Friday, March 27, 2015

Contributor Spotlight: Clyde Moneyhun


I found my voice as a writer, ironically, by speaking in other people’s voices, which is to say when I started translating in earnest.  Before about five years ago, I’d dabbled in translation.  In college, I once got out of taking a final exam in an Italian class by turning in a translation of the brief memoir “Winter in Abruzzo” by Natalia Ginzburg, and later it was the first translation I ever published.  Still in college, I started translating Camus’s The Stranger to teach myself French.  Living in Japan years later, I collaborated with my friend Mark Caprio to translate the Japanese novel A Heart of Winter by Miura Ayako, which we did manage to finish and publish, and also some contemporary Japanese Buddhist poetry.  I should have given in to my fate long ago, but I spent many years writing short stories, personal essays, even a travel column for a while, before I committed to translation wholeheartedly.
                                                      
What brought me back?  Catalan.  After learning French, Italian, and even Japanese, I finally took an intensive year-long class in the language of my ancestors.  Most of the six million speakers of Catalan now live on the Mediterranean coast of Spain in Catalonia and Valencia.  My mother’s family spoke it on the tiny island of Minorca in the Balearic Island group before immigrating to Florida; my grandmother was the last one in the family to understand it.

The music of Catalan grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.  It sounded like no other Romance language I’d studied.  I got hooked on the online Catalan television station TV3, especially a pseudo-documentary comedy show about the language itself (“Caçadors de paraules”) and an evening soap opera (“La Riera”).  I memorized folk songs like “Rossinyol,” which had a moment of fame because Joan Baez used to sing it, and songs by rock bands like Gossos.  I started translating Catalan literature, starting with the medieval mystical poetry of Ramon Llull.  And then came Ponç Pons.

I found him because he’s the most famous poet from my family’s island home of Minorca.  I translated a dozen poems I found on the internet and mailed them to the only address I could find, the high school where he teaches.  He replied within a few days by email with total delight, thanks, and generosity.  We struck up a correspondence and exchanged many emails, letters, and packages; he sent Catalan children’s books to my kids, and I sent him compilation CDs of the 1970s American rock that he loves.  When I got a chance to go to Spain a couple of years ago, we met for the first time, and he loaned me his beach cottage in a tiny town on the north coast of the island.

Sitting on the porch of Ponç’s cottage, I translated my first Catalan poetry by women:  Maria Antònia Salvà, Clementina Ardieru, and Rosa Leveroni.  They led me to Maria-Mercè Marçal, who rediscovered and championed and republished all three of them as her poetic godmothers.  Marçal led me to the most intense joy I’ve experienced as a writer.


I simply feel that she is my spiritual sister.  We were born two years apart, we were in college at the same time, we read the same books, we marched in demonstrations for the same causes, we loved the same way.  Her voice speaks to my heart, and my strong hope is to speak her voice in English to people who will never understand it in Catalan.  I’m aware (believe me!) that this is impossible, but it doesn’t stop me from trying to sing her astonishing songs to those who have ears to hear them.

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Clyde Moneyhun's writing appeared in Issue 55 of Hayden's Ferry Review. He teaches writing and translation at Boise State University in Idaho.  His translations of 20th century and contemporary Catalan poetry have appeared in the Notre Dame Review, Inventory: The Princeton Journal of Translation, Lyrikline, Eleven Eleven, and The Winter Anthology.  His most recent project is a collaboration with the photographer Maria V. Garth (see mmmintranslation.com).  He is the recipient of a Faculty International Development Award (2013) and a Visiting Professorship (2015), both at the University of Alicante in Spain, and an Arts and Humanities Institute Research Professorship (2013) for work on translations of the Minorcan poet Ponç Pons.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Contributor Spotlight: Patrick Milian

The first poem I wrote was a libretto, a byzantine elaboration of “The Tell-Tale Heart.” My roommate asked me if I’d try writing the text for an opera he was hoping to write, so I tried. I tried writing the only way I knew how—which meant meter, rhyme, form, and capitalizing the first letter of every line. It took about a year to finish the libretto and, reading it now, it seems like a record of an idiosyncratic education in which arias turn into sonnets, duets are sung is terza rima, and Longfellow makes more than one appearance. These were the best methods I knew of making a poem sound like music.

