Posts Tagged ‘Britain’

I was introduced to Travis Elborough by poet and translator Sarah Maguire, of the Poetry Translation Centre, with a simple sentence: “Travis Elborough is a cult.” Though I didn’t know what it meant at the time, I was happy to be spoiled by the tour manager of our Mexican Poets’ Tour through the UK. Travis was more than mere manager; he combined the best aspects of tour guide, curatorial critic, and lomography photographer. During that time, in April 2010, Travis was working on the final edits of his latest book, Wish You Were Here (Sceptre, £14.99), which followed his critically acclaimed social histories of the vinyl record—The Longplayer Goodbye—and the iconic double-decker buses of London—The Bus We Loved. We corresponded informally about his latest book over the course of a couple months before the following exchange, conducted by email. Travis generously supplied his own photographs of the British seaside, featured throughout the interview.



© David X. Green


I’ve been to Dover Beach, and suffice it to say I was not impressed. I mean, where are the piña coladas? So maybe this is a strange question to start with, but because your book has so much to do with the English relationship to the sea, I wonder if you could present a sort of thumbnail portrait of your own relationship with the sea, and open that up to explore how the nation engages or interacts with the sea. (Basically, re-write your whole book in a few sentences.

In Dover’s defence (or defense, in US spelling), what it lacks in piña coladas it more than makes up for with plenty of chances to get caught in the rain.

I grew up on the coast.  And most of my family still live by the sea, where they have engaged with varying degree of success (and sanity) over the years, in such time-honoured seaside professions as novelty trinket vendors, guest house proprietors, restaurateurs, publicans, café owners and windsurfing instructors. So I suppose my blood must be about 40 per cent saline or something.

Arguably, though, few other elements of the English landscape are experienced quite as universally or viscerally here. Almost everyone has visited the coast at one time or another. Like the weather, there is a lot of it—some 11,0272.76 miles and none of it further than 72 miles away from any point inland.  And while its range and character varies wildly, it equally boils down to similarly inescapable combinations of predictably unpredictable dampness.

And that coastline and the weather are the things that define the nation above all else. As Jonathan Raban once observed, to leave these isles is always to go overseas.

Similarly images of deckchairs, promenades, ice creams and slot machines and the taste of sand in a sandwich and slosh of rain on an esplanade are such familiar parts of our collective consciousness, our folk memory, they almost feel implanted in our brains from birth.

But its recent history is much more troubled. From the 1960s onwards, you increasingly see in films like Tony Richardson’s adaptation of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, fading seaside resorts being deployed as metaphors for the nation’s imperial decline.

And I was keen to unpick some of that. Or at least try to in the book.

What do you think about On Chesil Beach? Do British people like the book simply because of their messed up sea-complex?

I have to confess I haven’t read Chesil Beach. I love his stories and some of the early novels (or novellas), The Cement Garden is a wonderful book, but can’t feign any great enthusiasm for his recent output. Which is probably more of a failure on my part than his. Time is finite and there always seem to be else that I’d rather be reading than the new Ian McEwan. Even typing those words I feel slightly weary. I can immediately picture an iceberg-sized display of shiny, just-off-the-press Ian McEwan hardbacks, stickered at a special discount price, in the front of almost every bookstore in England.

But that’s envy really, isn’t it? Where’s my iceberg of hardbacks?

To go back to the question, though, since the novel, from what I remember hearing about it at the time, is about frigidity, perhaps it is British people’s messed-up sexual complexes that explains its appeal. Though as I discuss in my book, traditionally the seaside was where newly weds honeymooned and consummated their marriages. (Mathew Arnold went to Dover for his, while less successfully T. S. Eliot went to Eastbourne with Vivienne Haigh-Wood). It is also where couples sneak off to have so-called ‘dirty weekends’, so the two are rather inextricably linked in the national psyche. Which I imagine is why McEwan used Chesil for his setting.

How did you get from vinyls and buses to the sea, a much vaster and wetter protagonist?

