If I have any complaint at all about roger, and I really only have one, it is that the wonderful translations by Anny Ballardini, Patrizia de Rachewiltz, and Jennifer Youngquist (of work by poets Paolo Ruffilli, Cesare Pavese, and Etienne Lero) do not include the originals and the contributors’ notes do not include the poets’ bios. It makes for good reading to find these well executed translations of poets I might not otherwise have an opportunity to read among the work of Jim Daniels, Sandra Kohler, Charles Harper Webb, and many other competent, though lesser known writers. But, I would like to be able to read the originals and to know something about the poets.
The fine translations from European poets are well accompanied by exquisite poems from American writers, including “Winter” by Jaime Brunton and “Understanding,” by Angie Macri; a terrific piece of flash fiction by Ed Bull, “Potential Energy,” a story of smart psychological insights “No One Gets to Stay,” by Catherine Parnell; and a portfolio of marvelous paintings by Jim Bush depicting his predilection for “slight distortion,” as explained in a brief introductory note. I love these slightly skewed New England landscapes (acrylics and watercolors on paper), scenes I would like to crawl into, or at the very least put up on the walls of my apartment. They are cleverly reproduced here on coated stock that sets them apart from the uncoated pages of poetry and prose, and the reproductions are excellent (terrific print quality).
I did not know the work of poet Etienne Lero, and Youngquist’s translation reads like an original, intact, fluid, seamless, making me want to learn more about and read more of Lero, which is part of what a good translation should do, it seems to me. Here are the final lines from “Chestnuts from Eyelashes”:
Where your body is only a memory
Where the spring does its nails
The propeller of your smile cast afar
Over the houses we have no need of.
I had not previously encountered the work of Jaime Brunton either, whose work, I am happy to see, is forthcoming in a number of good small journals (Salamander, among others). “Winter,” composed of smart, insightful couplets, exhibits the tight control over big ideas that I often find especially compelling: “We can barely stand it, / the imperfection evident in even our smallest works.”
Lucky for me, roger is far from imperfect.