is the quirky, thoughtful expression of a language finding itself a new voice; a people finding themselves a new way in the world. Through A’zam Obidov’s excellent trans¬lation, English-speaking readers will hear (for the first time in such an extended format) the voice of the foremost of the current generation of Uzbek poets. We have much to learn from it.
January 29, 2005