Cover image for Selected poems
Selected poems
Borges, Jorge Luis, 1899-1986.
Uniform Title:
Poems. Selections. English & Spanish
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 1999.
Physical Description:
xv, 477 pages ; 25 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PQ7797.B635 A2 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Classics

On Order



When Viking published Borges's Collected Fictions last September, the book received nationwide acclaim. Richard Bernstein in The New York Times hailed the publication as "an event, and cause for celebration." The celebration continues this April with the next installment in Vikings projected three-volume set of the Collected Work: a new selection of Borges's finest poems edited by Alexander Coleman.

Selected Poems brings together some two hundred poems -- the largest collection of Borges's poetry ever assembled in English, including many never previously translated. The selection draws from a lifetime's work -- from Borges's earliest work in the 20s, his debut Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923), to his final poetic work, Los Conjurados (1985). Throughout the volume, the brilliance of the Spanish originals is matched with luminous English versions rendered by a remarkable cast of translators, among them W. S. Merwin, John Updike, Robert Fitzgerald, Mark Strand and Alastair Reid.

Author Notes

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1899, Jorge Borges was educated by an English governess and later studied in Europe. He returned to Buenos Aires in 1921, where he helped to found several avant-garde literary periodicals. In 1955, after the fall of Juan Peron, whom he vigorously opposed, he was appointed director of the Argentine National Library. With Samuel Beckett he was awarded the $10,000 International Publishers Prize in 1961, which helped to establish him as one of the most prominent writers in the world. Borges regularly taught and lectured throughout the United States and Europe. His ideas have been a profound influence on writers throughout the Western world and on the most recent developments in literary and critical theory.

A prolific writer of essays, short stories, and plays, Borges's concerns are perhaps clearest in his stories. He regarded people's endeavors to understand an incomprehensible world as fiction; hence, his fiction is metaphysical and based on what he called an esthetics of the intellect. Some critics have called him a mystic of the intellect. Dreamtigers (1960) is considered a masterpiece.

A central image in Borges's work is the labyrinth, a mental and poetic construct, that he considered a universe in miniature, which human beings build and therefore believe they control but which nevertheless traps them. In spite of Borges's belief that people cannot understand the chaotic world, he continually attempted to do so in his writing. Much of his work deals with people's efforts to find the center of the labyrinth, symbolic of achieving understanding of their place in a mysterious universe. In such later works as The Gold of the Tigers, Borges wrote of his lifelong descent into blindness and how it affected his perceptions of the world and himself as a writer.

Borges died in Geneva in 1986.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Poetry is the heart of Borges' metaphysical, mythical, and cosmopolitan oeuvre, and this bilingual collection of nearly 200 poems aptly forms the centerpiece of a triptych of new volumes that began with Borges' fiction and will conclude with nonfiction. Borges' first published works were poems, and it was poetry he returned to in his later years once his eyesight began to fail. Borges acknowledged the persistence and significance of poetry in his 1960 poem "Ars Poetica": "To see in death sleep, and in the sunset/a sad gold--such is poetry,/Which is immortal and poor. Poetry/Returns like the dawn and the sunset." Over the decades, Borges pondered time, conjured the many moods of his beloved Buenos Aires, and wrote of tigers, rivers, mirrors, and the moon, often in response to the musings of great poets and novelists of the past. Editor Coleman commissioned a wealth of new translations for this unprecedented and invaluable collection, and the roster of translators includes such luminaries as Robert S. Fitzgerald, W. S. Merwin, Mark Strand, and John Updike. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

After a few decades devoted to the luminously precise prose for which he is known in the States, Borges (1899-1986), who began his career writing poetry, returned to it with fervor. This edition makes available for the first time in English an overview of every phase of his poetic oeuvre. Although his earliest book (1923's Fervor de Buenos Aires) represents a youthful Borges more directly concerned with the specific, local and vernacular, he develops his mature themesÄtime, imagination, and identityÄthroughout. Taken together, the poems distill those concerns, which famously preoccupy him in the brief ficciones. And, like the fictions, they are almost disturbingly comprehensible. One peak of the collection is 1960's The Maker, showing Borges at his most defined and refined, presenting sophisticated riffs on Arisosto, Luke and "The Other Tiger" with elegance and gusto. The poems of 1969's In Praise of Darkness confront encroaching blindness, old age and the possibility of ethics, reaching beyond the expectations created by Borges's mastery of the fantastic and the metaphysical. The result is poems at times as moving as Stevens's "The Rock." The translations, edited by New York Univ. professor emeritus Coleman, and realized by varying hands as accomplished as W.S. Merwin, Mark Strand and Charles Tomlinson, are for the most part fluid, although the occasional infelicity, revealed by the original en face, does rankle. Still, gratitude is the only proper response to this invaluable volume, the second of three planned releases. First serial to Harper's and the Los Angeles Times Book Review. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

To read Borges is be in tune with the 20th century. Acclaimed translations of his richly varied, stark yet sensual prose prove that his work suffers no national or linguistic limitation. Much less well known is the attempt at "minor magic" that is Borges's poetry. Coleman's truly representative anthology, culled from some 14 books of verse spanning 1923-85, updates Norman Thomas di Giovanni's earlier brave venture (Selected Poems, 1972) and offers a plurality of voice and tone in old, revised, and specially commissioned versions. Experts like Willis Barnstone, Alan S. Trueblood, John Updike, Alastair Reid, and Coleman himself provide excellent translations that restore to the word its primitive and secret force (just as the poet wished), so that the verse both communicates a precise instance and, like the sea, touches the reader physically. Unobtrusive annotations clarify "that dialectic of allusions" so typical of all Borges ever wrote (the reader moves from classical antiquity to Anglo Saxon, from Spinoza to Hugo and Heine, from the Persian poets to Icelandic runes, and back to Dante via Manuel Flores). This is a delightful compendium of Borges's poetic chess games: discovery and recognition to be had in abundance by readers of all ages and stages. All collections. K. M. Sibbald McGill University