Archive for Maintenant
Conventional wisdom would suggest when a poet leaves their country of birth at a young age, for a new nation, they might bring to bear both traditions upon their writing. Perhaps it is possible, though arguably reductive, that the poet in question would be of neither nation truly – forever an immigrant in one and a stranger to another. What seems assured though, is that this sense of displacement, ambiguity of tradition and identity, this fundamental plurality of language and culture, would seem to find its proper place in the intangibility at the heart of a forceful and considered poetic, where such equivocality is not only welcome but perhaps necessary. At the core of the last century’s European poetry tradition lies the notion of trace, of multiplicity, invention, migration and these are the defining characteristics of George Szirtes’ oeuvre. His body of work, 40 years in the making and prolific in that time, has carried across forms, mediums, language and tones. It is the poetry of a singular individual extolling individualism, a poet whose responsibilities towards generosity and openness of spirit seem gracefully self-imposed across writing, translating, teaching, editing and anthologising. Moreover, it is the not the work of a man trapped between nations and histories, but one who has been emancipated by a lifetime’s fidelity to poetry, never bound by a national dualism, despite the complications of being explicitly Hungarian and implicitly English. Author of over 20 collections, winner of numerous prizes including the TS Eliot, the Cholmondeley, the Gold star of the Hungarian republic and the best translated book award, George Szirtes is an immense poet and undoubtedly the greatest translator of Hungarian into English of the last century, if ever. In an wide ranging and generous interview, we present the 96th edition of Maintenant.
An instrumental figure at the core of 21st century Bulgarian poetics, Ivan Hristov’s poetics are as variable and layered as the modern history of the country itself. As an educator and organiser, Hristov has been the driving force behind the Sofia poetics festival, bringing poets from around Europe to witness and interact with a surging new generation of poets emerging from the city, and as a poet himself, his connection and fusion with English language poetry has produced a unique style and cadence within his output which has gained plaudits from across the continent and America. Another figure in European poetry who conceives of organisation as a responsibility alongside his own practise, we are pleased to introduce Ivan Hristov as the 95th respondent of the Maintenant series.
Via Steven Fowler:
“There are figures in poetry whose contribution to the understanding of the medium is so immense it cannot be properly appreciated when they are still practising their thought as a poet, let alone as also a prolific critic, anthologist, teacher and theorist. All the more is this true when their work is as enormous, and relentless, as it is subtle, generous and deft. Even more so again when they have been at this work for over forty five years. Who would hope to engage more in the roots and edges of poetics in one lifetime than Pierre Joris has over his? He has published over forty books. He has translated hundreds of poets, not just offering new understandings of their work in his translations, but often resurrecting, if not creating, an appreciation in the Western World. He is as exceptional a polylingual translator as the late 20th century has seen and is inarguably seminal in his own work for the revelation of multi-lingual writing amongst other things. He has taught thousands of students, never once comprising the fundamentally ethical, rigorous and complex ideas behind his work and his understanding of poetry in general. He has written numerous articles on his contemporaries, and having lived across Europe, Africa and the United States, those who have constituted his peers are an exceptionally plentiful group. Add onto that his editorial co-presiding over one of the most important anthologies ever conceived, the poems for the millenium. His dexterity and depth of understanding is matched only by his generosity, and the immense legacy he has already cemented. It is a great pleasure, in our 94th edition, to introduce our first Luxembourger poet, by birth, who is rather obviously, a citizen of everywhere and nowhere.
Pierre was kind enough to allow us to publish four poems alongside the interview.
