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A Freckle on The Nose: Poetry Over Prose

September 2005

Contemporary poetry in translation can seem doubly daunting, but fortunately we have a revelatory guide for the perplexed in Ilya Kaminsky. Here he presents our first “all poetry, all the time” main feature celebrating Gloria Fuertes’s vigor, Zafer Senocak and Zehra Çirak’s new myths, Luis García Montero’s playfulness, Daniil Kharms’s theatrics of marvel and Göran Sonnevi’s passionate curiosity.

As Ilya points out, there are striking similarities in this issue. Ioan Flora’s Eastern European science fiction-in-verse is worlds away from Silvina Ocampo’s “Infinite Horses,” or Milo De Angelis’s elegiac “Mute Map,” yet represents the same sort of longing. Tristan Tzara’s “Friend midear,” exclaims “It is a beautiful thing to be in a poem,” and so Mansur Rajih’s poem declares-against all geopolitical odds-“Yemen is a happy country.” With similar exuberance, Karim Fawzi, in a poem written just after the American invasion of Iraq, speaks of berries and Baghdad, and of beating his present existence “with the cane of departure”. Finally, Valzyna Mort’s poetry may define the way in which we Americans think of literature from Belarus in the years to come.

Thanks to co-editor Alissa Valles on the ground in Warsaw, we have an extraordinary “Polish corner” of work never before seen in English.