Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Charles Reznikoff

New York

Photo by Gerard Malanga
used with the gracious permission

Black Sparrow Press

Charles Reznikoff was born in Brooklyn in 1894. He attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism for a year and learned in doing so he didn't want to be a journalist. He began the Law School at New York University in 1912, graduated in 1915, and was admitted to the New York bar in 1916. Reznikoff continued to take law courses at Columbia University and began to practice law. But the law practice didn't take off and he took on other jobs. In 1928 he became an editor at Corpus Juris, working on its legal encyclopedia.

Reznikoff had little interest in money and worked only enough to support himself and his writing, much of which he initially published himself. Reznikoff was adamant about having his work in print but less concern than most authors about whether his work would be read. Some of his early work was reprinted by the Objectivist Press which Reznikoff, Louis Zukofsky, and George Oppen formed, basically, to print their own books.

Reznikoff died in New York on January 22, 1976.

C.P. Snow, in his introduction to Reznikoff's By the Waters of Manhattan observes:

Mr. Reznikoff's writing, so far as a Gentile can judge, is in all senses deeply Jewish. . . . [T]here is for me running through his writing the threads of the Jewish loneliness, the Jewish delight in God's gifts, and the Jewish triumph. He conveys, as sharply as I have ever seen conveyed in any writing about New York, the feeling of the lonely soul in the great city. . . .

He is a deep, sarcastic, lonely writer. So far as I know, he is a writer quite on his own.

[C.P. Snow, "Introduction," to Charles Reznikoff, By the Waters of Manhattan ix-xi, at xi (New York: New Directions, 1962)]

Charles Reznikoff

Charles Reznikoff
Modern American Poetry

Charles Reznikoff
Electronic Poetry Center

Charles Reznikoff | Academy of American Poets

Point Blank Verse
David Skeel, Legal Affairs

Charles Reznikoff: The City and Its Images

Literature Scholar Milton Hindus Dies

Jena Osman on Charles Reznikoff & His Testimony
audio file


Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976)
biography and 11 poems

from Rhythms II (1919)

from Jerusalem the Golden (1934)

from Separate Way (1936)

from By The Well of Living and Seeing and
The Fifth Book of the Maccabees


Charles Reznikoff, Rhythms (Brooklyn, New York: [De Vinne Press], 1918)

_____________, Rhythms II (Brooklyn, New York: [De Vinne Press], , 1919)

_____________, Poems (New York: S. Roth, New York Poetry Book Shop, 1920)

_____________, Uriel Accosta: A Play & A Fourth Group of Verse (New York: Cooper Press, 1921)

_____________, Five Groups Of Verse (New York: Charles Reznikoff, 1927)

_____________, Jerusalem the Golden (New York: Objectivist Press, 1934)

_____________, In Memoriam: 1933 (New York: Objectivist Press, 1934)

_____________, Testimony (New York: Objectivist Press, 1934)(Kenneth Burke intro.)

_____________, Separate Ways (New York: Objectivist Press, 1936)

_____________, Going To and Fro and Walking Up and Down (New York: Futuro Press, 1941)

_____________, Inscriptions: 1944-1956 (New York: Charles Reznikoff, 1959)

_____________, By the Waters of Manhattan: Selected Verse (New York: New Directions, 1962)(C. P. Snow introduction)

_____________, Testimony: The United States, 1885-1890: Recitative (New York: New Directions, 1965)

_____________, Testimony: The United States, 1891-1900: Recitative (New York, 1968)

_____________, By the Well of Living & Seeing and the Fifth Book of the Maccabees (New York: Charles Reznikoff, 1969)

_____________, By the Well of Living & Seeing: New & Selected Poems, 1918-1973 (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1974)(2nd ed., 1976)(Seamus Cooney ed.)

_____________, Holocaust (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1975)

_____________, Poems, 1918-1936 (Santa Barbara, California: Black Sparrow Press, 1976)(Seamus Cooney ed.)(Volume 1 of the Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff)

_____________, Poems, 1937-1975 (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1977)(Seamus Cooney ed.)(Volume 2 of the Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff)

_____________, First, There is the Need (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1977)

____________, Testimony: The United States, 1885-1915: Recitative (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1978-1979)(2 vols.)

