Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Regarding lit mag submissions and prior publication

This weekend I was at a reading for a group of plein air poets whose work had been gathered together for yet another chapbook by editor Susan Richmond. The poets had been invited to visit the orchards and sculpture gardens of Old Frog Pond Farm in Harvard, Mass., where each of them selected a spot to stand or sit, and in that moment take in the landscape, as a painter does when capturing a scene in the moment. The poems produced in response were each in accordance with this year’s theme: “memoir.”

(At the reading, many people said it was a perfect day for poetry, commenting on the bright sunshine, on the late summer gold in the air. I rather felt that this was a terrible day for poetry… A day suitable for a picnic, or sitting beside the beach, is not a good day for a poem. Snowy days, foggy days, thunderstorm days—any day you have to stay inside, that’s a good day for poetry reading.)

After the reading, we two dozen poets and sixty-something guests mingled on the grass beside the mill pond and ate canap├ęs and drank lemonade while we chatted. More than once, I was asked about our new publication, Hawk & Whippoorwill. Or rather, not a new publication, but one renewed, for H&W was first published in the 60s, edited by August Derleth of Arkham House; and then again in a “new series”, edited by a group of Boston-based writers, about a decade ago. This latest revival is therefore the third life for the magazine.

Given that the order of the day at Old Frog Pond Farm was plein air poetry, it was natural enough that people wanted to talk about the new Hawk & Whippoorwill, the focus of which is poems “of humanity and nature.” It turns out that my call for submissions had been circulating among this crowd, and more than one person there had already submitted. And here is where I get to the point of today’s post.

More than one poet expressed concern that they had committed a faux pas by submitting material that has previously appeared somewhere, be it a blog, chapbook, or even, in one case, as a spoken word performance on the radio.

Here’s what I told them: They should not have patience, as I do not have patience, with publications that give a damn about prior appearances. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Recommended reading: Yukio Mishima

Have you read Yukio Mishima? He's certainly an interesting figure in Japanese literature. Rabid right-winger after the War, in contrast with the popular liberal attitudes of the 1960s. There's Hemingway comparisons, but I think such a likening is lazy. Their writing styles and philosophies aren't remotely similar. People link them because they're both "masculine" writers, who viewed their childhood selves as contemptibly weak, and who killed themselves. Mishima was amazingly prolific. Maybe check out with Acts of Worship (Mikumano Moude) a 1965 short story collection. John Bester did an English translation."

This recommendation comes from Jon Maniscalco a contributing editor to Clarion magazine, and contributor to New England Review of Books (both of which are published by Pen & Anvil). He has spent the last year teaching English in Japan.

Friday, July 21, 2017

"The Translator Vanishes"

Just now on BBC Radio 4's Front Row
Daljit Nagra reads a poem by Liu Xiaobo.
In English.
No mention of a translator.
Do they think Xiaobo wrote in English?
Did Daljit translate it?
Did the poem drift out of the air into English?
And yet the poem I heard was in English and it was a poem.
So what happened to the translator?
Have the police started looking for her?
or him?
Or indeed Daljit?

- George Szirtes

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Let us remember translators who came before

In the following letter to the TLS editor, Hannibal Hamlin of the Folger Shakespeare Library corrects the record, affirming the need to remember that every age has had its translators, thanks to whose work those who come after may have more ready access to the literature of prior days:
In his review of Paul Davis’s Translation and the Poet’s Life, Henry Power writes that “the golden age of English literary translation stretched from the end of the Civil War to around the middle of the eighteenth century” (February 6), but this was surely the silver age. The golden age began a century earlier. It was not Pope’s but George Chapman’s Homer that sent Keats into raptures, and it was Arthur Golding’s Ovid that Ezra Pound called (extravagantly) “the most beautiful book in the language”. Virgil was translated by Gavin Douglas and the Earl of Surrey, Plutarch by Thomas North, and the Greek and Roman lyric poets by almost everyone. This was also the age that produced the English Bibles of Tyndale, Coverdale, and the translators of the Geneva and the “Authorized” Version, as well as the Psalms of Philip and Mary Sidney (among hundreds of others). Whoever among sixteenth- and eighteenth-century translators were literary giants and dwarves, the later writers were standing on the shoulders of their predecessors.
(Emphasis added.) A neatly packaged call to bear in mind that what writers do today is made easier and better by the labors of those who came before.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On censorship in some countries of the Middle East

"In many countries in the Middle East, and this is changing in the wake of the Arab Spring, but for a long time censorship of books and film was a very big deal. There were books you couldn’t buy, things with political content would be censored, but there were some genres of books and film that the censors just didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that below these fantasy themes which they thought to be very childish were these powerful political messages. There were these English news journals and things you couldn’t get. Anything critical of religion, whether Islam or Christianity, you couldn’t find. No Christopher Hitchens. And yet you could walk into an English-language bookstore and find America Gods or the The Chronicles of Narnia. All they see is the surface metaphor. They don’t really get what these books are saying." // from an interview with G. Willow Wilson, author of Alif the Unseen.

Roth on writers resisting robustly

“Unlike writers in Eastern Europe in the nineteen-seventies, American writers haven’t had their driver’s licenses confiscated and their children forbidden to matriculate in academic schools. Writers here don’t live enslaved in a totalitarian police state, and it would be unwise to act as if we did, unless—or until—there is a genuine assault on our rights and the country is drowning in Drumpf’s river of lies. In the meantime, I imagine writers will continue robustly to exploit the enormous American freedom that exists to write what they please, to speak out about the political situation, or to organize as they see fit.” // source

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tale of the biblioklept, from American Gods

Now that American Gods has been turned into a television series, interest in the book is once again soaring. Not that it ever really died down; it's a marvelous novel, and enjoys a substantial reputation. 

Depending on which edition you have on your shelf, you may be enjoying a slightly different experience from your fellow readers. The following scene is one of those, and is copied here from the Neil Gaiman's blog. It doesn't appear in some versions, having been cut from the text among other sections, "oddments that [Gaiman] cut out because they interrupted the flow of the story, and it was just a little leaner and worked a little better without them.

In the scene, protagonist Shadow is visiting the library in the town of Lakeside, and thinking back to a library thief he'd known, a fellow prisoner.
He had known a man in prison who had been imprisoned for stealing library books. 
“Sounds kind of rough,” said Shadow, when the man told him why he was inside. 
“Half a million dollars worth of books,” said the man, proudly. His name was Gary McGuire. “Mostly rare and antique books from libraries and universities. They found a whole storage locker filled with books from floor to ceiling. Open and shut case.” 
“Why did you take them?” asked Shadow. 
“I wanted them,” said Gary. 
“Jesus. Half a million dollars worth of books.” 
Gary flashed him a grin, lowered his voice and said, “That was just in the storage locker they found. They never found the garage in San Clemente with the really good stuff in it.” 
Gary had died in prison, when what the infirmary had told him was just a malingering, feeling-lousy kind of day turned out to be a ruptured appendix. Now, here in the Lakeside library, Shadow found himself thinking about a garage in San Clemente with box after box of rare, strange and beautiful books in it rotting away, all of them browning and wilting and being eaten by mold and insects in the darkness, waiting for someone who would never come to set them free.
On the subject of  rare, strange and beautiful books -- check out this slipcase hardcover edition of Stardust, available for the persuasive price of only $120 or so. A steal! (Don't steal books. Well, steal this book. But not this one? This is complicated.)