Monday, September 9, 2013

Alumni Poet Susan Rich on New Anthology

From Susan Rich (Seattle, Washington, USA):

A while ago you asked me to send you more information about The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Crossing Borders published by the Poetry Foundation and McSweeny’s this past spring. Here is the book cover image and a recent review that was in the Chicago Tribune. The book seems to be selling well --- and there is also a free download at the Poetry Foundation if people want a pdf — here is the link

Also, my fourth book of poems Cloud Pharmacy comes out in early 2014 from White Pine Press. There are several poems about Ireland including “your” poem, “Faraway.” It’s dedicated to you and all the writers of Anam Cara.

Here is the review from the Chicago Tribune:

For the wanderlusty, it's difficult to believe that anyone would hesitate to pack her suitcase and zip off to, well, anywhere. But travel requires strategy and persistence. And for writers — or worse, for poets — international travel requires a relative fortune. Or good fortune.

In the spirit of easing dislocation, earlier this year, McSweeney's and the Poetry Foundation released "The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders." Part travelogue, essay, verse, roundtable transcription and reference text, the volume is an introduction to the opportunities for international poetic work: fellowships, residencies, translations, festivals, English instruction jobs and volunteer postings.

The editors — Jared Hawkley, Susan Rich and Brian Turner — explained that the dearth of foreign literature being translated into English motivated them to create the book.
"We would like to jumpstart a discussion and encourage younger writers to find ways to go abroad and see the larger world and bring the news of that larger world back into the United States," said Ilya Kaminsky, series editor for the "Poets in the World" series, part of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, via email. "We give various (metaphysical and practical) perspectives on the situation of a writer living abroad (outside of their native language), and also provide very detail-oriented, step-by-step guides for young writers to achieve the goal of living abroad."
At its strongest, the work probes identity — what it means to be other, in flux, cross-pollinating. In her essay on translation, Jane Hirshfield examines the initial skepticism and later acceptance of intercultural appropriation, by which "certain exotic trees have come to be treasured in their new countries." Although "(m)istrust of translation is part of the immune reaction by which every community attempts to preserve its particular heritage and flavor," Hirshfield asks, "what English speaker today would call iambic pentameter an imported meter, or think of the sonnet as an Italian form?"

Carolyn Forché explains how she learned to manipulate her identity. She and her husband, a journalist, roamed South Africa in order to document apartheid. "Officially, my husband would work at the Time bureau, and I would accompany him as wife and expectant mother," she writes with the wry confidence of a woman underestimated. Eventually Forché learned that her pregnancy eased the couple's passage through the country's roadblocks: "(A)s my womb swelled, I also grew invisible, no longer attracting police who would not wish to involve themselves with so pregnant a white woman."

Another writer struggles with the patronship that power earned her abroad. On her Fulbright year in South Africa, Susan Rich "carried with [her] a basket of ever-shifting questions." In her discussion of whether to hire servants, Rich wonders: "Was it better to hire someone to scrub my two rooms and help alleviate the high unemployment rate, or was it best not to participate in a corrupt vestige from the past regime?"

At its weakest, "The Strangest of Theatres" approaches the details of international living so broadly, readers may chuckle at the sweep: "Be aware that culture shock, exploring a new place, and being away from friends and family can make it more difficult to accomplish work at the pace you are used to" and "that volunteer work in developing countries can be psychologically and emotionally challenging."

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