Contributors to NER’s “Focus on Germany” issue gather in Berlin for a drink and conversation, and to pick up a few extra copies of the new issue. Photos by Joseph Pearson and Ellen Hinsey (not pictured). At Hackbarth’s in Mitte, October 26, 2016.
This past week we lost two beloved poets, Brigit Pegeen Kelly (b. 1951) and Lucia Perillo (b. 1958). Over the decades both these writers have come to mean a lot to us at NER. Brigit Kelly’s poetry appeared in our pages frequently, as early as 1986 and as recently as 2014. Lucia Perillo’s most recent contribution was the title poem from her new collection, Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones, just last year. We also published her fiction and poetry beginning in 1997.
We’d like to acknowledge their enormous influence and inspiration with these poems.
“The Dragon” (35.3) by Brigit Pegeen Kelly, was first published in NER in 2002 and then reprinted in C. Dale Young’s last issue as poetry editor.
“Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones,” by Lucia Perillo, from NER 36.3.
The book is out! In this season of Best Americans, we’re happy to say that two poems published in our pages during 2015 appear in Best American Poetry 2016, guest edited by Edward Hirsch with series editor David Lehman.
We’re also pleased to note that our poetry editor Rick Barot also has a poem in that anthology: “Whitman, 1841,” originally published in Waxwing.
As Edward Hirsch says in his introduction, “In our era, poetry has been radically wrenched and questioned, reframed, reformed, hybridized, ecologized, politicized, erased—its difficulties are notorious—and yet it continues to speak from the margins, to move and tell stories, to disturb and console us. It engages our interior lives, social experiences, planetary woes.”
Congratulations to Jill Sisson Quinn, whose essay “Big Night” (NER 36.1) was selected by Jonathan Franzen and Robert Atwan for Best American Essays 2016!
We’re also thrilled to see “Permutations of X” (35.4) by Kelly Grey Carlisle and “I’m Searching for a Home for Unwed Girls” (36.3) by Ursula Hegi listed among the “Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2015.”
As Franzen says in his introduction, “Writing or reading an essay isn’t the only way to stop and ask yourself who you really are and what your life might mean, but it is one good way.” Read on.
Congratulations to Sharon Solwitz, whose story “Gifted” (NER 36.2) was selected by Junot Díaz and Heidi Pitlor for Best American Short Stories 2016!
We’re also thrilled to see a handful of others recognized as “Other Distinguished Stories.”
Rav Grewal-Kök, “The Bolivian Navy” (36.4)
Mateal Lovaas Ishihara, “Crossing Harvard Yard” (36.4)
Carla Panciera, “The Kind of People Who Look at Art” (36.2)
Michael X. Wang, “Further News of the Defeat” (36.2)
As Díaz says in his introduction, a passionate fan letter to the short story itself, “I am as much in awe of the form’s surpassing beauty as I am bowled over by its extraordinary mutability and generativity… the short story’s colossal power extends from its brevity and restraint.” Indeed.
New England Review’s Vermont Reading Series is pleased to present a stunning array of accomplished writers: Jensen Beach and Eugene Mirabelli in fiction, poet Elizabeth Powell, and student translator Bernardo Andrade, representing Middlebury’s Translingual magazine. They will all read from their recent work at 51 Main at the Bridge in Middlebury, VT, on Monday, October 24, 7 pm.
This reading is co-sponsored by the Vermont Book Shop and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Light refreshments will be served, and books, cocktails, and other beverages will be available to purchase. The event is free and open to the public.
Bernardo Andrade will read from his translation of a conversation with Brazilian essayist Olavo de Carvalho, which he published in the Middlebury College student magazine of literary translation, Translingual. A Philosophy major from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Andrade speaks English, Russian, and Latin, as well as his native Portuguese.
Jensen Beach is the author of two collections of short fiction, most recently Swallowed by the Cold, published this year by Graywolf Press. His stories have appeared in A Public Space, Paris Review, and The New Yorker. He teaches at Johnson State College, where he is fiction editor at Green Mountains Review. He lives in Jericho with his family.
Eugene Mirabelli, now eighty-five, is the author of nine novels. His first was published in the middle of the last century and his most recent, Renato After Alba, comes out this fall from McPherson & Company. Mirabelli’s short stories have been translated into Czech, French, Hebrew, Russian, Sicilian, and Turkish, and for years he wrote on politics, society, and culture for an alternative newsweekly. He was a co-founder of Alternative Literary Programs, a nonprofit group that brought poets, storytellers, and fiction writers into secondary school classrooms. He is a professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Albany.
Elizabeth A. I. Powell is the author of The Republic of Self, a New Issue First Book Prize winner. Her second book, Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter: Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances, won the Robert Dana Prize in poetry and was published this year by Anhinga Press. She has received Pushcart Prize, a Vermont Council on the Arts grants, and a Yaddo fellowship, and her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ecotone, Harvard Review, and elsewhere. She is Editor of Green Mountains Review, and Associate Professor of Writing and Literature at Johnson State College. Born in New York City, she has lived in Vermont since 1989 with her four children.
