Monday, July 25, 2005

Said goodbye to Jasper Bernes on Friday: he's bound to Berkeley this week where he'll be joining his partner and child and starting as a PhD student this fall. Ithaca wishes you well, Jasper, and we'll miss you.

Might have guessed I'd get into trouble tossing the word "duende" around like that. For the record, I recognize that it's a term specific to Lorca and his essay on cante jondo or "deep song." I was just trying to get across an admittedly superficial reaction to much of the Spanish-language poetry I've encountered in translation, which I'm positive is the merest sliver of what's actually out there. What I was trying to convey was my sense of what the people who I see gravitating to Neruda again and again when I'm manning my post at the register near the poetry section are looking for: a poetry of authentic "deepness," a key to unlock some ill-understood notion of soul. The Neruda of Twenty Loves Poems and a Song of Despair, most usually; that book seems to stand in many people's imaginations for poetry itself and its (minor) role as gateway to an inner, private life. Though to be fair some of them probably want to use the book to get laid—to my mind a nobler or at least more traditional role for poetry. Damn few folks ever come in looking for The Heights of Macchu Picchu or Canto Generale, that's for sure. Anyway, my point wasn't really to talk about Spanish-language poetry; it was to demonstrate how difficult it is to read poems that don't come embedded in some sort of legible context, whether that be provided by a scholarly/editorial apparatus or by the reader's own knowledge. But I will take the advice offered by both Guillermo and Tony and seek out Clayton Eshleman's translation of Vallejo's Trilce. Eshleman has some translations from The Black Heralds in the latest New American Writing and I could see at a glance that they were superior to the Seiferle translation that have. There's a sample here, "Fresco," that builds to one hell of a last line.

Ordering some new books for the shelves from the SPD catalog, including many titles bound to pop up in Steve Evans' "Attention Span 2005" project: new books by Aaron Kunin, Stephanie Young, Bernadette Mayer, etc. It's hard to get excited about contributing my own constellation of eleven books because I feel like I've already discussed most of my enthusiasms here on the blog; do people need to hear me going on again about This Connection of Everyone with Lungs or The Joyous Age? Making lists of any sort has never been my favorite activity: it's an anxious-making exercise in limitation generation. Though I will read others' lists with enthusiasm, this year, at least, I decline to make one of my own.

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