Rika Lesser has been meditating on the twists and turns of love ever since her elegant first volume of poems, Etruscan Things, in 1983. Now Questions of Love presents a generous selection from a quarter century of her work, along with the blazing new poems that make up a book by themselves. Fearless, clear-minded, and harrowing, Lesser's poems match their wrenched prosody to their wrenching subject: the way people blunder, torture and are tortured in the name of love.  And yet these poems have room, too, for wit and for great tenderness. This is a full-hearted collection, as rich in light as in darkness.—Rosanna Warren

Having read her poems for years, I see now that together they make an arc—the line’s effort to be a circle, where she can begin again: “need for a new start,” she calls it.  And I see too the struggle in poem after poem, in poem within poem (as in Etruscan Things, her grandest fabric), to be loyal to “what we have behind us,” even as she wants to get to what lies ahead.  Throughout she keeps asking Questions of Love, all of which amount to What can I give?  And the one answer Rika Lesser allows herself is: everything, except to give up.  It is a splendid, legendary agon. —Richard Howard

Rika Lesser creates precisely calibrated whirlwinds, poems of profound beauty driven by the urgency of a century in crisis. John Donne spoke of'the naked thinking heart’ as the poetic subject, but in our age there's a perceived split between intellect and emotion. Lesser is here to heal that. Her logic is passionate, her emotional grounding impeccably self-exacting. In a brilliant way, these are poems that work. They examine their own premises and move dialectically, toward unmapped territory. From the certainties of suffering to the terrifying openness of healing, from the firm stances of conviction to the problematic ground of truth.  Questions of Love is a major, long-awaited collection.  —D. Nurkse

The long labor of Rika Lesser's days and years has produced a body of poetry that combines the luxury, the disassociation, the sweetness, and the sharp drama of dreams with the logic and relentless intelligence of great philosophy. It's a privilege to read her poems, and to understand again by reading them how widely human consciousness can spread its wings.—Vijay Seshadri

 

 

RIKA LESSER is the author of three earlier collections of poetry, Etruscan Things (Braziller, 1983), All We Need of Hell (North Texas, 1995), and Growing Back (South Carolina, 1997).  She has translated and published collections of poetry by Göran Sonnevi, Gunnar Ekelöf, and Claes Andersson, as well as Rainer Maria Rilke and Hermann Hesse (including Siddhartha: An Indic Poem, Barnes & Noble Classics, 2007).  She has been the recipient of the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship, fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Translation Prize of the Swedish Academy.