Written between 1947 and 1960 and first published in 1963, the prose work in the first of these two volumes reflects Louis Zukofsky’s ongoing obsession with Shakespeare — whose plays he had first seen performed in Yiddish — and is central to understanding Zukofsky’s work. Tracing the themes of knowledge, love and physical vision (“the eyes have it”) through both Shakespeare’s plays and the poetry, Bottom: On Shakespeare is more than a compendious act of homage by one poet to another. In effect, it lays out Zukofsky’s poetics and theory of knowledge on a grand scale, tracing his themes through the whole of Western culture, from the Classical Greeks through William Carlos Williams.
The second volume of Bottom: On Shakespeare consists of Celia Thaew Zukofsky’s spare operatic setting of Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre, a play in which Zukofsky saw Shakespeare rewriting the classic plots and tropes of the Odyssey. The Wesleyan edition features a new foreword by Bob Perelman.
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