Four events at London’s Southbank Centre:
Tuesday 26th June 7pm – 9pm in the Blue Room
Maintenant celebration reading I: Pekko Kappi, Christodoulos Makris, Damir Sodan, Endre Ruset & more poets to be announced…
Friday 29th June 5pm – 6pm in the Level 5 Function Room
Maintenant: Poetry from the Balkans – Damir Šodan, Ana Ristovic, Doina Ioanid, Taja Kramberger, Luljeta Lleshanaku & more poets to be announced…
Saturday 30th 7pm-9pm in the White Room
Maintenant: a celebration of the avant garde & the experimental: James Wilkes, Holly Pester, Kirsty Irving, Sam Riviere, Vahni Capildeo, Audrey Brown-Pereira, Rocío Cerón & more poets to be announced…
Sunday 1st July 1pm – 2pm in the Clore Ballroom
Maintenant celebration reading II: Donatas Petrosius, Agnes Lehoczky, Immanuel Mifsud, Gerdur Kristny, Nigar Hasan Zadeh & more poets to be announced…
What more can be asked of a poet than that they maintain their own sense of integrity towards what they deem poetic? It follows then if the poet who does maintain a writing life of such commitment is a thinker of originality and insight, and that they maintain this commitment across a lifetime, then their work will have a life far beyond them. All the more if they do so with an affability that belies their skill, and a determination that proves them to be enduring. For a lifetime of writing, Charles Simic has been one of world’s most engaging and singular poets. He has exerted such an influence over so many and for so long, he has almost come to define an era. His voice is sure, utterly recognisable, both profound and humble, both grounded and flighted, both incisive and witty and he has straddled labels and definitions, as he has the continents of North America and Europe. Never has his own work been occluded by his translations but his lifetime of service to European poetry has fundamentally shaped the perception of Serbian, and Balkan, poetry in the English speaking world at large. He is an immense presence in US poetry and inarguably one of the most important poets of the late 20th century. For edition 93 of the Maintenant series, Charles Simic.
To accompany the interview is a poem, never before published, ‘Ghost Cinema’
Now more than ever, if there exists a measure of what one could call a national character, indelible and prescriptive, it seems unlikely it can be held in the terms we seem to utilize. The limited, faded suggestions of temperament, appearance and culture are increasingly fraught. The valuable misnomer that the poetic in poetry is that which is lost in translation is a fair indication of how national character is found in the lack of a culture’s culture. I can only truly speak of England and Englishness, and what I deem to be its immovable quality, both its worst and it’s best feature – an unpretentious melancholy, a moaning disposition laced with satire, a call to arms without action, a sadness that has not the melodrama to make it public, a desire for privacy, a wit and observational keen which is razor sharp and practically dull. When an artist can build this ungraspable quality into the very fabric of their work, you know they can only have done so without preparation or motive. Jeff Hilson, as a master of this vernacular, stands as one of the most singular and gifted poets of his generation. Hilson’s use of distinctive vocabulary, a lexicon of the banal, utilises a finesse that pales the false poetic posturing of those working in circles created by perceptions of what has come before and held as the established “tone” of English poetry. He is the creator of poetic vignettes, an imagery not of the surreal but of the proto-mundane, couched in the wry, unpretentious drawl of a fogged civil servant, tired but not fatigued, worn but not broken. Hilson elevates the speech of the lived life, accelerates it, never seeking out absurdity, rather that would be too much agency for the singular voice purveying lines of observation and reflection. His poetic is not one of alarm, not one of lamentation – it is poetry of urbanity. Hilson’s mode is to shed light on the ever present – what we seem not to have noticed in its readiness, the pitted corners of language which are fundamentally drole and bloodless. Hilson exposes too the churlishness of the poet who takes no time to examine their own position, the ego behind the pen. His honesty, his lyrical inventiveness, his affected bleakness produces a strong sensation in its readers / listeners because of its central truth. It is then a poetry that is necessary because the poet does not profess its necessity. Only the reluctant can offer the objective truth that poetry must evolve, that it must be allowed to warp and break and rejoin in order to be in anyway new, and in being new, represent a culture that is truly contemporary. And even then, only within a form of an apology. Against Hilson’s work the concept of the poetic soul, the poetic pretension, is exposed as a welcome fraud. The melodrama of poetry is refuted and we are left instead with a very English sagacity of intellect and poise. In an attempt to utilise the Maintenant series to present poets to Europe, as well as from Europe, we present, for our 92nd issue, one of most remarkable poets of his generation, Jeff Hilson.
