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Poetry in Translation Co-Editors’ Note

Thinking of William Carlos Williams’s famous quote “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet [people] die miserably every day for lack of what is found there” and Stanley Kunitz’s view that poetry makes revelation possible, we bring you features from the French, Russian and Polish that cultivate their inner vision by seeking an adequate language to articulate that vision. In doing so, they unify us, as all art does, acting as a force for good in a world that so desperately needs it.

Susanne Petermann brings us lucid translations by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) from the French, the language Rilke wrote in only toward the end of his life.  The poems are noticeably more childlike than the vast body of his work, drawing attention to their irony. One poem captures the emotional intensity of a child waiting for a parent; the other the plight of the refugee whose child needs comfort more than the truth that “there is no song/can stop the rising sea,” though the song may be just “a lovely ship in a bottle.”

With vigor and passion, Ilya Kutlik engages us in a metaphysical confrontation with time through a fusillade of imagery where Time is a shapeshifter from ghost horseman to cannon-ball till all that’s left is God. Kutlik writes in his biography that he is one of the founders of the Metarealist Russian school of poets, a group that “with audacity and wit and allusiveness have explored a variety of metaphor that defies reality.” His ending of “Hell & Paradise” surely speaks to the strange and contradictory blend of human and divine that we are. We are truly delighted to bring you these poems eloquently translated from the Russian by Reginald Gibbons.

Jadwiga Malina’s poems come from her recent collection “Czarna załoga” [Black Crew].

These poems are haunting. They revolve around the themes of eco-poetry, freedom, human violence and empathy. They are Cassandra-like divinations, foreseeing the ecological and historical catastrophes. They are situated (they tiptoe, in fact) on the quivering line of the historical force encountering a single human life. They continually pose a question: Unde Malum?

–Barbara Siegel Carlson and Ewa Chrusciel

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