The first book of Reynek’s poetry to be published in English, The Well at Morning presents a selection of poems from across his life and is illustrated with twenty-five of his own color etchings. Poet and artist Bohuslav Reynek spent most of his life in the relative obscurity of the Czech-Moravian Highlands; although he suffered at the hands of the Communist regime, he cannot be numbered among the dissident poets of Eastern Europe who won acclaim for their political poetry in the second half of the twentieth century. Rather, Reynek belongs to an older pastoral-devotional tradition a kindred spirit to the likes of English-language poets Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, and Edward Thomas.
The book also contains three essays by leading scholars that place Reynek’s life and work alongside those of his better-known peers, this book presents a noted Czech artist to the wider world, reshaping and amplifying our understanding of modern European poetry.
“Justin Quinn’s rendering of Reynek’s poems appears effortless, but it has in fact been a labor of love for many years. The result feels more like transubstantiation than translation. The methodology of this mystery is revealed in Quinn’s essay toward the end of the book: he ‘tried to naturalize Reynek,’ not ‘resisting the temptation to make him echo Frost or Edward Thomas.’ In so doing, Quinn has given an authentic English voice to a rural Czech poet whose work is as fresh and revelatory today as it ever was.”
—Michael Tate, LA Review of Books
“Goats, spiders, infernal roosters; a reddening sun, emerging florets; hayricks, byres, windows, rakes; Advent, Christmas; Job and Esau; the drama of sacrifice these are poems attentive to, sprung from, a creaturely world subtended by a metaphysical presence. In Reynek the reader of English encounters a twentieth-century Czech poet both profoundly Catholic and utterly, subtly modern. Translator Quinn has brought Reynek himself an estimable translator of Rimbaud, Francis Jammes, Valery into an English aligned with the caretaking apparent directness of Frost, of Edward Thomas; other readers may hear here something of an Englished Georg Trakl. . . . . There is a simplicity here as if of old ballads, folk songs as if this is the simplicity of the profoundly pondered, distilled, parsed, and pared. . . . In these selected poems we encounter an informed attentiveness, a sensibility alert to the signs and parables which the ordinary endlessly affords. . . . It is timely for Reynek to have made his track into English. His work asks for, and rewards, a deep listening.”
— Maureen N. McLane, author of My Poets and National Book Award finalist This Blue