After Translation

•February 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment


My review-essay on Ignacio Infante’s After Translation: The Transfer and Circulation of Modern Poetics Across the Atlantic (Fordham UP) was just published in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Here are the first three paragraphs:

EZRA POUND occupies a central place in discussions of experimental modernist translation — and rightly so. In “Translation Wounds,” poet and translator Johannes Göransson writes, “Pound used radically materialistic forms of translation such as homophonic translations or the use of deliberately exotic or archaic words. The ‘meaning’ may have been ‘lost’ but the materiality of the text is brought to life.” We can think of, for example, Pound’s translation of the Old English wrecan into “reckon” in his version of “The Seafarer.” This lineage of what Göransson calls “materialistic” or homophonic translation can be traced from Pound through Objectivist Louis Zukofsky to the language poets David Melnick and Charles Bernstein and beyond. We are, in fact, in the midst of a renaissance of experimental translations. (Göransson writes of Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, a creative translation of Georg Trakl.)

To be sure, the radical tradition of liberating the sonic from the semantic in both poetic and translational practice is an important one that has ongoing implications for contemporary experimental writing. However, the role that translation has had in 20th-century transatlantic poetics — especially if we widen our scope beyond an Anglophone focus — is extremely varied and exceeds the well-known Poundian model, which privileges the materiality of the signifier.

Ignacio Infante’s recent book After Translation: The Transfer and Circulation of Modern Poetics Across the Atlantic reminds us that

the case of Ezra Pound as a transatlantic writer whose own poetry and poetics is intrinsically connected to the experience of interlingual translation is not an exception. Many other modern transatlantic poets […] conceived their own poetic practice in part as a very serious linguistic engagement with various foreign languages and poetic traditions.

One of the great values of this study is that, in exploring such “other” poets, it gives us a richer and more detailed history of how translation has played a vital role in modern poiesis around the Atlantic, and does much to remedy what Lawrence Venuti has called the “continuing marginality” of “modernist experimentalism in translation.” In fact, Infante rejects the terms “modernist” and “modernism” altogether (in favor of “modern”). The field of Anglo-American modernism, he claims, fails to satisfactorily account for the transnational, interlingual, and transhistorical dimensions of major cosmopolitan writers who continue to get neglected within mononational and monolingual paradigms.

Congratulations to the 2014 NYFA Poetry Fellows!

•January 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Picture 1

Albert Abonado (Monroe)
Rosebud Ben-oni (Queens)
Emily Blair (Kings)
Charity Coleman (New York)
John Coletti (Kings)
Corina Copp (Kings)
Amanda K. Davidson (New York)
BC Edwards (Kings)
Simone Kearney (New York)
Dawn Martin (Suffolk)
Rachel McKibbens (Monroe)
Judah Rubin (Queens)
Beth Steidle (Kings)
Stacy Szymaszek (Kings)
Vincent Toro (Bronx)
Karen Weiser (New York)
Matvei Yankelevich (Kings)

Cynthia Manick (Kings)
Idrissa Simmonds (Kings)
Michael Leong (New York)

Jose Perez Beduya (Tompkins)
Nathaniel Otting (Kings)
Marc Straus (New York)
Ellen Graf (Rensselaer)
Tonya Foster (Kings)


“Work itself is given a voice”: Labor, Deskilling, and Archival Capability in the Poetry of Kenneth Goldsmith and Mark Nowak

•January 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment


My article “‘Work itself is given a voice': Labor, Deskilling, and Archival Capability in the Poetry of Kenneth Goldsmith and Mark Nowak” has just been published in Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture Vol. 14, No. 4.

Here’s an excerpt from my second paragraph:

…I will analyze and put into critical dialogue the long poems of two very different writers, one associated with conceptual poetry (and the championing of what he calls “uncreative writing”) and one associated with, however reductively, investigative or documentary poetry (and the championing of labor rights): Kenneth Goldsmith and Mark Nowak. Goldsmith is best known for his massive transcription projects such as Traffic (2007), a word-for-word transcription of traffic reports over the course of a day, or the forbiddingly long book Day (2003), an 836-paged transcription-it must surely be one of the longest poems so far in the new century-of an entire issue of the New York Times (Goldsmith transcribed all available text in the paper from photo captions to advertisements). Day was, importantly, “written” against Truman Capote’s famous quip about Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: “That’s not writing. That’s typing” [2]. Nowak, on the other hand, is best known for documenting working-class experiences in books such as Revenants (2000), which explores Polish communities in Western New York, and Shut Up Shut Down (2007), which details the hardships and complexities of the labor movement along a deindustrialized rust belt. Both Revenants and Shut Up Shut Down are collections of long, serial poems that, while immensely shorter than Goldsmith’s conceptual projects, nevertheless present length as an indicator of sustained socio-cultural ambition. In reviewing (favorably) Nowak’s most recent book Coal Mountain Elementary (2009), a collocation of found texts about the global coal mining industry, Maurice Manning begins by acknowledging the extreme uncertainties regarding evaluation, genre, and authorship I mentioned above: “To call Mark Nowak’s haunting new book a collection of poetry would be a bit of a misnomer. It would also be misleading to say Nowak is its author.” This would seem to put Nowak firmly into Goldsmithian territory; the trajectory from Revenants to Coal Mountain Elementary certainly suggests a clear turn away from the recognizably poetic toward an aesthetic of extended citation or copying. Nevertheless, on the level of theme or content, the difference between the two writers seems glaring. On the surface, it looks like we have, on the one hand, a poet who radically re-conceptualizes the labor that a poet can and ought to do through a fastidious engagement with ambient, everyday textualities (newspapers, traffic reports, etc.), and, on the other, a poet who explicitly thematizes labor and worker’s rights as fundamental and pressing concerns. In short, it appears that we have two poets interested in labor but one whose interest is primarily technical (as it relates to poetry’s method) and one whose interest is primarily thematic or content-based. But such an understanding, while tempting, would be naively incomplete.

