There should be more poetry books like Carl Djerassi's perfectly titled A Diary of Pique 1983-1984. Among other things, it would make poetry a great deal more attractive to a great many people who may not think they're poetry readers but who respond to a good story, a playful use of language, and a dose of spice-not to mention intelligence that isn't out to advertise itself and feeling that's utterly stripped of sentimentality…
Why, come to think of it, aren't there more poetry books like this? Haven't all of us gone through something not unlike the annus horribilis Djerassi endured all those years ago, when the love of his life ripped his heart out by deserting him (temporarily, as it turned out) for some jerk, thereby prompting an avalanche of verses, by turns passionate, despairing, vindictive, wise, self-pitying, and oozing with (to borrow his own term) "narcissistic wrath"?
And yet what a book he got out of it! Djerassi, who since exiting the lab has written several novels and plays, is that most obnoxious of things, a man gifted in both science and art; and the book he has given us here is, for all the pain that went into it, a delightful concoction, a pièce de revanche (as he himself puts it) crammed with wit and self-irony and generously equipped with an engaging prose preamble…
EIN TAGEBUCI-I DES GROLLS/ A DIARY OF PIQUE 1983~1984. by Carl Djerassi. Haymon Verlag/ University of Wisconsin Pres,. SI9.95. In English WIth facing German translations by Sabine Hübner.
(Excerpted from May 16, 2012 Review)
The Kenyon Review excitedly notes two publications by Carl Djerassi, famed chemist, playwright, novelist and man of letters. In March of 2012, Haymon-Verlag released a bilingual edition of Djerassi’s poetry collection Ein Tagebuch des Grolls/A Diary of Pique 1983-1984. In September of 2012, the University of Wisconsin Press will release the North American edition,
Conceived in response to lost and unrequited love, the poems in the collection were composed during the anguish of break-up and the roil of damaged self-esteem that comes when a lover chooses another.. .. Read now, and disassociated from the circumstances of their making, the poems in A Diary of Pique will have a rapport with almost any biography, let alone Djerassi’s. If the poems were made in a time of anger and grief for love lost to another, nearly thirty years ago, they have been collected and edited now with an elegiac grace for Middlebrook and the tragedy of loss that deepens the import. Grief written into language can become grievance, but it can also settle the score with fate; one thing lost augurs a new thing, or many new things, made.
A central mode in the book is the act of naming; of compartmentalizing feeling into language. In this mode, Djerassi is at his most lucid and honest, with a chemist’s precision for taking the complexities of richly felt experience and breaking it down into the requisite and brutally honest parts. Nothing escapes this decomposition, particularly Djerassi himself. In “L’uomo”, a seminal poem, he first spells his name carefully for the asker, with simple references (“S as in saccharin“) to be sure the speaker understands each letter....For a visual reference of the work that “L’uomo” does anchoring the collection, one need look no further than the cover of A Diary of Pique, featuring the self portrait “Versunkenheit” by the artist Paul Klee. With it’s pinched-shut eyes and mouth, it as if the likeness cannot bear to see. Klee’s work has been a lifelong love of Djerassi, and Djerassi has collected it extensively throughout his lifetime.
A Diary of Pique is printed in English on one page and translated into German on the next, in verso recto style. The pairing allows great interplay in the poems between the two languages: it is a distinct pleasure to experience a particularly moving sequence or line and check it against the German to compound the pleasure....This edition of poems is a chance to know Djerassi that much more, to know something of the vexing nature of loss, and know something of the curative restitution that comes with the passing of time. We are indeed better for this book.