A feature by Will Alexander
SL: Obviously, I’m drawn to language that works on several levels at the same time. Maybe the poetic properties are there and I’m the one who unearths them. Or maybe I impose my own musical and poetic sensibilities onto unmusical material. I don’t know that it matters. When I was working on The Hideous Hidden, even other poets found it hard to imagine that one could find music in glands!
A feature by Rodrigo Hasbún
MC: Yes, I write just one or two pages a day, only in the mornings, and I never add or take out anything, but what is important is that I never have a plan or a story in mind. Each page is revealed to me at the moment I start to write. Each page could (and does) change everything. It is the only way that I can write, for writing is not a job for me, nor an art, but a faith, a sort of a personal religion. To go on writing I don’t need to know where I’m heading, but only that I can do it, that I’m the only one who can. . .
A feature by Michael Kelleher
Chus Pato is one of the most significant poets writing in Galician today. Thanks to the efforts of her translator, Canadian poet Erín Moure, five volumes of her work have been translated into English, the two most recent being Secession/Insecession (BookThug, 2014) and Flesh of Leviathan (Omindawn, 2016).
It was almost by chance that I encountered her work. I met Erín in the fall of 2017, and she handed me three of the books she’d translated. It took all of one line from the first poem in m-Talá (Shearsman/Buschekbooks, 2009) to make me realize I was in the presence of a major poet and thinker:
i ask myself if in this phrase all the yews of the free city of Paris lean and fall, all my reflections on language—the word that shuts the edifice of Language is the same that opens to the wind’s dominion—
Ellen Hinsey: In the spring of 1972, you were allowed to publish a single volume—your only officially sanctioned book of poetry in Soviet Lithuania, The Sign of Speech—
Tomas Venclova: During this period, the censorship situation had somewhat improved. After 1968, the prevailing atmosphere was one of a “freeze,” but there were some unexpected fluctuations in the party line, which were duly reflected in the editorial policy of the Lithuanian state publishing house. For a time, experimental verse was permitted (or benevolently overlooked), especially if it possessed a “life-affirming,” that is, optimistic, quality or had a folkloric aspect. Usually, a “locomotive” was required: The very first poem in a book by a first-time author had to mention Lenin or Fidel Castro (or, preferably, both) with due enthusiasm. Everyone consented to this demand, which was unspoken, or only discussed in private between an editor and an author. For me, it was out of the question. After my experience with my science book, I scorned the system and had enough respect for poetry to reject these “rules of the game.” Incidentally, Brodsky faced a similar dilemma. After his exile, a book of his poems was being prepared in the USSR, but Yevtushenko told him it needed a “locomotive”—a piece about Lenin or, at, least, about the great Russian people. Brodsky had a poem on people and their language, and quite a good one (Akhmatova admired it), which could perhaps have been construed as “patriotic” and therefore adhering to the official line. [My friend, the physicist] Romas Katilius persuaded him this would have been a gesture of capitulation. Brodsky refused to include it in the book; it was subsequently rejected by the publisher. To my astonishment, The Sign of Speech appeared without any mandatory “locomotive” or “lightning rod”—perhaps the first such case in Soviet Lithuania, or possibly in the entire Soviet Union.
A feature by Maya Vinokour
Just as we can discern the ancestors of the novel—the letter and the diary—in eighteenth-century exemplars of the genre, so too does Lina Goralik’s writing betray its roots in the anarchic, confessional culture of early Runet. Even on paper, Goralik’s texts retain an intimacy and immediacy, a sense of just having been overheard, that digital natives associate with online posting. They are also eminently shareable, which is what compelled me to translate them in the first place—so I could keep on laughing and cringing, this time with English-speaking friends...
A feature by Heidi Hart
Reading the introduction to German poet Uljana Wolf’s “Method Acting mit Anna O.,” I come across the word “Aberzählen.” Momentarily forgetting my own German prefixes, I see a new mashup of “aber” (“but”) and most of “erzählen” (“to narrate”). Knowing Wolf’s penchant for neologism, code-switching, and pun, I wonder if this anti-telling is intentional, before the poet explains to me that this is simply “Ab-erzählen,” a no-longer-used term for free association, or “telling off” from the expected storyline. We are sitting in a café in Berlin’s Neukölln district, where Wolf’s preschool-age daughter has somehow found a graphic novel on Hemingway and Sartre, and her husband Christian Hawkey works nearby. Both of them teach poetry and translation at New York’s Pratt Institute, while Wolf also teaches German-language courses at NYU. True to her continuous contesting of language-borders, the poet divides her time between Brooklyn and Berlin. Most often she works at thresholds between German and English, which “makes the reader slippery, too,” as she puts it, referring to my misreading of an archaic word...
Jonathan Platt: How can the language of poetry work with this reality? Can one communicate to oppressed, lumpenized workers through complicated poems?
Galina Rymbu: Poetry must work for a utopian exclusion of the languages of violence, but it can only do this with the help of a certain violence of its own, fiercely struggling with those languages for a future of peace. You can’t simply ignore them and write as if they don’t exist. There’s also an illusory kind of thinking here that we have to avoid. It can seem like the oppressed have a simple language, that we should employ a series of reductions to work with this language in order to be comprehensible as poets and artists. But there is no such thing as a simple language, just as there are no simple emotions. Here everything is even more complex—a real rat’s nest of complexity made up of the languages of violence, ideological pressures, propaganda, biopolitical manipulations, survivals of the past, fantasies, hopes, and even certain seeds of “emancipation” . . .
I first came across the young Russian poet Galina Rymbu shortly after she posted a poem on LiveJournal the day that Russian troops started operating in Crimea, and several days after the victory of the Maidan Revolution in Kyiv and the tawdry close of the Sochi Olympics. Russian media fanned the flames of patriotic hysteria and the Kremlin was clearly going to exploit Maidan to crack down on domestic dissent. It felt strange that a work of this artistic sophistication and power could be composed and posted on the Web simultaneously with the events it responded to. Its viewpoint was that of the minuscule and very young Russian Left—roughly the same political alignment as those of the poet-activist Kirill Medvedev and of Pussy Riot, to cite figures known to some Western readers. But the poetry was different. It was Big Poetry, very much grounded in tradition but also propelling it forward, into the terra incognita of the now. It’s been a while I read a poem that felt so real . . .
On the occasion of the launch event for Issue 6 of Music & Literature Magazine at The Forum in Norwich, the British poet and Hungarian translator George Szirtes was invited to read a poem as a preface to Roman Yusipey's performance, on accordion, of the Ukrainian Victoria Polevà's Null, a composition written for Yusipey himself. Subsequent to that evening, Szirtes was moved to write a further poem inspired by and dedicated to Yusipey. Music & Literature is proud to publish both poems in their entirety . . .
Naja Marie Aidt’s poetry collection, Everything shimmers, is a prismatic and lyrical reflection on the relation between home and abroad, familiar and strange, including the strangeness of the familiar. The poems are about separation both as loss and liberation, exile both as grief and as blessing. They are about individual, family and colonial history, about colonizing or being rejected by foreign land . . .