Accompanying the interview is Jeff’s seven part poem Rinker, generously given over to the Maintenant series.
It is too easy, and often, it would seem, far too tempting for the assumption to be made that it is just longevity itself which accounts for the repute and esteem of certain figures in poetry, whose influence seems so fundamental and ubiquitous within a nation’s poetic culture. Yet Gunnar Harding, as much as many a near legendary poet, has influenced so many and built such an immense following precisely because of his remarkable ability to make his poetry one founded on renewal, on tone, on intricacy, on inhabitation – to strike the reader with an original voice no matter their generation and poetic taste, whether they read his first published book in 1967, or his last, a third volume of selected poems. For nearly fifty years Harding has been at the forefront of Scandinavian poetics, rising from the generation of so many great poets in the 1960’s, a former artist and jazz musician, his fluid, energetic, deeply intelligent poetry has been a consistent inspiration to his countrymen and many poets who do not have five decades of writing behind them. For the 91st edition of Maintenant, Gunnar Harding.
Accompanying the interview are three of Gunnar’s poem, translated and generously given over to Maintenant by Roger Greenwald.
It is hard to think of fitting superlatives that have not already been bestowed upon Andrei Codrescu over the course of his writing career, which spans five decades and two continents. Since his emigration from Romania in the late 1960s, his work has lodged itself in the poetic consciousness of both America and Europe for its sheer edges – its energy, its voice, its deft wit, and like all great dadaists, at heart, he is the hardest of realists, a man who cannot lie to himself above all others, in his poetry or in his ebullient criticism, journalism and collected writing. A poet whose oeuvre reaches back into the depths of Europe from the core of America, who has been peer to some of greatest writers of our century, where he now, as we roll into the 21st century, must take his own place. For the 90th edition of Maintenant, Andrei Codrescu.
Accompanying the interview are three of Andrei’s poem, generously given over to Maintenant.
To many what was once the most expansively influential European tradition of poetry has now become one of the most hermetic. Yet within France there remains singularm emergent figures whose invention, and whose brilliance, marks them out as some of the most innovative in the world. Eric Suchère is one of them, art critic and art historian, he has created a remarkable oeuvre of conceptual, prose and written poetry over the last few decades and holds a rightful place as a leading light in the current French scene. For the 89th interview in our series, Eric Suchère.
Accompanying the interview is an extract from Eric’s longer work Set, Winterwreck, translated by Lisa Robertson.
As the monumental literary figures of the velvet revolution have passed their profundity and vibrancy onto a new generation of poets and writers, the Czech Republic has faced a shift in its poetic register, as the country has in its fundamental politik. So a return to the author has taken place, and straddling the two great contrasting generations and experiences of the Czech Republic as perhaps few others could, Sylva Fischerová, poet, author, teacher, has become the representative of the very best of her times – a poet whose wit, whose wisdom, whose incisiveness has brought her devotees across the world and across languages. In the 88th edition of Maintenant we welcome the lauded Sylva Fischerová.
Accompanying the interview is six poems, translated by Sylva and Stuart Friebert
An irrepressible poet and thinker, the work of Eugene Ostashevsky has been a dynamic presence in the New York poetry scene for some years. Born in Leningrad and emigrating while still a child, like so many who have left their homeland, alongside the ebullience and humour of his own poetry, Ostashevsky has been a tireless translator and advocate of Russian poetry, most specifically the OBERIU group, whose radical experimentation was led by the near mythological Daniil Kharms. Teaching at New York University, the energy and vibrancy, and intellectually buoyancy, of Ostashevsky places him as an invaluable link to both the Russian past, and future, in poetics. He reads in London for the first time on March 8th 2012 at Pushkin house, and celebrating that event we are pleased to welcome him as the 87th respondent of the Maintenant series.