Ironically, that opera is being held in pre-production limbo just across campus from the HFR office at the Lyric Opera Theatre.

 “Libretto” was drafted over the course of ten days in the San Juan Islands and was the only piece of writing I worked on while there. It was an exercise in focus, in leaving out all distractions to see what would happen. I only read one book: Peter Porter’s collection of the poems Benjamin Britten had set to music. I also went the ten days without my headphones, a typically integral part of my process. One afternoon, I was sitting outside, reading some Auden sonnets that Britten had set, and suddenly someone was in the building behind me, plinking out a few notes on a piano. It wasn’t quite a song, but the sound immediately announced itself as music. That was the moment I knew what this poem was going to be.

Britten and Auden, though frequent collaborators, only wrote one full opera together: Paul Bunyan—one of the worst English operas ever made. Suffice to say that, under pressure from the producers to include more female voices in a story about lumberjacks, Britten and Auden added the roles of a singing dog and two cats: Fido, Moppet, and Poppet.

“Libretto” reconceptualizes that collaboration, imagines the process of composition, cut through with the dangers of erotic tension and creative differences, and ultimately ends on a stale and, perhaps, underwhelming image. The goal, however, was to do more than retell Britten and Auden’s collaboration, but to become something like that piano cutting through the silence, to make language that announces itself as a potentiality for music. Auden wrote that “the job of the librettist is to furnish the composer with plot, characters, and words; of these, words are the least important.”


I say the first poem I wrote was a libretto because I’ve stopped seeing a difference between the two. We speak of the “musicality” of language, but music is not and cannot be language, nor can language be music. What language can be, however, and what I think we mean when we call it musical, is an imaginative pivot point from meaning-making into music-making. “Libretto” is a furnishing, a jumping-off place, a constellation of sounds and rhythms that can, if you would like, set off music. Dana Gioia in his essay “Sotto Voce: The Libretto as Literary Form” points out that the libretto is not written for the audience, but for the singer and the composer. It is an inspiration for the music. The title of this poem is “Libretto” not because it is meant to be sung, but because it is meant to set off music in the reader, to make the reader a composer.

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Patrick Milian's poem, "Libretto," appeared in Issue 55 of Hayden's Ferry Review.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

So You're Going to Have a Reading: Part II

In So You're Going to Have a Reading: Introductions, we talked about how to prepare for a reading. In Part II, I'll discuss how to react to the inevitable mishaps that happen during a reading.
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In a perfect world your reading will go perfectly. Everyone will be engaged, and you will not stutter or drop anything or realize mid-sentence that there is an enormous toothpaste stain on your shirt. (I admit the last one comes from personal experience).

Alas, we do not, in fact, live in a perfect world. Mistakes happen! There will probably be a few hiccups- I find there always is. But they will not ruin your reading! So, if something goes wrong do not panic. Because you’re in control and no number of silly mishaps is going to change that. There are a lot of little things that can go wrong but there are, fortunately, a lot of little fixes as well.

I am a clumsy person, so tripping/dropping things/walking across flat surfaces is a daily battle for me. Tripping and dropping your items is an issue that usually occurs at the beginning of the reading. If you happen to fall and scatter your papers everywhere that is okay! The best thing to do in this kind of situation is just laugh it off. Everyone trips from time to time, and being a good sport about it will probably endear you to someone in the audience (there are legions of clumsy people out there, trust me). Just take your time getting yourself together and move forward. I know it’s tough to have something silly happen at the very beginning, but you have every opportunity to finish strong from there! If you somehow manage to drop your stuff in the middle of your reading you can always claim that you are pausing for dramatic effect.

When I get nervous or excited I tend to read really fast. I sometimes even skip over words or sentences. If you are one of those people who reads too fast there are a few tricks that you can use to combat what I call “read with speed” syndrome. The first trick is the easiest. Just remember to breathe. It is not a race, after every few sentences make sure to take a pause and breathe. This will remind you to slow down. Another tip that I find very effective is marking my paper with notes before I do the reading. If, when you are practicing reading out loud (which I cannot recommend enough), you find a sentence or word that you would like to stress, make a small mark on the paper that will remind you when you’re in front of the audience to do so. Re-typing your work with spaces where you want to pause or breathe is also very effective.

