Lux City Living

by Donald Morrill

A stump endures beneath the floor of my screened porch in Tampa, Florida—of an oak cut down when this row of bungalows was put up nearly a century ago. I didn’t learn of it until last year, when David, the pest control man, crawled there and soaked it with creosote and other poisons to beat back the termites whose vast galleries rummage far below this old end of town. The stump and termite join my growing roster of tutors on the topic of how much lies unknown so near beside, above, within—and after only twenty-five years writing out here on this porch, in plein-air, at some hour nearly every day. Twenty-five years I didn’t intend, really, with the ospreys cruising up from the pond adjacent to the expressway . . . and the anoles—migrants from the Caribbean in the 1930’s—dashing across the sidewalks, always in the same direction, from the street-side grass to the interior lawn . . . and the white powdery noonday light of midsummer . . . and the rainy season making our street a gondola-road each afternoon, the run-off sluicing from roofs as though the tiles were melting. Decades gone from my first home-place in Iowa (all changed now but in a few minds) I have become a native of this porch. And like the prose I love and strive to emulate, it has become an instrument of awareness, observation, contact, a layering of memory and artifact. It’s become a point through which ever more accumulating lines pass concurrently. Take that temporary meadow across the street, for instance, blooming scruffy and spiny white behind the sign with townhouse illustration announcing Lux City Living (starting in the $600k). A year ago a Spanish Med stood there—built the same year as our house. Dissipated Ambler lived in it; before him, Derrick and David (who sold children’s clothes on the net) and before them, Emily and her piano tuner boyfriend. And others. Others all around. They lived in it, in what has vanished. They will also live in the vanishing to come. It’s the only fact left to them, of them. How can that be? Yet another tutor about the near and nearly unknown, Robert Francis, in his great poem “Juniper,” gets at the luck in it. Of the berry of that tree, he writes:

Its colors are the metals: tarnished bronze
And copper, violet of tarnished silver,
And if you turn it, white aluminum.
So many colors in so dull a green
And I so many years before I saw them.

I see those colors now, and far, far more
Than color. I see all that we have in common
Here where we live together on this hill.
And what I hope for is for more in common.

agni-monkey

Morrill Author Photo JPG copy - Version 2_face0 copyDonald Morrill is the author of the nonfiction volumes Impetuous Sleeper, The Untouched Minutes (River Teeth Nonfiction Prize), Sounding for Cool, and A Stranger’s Neighborhood, as well as three collections of poetry (among them Awaiting Your Impossibilities, a 2016 Florida Book Award recipient). His debut novel Beaut won the Lee Smith Fiction Prize and was published in 2018 by Blair. He has been the Bedell Visiting Writer in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa and Writer-in-residence at the Poetry Center at Smith. Currently he teaches in the Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of Tampa.

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The Winter Rain of the Poets: A Report from Civita di Bagnoregio and The Bronx

by Judith Baumel

“You cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall.” With resignation, I note this power of God during my everyday prayers in Civita. Shakespeare, too, comes to mind every day. “With hey, ho, the wind and the rain, . . . the rain it raineth every day. “

Civita, the city that dies, is the remnant of an Etruscan and then medieval Cathedral town north of Rome. It is built on volcanic material that crumbles and landslides nearly every day and, despite the intervention of modern geologists and engineers, still cracks and breaks in response to earthquakes. I am here alone, a guest of the Civita Institute founded by Astra Zarina and Tony Heywood in the town they helped revive. I believe that Tony is the only other person who sleeps in town on a regular basis though some of the weekend people and some of the owners of B&Bs keep their lights on at night which arrives early in January.

From the first day of winter, we all know, spring is always on its way. Here, the almond trees bud and bloom. I visit them when I can.

And when the downpour doesn’t stop, I am indoors reading an amateur memoir called “In the Heart of Civita: Memories of a Lost Civilization.” Vilma Catarcione is my mother’s age, which is to say, she was a teen ager during WWII. Catarcione’s stories remind me of my mother’s. They match piquant wit to an observant eye. At the end, Catarcione includes a chapter in dialect she calls “Various Sayings and Nonsense.” I love the phrase for nonsense: “Ninne-Nanne,” an onomatopoeia that is instantly comprehensible and suggests, tentatively, the Yiddish “Bubbe meises.” Some of the dialect is slow going for me, but pian, piano I’m getting it. And I try my hand at rough translation. This one leaps out to my wet self:

Pe’ piova e pe’ caca’ nun bisogna Dio prega.
For shit or for rain, to God we needn’t pray.

As does this other, for a different reason, alas:

Un fijo e’ uno spasso
dui so’ ‘na frulla,
tre, quattro fanno fracasso,
cinque, sei fanno ‘r ghetto dell’ebrei.