What I think they have in common is that they are all slightly everyday things that we can rather take for granted. We may forget or simply be unaware, for example, that before the arrival of the vinyl LP in 1948, recorded music could only really be heard in four minute chunks.

Similarly before the Romantics there was no such thing as a sea view, per se. And the seaside as a realm for relaxing was a distinctly British and largely Victorian invention.

So in each of my books what I like to do is simply turn back the clock to the moment when each of these ‘subjects’ was ‘new’ and move on from there.

The singer Cliff Richard, once regarded as England’s answer to Elvis, appears in all three books, so he could be seen as the component that binds them all together. Or perhaps not.

I’ve seen you read excerpts from this book at London’s Horse Hospital, and you accompanied them with records from your impressive collection. Why the integration?

I started reading with records when I was doing events for my book on vinyl. It seemed quite natural to do a little bit of a show and tell on that one. Or show and play Mantovani and triple-disc Emerson, Lake and Palmer LPs at people, as it were.

I was booked to do quite a few of the big festivals over here in the summer that book came out, Green Man and Latitude among them. And I felt that my readings would need to be more of a performance. Otherwise any audience I got would simply wander off in search of the cider tent or someone strumming a lute elsewhere. For these festival readings, I roped my wife Emily into the act. She span the records while I read, which made life much easier for me on stage. It was also a slight ruse. As a performer Emily would also be entitled to a free pass to the festival, so we could both go along.

When Wish You Were Here was published and I was asked to do some readings for it I found myself reluctant to give up on the records. Not only had I written parts of the book with certain songs in mind but the portable record player I used had become a good stage prop and something of a comfort blanket combined.

Essentially, I write cultural history, and if I can introduce a few sonic or visual elements that help entertain as well as inform in a live setting that is all to the good in my opinion.

Mine too. I’m very much a fan.

Does America have a George Formby? Hell, does America have its own sea-complex? What, off the top of your head, would this book have been about if we replaced England with America?

For their mastery of double entendre perhaps either Little Richard or Chuck Berry (particularly with his “My Ding-a-Ling”) could be your George Formby.

If it is down to uke playing, then maybe Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields is your man.

But it’s interesting you should raise this issue of American equivalents and what a stateside version of the book might have been like. My original starting point for Wish You Were Here was actually two movies set in Atlantic City. The first was Bob Rafelson’s The King of Marvin Gardens, starring Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern and the magnificent Scatman Crothers. And the other was Louis Malle’s Atlantic City with Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon. I’d seen both of these films on TV a couple of times over the years but in about 2007 there was a scheme to build a huge super casino in Blackpool, one of the biggest and best known seaside resorts in Britain. The aim was to make Blackpool a kind of Las Vegas of the Lancashire coast—and the town faces out toward the Atlantic ocean and historically its Pleasure Beach was the nearest thing to Coney Island in England. (Back in the early 1930s, the playwright J. B. Priestley wrote somewhat witheringly about the Americanization of Blackpool in his famous travelogue, English Journey.)

In the end, that scheme didn’t pan out.  But I had started to see some interesting parallels between what was planned for Blackpool and the way casinos and gambling had been licensed in Atlantic City in the late 1970s.

Also the other big thing with seaside towns over here recently has been the whole question of gentrification. As house prices in London, especially, have continued to rise, so many formerly unprepossessing southern coastal towns have become increasingly attractive places for aspiring Bobos types to buy property. Now, while the game of Monopoly was conceived around Atlantic City, the British version uses the streets of London. And again I had some foggy notions about drawing an analogy or three here too.

A lot of English seaside resorts were developed in the late 18th century and early 19th century as the result of some fairly wild property speculation. Several leading coastal developers went bankrupt before their resorts turned a profit and/or had to flee to France to avoid their creditors. The area called Kemp Town in Brighton, is a prime example of this. Places like St Leonards were built as exclusive new towns—not unlike somewhere like Seaside in Florida, say, in the 1970s. So, I guess what I am trying to say is that I had far more transatlantic book in mind to begin with.

Will you please move to Los Angeles so we can work on some collaborations?

I’d be delighted to move to LA and even more delighted to work on some collaborations with your good self but London is still calling at the moment. There is however, always Skype.