The last thing I want to discuss is dealing with awkward audiences. Audiences are wild cards and they sometimes do things that might interrupt the focus of your reading. I once had a woman loudly eat an entire bag of Cheetos during my entire reading. Irksome audience members are not ideal and unhinge your cool. I believe the best thing to do is to ignore it. There are no real tricks for this problem, unfortunately. Remember, it is your reading and you want to make sure you can represent your work as well as you can. It is annoying and rude if you have chatty or loud audience members during your reading, but that is no fault of yours. Pushing through is the best option, despite how difficult it can be. It will be tempting to pause your reading or ask them to leave. But it is not your job to facilitate the audience, and it is overall in your best interest to stay focused instead of giving them attention.


So if you have any problems arise during your reading, just remember to take breath and smile! Deal with problems gracefully, don’t lose your cool, because you’re going to do great.

-Sarah Stansbury

This Is It—the End of the Rainbow!

Today is the final day to subscribe or resubscribe and receive four sneak preview proof pages of Hayden’s Ferry Review, Issue 56! Sample or back issues will also receive three proof pages, so no matter what you order, you can be among the first to see the material forthcoming in HFR. Be sure to place your orders now!


Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: Reveille by George David Clark

2015 winner of the Miller Williams poetry prize from the University of Arkansas Press, George David Clark’s Reveille, rings in each poetic section with a reveille, or a wake-up call. Clark defines and creates his own meaning for this term—the title Reveille creates a “call” for the rest of the book, transporting the reader into the author’s painterly world of “a lattice musics,” “a bathing suit red as tomatoes,” “the gloss of lacquered walnut golds and olives jigsaw,” and “the holy face plum-colored.” Clark uses touches of color to guide the reader through this imaginary world that borders on the holy, and the first section opens with “Reveille on a Silent Whistle,” with its angelic imagery of “Two seraphs in the live oak’s highest boughs are sleeping,/constructing minutely their crystalline fretwork.”

Each section of this collection opens with a reveille, which becomes the framing device of the book. Reveille not only wakes up the reader into this world, but in each sectional reveille, the reader is introduced to another aspect of Clark’s world. Imagery that is biblically influenced, painterly-produced, and sublime floods these slow-paced and careful poems. For example, the second section opens with “Reveille with Kazoo.” Clark’s speaker travels this dream-like musicality:

                                    From your overlong, even invincible sleep;
                                    from the pink and orange moth-scales
                                    that collect on your mind like a dust;
                                    from the stately plush where you jonah
                                    in a bottled frigate’s belly;
                                    from this lopsided aerie of marigold sheets:
                                    wake up.

In this opening stanza, Clark’s anaphora builds up this dream, only to culminate the reader into a “wake up.” The language is sensual, the lines gingerly lengthened, building up the dream and moving back and forth between the spiritual, with the reference to Jonah, and the spiritual turned down-to-earth, with “this lopsided aerie of marigold sheets.” Clark’s painterly quality is also gradual: he gives us gradients of color, only to wake us up into another world, this one postmodern: “The swimming pools/of the future were born this morning.” And with each section reveille, comes multiple turns. The following poem, “Interview Conducted Through the Man-Eater’s Throat,” takes us to the opposite spectrum of colors with “Like the blue-black char in a chimney.” The poem also takes us to the opposite spectrum, challenging form in stanzas filled with question and answer. In fact, Clark utilizes the musicality of the opening to formally influence and pervade the rest of this section.

Clark pushes the modern even more with “Reveille with Reimbursement.” The collection may start with the mythical and spiritual, but Clark is able to ground and transform the book’s movement into the present day. We close with “Reveille with Lullabies,” a strategic bookend that takes the reader deep into the speaker’s persona and subconscious. Clark leaves us with a blessing:

                                    We rise when something calls us out of bed

                                    Your song’s not addressed to the dark
                                    We wake in
                                    Or for you as you dress in the dark


                                    …

                                    Rise now rise now and bless us

                                    till our cries lie down cry less

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George David Clark's poem, "Shadows of the Antediluvian Soldier," appeared in issue 44 of Hayden's Ferry Review. 

Dorothy Chan was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Plume, Spillway, and The Great American Poetry Show. In 2012, The Writing Disorder nominated her poem, “Ikebukuro Train Rides” for a Pushcart.