Valles' volume, I think, is, on the contrary, thoughtfully composed and her understanding of Herbert is, to my mind, astute. In the Jan./Feb. Boston Review she notes how English speakers still have relatively limited access to (or perhaps understanding of) Herbert despite his status as a literary juggernaut. She writes:
For most Americans, Herbert’s poetry still exists in a kind of historical void, sometimes called World Literature, in which he floats, stripped of his native matrix, alongside Anna Akhmatova, Bertolt Brecht, and Constantine Cavafy. It is, of course, no one’s fault that American readers do not have wide access to the extensive and diverse Polish criticism on Herbert. But the manner in which he was introduced to American readers has almost certainly encouraged a narrow reading of his work. It is at least in part a generational issue. Among those who started reading Herbert in the ’70s, there is angry resistance to any approach that complicates or challenges the standard vision, that of an idiosyncratic poet of historical irony.
Her new volume, incidentally, contains all the early translations of Herbert by Miłosz and Dale Scott. You may recall, Dear Reader, that I mentioned in an earlier post the minor quibbles the two had in translating Herbert's "Pebble".