December 2010



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I met Pascale Petit while studying at Oxford, and we became friends over the course of the single trimester she tutored me. My own preoccupations with contemporary indigenous poetries and my upbringing in Mexico very obviously overlap with her interest in and study of Amazon and Aztec mythologies, which she explores extensively in her collections The Zoo Father and The Huntress. Named a Next Generation Poet by the Poetry Book Society, her collections have twice been nominated for the TS Eliot Prize, as well as having been selected as Books of the Year by the TLS and Independent. She has traveled widely to write and perform, and has also worked extensively in literary translation. I particularly admire her translations of Chinese Misty Poet Yang Lian, who now lives in London.

In 2004 she published a chapbook of poems about Frida Kahlo, The Wounded Deer, which marked the beginning of her exploration of the painter’s life in poetry. This May Wales-based Seren released What the Water Gave Me (£8.99), a full length collection of poems exploring the life of Frida Kahlo. Already glowingly reviewed by Ruth Padel in The Guardian, WTWGM continues to garner critical praise.

Though we seldom see each other in person, we do maintain a regular electronic correspondence, and it was a pleasure to discuss Petit’s latest collection by email. Coincidentally Pascale Petit has also been selected by Molossus contributing editor Sudeep Sen for the next installment of his World Poetry Portfolio series, which will include several poems excerpted from her new collection.


So, first the obvious. Why Frida Kahlo?

What the Water Gave Me is a sequence of fifty-two poems, each based on one of Kahlo’s paintings. When I was at the Royal College of Art, training as a sculptor, a tutor said my studio reminded him of her home, the Casa Azul, and he suggested I should take a closer look at her paintings. Though I’d noticed her personal, bold and sometimes shocking style, I didn’t really know her work well. It didn’t occur to me to write poems in her voice until I was finishing The Zoo Father, my second collection, in 2000. I must have been reading about the bus crash she suffered when she was a teenager, and how the injuries from that caused her lifelong pain, which she depicted and transcended in her art. I saw a connection with the poems in The Zoo Father, which is also about transcending childhood trauma.

I wrote the first two poems ‘Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (I)’ and ‘Remembrance of an Open Wound’, on the same day. Both narrate the violence of the accident and how the bus handrail pierced her abdomen and exited her vagina. It seemed to be a kind of rape with no one to blame. I could use the images of the bus and tramcar colliding and the gold dust that splashed over her from her fellow passenger. Afterwards she told people this accident was how she lost her virginity.

A few years later I saw her painting ‘Self-Portrait with Monkey’ (the one with the dark leaf background, that Madonna owns,) in the exhibition Surrealism: Desire Unbound at Tate Modern (2002) and was struck by how alive she looked in it, gazing defiantly out at the viewer. I wanted to try to capture that. In 2005 I published a pamphlet of fourteen of these poems in The Wounded Deer and it was launched in Tate Modern’s Frida Kahlo exhibition. It was an unforgettable experience to read surrounded by the paintings. I didn’t then think I would write any more of these poems and a few years passed before I did.

You’re both a visual artist and a poet, and you’ve written and talked extensively about the relationship between the two disciplines. How did your personal experience in both fields intersect or engage each other in What the Water Gave Me?

I was a sculptor but I don’t make visual art any more. As an artist I used intense colour, often on transparent materials such as glass, fiberglass and resin casts. I made translucent female figures with parts of their abdomens exposed so you could see their reproductive organs. I placed iridescent beetles (gifts from the Natural History Museum), and tropical butterflies on their glass-like sexual organs. I also made installations of glass structures crisscrossed with brightly painted thorn branches, and there were hummingbirds inside domes and boxes, a warbler, a blue tit, eggs, nests, dragonflies, and so on. So some of Kahlo’s imagery was already there in my work, even before I’d fully explored her pictures.