Announcing Finalists for the Drunken Boat Poetry Book Contest

•December 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

From the Drunken Boat website…

Drunken Boat would like to announce the completion of our 2014 Poetry Contest. A big thank you goes out to all the poets who participated, making this event the huge success that it was.

As you can imagine, we received hundreds of entries and the competition was impressive to say the least. Each entry received the intimate attention it deserved, having been read by no less than two discerning readers. Our competition judge Forrest Gander considered this role as both a great privilege and responsibility. Our winner will be announced soon!

The winning manuscript will be launched in 2015 at AWP with a special DB-hosted reading at Honey in Minneapolis. Excerpts from finalist manuscripts will be published in an upcoming DB folio.

Finalists are as follows:

Words on Edge by Michael Leong
If You Love Error So Love Zero by Stephanie Anderson
Nine Dragon Island by Eleanor Goodman
Alias Irene by Elisabeth Murawski
Hospital Series by Diana Thow
My Hypertropes: Twenty-One Minus One Programmed Poems in Translation and Transversion by Amaranth Borsuk
A Skin, Tendered by Haley Larson
The Ground I Stand On Is Not My Ground by Collier Nogues
My Cage Is the Size of the World: Selected Poems by Catherine Hammond
[It] Incandescent by Amy Pence
KAFKA, OUR ANIMAL by Meredith Stricker.

Thank you for supporting Drunken Boat and for demanding that we toe the line by publishing the very best in American letters. We hope to hear from you all again in the future. For those contest entrants who purchased one of our books, we are currently at work processing orders.

Congrats again to our finalists, and thank you to everyone who supported this contest!

Chapbooks at Naissance

•December 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My chapbook The Hoax of Contagion (2010) is in the spotlight at Naissance this week, which means it will be free with the purchase of another Naissance title.


There are some strange and interesting chapbooks in Naissance’s catalog: I’d suggest Steve Giasson’s Psychosis, a conceptual work which is comprised of “all of the comments to a YouTube posting of the classic shower scene from Hitchcock’s Psycho.” Here’s an excerpt:

kthevsd Lame movies ? Kid I like all movies, old films, new films, etc. How is this classic lame ? Have you even ever watched it ? What would some 16 year old teenybopper know about cinema ? You probably have never even heard of Kurosawa and I bet you have never even seen a Daniel Day Lewis or Meryl Streep movie in your life. No wonder everyone laughs at your generations taste in films. 4 days ago markymark93 actually i have seen this movie, and i have seen movies with daniel day lewis AND meryl streep… i wouldnt be so quick to judge. how can you say you “like new films” if you’ve been bashing my generation’s movies the whole time? 3 days ago kthevsd @markymark93 If you have seen it than how can you find it lame ? It’s an iconic movie. A masterpiece. Everyone bashes the movies of today, some are good(Scorsese movies) but most are mindless(like transformers). If you understand cinema you have to admit the quality of films had drastically gone down. 3 days ago XxINCHAINSxX @markymark93 And whos obsessing over their opinion on youtube? Hmmm…

I would also recommend Roman Holiday, a sequence of prose poems by Eileen R. Tabios:

from Synopsis #7

It transcends the feminine gesture. [Consolation defined as the bat never reappeared]. She totters on ice despite thick ankles. [By his face, one can tell he’s about to deliver the boot.] He has a gaze like a mirror. [There is nothing like an infant tugging on a daddy’s white whiskers.] “Sulpicia, a Roman woman writer, wrote elegies in Latin that had been attributed to Tibullus.” [Whatever. True love is never chaste.]

from Slavoj Žižek’s Event: Philosophy in Transit (Penguin, 2014)

•December 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

…what is the mere madness caused by the loss of reason compared to the madness of reason itself?

This reminds me of an aphorism by Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro: “Sólo un loco sabe distinguir dónde termina la razón y pricipia la locura.”

Reading w/ Margaret Chapman and John Lowther @ So and So Books, 704 N. Person ST, Raleigh, 12/13, 8pm

•November 24, 2014 • Leave a Comment

so and so

Margaret Patton Chapman is the author of the novella-in-flash Bell and Bargain, published by Rose Metal Press in 2014 as part of the collection My Very End of the Universe. Her very short fiction has appeared in Wigleaf, The Collagist, Diagram, and the anthology The Way We Sleep, among others. She received her MFA from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, and taught fiction at The Iowa Summer Writers’ Festival and as a Visiting Professor at Indiana University South Bend. She is prose editor for decomP magazine, and lives in Durham, NC. You can find more of her work at

Michael Leong’s most recent book of poetry is Cutting Time with a Knife (Black Square Editions, 2012). His chapbook Fruits and Flowers and Animals and Seas and Lands Do Open will be published in 2015 by the Burnside Review Press. He currently teaches in the low res B.F.A. Program at Goddard College and will join the English Department at The University at Albany, SUNY as an Assistant Professor in August.

John Lowther’s work appears in the anthologies, The Lattice Inside (UNO Press, 2012) and Another South: Experimental Writing in the South (U of Alabama, 2003). Held to the Letter, co-authored with Dana Lisa Young is forthcoming from Lavender Ink. John works in video, photography, paint and performance. He’s writing a dissertation to reimagine psychoanalysis as grounded in the lives of intersex and transgender people so as to broaden our appreciation of subjective possibility.


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