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Published in: May-June 2023 issue.

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The Collected Poems of Walta Borawski
Edited by Philip Clark and Michael Bronski
Library of Homosexual Congress,
280 pages, $34.95


The collections of poets lost to AIDS often read like the anthologies of the World War I poets: so many wonderful, talented voices cut down tragically before their prime. What might they have done if they had lived longer? Walta Borawski is a name I was not familiar with before, but after reading this poignant collection, it’s a name I will not forget. Indeed, reading the entire output of someone who died so young is like making and then losing a friend in one sitting. Borawski (the poet shortened his first name from Walter as a tribute to Barbra Streisand, which gives you some idea of the cheeky flavor of his work) is particularly adept at capturing the realities of living and dealing with the virus. He can also be funny and heartbreaking—sometimes both at once—particularly when it comes to poems of unrequited love. And, while the introduction claims that the poems require reading aloud, their wit and pain come through remarkably well on the page. This collection should go a long way toward making Borawski’s wonderfully vivid and affecting work much better known.

Dale Boyer

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