Briefly noted from the reading last Sunday. My favorite line from Anna: "We enter the economy like larks. / Imagine a lark flying away." She's an impresario of publishing, translating, & community organizing, but she also turns into a stand-up comedian when least expected: "Thinking I wanted to write an optimistic poem I downloaded a font called 'utopia.' It crashed my computer." Or riffing on headlines: "Because we have a Republican in the White House, they have renamed the inheritance tax the death tax. Another reason to hate death."

Matvei's selections included "Twilight Series," "Next Summer," "True Story," "Crow Fictions," and "Buttons." His poems turn on repetition of off-kilter words moving in & out of different combinations. The word substitutions gradually fall in place, producing a very pleasing rhythmic effect. I caught myself tapping: "more or less the cat is one, two, three / more or less the home is one, two three / more or less the phone is one, two, three." The poem "Crow Fictions" meditates the word "ragged" in possible scenarios involving crows, people, and other things that might be "raggedly so." Did I hear Anna and Matvei make separate, independent references to the prison system?

During each individual reading & then together before the break, they brought translations to the stage. Anna translates French and Greek poetry. She knows French very well, but falters with her Greek, even though her father is fluent. When translating Greek she gets about 30% of the vocabulary right, & the rest she leaves to an educated guess or a homophonic approximation. Matvei read from his translations of Daniil Kharm's The Blue Notebook (c1937). After the reading I offered to lighten their load for the return trip & came away with the Kharm chapbook & Lev Rubinstein's Cagalogue of Comedic Novelties. I think my new goal over the next year is to read through the Eastern European Poetry Series from Ugly Duckling Presse. To have even the tiniest window on this work...

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Blogger John Sakkis said ... (4:48 PM) : 

anna and i were at a translator's symposium last summer on the greek isle of paros...i think between the two of us, with help from brandon brown's ancient greek proficiency (NO HELP!) we were about 65% fluent...i mean, all you really need to know is "echete retsina?"...that is, "do you have greek wine?"

seriously though, anna is light years ahead of me...and both our father's are native and fluent...herm...


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