One son is fun
two are a spin
three and four make a din,
five and six turn your home, O, into a Jewish ghetto.

There were never Jews in Civita but 30 miles up the road, in another tufo city sits the Jerusalem of Italy, Pitigliano’s now-emptied ghetto. You can visit a recently spiffed-up synagogue, no longer used, and a small museum. Below the synagogue and carved from the tufo is a complex of rooms that include what was once a kosher winery, kosher butcher, matzah bakery and oven, ritual baths, a dye-works and a tannery. At its largest the Jewish community made up 20% of Pitigliano’s citizenry. Once they relied on and supported these institutions that are now relics and hypotheticals.

I am sitting at the big kitchen table in Il Nuovo apartment of the Civita Institute. Beside me in the fireplace is a vase of laurel branches I collected as the gardeners pruned next door. I’m reading An Infant In The Storm: Memories of a Child in Pitigliano during the Racial Laws by Ariel Paggi. A hail storm comes in. The hailstones are so small I can only see them if I squint. They make a tinkling on the roof-tiles like a rain stick or a bead curtain. At first I don’t notice. I am deep in the grotto which gentile friends carved when they could no longer shelter the Paggi family in a farmhouse basement.

It’s early 2018. The confusions and betrayals of the Fascist era become ever more pressing to me. Pressing and distressing. Enlightening and disabling. So many people in the States are declaring “This is how Fascism starts.” For the young Paggi and Cartarcione, Fascism started like the weather. Which you can’t do anything about. The hail begins and you don’t notice until your toes are wet or the streets are white with hoar. And then the Racial Laws and then Fake News and Alternative Facts and False Facts and Self Censorship come so much into the mix you don’t exactly know how to follow the conversation. You don’t know what your neighbor is doing or thinking. To whom she is talking or to whom you should talk. Speaking the truth falls to the poets who sharpen every word and demand a divorce from easy language.

Ariel Paggi writes about one of his Jewish neighbors. Well into the German occupation, when the Jews of the area were in one kind of hiding or another, a community leader, Tranquillo Servi, belatedly following official orders, presented himself and family to the local internment camp. They were released in a month and they subsequently went about encouraging everyone do the same. To follow suit or not was the open debate throughout the winter in the Paggi family’s cave. It was December, it was dark, they were wet, they were cold. They were tempted but they did not leave by choice. They were eventually deported, survived, returned but didn’t live in Pitigliano much longer. In middle age Paggi researched the background of the Servi episode. Paggi is withering in his assessment of what Servi, the Fascist Jew, did to save his own family and the devastation he brought to those who took his advice.

American Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith reminds us that “Poetry is not the language we live in. It’s not the language of our obligation-fulfilling, not the language with which we are asked to justify ourselves to the outside world.” “Poetry,” she says, “frees us from the tyranny of literal meaning and assures us of the credible reality of emotional truth.”

And this explains why the steady, clear-toned memoir An Infant In The Storm is most moving when the workaday prose won’t suffice and it yields to the poetry and prayers and songs which broke through the violent weather of that time.

Candelora is the original Groundhog Day. Is winter almost over? Depends on whether there is wind, rain or snow on the Feast of Candlemas. And depends on where you are. Different dialect versions of the same proverb assert opposite conclusions. We have the same weather as Maria Luisa Venti up north a bit in Umbria where Perugians say: La Madonna candelora dell’inverno semo fora, ma se piove e tira vento dell’inverno semo dentro (By Candelmas morn, winter is gone but if there’s rain and wind, winter we’re still in). Conversely, Civitans say Per la santa Candelora se nevica o se pioa dell’inverno semo fora (On Candelmas raining or snowing means winter is going).

I think the point of all weather proverbs is to train us to look carefully. They don’t predict but they prescribe. Sometimes we find what we want to see. And sometimes we squint into the weather for some bit of bracing truth. Strongmen who call the press the enemy of the people use this disconnect between words and weather to sever causality. It’s always something. It’s part of God’s great mixed up universe. As the weather wasn’t created by any individual, so the violence under which we suffer is just the weather of bad politics.

Civita’s Chiesa San Donato holds mass only on Sunday mornings and special occasions. On Candelora afternoon five people are in the pews. The sexton; Rosanna, the woman in charge of the presepio which I’m to help dismantle on Candelora; Rosanna’s husband; me; and a young photographer from Milan who is photographing the meager service in the town that is dying. I’m holding the mass card of a dear friend’s child who died in a car crash years ago. The winter of that loss has never left me. Don Luca agrees to say mass for Steven on his birthday, this Sunday. Our long-burning now-blessed candles flicker through the indoor fog. Rosanna and I set them on the altar’s candelabra and collect wooden sheep and donkeys to pack away for next year.

