Thursday, February 19, 2009

Louisiana Literature

Three of my poems appear in the latest issue of Louisiana Literature (Fall/Winter 2008). To date, this is one of the best experiences I've had in publishing: I brought home my contributor's copies last night, and gave one to my dad. All of these poems were either directly or indirectly influenced by him, so I was interested to see if he'd respond any differently than his usual, "Oh, that's nice." The great treat was getting to hear him read, somewhat under his breath, the poem "The Future of the White-Tailed Deer." The speaker in this poem is modeled after him. The line breaks and stanza breaks all sounded good in his voice, and he corrected the poem's grammar where I had intentionally broken a rule, thinking it suited the voice; he read the word "carefully" where the text read "careful." Without knowing it, my dad workshopped one of my poems.

He was also mighty proud of my retelling of one of his stories, "Wild Heart." One day he was wading in the Tangipahoa River, which runs through a piece of our land, and caught a rabbit that had fallen into the river with his bare hands. I've been sweating through drafts of that poem for years. The best reward was hearing my dad say that my poem was "about how it happened." He thanked me.

Mom was asleep last night when I brought home the magazine. I saw her this morning before she left for work. She told me these were the best things I had ever written. I doubt I'll ever get as good, or rewarding, a review.

I was thrilled to see I'm sharing pages with many fine writers in this issue, among them Diana Der-Hovanessian. She co-translated, with Marzbed Margossian, Sacred Wrath: the selected poems of Vahan Tekeyan, an Armenian poet, "one of the few major writers to survive the holocaust of the Armenians in Turkey." I found my copy in the old McIntyre and Moore bookstore in Somerville, MA (in Davis Square. The store has since moved to Porter Square, Cambridge). Sacred Wrath was published by Ashod Press in 1982. A quick Amazon search yielded three copies, each for $99+. I bought mine for $9.00... regardless, if you happen to run across this title at a reasonable price, grab it up. Tekeyan remains one of my favorite personal discoveries, mostly for the title poem, "Sacred Wrath." Here are some lines from the translation:

Indignant, just, ancient saints rebelled
crying: Enough of kissing the executioner's hand.
It is our turn to execute.

Another of my poems, "Good Grief," appears in the March 2009 issue of First Things. I share those pages with fellow poets Rachel Hadas, A.E. Stallings, Paul Lake, and A.M. Juster. Also noteworthy in this issue, Joseph Bottum reviews the Burton Raffel translation of The Canterbury Tales. I'm not so sure the Tales need to be "translated," but apparently it's a money maker if anything in publishing ever is, because you see about as many new translations of Chaucer as Dante these days. I've read mixed reviews of Raffel's other translations. The only one I can vouch for is his Don Quijote, the translation I used in college. I can't compare it to the original, nor have I investigated other English translations, but I can highly recommend Raffel's. When I finally return to La Mancha, I plan to do so through another translation or, even better, the original Spanish. First I have to learn Portuguese. A week from today, I will be in Brazil.

Stay tuned, kids. The real fun's about to start.

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