The longlist for the 2016 National Book Award in Poetry includes four NER poets: Rita Dove, who appeared in our pages as early as 1984, and Jane Mead, who will make her first NER appearance in 37.3, out later this month. Also on the longlist are Kevin Young (28.4) and Monica Youn (most recently 37.1). Congratulations to all the poets on the NBA list this year!
Daniel Borzutzky, “The Performance of Becoming Human”
Brooklyn Arts Press
Rita Dove, “Collected Poems 1974–2004”
W. W. Norton & Company
Peter Gizzi, “Archeophonics”
Wesleyan University Press
Donald Hall, “The Selected Poems of Donald Hall”
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Jay Hopler, “The Abridged History of Rainfall”
Donika Kelly, “Bestiary”
Jean Mead, “World of Made and Unmade”
Alice James Books
Solmaz Sharif, “Look”
Monica Youn, “Blackacre”
Kevin Young, “Blue Laws”
Alfred A. Knopf
National Book Awards finalists will be announced on October 13th, and winners will be announced at a ceremony in New York on November 16th.
New England Review is pleased to present, along with partners in the departments of Chinese and Literary Studies, the amazingly accomplished and versatile poet, translator, and zheng harpist Fiona Sze-Lorrain. She’ll read from and discuss her new collection of poetry, The Ruined Elegance, and her translations of Chinese poetry, in particular Sea Summit, the new collection by Yi Lu. We first met Fiona through her translations of Yin Lichuan, which we published in 36.2.
Doors open at 7 for reception with light refreshments; the reading begins at 7:30. Books, cocktails, and other beverages will be available to purchase. The event is free and open to the public. Please join us at 51 Main at the Bridge, in Middlebury!
Fiona Sze-Lorrain’s latest poetry collection, The Ruined Elegance (Princeton University Press, 2015), was named by Library Journal as one of its “Best Books 2015: Poetry” and was a finalist for the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Sea Summit (Milkweed Editions, 2015), her book of translations by the Chinese poet Yi Lu was shortlisted for the 2016 Best Translated Book Award. Sze-Lorrain works in English, French, and Chinese, and serves as an editor at Vif Éditions, an independent press in Paris. She is also an accomplished zheng harpist.
Sponsored by the Greenberg-Starr Department of Chinese Language and Literature, New England Review, and the Program in Literary Studies at Middlebury College.
Ian Ganassi’s new translation of the Aeneid, Book 7, appears in the current issue of NER (37.2), and editor Carolyn Kuebler caught up with him recently to talk about his project of translating the great Latin epic. Ian’s translations of books 1–6 of the Aeneid have appeared previously in NER, and his poems have appeared in New American Writing, Yale Review, and other journals. His poetry collection Mean Numbers is forthcoming from China Grove Press later in 2016.
In addition to writing and translating, Ian also collaborates with painter Laura Bell on a series of collages they call “The Corpses,” which they have been working on since 2005. We’ve included two here: “Grandma’s Ancient Wine” (below) is a cut-up that Laura made based on a page of Ian’s rough draft of one of the books of the Aeneid. “Real People” (at left) takes off from the Laocoön story from Book 2. Just click the images to see them in detail.
CK: You mentioned that your fascination with antiquity dates back to childhood, to the stories of the gods and heroes, and that your unconventional undergraduate program led you to studying Latin. Why did you decide to translate the Aeneid, which strikes me as a particularly ambitious (and not exactly lucrative) undertaking?
IG: Translating, at least for me, is the best possible way to read the poem. I know the books I’ve translated much better than I would had I simply read them in translation. Also, since I write mostly lyric poetry, the translation is an enjoyable way to be involved in narrative.
I find Virgil particularly interesting because in many ways he is more like an author in the modern sense than Homer is, for instance. The Aeneid is original to Virgil in a way that more traditional epic can’t be to its authors/compilers. In that sense, the Aeneid is the first literary epic. Its frame of reference is vast, and the writing is beautiful, both of which attest to Virgil’s genius. He makes much of the traditional material he uses his own, either by the power of his poetry and/or by changing, and improvising with, the many stories and characters that are his source material. He also introduces stories and characters that are his own creations.
The poem has an almost novelistic feel, in that it works on several different levels of discourse. It is a political act—a study of the relationship of individuals to society and a consciously created myth of the origins of the Roman Empire. But it is also a study in individual human psychology and emotion. Aeneas is an exceptional man called to a divine mission. A constant tension in the poem is the extent to which a human being can transcend the weaknesses of his or her constitution in order to fulfill a role that approaches being super-human. As a man (or strictly speaking, as a hero, since his mother is a Goddess) and as a warrior Aeneas is constantly torn between his duty to the gods—his role as the creator of a new Troy—versus the complications and weaknesses of his own humanity and his personal psychology.
I feel I should also say that I am a very slow reader of Latin. It doesn’t come easily to me; I can’t “sight read” it, for instance. But I feel that the fact that I have to work hard to get the Latin right also helps me to get to know the text more intimately.
