This is a tiny little journal, literally, despite its large ambitions—“this journal is designed as an opportunity to bask in the general shiftiness of translation…serves as a home to foreign poetry, as a tool for developing new work, and as an experiment in translation,” the editors tell us—Telephone fits snugly in one palm. This inaugural issue features the work of Berlin poet Uljana Wolf whose original five poems serve as a “jumping-off point” for more than a dozen poets writing in English, including Mary Jo Bang, Matthea Harvey, Robert Fitterman, Erin Moure, and Craig Santos Perez, among others.
Wolf’s work is inventive, odd, and provocative, and the same can be said of the work inspired by her originals. Forms include prose poems, fragments of dialogue, epistolary formats (“Dear Committee: What a clusterfuck / to meet you yesterday a table / blinking with mortality” writes Timothy Donnelly). Writes Uwe Weiss,
Soon and soon and in between
something’s at it again.
HAIR: Don’t touch me.
THEMSELVES: I can’t.
THEM: Neither can we.
NEITHER: But I can.
I was impressed, above all, by Telephone’s concept, by the opportunity to see work from the German I would not otherwise have encountered, and by the raw energy of the poetic “responses” to the original poet’s writing. I am eager to see who calls in next.