When I started writing the Frida poems, it felt like I was making my own ‘paintings’ after hers. Not exact replicas, but my versions. Except that they were made with words. Ever since I stopped being a visual artist it’s been important to me that my poems are physical – solidly made and visualisable, and I’m aware of the objects embedded or suspended in them. My sculptures were transparent, but there were also arcs of colour – glass tendrils drawn out of the kiln, and hawthorn branches that I collected and painted bright blue, green or red. Perhaps the lines of the poems are these arcs, around the face, body, nest or bird in the composition.

I love the idea of the biography in verse. Here you include interpretations of Kahlo’s work, reflections on her lifelong physical pain and tumultuous life with Diego Rivera, and more. It seems like the appropriate form of biography for another artist, especially such an iconic painter. Can you reflect on that?

It’s a strange kind of biography, half her, and half me disguised as her, which was great fun to do! I loved pretending to be her. There was so much I could identify with. I’d been through a long period of illness and isolation so could relate to her months of being bed-bound and her loneliness (she said she painted her self-portraits because she was always alone). I don’t have children and I’d never written about that, but explored this subject through her, her inability to bring a child to term because of injuries as a result of the accident. I enjoyed depicting her troubled relationship with Diego, her jealousy and sense of betrayal when he had his affairs. It was much better than me writing about myself, made those common human sorrows more vivid and somehow joyful (because she turned them into colourful art). I should say though that, however much I was putting myself into her persona, I kept to the facts as rigorously as I knew them. The poems had to be true to Kahlo and sound like her.

What Kahlo biographies did you read? What else did you do to research your poems?

I started with the Hayden Herrera Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo, and Kahlo’s fabulous diary The Diary of Frida Kahlo, and Martha Zamora’s The Letters of Frida Kahlo: Cartas Apasionadas. I spent a lot of time in the Hispanic and Luso Brazilian Council library in Hyde Park, devouring all their books about her. And of course I went to visit the Casa Azul, back in 2000 when I started writing the poems, and all the museums for her and Diego Rivera in Mexico City. Later, more books were published which I found very helpful: Gannit Ankori’s Imaging her Selves: Frida Kahlo’s Poetics of Identity and Fragmentation (particularly good on the painting What the Water Gave Me), and Magdalena Rosenzweig’s Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress: Frida’s Wardrobe, which was written after the unsealing of her bathroom and dressing room. I’d been disappointed the bathroom was sealed up when I visited her Blue House, but here were evocative descriptions of her bath and clothes. I went back to Coyoacán a few times. I also went to the nearby Pedregal, to see the volcanic plain that forms so many backgrounds in her paintings of her broken body, the fissured landscape mirroring her scars, and although it’s now a built up area, you can still see outcrops of volcanic rock here and there around the drug baron mansions.

You bring sexuality into your poems with very sharp images—I’m thinking of “Whenever we make love, you say / it’s like fucking a crash – / I bring the bus with me into the bedroom”and that reminds me of some of your earlier work. I see it as a sort of incursion into the mythologies you build up in the work, and, I suppose, part of the mythologies, too. That said, I wonder how this collection, and especially the process behind it, might have been similar or different to other books.

My preoccupations in What the Water Gave Me are quite similar to those in The Zoo Father. Both books are about overcoming childhood trauma and at the heart of them is sexual damage. It was useful for me to write as someone else but still explore the transforming of pain into art. Kahlo’s paintings were a vehicle to expand these explorations into more adult concerns such as marriage, surgery and miscarriage, and there might be less of the embarrassment of so-called ‘confessional’ poems. The Zoo Father and The Huntress are often read as autobiography, however much I’ve mythologised them with Amazonian and Aztec rituals. In What the Water Gave Me I’m confessing the biography of an icon, an extraordinary woman who turned herself into myth. My previous book The Treekeeper’s Tale is different I think. In it, the natural world, which is always a strong presence in my poems, takes more centre stage.

With such a thematic collection, I also wonder how you knew when to stop. Especially with a life as full of little details as Frida’sfrom her early accident to her later dog Señor Xólotl.

Stopping was hard. There are still paintings I haven’t written about. Each poem has the title of a painting and I regret that some are missing, and there is much about her life I left out, because it wasn’t of such interest to me. I could have gone on and made a bigger book, but I’d already taken ten years, so thought it best to stop. I wonder if I will write any more. I resist that prospect, for now at least.

