This collection of hard-edged, contemporary sonnets takes an uncompromising look at the current times, and our human failings and foibles. Although markedly contemporary in its subjects, “Borges” and Other Sonnets presents keen awareness of the past and its unrelenting relationship with the present. The collection includes translations from two legendary sonneteers: Portuguese warrior-poet, Luís de Camões (1524–1580), and twentieth-century Argentine, J. L. Borges (1899–1986). Baer’s sonnet translations are widely praised for capturing the subtleties and soaring spirits of the originals.
“Borges” and Other Sonnets will come to be identified as one of the spearhead books of the new literary movement being fostered by the American sonnet. William Baer’s keen sense of history and popular culture gives his vernacular style an authority that excites as it interests.
William Baer’s new poetry collection is the most significant book of sonnets since Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Fatal Interview more than 70 years ago. And the comparison is apt: like Millay before him, Baer has resuscitated the tradition of the disciplined sonnet in a time of free verse assertion—and he has done so by voicing serious cultural themes and subjects within the strictures of the form. Like other affecting modern sonnets (Hardy’s “Hap,” Yeats’s “Leda,” Frost’s “Design,” and Nemerov’s “Two Girls”), Baer’s poems place us in focused, consequential moments and force us to ponder eternal truths. The various and unforgettable poems in “Borges” and Other Sonnets should read as the logical continuum of those earlier masterpieces of the form.