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Poetry in Translation Editors’ Note

Adonis writes, “Poetry and the other arts seek a kind of progress that affirms difference, elation, movement and variety in life.” We can see this at play with spark and verve in the poets and translators we are delighted to bring to our pages: Małgorzata Lebda, Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese Astrid Cabral, Alexis Levitan and Boris Novak.

Małgorzata Lebda is unequivocally one of the most intriguing voices of Polish poets of new generation, numerously awarded for her poetry. In her poetic landscape the scenes of rural childhood turn into magic and mythical, as well as mystical spaces; marked by the rites of passages, spells warding off evil, and local superstitions. The four selected poems come from Lebda’s fourth book, Matecznik (Queen Cells, 2016), which won the title of the Kraków Book of the Month, Stanisław Barańczak Fellowship (the Poznań Literary Award) and ‘Orpheus’, the Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński Prize. In these poems, we meet a local shaman woman who resembles a desert bird/the more thoroughly she groomed evil off you.” Also, the figure of father recurs here as in other Lebda’s poems. Here a strict father restores the order to life by making pigeon broth to cure his daughter. These poems contemplate illness, death, the loss of childhood, as well as the loss of her father/Father in a fresh, authentic, unique way.

“Don’t unseat the word with outside music,” Astrid Cabral, leading Brazilian poet and environmentalist tells us in her poem “With the Word, the Poem.” And so words offer us their “music of another pitch”— whose mystery and lyricism inhere in Alexis Levitan’s sublime translations from the Portuguese. Alexis Levitan is a renowned translator of over fifty volumes.

We are also fortunate to bring to our pages an excerpt from one of Slovenia foremost contemporary poets Boris Novak from his 3,000 page epos The Doors of No Return as well as other poems he translates himself. Whitmanesque in its scope, “The Ancestral Tree” is a crucial antidote to the brutality and loss suffered through the 20th century’s blood scape in Europe, bringing us to further reflection on identity: Are we many or I or both, or no one at all but an image saying: “To whom belongs this image on the window….?”  Inventive word-play abounds in his work of moral gravitas, interweaving personal and cultural history, politics, philosophy and spirituality through his singular, resonant and kaleidoscopic vision.

–Barbara Siegel Carlson and Ewa Chrusciel




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