Accompanying the interview is an excerpt from the The Pirate Who Does Not Know the Value of Pi, a work-in-progress about the relationship between a pirate and a parrot.
Though his constitution as a poet is multi-lingual, multi-national, fundamentally cosmopolitan and reflexive, it is the definitive clarity in the work of András Gerevich which has marked him out as one of the most considerable and singular voices of his generation. From the remarkable Hungarian poetic tradition, which has continued to produce poets of individuality and conscience for hundreds of years and to this very day, Gerevich has defined himself as a resolute and powerful writer, poet and screenwriter. His work burrows into the cadences of speech, of reflection, of confession, speaking clearly from the first person, while without apology it maintains its affability of form in order to scale its ambition of content. In the 86th edition of the Maintenant series we present András Gerevich.
Accompanying the interview are five poems, translated by George Szirtes, Christopher White and David Hill.
Contemporary Turkish poetry looks confidently back upon the iconoclastic individuals who have constituted its genuinely remarkable tradition, and the current cohort of poets emerging from the 21st century possess the unique sensibility in language that marks them from their predecessors and stamps their entire generation with the influence of their work. As the light of poets like Ilhan Berk and Nazim Hikmet begins to fade from view, it is poets like Gonca Özmen who have come into their own. After just two collections and a variety of prizes, Gonca has become one of the most direct, concise and eloquent voices in Turkish poetry and one who has begun to grow a reputation far beyond the borders of her home nation, thanks to last year’s publication of the Sea Within, a collection of translated poems from Shearsman press. In our 85th edition, we are pleased to welcome, our second Turkish respondent, Gonca Özmen.
Accompanying the interview are five of Gonca’s poems, translated by George Messo, Ruth Christie, Mel Kenne, Saliha Paker respectively.
Over the last few decades it has become clear that the Baltic is one of the most prolific and energised sources of contemporary European poetry. Nor is this community of poets of a certain style or movement or form. The writers emerging from Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the surrounding nations are radically individualistic, as innovative as they are classically powerful. Amongst them Maarja Kangro is quite clearly one of the most formidable voices of her generation – effortlessly intelligent, wry, considered, incisive, her relentless output of translations, librettos, prose, poetry and children’s stories have assured her place as a leading light in North Eastern Europe, with a reputation striking deep into Germany and Italy and we hope, as her brilliance continues unabated over the coming years, further into the UK and US. For our 84th edition, we welcome Estonia’s Maarja Kangro.
To accompany the interview we present five of Maarja’s poems, translated by Richard Berengarten, Mike Horwood, Brandon Lussier, Ilmar Lehtpere and Maarja herself.
With a precision and focus that seems to mirror the requirements of his profession, a surgeon, the poetry of João Luís Barreto Guimarães is representative of the finest work in contemporary Portuguese letters. Concise, eloquent and immediate, his work is concerned with phenomenological clarity and an engagement with a language of presence, of excavated intimation, and a wholly personal reality that hinges on a fundamental act of communication with the impersonal. For over two decades he has been a leading light in a poetry tradition often underappreciated outside of its borders, but from which giants of modern poetry like Fernando Pessoa and João Miguel Fernandes Jorge have emerged. In an extremely generous interview, we are pleased to present João Luís Barreto Guimarães as our first Portuguese edition of Maintenant.
Accompanying the interview are five translations by Ana Hudson. These poems form part of Ana’s remarkable project http://www.poemsfromtheportuguese.org/ in which she has pioneered the translation and elucidation of a vast number of contemporary poets writing in the Portuguese language.