What are you working on now? What are you reading, watching, listening to?

I’m writing my first novel. And I’ve started writing some new poems, but I don’t want to talk about the novel, and the poems are linked to it so I won’t talk about them either – it’s too early. Almost all my current reading is research for the novel. But I’m also reading in preparation for the next Poetry from Art course I teach at Tate Modern, when we’ll start off in the Gauguin exhibition, so I’m reading his journals and letters from the South Seas and the myths of Tahiti. Recent exhibitions I’ve been fascinated by include Annette Messager’s The Messengers, and Surreal Friends in the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, especially the paintings by another of my favourite Spanish/Mexican painters Remedios Varo, whose work I first encountered in Mexico and whose paintings I wrote about in The Treekeeper’s Tale. I also loved Francis Alÿs’ powerful video Tornado in his recent exhibition at Tate Modern.

August/September 2010

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I discovered Paul Farley’s poetry in the Graywolf anthology New British Poetry (2004), edited by Don Paterson and Charles Simic, and immediately fell in love with his work, the seamless integration of natural speech rhythms and hauntingly spare imagery. The anthology influenced me so greatly I wound up attending graduate school in the UK, where I worked with his fellow Liverpudlian Jamie McKendrick, who frequently spoke his praises. I was happy to see The Atlantic Tunnel (Faber & Faber, $25), a selected poems, published my side of the Atlantic, in what I hope will be the first of many contemporary British selecteds to appear in America.

Farley and I corresponded by email, following his New York City reading with Paul Muldoon. His brief emails were characterized by the same intelligence and grace as his poetry.




Your first book in America just came out. Congratulations. It’s called The Atlantic Tunnel, which is interesting to me because of the great disconnect I often feel between American and British poetry. Tell me your take on the situation.

Thank you, David. We’re getting straight into it here, aren’t we? My take on this would be hopelessly one-sided. Even though I’ve never felt any impedimenta to getting hold of American poetry, the recent and emergent stuff is slightly more difficult to track from this side of the ocean, simply because there’s so much of it. But I had For the Union Dead in my pocket when I was at art school in the nineteen-eighties, and I certainly connected with that: it lit me up. I even called one of my paintings ‘Myopia: a Night’. There’s a connection between Melville and Hawthorne with Liverpool, my hometown, so I’ve this longstanding sense of a link. I grew up in a port. I’m useless at discerning schools and movements, even here in the UK, and compared to here America looks like a sea of poets. I attended Michael Donaghy’s poetry class in London in the early nineteen-nineties, and Michael was Irish American, from New York via Chicago, and so a very important conduit. He’d left the States because (among other reasons) he felt the UK still had an engaged and curious general audience for poetry, something that had become largely institutionalized but decoupled from the broader artistic and intellectual currents in America. I’ve not had the opportunity to truly test this, although one difference that does strike me is the availability of the past here, the way poets draw on the big archive; I don’t know whether that happens so routinely in the States.

It’s interesting to me to see the Americans published in the UK, like Carcanet’s Mark Doty and Jorie Graham, Bloodaxe’s Tony Hoagland and C.K. Williams, and so on. It’s the same this side of the Atlantic, and I’m happy to see Faber Poetry publishing poets like you and Don Paterson here. Tell me, in your opinion, which British poets we need in America.

I guess I’m getting more interested in how English translates into English as it crosses the Atlantic, what nuances in the language or cultural frames of reference are distorted or injured in the process, or amplified. On my most recent trip to the States, I gave a reading in New York with Paul Muldoon, and I found myself explaining what treacle was to the audience; this was just a day after I’d interviewed John Ashbery and at one point we’d talked about how difficult or exotic Dickens or O’Hara might seem in the crossing either way, and how savvy readers are. So, I wonder what happens to all the different versions of, say, England or Wales, and would be interested to see how Kate Clanchy or Hugo Williams or Menna Elfyn would go down. Not quite the same thing as you needing them, I know. But I’ve enjoyed finding California in Robert Hass, or Carbondale in Rodney Jones, or Chicago’s South Side in Gwendolyn Brooks.

Conversely, are there any American poets you need in the UK? Kevin Young is one, I think, to scratch at the exotic sheen of Nagra. And Bob Hicok, definitely.

What tends to happen is, American poets come through and create stirs and eddies and poets here talk about them and pass on their books; you can watch it happen, track them coming through, it’s like bands when you’re very young; you can see them gather momentum, before it’s someone else’s turn. You do often wonder what you might be missing. Because poetry is still ‘a tiny jungle’, as Auden put it, everyone eventually knows everyone in the UK, but Americans can remain distant, rumoured. Who is Chelsey Minnis? I liked Bad Bad a lot even though it’s nothing like what I do; and quite a few of us did, maybe all the more so because we’ve little else to go on but the words, the shape of the book, etc. But that also happens with poets who’ve been around for a long time, like Frederick Seidel, that sense of rediscovery that has surrounded his work here recently.

You’re working on another radio drama for the BBC, this one about Frank O’Hara. Tell me about that project and about other projects you’ve worked on for radio—I think you did a program on Larkin, too, right?

This one’s a feature on O’Hara, using Lunch Poems as its centre. I like making programmes where I get to exercise my own interests, but where there’s room to discover things. I think that’s the thing that comes across in a broadcast, your own sense of excitement and discovery. Auden wrote a feature for American Vogue – imagine this happening now – in 1954, called ‘England: Six Unexpected Days’, where he suggests a kind of alternative itinerary for adventurous Americans newly arrived into Heathrow: martinis in Uttoxeter, Crewe Junction, Swaledale and right up onto the North Pennine limestone, his ‘significant earth.’ So we followed the same route and made a feature of that. The Larkin programme was more conventionally timetabled, following his rail routes, the train journeys that got into his poems. I suppose in this O’Hara programme I’ve been trying to talk about how much the fabric and speed and shape of the city is embodied in the poetry, especially the ‘I do this, I do that’ variety; O’Hara as a kind of human junction box through which all kinds of currents flowed.

What are you working on, now that you’ve conquered America? More poems? Australia?

More poems, yes, hopefully. I’ll settle for that.

June 2010

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Home, Adam O’Riordan (The Wordsworth Trust) £5

Home is the latest chapbook to be released in The Wordsworth Trust’s series of limited editions—400 copies printed—by their writers in residence. This book alone is proof that the Trust is doing something right, and that it is able to maintain its relevance within contemporary poetry in Britain and the world.

The collection is a mere eleven sonnets, each about an object or place named in its title. Andrew Forster, the Trust’s Literary Officer and a poet himself, describes the collection well in his afterword: “The ‘objects’ become charms, things salvaged from the safety of lives already lived to underwrite the places where Adam and those closest to him have been, and the strange homes they made there.”

From the first lines of the first poem, “Candle Moulds”:

Pig fat, goose fat, tallow, they sit like corpses
in their narrow cots, fingers in a drowned
girl’s glove, or barrels full of pistol shot.

to the later poem “A Hearth Fire”:

X     X     X     X     X     X     X…A slow
and speechless beat they all obeyed,
duly fed a glut of twigs and sticks and coal,
ate away the soft hours of their lives,
a dull ache in the back of their minds.

O’Riordan’s object poems begin with the day-to-day lives of the Wordsworths themselves, and move toward universalism without over-abstraction. The poems are all based on objects present in the Wordsworth Trust’s Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth wrote most of his most famous poems, and can be readily identified during a typical tour of the house.

His poems of place are more narrative, as in his poem “Silver Lake”—evidently named for Molossus’ home neighborhood—which begins in conversation:

‘This life isn’t all hookers-and-blow you know’
but even so one day a month you’d ease the car off
the boulevard, your u-turn describing a long slow arc
forgetting the pretence of work, the litter of scripts
on your passenger seat. Driving south
against rush hour, the commute, as a salmon
might make its way, by force of will, upstream,
and so you headed toward Tijuana.

continues with anecdote:

I remember you saying you could order from a menu.
How the oiled girls lined up to meet-n-greet you.

and ends, true to traditional sonnet form, with a concluding insight:

But I could not tell you which part of yourself you handed
over as your Buick crawled across the border.
Or which part of yourself you left forever
with Tanya, Tracy-Mae, Encarnacion or Estella.