CK: It seems to me that Latin doesn’t have much place outside of educational institutions, and yet you’re not a professor or scholar of Latin. How did you go about learning the language, and then continue to pursue it outside of the university setting?
IG: I studied Latin for two years in high school and enjoyed it, so when it came to fulfilling a language requirement in college, Latin seemed a natural choice. I took first year Latin at SUNY Purchase and then continued studying privately with the same professor—R.M. Stein, with whom I also became friends, and to whom the translation is dedicated. I studied with him for an additional year to fulfill the language requirement. Since he knew I was a poet, and he appreciated contemporary poetry himself, he thought the best approach would be to read through the Classical Roman poets. We read primarily in Catullus, Ovid, and Martial.
After completing the language requirement and getting my BA I found that I had become “addicted” to reading Latin and I proposed to Bob that we continue our tutorial. At this point he thought it would be a good challenge to tackle Virgil. I found the idea of reading a great epic exciting. We spent about four additional years and read the first three books of the poem fairly intensively. We then read selections from several of the other books (though mainly we stuck with the first half of the poem). My goal in all this was not initially to translate the poem, but rather to use the discipline of reading Latin as a way of enriching my own poetry, and as a way of reading one of the great works of the Western canon.
Then in the late 1990s I decided, on a whim, to try my hand at a translation of Book II, Lines 668–804, a passage that had always fascinated me. I sent it to a few magazines, including NER. I was lucky in that Stephen Donadio, the editor at the time, found it interesting enough to publish. Stephen’s acceptance encouraged me to translate more selected passages and to put more energy into them and make them truer (in every sense of that word) to the original. It was only subsequent to publishing a couple more excerpts in NER that I decided to try a whole book, and started with Book 2. This was a big challenge, and helped me to develop a more realistic and accurate approach to the poem. Since then I have translated the entire first half of the poem (though not in numerical order), and have published all six books in NER. I feel extremely fortunate to have done so.
CK: Do you plan to finish translating the epic in its entirety?
IG: I’m keeping an open mind. One thing I do know for certain is that I want to keep translating the poem. Since there are six more books, and it takes me a year or two to translate one, it could be quite a while before I finish a version of the whole poem (though I could probably do it faster if I had some sort of external incentive). I am mainly translating the poem for pleasure, for its positive impact on my own work, as an ideal way of reading the poem, and for the satisfaction of publishing in magazines, when and as that happens.
CK: What other translations of the Aeneid have you read, and how do you think yours is different?
IG: I have read the major recent translations of the Aeneid (Fagles, Fitzgerald, and Mandelbaum) and while translating I often refer to those translations, as well as to a literal prose translation (Fairclough) to see how other translators have handled passages that give me difficulties, or simply to see how another translator approaches a particular passage. Translation is obviously an approximate practice. In fact I would say that translation, on the most fundamental level, is an impossibility. No language can be expressed in the terms of another language. They are not equivalent. The most successful translation is one that best balances the technical demands of the language being translated with the attempt to create an effective approximation of the spirit of the original in the language of the translation. Of course my translation is as different from any of these others as their translations are different from each other. However, if I had to articulate distinctions I would say that mine is a bit more American, a bit less ornate, and probably a bit less accurate from a scholarly point of view.
CK: Do you have a favorite passage in Book 7?
IG: The book is full of great passages, but I think my favorite is lines 406 ff (in the original), in which Alecto, one of the Furies, whom Juno (Aeneas’s divine nemesis) has brought up from the underworld to stir up war, disguises herself as an old and trusted priestess of the temple of Juno, and appears to Turnus in a dream. She tells him that the Trojans have arrived and are a threat to Latium. In the dream, Turnus scoffs at the old woman and says she is senile and stirring up trouble. He tells her that, especially as a female, she should mind her own business (tending to the temple), in part because it is the men who must do the fighting if there is a threat. This enrages Alecto and she drops her disguise and appears as her true self—her wild face alive with horrid snakes. She screams at Turnus, pushes him, and snaps her whip. Turnus is terrified and shaken out of his complacency, startled into a more warlike mood.
In general Virgil’s depiction of Alecto is, for me, a highlight of his writing in the book, and shows that although the latter six books of the epic are less finished, Virgil’s writing in them retains much of its power.
We are delighted to announce that the 2017 Pushcart Prize anthology—Pushcart Prize XLI—will include three stories from New England Review: “The Devil’s Triangle” by Emma Duffy-Comperone, “Forty-Two” by Lisa Taddeo, and “I Sing You for an Apple” by Eric Wilson.
New Stories from the Midwest 2015, to be published by New American Press, will include “Three Marriages” by Emily Mitchell among its 25 selected stories. Plus, listed among the anthology’s “Distinguished Stories” are “Sloth” by Charlie Baxter, The Couplehood Jubilee” by Christine Sneed, and “Clear Conscience” by Christine Sneed.
Look for both anthologies in fall 2016.