For over thirty years Valerio Magrelli has represented Italian poetry to the world. Inarguably the most influential poet of his generation in Italy, the oeuvre he has thus far established has ensured his place as one of the few poets able to look eye to eye with his nation’s iconoclastic predecessors. And yet, this language of grandeur does not seem apropos in describing a work built on agility of thought, deftness of expression, a modest, good-natured gesturing to the immense power of poetry which, in and of itself, locates that very power. Valerio Magrelli is a poet whose work has the authority to wake his readers, to bring their focus back to the poem itself, as a thing, not as a product of a poet first and foremost. Consistently, it is this eloquent and energetic intellect which resonates through his work and reminds us of the heights that the Italian language and the Italian poetry tradition can reach. For the 81st edition of Maintenant, Valerio Magrelli. Thanks to Jan Wagner, Federico Italiano & Jamie McKendrick.
Accompanying the interview are four poems, taken from the book ‘Valerio Magrelli: The Embrace’ Faber & Faber 2009, translated by Jamie McKendrick.
For this remarkable undertaking, Jamie McKendrick won the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize and the John Florio Prize.
A poet whose inventiveness and incisiveness is architectural in its care – witty, adventurous, circuitous and at ease with its own intelligence, the work of Arnoud van Adrichem, one of the most remarkable poets and critics Holland has produced in the last decade, stands as an example of how international traditions, multiple languages and a shift in political culture, will not waylay a brilliant poet from writing brilliant poetry. If anything it will only add context to the work of a poet like van Adrichem, recognised across the Netherlands and beyond as one of the most considered and necessary agents for poetry currently at work, and with no sign of lagging. Editor of the international journal Parmentier and a specialist and translator of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, it is hard to look past Arnoud van Adrichem as a fundamental part of the future of Dutch letters. Another exceptional addition to the Maintenant series, edition #80, we are privileged to have his work translated into English for the very first time thanks to the generosity of the Nederlands Letterenfonds with thanks to Jan Pollet.
A poem in five sections, Corner, accompanies this interview. This is the first time Arnoud van Adrichem’s poetry has been translated into English and was only made possible by the generous support of the Nederlands Letterenfonds (the Dutch Foundation for Literature) and of Thomas Möhlmann. Translations by Willem Groenewegen, 2011. http://www.willem-groenewegen.nl/
Perhaps Emanuella Amichai represents the ethos of the Maintenant series more succinctly than any of the other 78 poets that have gone before her. The question of what is poetic is akin to the question of what is European. Both are fluid, unanswerable, and all the more essential for that unresolvability. Working in the medium of moving image, of dance, theatre and film, she has taken groundbreaking strides towards what can only be called a video poetry, a form of visual poetry. Working in tandem with some of Europe’s finest writers, including Jan Wagner, she has shown her absolute control of both mediums, both poetry and film, utilising the grammar of motion to remarkable poetic effect. If this places her outside the poetic mainstream, what might be deemed The definition of a poet, then the fact she is the daughter of one of the 20th century’s greatest poets firmly roots her back into the tradition of European letters. For the 79th edition of Maintenant, Israel’s Emanuella Amichai.
A video poem of Emanuella’s will soon follow online, so please check http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/
Though his work is utterly modern and could only be of the now, Damir Šodan, as a man, recalls a different age. Cosmopolitan, engaged, political, satirically adept and poetically versatile, he is a poet who defines and embodies one of Europe’s great, surging contemporary traditions, that is Croatia since the turn of the millennium. One of the most active and veracious translators and editors on the continent, he has won international awards for his plays and finds employment at the Hague, as a translator for the United Nations War Tribunal. This is beside his reputation as a poet, which is considerable and deservingly ever growing. His work is striking for its elasticity, its precision and its ability to retain power amidst a wit rarely found in modern letters. In a typically generous and eloquent interview, discussing everything from war crimes tribunals to the Croatian poetic tradition, we present a locus of modern European poetry, Damir Šodan.
I’m very pleased to say we have published ten of Damir’s poems in English alongside the interview