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“Translation can’t be done; it’s the impossible
language,” said poet W.S. Merwin in an interview
in the February 2015 issue of The Writer’s
Chronicle. Merwin, who has translated many
volumes of poetry himself, went on quote Auden
on translating from a language you don’t know.
“This is the best way of doing it, because if
you know the original, it just confuses you,” he
said. “It’s much better to have it at several
The stones speak to the sculptor, each
A Little Horn Tooting
A few of my poems have been published recently:
• “What It’s Like When You Escape,”
Ticket, Winter/Spring 2015. Try to
ignore the photo of the author …
And watch for one more: “Mackerel Sky,” The Northern Virginia Review, vol. 29, spring 2015, forthcoming.
Protest Poetry II
A little while ago I quoted NPR critic Juan Vidal’s call for protest poetry. “We need our poets now more than ever,” he said. Canadian poet Kevin Taylor, author of Between Music and Dance, stepped up to the plate and sent us this reminiscence:
This poem was written 15 or 20 years ago. At that time Vancouver was passing bylaws to restrict street artists, an oppressive move. Today there are few buskers left, many were forced to beg instead. I took this poem down to the art gallery, to the old courthouse steps, where a protest rally had formed, and I read it with a bullhorn in hand.—Kevin Taylor
Members of the Jury—
It was a drive-by versing
In and Out
and I meet each month at a friendly bagel shop
to read and critique each other’s poems. I’ve
noticed that frequently, all our poems really
need is judicious pruning—deleting those extra
words (and even lines) that elaborate rather
than illuminate. Sometimes, too, the critique
boils down to a simpler, more direct way to say
Are You a Walt or an Emily?
A class I’m taking is reading Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, two very different 19th-century American poets who, each in his own way, transformed American poetry—Dickinson with her reclusive, particularist rhymed verse, and Whitman with his loose, expansive, universalist lines. Many contemporary American poets fall into one camp or the other, the lyric or the bardic. Am I an Emily or a Walt? More likely neither, but here, for the sake of argument, is a little poem of mine inspired by Emily’s line “In the name of the bee.”
Why I Do Not Trim My Mint
In the herb garden the mint slants
Galway Kinnell, 1927-2014
With the death of Galway Kinnell in late October, America lost one of its premier poets. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, among other distinctions, Kinnell blended the political and the philosophical in his work, which was often compared to that of Walt Whitman. In a 1985 speech, he recalled having been a silent child who felt isolated from others. “Gradually I felt that if I was ever going to have a happy life,” he said, “it was going to have to do with poetry.” That kind of happiness can be a quietly private thing, as suggested by the closing lines from Kinnell’s 2006 poem “Why Regret?”
Doesn’t it outdo the pleasures of the brilliant concert
What Are You Writing?
Why should we get all the bylines? Submit your latest poem—just one for now—and we’ll publish the poems we like best in an upcoming blog post. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but please let us know if the poem is accepted or published elsewhere. Send your poem, plus a few lines about yourself, in the body of an e-mail message to: