Nota Benes, March 2018
Guido Maria Brera & Edoardo Nesi
Everything Is Broken Up and Dances
Trans. Antony Shugaar
Brera, an investment banker, and Nesi, a former business owner turned novelist and politician, deliver this heart-rending ground-level view of the dismantling of Italy’s economy in the 2000s under the unrelenting wheel of globalization. Fueled by alternating narratives from the two writers, Everything Is Broken Up and Dances pulls no punches in dissecting the misery represented in the difference between what was promised and what actually transpired.
Out at the Bright Edge
Caroline Clark’s first solo collection looks to animate the Welsh county of Ceredigion, a land of myth and spirit that once stood at the “bright edge” of Roman reach. These poems teeter on that edge, slipping sometimes indiscernibly between epochs as they roam the map between the two rivers that bound the land, weaving ancient places into new tapestries of memory.
Bondo is the latest collection from the Welsh-language poet Menna Elfyn, whose work is beautifully captured here in the original Welsh and in English translation. Just as the poems are suspended between languages, the tales and lyric flights in this book convey a state of complex emotion. The title poem, which takes its name from the Welsh word for “eaves,” is a psalm of sheltering and venturing out—for “home, we know, is where / we leave from.”
Taking its inspiration from an identically titled tome by a fourteenth-century mystic, Steve Ely’s Incendium Amoris summons, mimics, and updates the manuscripts of an earlier England. Five uniquely styled sections dredge up the mud of gruesome miracles, commemorate names and places long-since altered, or drop biting insights on modern culture, all with a marvelous and even playful attention to language and sound.
Nobody Checks the Time When They’re Happy
Trans. Amber Kim
White Pine Press
This collection of short stories from Eun Heekyung catches slices of the lives of different South Korean protagonists, many of whom we come to know in wonderful first-person detail. As the name of the title story hints, Nobody Checks the Time When They’re Happy is reflective, beautiful, and often sad, attentive to the smallest of intimate moments and immune to tidy resolution.
Holy Jester! The Saint Francis Fables
Trans. Mario Pirovano
In this translation from the Italian, Dario Fo takes the historical figure of Saint Francis and builds around him a set of fables that decry the evils of greed and corruption. With a sharp wit and a handle on hilarity, Dario Fo’s stories and illustrations bring to life the man who would become known as “God’s Jester.”
A Tree Whose Name I Don’t Know
Trans. Stephen Watts & Golan Haji
A Midsummer Night’s Press
The first book from Paris-based Syrian poet Golan Haji to be published in English, this passionate translation renders mythic and scenic explorations in a rolling pitch of short, sharp spurts and restlessly dreamlike vignettes. Haji’s hypnotic verse and lyric prose poems evoke the power of words and of wordless communion to carry us into grief, loneliness, and healing pain, tempering its fablelike tenor with an unflagging elusiveness.
Shadab Zeest Hashmi
Ghazal Cosmopolitan: The Culture and Craft of the Ghazal
Shadab Zeest Hashmi’s work is an in-depth analysis of the contemporary iteration of the ghazal form of poetry (see WLT, May 2017, 22–26). With clear, passionate writing that blends together poetics, scholarship, and literary criticism, Hashmi delves into the culture of the ghazal and the unique craft behind the form as well.
A House in Norway
Trans. Charlotte Barslund
Alma is a textile artist in Norway who prides herself on being an open-minded, progressive person, but when a Polish family moves into her apartment around the same time that she receives an important project, she finds these conscious perceptions of herself clashing with her unconscious assumptions. With sparse, straightforward prose, Vigdis Hjorth explores conceptions of liberal tolerance and our personal identities.
In Person: World Poets
Ed. Pamela Robertson-Pearce & Neil Astley
An expansive sequel to the first ever DVD anthology, published by Bloodaxe in 2009, this volume continues the project on an international scale. These fifty-nine poets give intimate, informal readings of their work, allowing readers to focus on the intended sound and intonation behind the verse as they follow these carefully chosen poems in the text.
Trans. Antony Shugaar
When the daughter of one of the foremost real estate families in the region is found dead, her death is ruled a suicide but her brother is skeptical. He begins his own investigation into her death and, in the process, uncovers his own family’s dark history. Italian author Nicola Lagioia’s novel is filled with suspense and intense dedication to the psychological states of the characters.
Trans. Emily Gogolak
Haitian author Yanick Lahens’s novel Moonbath is a family saga that spans four generations of feuds, hardship, and political turmoil, all traced back by Cétoute to explain how she was discovered injured and washed ashore. At once grand and intensely personal in scope, Moonbath is the history of a country told through Cétoute’s family.
Trans. Suzanne Jill Levine
University of Chicago Press
The narrator of Uselessness has longed to leave his home in Puerto Rico for a life in Paris, but when he finally finds himself among the buzzing streets, he realizes that he will always be an outsider. In this love story between a man and a city translated from the Spanish, Eduardo Lalo draws on his own time as a student in Paris to create a novel filled with the quiet, burning desire to belong.
Joseph O. Legaspi
Threshold is a manifesto of love and self-embrace “in primal ways,” “in infinite forms.” The second full collection from Joseph O. Legaspi, these poems exude a feeling of incipient wholeness that finds its genesis in the gentle estuary where familial and romantic love speak to each other. From its opening “Revelation” to its closing “Vows,” Threshold takes the measure of masculinity, femininity, and the tightrope in between, packing its pages with hidden significance.
S. J. Litherland
Composition in White
Reflecting back over eighty years of life in England, S. J. Litherland revisits the places and events that have shaped the world as she has known it, from the Bolshevik Revolution and wartime air raids to games of cricket. In even, measured verse, Composition in White gathers up all the worlds that a life contains, examining in the end a future as well as a past.
Twilight in Jakarta
Trans. Claire Holt & John H. McGlynn
Banned in Indonesia until 1970 due to its political critiques, Twilight in Jakarta is the story of the corruption and turmoil leading up to a national election in Jakarta. Over half a century later, Lubis’s condemnations and observations are just as relevant and insightful in this unsentimental and honest story of a nation.
Ana Martins Marques
Trans. Elisa Wouk Almino
Faucet, fruit bowl, lantern, and clothesline undergo a reexamination in this colorful selection of poems from Brazilian author Ana Martins Marques’s three previous books. Brightened by intermittent illustrations, these poems invite readers into their own world. This House is a book driven by translation, personal in English and Portuguese alike and ready to take on new hues with each reading.
A teenage girl disappears from a small English village, and although the town commits itself to searching for her, food has to be put on the table. Jon McGregor’s meticulous writing explores the light and shadows of every nook and cranny within this village as the story follows thirteen years of the village’s comings and goings.
Luis de Miranda
Who Killed the Poet?
Trans. Tina Kover
Upon the death of his poet twin brother, a man finds himself pursuing his brother’s love across the continent in a search for answers, and, in the process, pieces of the past are dug up and brought to light. Translated from the French, Who Killed the Poet? is a journey equal parts introspective and thrilling.
The Prague Sonata
Atlantic Monthly Press
Meta Taverner is given an old sonata manuscript and charged with finding the original owner. On her journey to find the rest of the manuscript, Meta ends up contesting for this piece of cultural history with other powers vying for the sonata. The Prague Sonata is grand and elegant with the notes of history and war that underscore the entire story.
Trans. Benjamin Koerber
Ill. Ayman Al Zorkany
Center for Middle Eastern Studies / The University of Texas at Austin
Using Life led to Ahmed Naji becoming the first author in modern Egypt to be jailed for the publication of a work of literature. The story is centered on a young filmmaker who is contracted to make a documentary about Cairo by a secret organization, then thrust into a world of global conspiracy and manipulation. The book combines prose and illustration to tell a story of the intersection of youth and history.
Being Kurdish in a Hostile World
University of Regina Press
Being Kurdish in a Hostile World is Ayub Nuri’s firsthand account of what life was like growing up Kurdish during the Iran-Iraq War as well as a description of the American invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. In this book spanning forty years of history, Nuri’s prose creates a painfully honest depiction of his world of conflict, starvation, and refugee camps.
The Island’s Only Escape
Pleasure Boat Studio
Collected and published after Matthew Phillips’s early death, the premise of this chapbook is both commemorative and speculative, pondering the question of what his poetry and craft might have become in time. Phillips’s poems are concerned with learning, above all else, and reflect an early adulthood spent restlessly considering Jewish history and tension in the Middle East or acerbically satirizing recent trends of academia.
Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race
Coach House Books
Drawing food, literary criticism, and his own experiences as a writer of South Asian descent into the text, Naben Ruthnum explores the archetypes and mythologies of the Indian subcontinent that are perpetuated by the expectation of diasporic literature. Brimming with biting humor and incisive observation, Curry invites the reader to rethink our monolithic expectations for a continent and embrace the diversities thriving upon it.
Craig Santos Perez
from unincorporated territory [lukao]
The latest installment by native Chamorro poet Craig Santos Perez, [lukao] dons many genres. From shape poems and snatches of interviews to historical “introductions” and periodic “poemaps” that visually trace the paths of US military bases and the leak of toxic chemicals, Perez’s staunchly indigenous and decolonized verse personalizes and exposes legacies of exploitation on his home island of Guam and in the western Pacific (see WLT, May 2017, 68).
A Field of Foundlings
Trans. Grace Mahoney
Lost Horse Press
A Field of Foundlings is author Iryna Staravoyt’s first book in English translation and part of a dual-language series of post-Soviet Ukranian poetry. With far-reaching narratives and poignant meditations, Starovoyt sets out to “salve” the national “amnesia” of a place where “the left hand erases all that the right draws,” creating in the process a vibrant pin-map from points of everyday relevance, mythic origin, and national significance.
All That Man Is
All That Man Is winds through the lives of nine men who come from all walks of life, from the greatest failures to the greatest success stories. With abundant detail and graceful prose, the book uses these men to explore modernity and manhood against the backdrop of an increasingly globalized Europe.
In the Cemetery of the Orange Trees
Jeff Talarigo visits the Gaza Strip to tell a history of the land and the Palestinian diaspora through the mode of mythopoetic tales that lend a sense of clarity through the very things that make them strange. Haunting and filled with sharp insight, In the Cemetery of the Orange Trees intensely concerns itself with the fate of the silenced.
Trans. Clare Sullivan
Cardboard House Press
Unpunctuated, unpackaged, as subjective and undifferentiated as interwoven spectra of color, the poems in Litane move as if through water. Whether in thick blocks or slender stanzas, Mexican poet Alejandro Tarrab’s associative verse tumbles like a waterfall, sprinkled with brief images and erudite references that lend this dual translation an air of interpretive possibility.
The White City
Sri Lankan–born author Roma Tearne creates a climate-change-fueled dystopia in the shape of a London that has become permanently frozen. Thirty years after the freeze began, Hera reflects on her life that has collapsed alongside the society she knew. Tearne subtly builds a world that warns readers of the bleak possibilities that come with the slow dissolution of state and community.
Behind the Eyes We Meet
Trans. Arielle Aaronson
Mélissa Verreault has created a constellation of a novel; written in three parts, each with a tone wholly distinct from the others, and bookended by sets of family letters, readers are taken from Montreal to a POW camp in World War II. With colorful prose, Behind the Eyes We Meet is a story of fates entwined and the unviewed internal lives of others.
Two Halves of the World Apple
Trans. Denis Mair, Chao, Simon Patton, Ouyang Yu & Ning Yang
University of Oklahoma Press
Building on the Chinese classical tradition and interspersed with moving homages to global figures of the twentieth century, this collection of poems aims to capture the spectrum of work from Yang Ke, a prolific, award-winning contemporary writer from the so-called Third Generation of Chinese poets. The “element of incantation” that pervades much of Yang’s verse is paired in this volume with the academic rigor of translators’ glosses dotting the bottoms of the pages.