_____________, Poems 1918-1975: The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff (Santa Rosa, California: Black Sparrow Press, 1989)(Seamus Cooney ed.)


Milton Hindus (ed.), Selected Letters of Charles Reznikoff, 1917-1976 (Santa Rosa, California: Black Sparrow Press, 1997)

Writings: Plays

Charles Reznikoff, Uriel Accosta: A Play & A Fourth Group of Verse (New York: Cooper Press, 1921)

_____________, Chatterton, the Black Death and Meriwether Lewis (New York: Charles Reznikoff, 1922)

_____________, Coral, and Captive Israel; Two Plays (New York: Charles Reznikoff, 1923)

_____________, Nine Plays (New York: Charles Reznikoff, 1927)


Charles Reznikoff, By the Waters of Manhattan: An Annual (New York: C. Reznikoff, 1929)(New York: Markus Wiener Publishing, 1986)(Milton Hindus intro.)

_____________, By the Waters of Manhattan (New York: Charles Boni, 1930)(New York: Markus Wiener, 1986)

_____________, Testimony (New York: The Objectivist Press, 1934)

Nathan & Charles Reznikoff, Early History of a Sewing-Machine Operator (New York: C. Reznikoff, 1936)

Charles Reznikoff, The Lionhearted: A Story about Jews in Medieval England (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1944)

Charles Reznikoff & Uriah Engelmann, The Jews of Charleston (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1950)

______________ (ed.), Louis Marshall: Champion of Liberty: Selected papers and Addresses (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1957)

______________, Stories and Fantasies from the Jewish Past (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1961)

______________, Family Chronicle: An Odyssey from Russia to America (New York: Charles Reznikoff, 1963)(London: Norton Bailey with The Human Constitution, 1969)(New York: Markus Wiener Pub., 1988, with an introduction by Milton Hindus)

______________, The Manner Music (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1977)(Robert Creeley intro.)


Emil Bernard Cohn, Stories and Fantasies from the Jewish Past (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1951)

Israel Joseph Benjamin, Three Years in America, 1859-1862 (New York: Arno Press, 1956)


"Charles Reznikoff: Between Present and Past," in Robert Alter, Defenses of the Imagination: Jewish Writers and Modern Historical Crisis 119-135 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1977)

Randolph Chilton, The Object Beyond the Image: A Study of Four Objectivist Poets (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1981)

Geneviéve Cohen-Cheminet, L'entretien Infini: Modernité Poétique et Tradition Appropriée dans L'ouvre de Charles Reznikoff (Ph.D. dissertation, Université de Clermont-Ferrand, 1996)

Robert Michael Franciosi, A Story of Vocation: The Poetic Achievement of Charles Reznikoff (Ph. D. dissertation, University of Iowa, 1985)

Stephen Fredman, A Menorah for Athena: Charles Reznikoff and the Jewish Dilemmas of Objectivist Poetry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001)

Milton Hindus (ed.), Charles Reznikoff: Man and Poet (Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine at Orono, 1984)

__________, Charles Reznikoff: A Critical Essay (Santa Barbara, California: Black Sparrow Press, 1977)

Ranen Omer-Sherman, Diaspora and Zionism in Jewish American Literature: Lazarus, Syrkin, Reznikoff, and Roth (Hanover: University Press of New England, 2002)

Stuart Shaffer, Brutality, History, and the Epic Muse: Charles Reznikoff's Testimony (M.A. Thesis, University of California, San Diego, Department of Literature, 1992)

Frederick Thomas Sharp, "Objectivists" 1927-1934: A Critical History of the Work and Association of Louis Zukofsky, William Carlos Williams, Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi, Ezra Pound, George Oppen (Dissertation, Stanford University, 1982)

Linda S. Simon, The Making of Objectivists (Ph.D. dissertation, Brandeis University, 1983)

Bibliography: Articles & Essays

Charles Bernstein, My Way: Speeches and Poems 197-229 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999)

Robert Franciosi, "Detailing the Facts": Charles Reznikoff's Response to the Holocaust, 29 (2) Contemporary Literature 241 (1988)

_____________, Robert Michael Franciosi, Reading Reznikoff: Zukofsky and Oppen, 55 (4) North Dakota Quarterly 383-395 (1987)

Loss Pequeno Glazier, An Autobiographical Interview with Charles Bernstein, 23 (3) Boundary 2 21 (1996)(discussion of Bernstein's interest in Louis Zukofsky and Charles Reznikoff; Bernstein is a poet)

Rodger Kamenetz, Rediscovering "Family Chronicle" by Charles Reznikoff, 47 (4) Georgia Review 709 (1993)

Burton Natlen, Objectivism in Context: Charles Reznikoff and Jewish-American Modernism, 13 (1-2) Sagetrieb 147-168 (1994)

Ranen Omer, "Palestine Was a Halting Place, One of Many": Diasporism in the Poetry of Charles Reznikoff, 25 (1) Melus 147 (2000)

George Oppen, On Charles Reznikoff, 3 (3) Sagetrieb 7 (1984)

___________, On Reznikoff, 13 (1) Sulfur 39-40 (1993)

___________, Memorial Broadcast for Charles Reznikoff, 3 (3) Sagetrieb 29-39 (1984)

Ruth Rovner, Charles ReznikoffA Profile, Jewish Frontier 14-18 (April 1976)

Michael Stanford, The Cyclopean Eye, The Courtly Game, Admissions Against Interest: Five Modern American Lawyer Poets, 30 Legal Studies Forum 9 (2006) [online text]

Benjamin Watson, Reznikoff's Testimony, 82 Law Library Journal 647 (1990) [online text of republished version of the article]

Henry Weinfield, "Wringing, Wringing His Pierced Hands": Religion, Identity, and Genre in the Poetry of Charles Reznikoff, 13 (1-2) Sagetrieb 225-232 (1994)

Louis Zukofsky, Sincerity and Objectification: With Special Reference to the Works of Charles Reznikoff, 37 Poetry 272-285 (1931)

Research Resources: Reznikoff & Objectivist Poets

Charles Reznikoff Papers 1912-1976
Mandeville Special Collections Library
Geisel Library
University of California, San Diego

Milton Hindus Collection
Brandeis University

Special Collections Manuscripts and Archives
University of Arizona Library
Tucson, Arizona

Marie Syrkin Papers 1915-1989
[Syrkin was married to Reznikoff]
American Jewish Archives
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Cincinnati, Ohio

Henry Hurwitz/Menorah Association Collection
American Jewish Archives
Cincinnati, Ohio

[Henry Hurwitz was editor of the Menorah Journal which published many of Reznikoff's early works. The issues in which Reznikoff's work appears are now sought out by collectors.]

Research Resources

Marie Syrkin (1899-1989)
Jewish Virtual Library

Syrkin, Marie (1899-1989)
The Jewish Agency for Israel

Louis Zukofsky (1904-1978)
Modern American Library

Louis Zukofsky
Electronic Poetry Center
State University of New York-Buffalo

George Oppen
Modern American Library

Carl Rakosi
(1903- )
Modern American Library

Lorine Niedecker
(1903 [?]-1970)
Modern American Library

Carole S. Kessner, "Marie Syrkin: An Exemplary Life," in Carole S. Kessner (ed.), The "Other" New York Jewish Intellectuals 51-70 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991)

Louis Zukofsky (ed.), An "Objectivists" Anthology (Le Beausset, France: TO, Publishers, 1932)

____________ (ed.), 37 (5) Poetry: A Magazine of Verse (February, 1931)

Rachel Blau DuPlessis & Peter Quartermain (eds.), The Objectivist Nexus Essays in Cultural Poetics (Birmingham: University of Alabama Press, 1999) [short review]

Michael Heller, Conviction's Net of Branches: Essays on the Objectivist Poets and Poetry (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985)

___________ (ed.), Carl Rakosi: Man and Poet (Orono, Maine: National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine, 1993)

Norman Finkelstein, Not One of Them in Place (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001)

Ranen Omer-Sherman, Diaspora and Zionism in Jewish American Literature (Hanover, New Hampshire: University of New England Press, 2001)