O’Riordan manipulates tone with ease and grace, he’s deft to coin similes and metaphors without over-modifying his nouns or verbs, and he hasn’t forced his poems into the form as much as placed them gently. Other places to feature in his place sonnets—all named after the places they describe—include Dun Laoghaire, where the poem’s I-speaker works as an artists’ model, “turning like a hare on a spit,” Sandy Hook, Heidelberg, where young hitchhikers in Europe are solicited by a driver whose “prick [was] a pink tongue lapping from his suit pants,” and Teatranalya.

With Home O’Riordan is already on course to become the best sonneteer of his generation, deserving of greater recognition here in America and at home in the UK. His use of the form is organic; it clearly frees him instead of restricting the development of his thoughts. The Wordsworth Trust’s pocket-sized, black chapbook is well designed and well edited, a perfect home for Home, and I look forward to their release of the next chapbook in the series, by current poet in residence Emma Jones.


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In Other Words: The Journal for Literary Translators, Winter 2009 / No. 34. Eds. Valerie Henituk & Amanda Hopkinson. £15 (2 issues, biannual)

This issue of the official magazine of the University of East Anglia’s young but deservedly respected The British Centre for Literary Translation includes Deborah M. Shadd’s notable essay on translation and metaphor, Caterina Sinibaldi’s essay on American comics in fascist Italy, and Daniel Hahn’s micro-memoir on translating The Piano Cemetery. Martin Sorrell’s essay on the increasing number of literary translation MAs in Britain, though unsurprisingly pro-program, offers a considered analysis, and the magazine is rounded out by a nice selection of two-to-four-page reviews of recent translations.

Rossica: International Review of Russian Culture, 19. Ed. Svetlana Adjoubei. £40 UK/£50 World (4 issues)

A beautifully produced, glossy-paged journal on heavy stock paper, this issue of Rossica features short fiction by Vladimir Makanin, German Sadulaev, Olga Slavnikova, Sergei Shargunov (b. 1980), and other contemporary Russians, all translated into English for the first time. The texts are accompanied by the spare and haunted meta-landscapes of Pavel Pepperstein, courtesy Regina Gallery, Moscow.

Swedish Book Review, 2010: 1. Ed. Sarah Death. £15 UK/$25 US (2 issues, biannual)

The first issue of SBR for 2010 highlights crime fiction, anchored by Anna Patterson’s essay on Kerstin Ekman and excerpts from four of her novels, contains translated fiction by Arne Dahl, Staffan Bruun, and Viveca Sten. Swedish fiction, and especially their crime novels, is a proven market, and the review is accordingly business-minded, listing sold rights and even foreign rights holders’ contact information. Still, despite its commercialism, it maintains a respectable level of editorial rigor in this issue.

Dodgem Logic, Issue No. 1. Ed. Alan Moore. £2.50 per issue

The hodgepodge brainchild of comics icon Alan Moore, Dodgem Logic contains a CD of Northampton music, a how-to comic about urban guerilla gardening, recipes for pudding and quiona [sic] soup, Graham Linehan’s reflections on how Twitter might have affected the meeting of John Lennon and Paul McCartney (and how it might affect the meeting of the next Lennon and McCartney), and more. The magazine also includes an insert focused exclusively on Northampton, featuring an opinion piece by Alan Moore himself, as well as local music listings. My favorite piece is on its inside cover, the brief “Great Hipsters in History,” evidently the beginning of a series, also composed by Moore, featuring anarchist  and radical heros from days past, like Emma Goldman and Paul Robeson. On the whole, the magazine is enjoyable but uneven, certainly worth following until its character has been more defined—though maintaining its slippery nature seems to be its creators’ primary intention.


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