Continuing, and closing out my week today, with news from my corner of the publishing world. What I'd like to tell you is a very personal story, that owes its existence to the late poet, prose writer, editor, and fixture of the New York City downtown literary scene, Carol Novack. In 2004, Carol had founded one of longer existing online journals, the wacky, experimentalish, media rich Mad Hatters' Review. In 2010-2011, shortly before she retired to Asheville, North Carolina, we had worked closely on what would become Back to the USSR, a feature on 24 Contemporary Russian and Ukranian poets. That year, I left to teach at the American University of Central Asia, in Bishkek, Kyrgyztsan, just as Carol was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. I never got to say good bye. She died within three months, and left a substantial part of her estate to continue her legacy.
Since my return, I have worked with Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Marc Vincenz to fulfill this, her last wish as it were. In my first year as Acquisitions Editor of MadHat Press, my focus has been on forming partnerships with primarily online journals to co-publish their print issues, annuals, and anthologies. And the editor of the first that came to mind, Plume, happened to be looking for exactly the same thing.
Plume. Out of the gate, editor Daniel Lawless, has been publishing twelve annual, star-studded monthly issues, each with twelve contributors, a veritable Who's Who of American poetry. I am almost speechless to pay tribute to the work he has collected and published over his first few years, as it speak for itself, not to mention the scores of gushing testimonials from the poets themselves, a rare thing indeed. Danny is one of those rare editors who is genuinely beloved by "his" writers, and I do not use that word lightly.
From the get go, I was attracted to the journal's aesthetic foundations in the French prose poem, and have been fortunate over the past several years to have Daniel accept and publish my translations of poets in the Atlanta Review Russia Issue, Shamshad Abdullaev, Vadim Mesyats, Alexander Ulanov (one of a very few Russian prose poets), Amarsana Ulzytuev, as well as the late Russian Chuvash poet Gennady Aygi. I particularly appreciated his rejection note to my own poems, always a delicate thing when dealing with a past contributor (I am speaking here as an editor.) I paraphrase: "I am a poet who has nothing in particular to say, and you are a poet who has much to say but who is yet to find a way to say it."
I am preparing an interview with Daniel for publication in the Asymptote blog, in celebration of the journal's 50th issue (due mid-August; last month's issue 48 was Plume's 4th anniversary!) and then there will be more to say about its focus on translation, a fixture of every monthly issue. For now a brief roster will have to do. This was Daniel's own list of personal favorites, when I asked him to choose between his children: "Ah, Alex, you know that your work with Gennady Aygi and Alexander Ulanov is marvelous (and we have more projects on the way). Steve Bradbury’s work with Xi Chuan and Hsia Yü; Stuart Friebert's and Kuno Raeber's Karl Krolow and Sylva Fischerová; Michael Thomas Taren and Tomaž Šalamun; the wonderful collaboration of Hoyt Rogers and Paul Auster in translating André du Bouchet; Idra Novey and Flávia Rocha; Daniel Bourne’s magnificent presentation of the work of Krzysztof Kuczkowski; Lydia Davis’s obvious affiliation with the poetry of A. L. Snidjers; David Young’s take on Hölderlin; Fady Joudah’s work with Ghasssan Zaqtan; Ani Gjika and Luljeta LLeshanaku; John Taylor’s translations of Ana Minga and Lorenzo Calogero; Marilyn Hacker’s presentations of Emmanuel Moses .... So many!"
In Like Company; The Salt River Review and PORCH anthology. Editor James Cervantes had started the early legendary small press journal Porch in the Northwest. His co-editor, the poet and Spanish poetry translator Greg Simon, writes about the journal's humble beginnings: "In the Pike Street tenement Jim and his family occupied in Seattle in 1977 (each apartment had a back porch with a view of Puget Sound), management paid him to restore the floors of newly vacated rooms. That patrimony, our first and most beneficent, floated our fledgling ark. Issue No. 1 of Porch sold for $2.00, $2.25 if ordered by post."
Porch was among the first to publish numerous writers who would go on to become the luminaries of the poetry world: W. S. DiPiero, Norman Dubie, Tess Gallagher, Cynthia Hogue, Laura Jensen. Making early appearances in the Inland Boat pamphlet series by Porch Publications were Rita Dove, Wyatt Prunty, Michael Waters, Sherod Santos, and many others. (After this post appeared, James wrote to add, apropos of translations in the original Porch: Alex, in poking around the musty bookcase I came across the Spring,1980 issue of Porch that featured Mandelstam's Octets trans. by Donald Davie, Nikolay Zabolotsky trans by James Greene, Pasternak and Velemir Khlebnikov trans by Bob Perelman & Kathy Lewis, Magda Gutai & Sandor Weores trans by Nicholas Kolumban, and an essay on Mandelstam by Greg Simon.)
In 1981, Cervantes moved to Arizona, where he played a role in the founding of ASU's MFA program; a number of his former students are now faculty there! While in Arizona, Porch had a second life, a virtual incarnation, when for twelve and a half years, Cervantes published one of the first online journals, the Salt River Review (1997-2010). From my perspective, its aesthetics were closely tied to community and to the earth. Since retiring, Cervantes has lived in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (which now, by the way, has its own very lively expat American poetry community).
I ran into James when he returned to his old stomping grounds, at the 2013 AWP in Seattle. As a past contributor, I was eager to know if he'd be interested in getting the old gang back together so to speak, for a print anthology. And in very short order, he exceeded my every expectation by contacting every past contributor to solicit their new work! We had the book ready in time for the Minneapolis AWP. It is divided evenly into poetry and prose sections, and the work is truly stellar. I hope to have the chance shortly to address in detail its specific merits elsewhere. Like all three journals/anthologies featured here, a substantial part of In Like Company consists of poetry in translation. I know you would love it as much as I do.
Cardinal Points. Contributor to the Atlanta Review Russia Issue Irina Mashinski co-founded the Russian language journal Storony Sveta with the poet-prose writer Oleg Woolf. Some five years ago, they made a decision that there was a need for a separate English language journal, called of course by the English translation of the original journal's name and, as their motto says, "dedicated to the de-Stalinization of the air". The noted British translator Robert Chandler joined them as contributing editor of CP, and the wonderful young translator Boris Dralyuk has ably added his editorial assistance since Oleg Woolf's passing. (This is the same editorial team that worked together on the recently released Penguin Book of Russian Poetry).
I particularly recommend the journal's online archives for its The Art of Translation page, wherein noted translators of Russian literature write about their personal love and hate struggles with "their" authors and texts. For the past five years, the journal has also administered the annual Compass Translation Award, whose mission each year is to revive the reputation of a "neglected" 20th century Russian poet by sponsoring a contest for the translation of his or her poetry (so far Gumilev, Tsvetaeva, Maria Petrovykh, Tarkovsky, and this year, Boris Slutsky).
You can read more about the magazine's evening at Poets House in NYC dedicated to the memories of Romanian American poet Nina Cassian (one of whose last publications was in CP5) and the legendary Russian translator George Kline, with whom Irina had a close working relationship. The article's author is another Atlanta Review contributor, Larissa Shmailo, who is currently guest-editing issue 6 of the journal. Cardinal Points occupies a rare but fascinating niche, the intersection of Russian and English poetry. I hope you will take a closer look at it.
Some personal news: I am very excited to hear soon whether I’ll be part of the “Mandelstam in America” panel at next year’s LA AWP, about the history and the recent resurgence of Mandelstam translation in America that I have been fortunate to feel a part of. (A large selection is forthcoming in issue 5 of the gorgeous and brilliant Stoncutter journal ("Concert at a Train Station," "Century" and "Slate Ode"; Katie Raissian editor). On a related note: I have been holding on to these poems since last November and it was well worth the wait! Editors at World Literature Today are taking a closer look at my translations of 6 short poems by Shamshad Abdullaev, this year’s recipient of the Joseph Brodsky Fellowship. Since about the same time, I have felt myself to be sitting on an even bigger gold mine -- my nearly complete NEA project, a Collected Mikhail Eremin (Yeryomin). I am confident in my believe that what I have in my hands is one of the most important bodies of work of the second half of the twentieth century, and no one knows about it. Yet. I think I will be proved right.