When I’m alone, things that go bump in the daytime woods, things that crack, things that whistle and whoosh, things that huff and rustle terrify me. I imagine the worst and the worst for me are human predators. I imagine the madmen, the Misfit, Cropsey, even just a kid out to steal my iPhone. Yeah, it’s plausible to me that there could be a larcenous kid waiting out in the chestnut groves of Bagnoregio. I’m a city girl at heart. I don’t feel so vulnerable out at night in NYC as I do in “the woods” anywhere any time. Tramping through ankle deep mud I come upon a collapsed house. A bathtub is outside up the trail a bit. And further, a roll of barbed wire and nylon rope. My mind goes crazy. What lunatic violent squatter hermit is lurking in the rubble? No Saint Francis for sure, though the good church father is said to have spent a winter nearby in a cave beneath Bangoregio and saved the young Giovanni Fidanza. This child became the theologian and fiction writer Saint Bonaventura. Bonaventure wrote the first narrative of Francis and set about destroying whatever documentary evidence contradicted his story. Mud or no, unsettling objects or no, I am stalking a good view of the sun setting on a particular rock outcropping called the “Gothic Cathedral.” So I summon all my bravery and march on. I live to tell the tale, of course, though in bed I think I see a hand hook hanging from a far ceiling beam. And I recall Czesław Miłosz’s words in “Ars Poetica” as translated by Lillian Vallee

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

This Pole saw what happens when violent speech causes violent acts. Saw what happens when dog whistle speech calls back the ancestors, our invisible guests, the good ones and the ones we thought we’d buried and forgotten. Our polity is an open house with no keys in the doors.

The mud puddles in the square are coated with ice this morning. By afternoon I find a harbinger of spring. A lone ginestra blossom along the donkey path. Ginestra would be on my flag of Italy and on my coat of arms if anyone ever asked to me design such things. Ginestra means Italy to me. It means Umbria to me. In my first book I published a poem in direct conversation with the Romantic poet Leopardi and his great and grand and definitive poem “Ginestra.” In December I got to talk about some of this with Maria Luisa’s students. They were like high school kids everywhere. Some had heard of their country’s second most important poet and some had not. Even the students who had heard of Leopardi had not read him. In my horrid American accent I quoted him. I doubt that my performance encouraged anyone to go to the Canti. But maybe my passion did. Poets are the only ambassadors for poetry. I kept telling those open-faced teens that poetry matters because it calls our attention to words. Poetry demands that we go beyond slogans and beneath the superficial promises of the public square. Poets write nationalism for what it is, as Leopardi does, early in “Ginestra”:

See your reflection here,
O proud and foolish age
Who stumbling backward
Trumpet your retrogression as a gain.
Your maunderings have made
The brilliant (if unlucky) gather round,
Like children smiling to a father’s face
And muttering to his back….
The thought which helped us rise from barbarism,
Alone encourages civility,
And guides us better in our general life.
You did not like the truth.  (Ottavio Mark Casale, trans.)

Poets ask “what is it like?” Metaphor is our medium. So because we are the best ambassadors for poetry we are also the best ambassadors for peace, justice, wildness, resistance, beauty and, yeah, truth.

Fog. Civita Fog. A horse or a cat of a different color. The lightest of drizzle when I wake up but I can see the wall a meter from my window. Gradually I realize there is no more rain but also nothing whatsoever visible from my window. In the street I only make out general outlines of familiar buildings. I walk toward the bridge. Immediately exiting the Porta Maria, the fog is so thick I can’t see ahead or beside or behind. It feels like a long ago November trip during which there had been Acqua Alta in Venice and so much fog in Ravenna I couldn’t see my own hand while inside Galla Placida. I stumbled toward Dante’s tomb feeling like a ghost ready to meet another. The political fog through which Dante cut clear words hovering still over his permanent exile.

There are Guelfs and there are Ghibellines and, further, there are White Guelfs and there are Black Guelfs. If you can’t get this straight, you can’t really get Dante straight. I confess I struggle. Still, there are dire consequences if you don’t get your words straight.

The main gate in Civita was built by the Etruscans and the lower part still has their big tufo blocks. The arch was restructured in the late middle ages and again in the renaissance with a protective fortress above it. Two matching bas reliefs flank the gate. Some writers claim that the reliefs are originally Etruscan. Some writers claim that the iconography represents the triumph of the forces of nature over mankind. Etruscans already suffered the worrying landslides and building collapses that are still going on today. And they already used the decorative basaltina stone which is still quarried nearby. Most writers, however, believe the bas reliefs celebrate the victory of Civita over the Monaldeschi family of Orvieto. The Monaldeschi were Guelphs and they controlled Civita to keep it out of the hands of the Ghibellines of Viterbo. In 1457 Civita, “tired and exasperated,” according to a text I found in the Landslide Museum, rebelled and destroyed the castle of Cervara, home of the Monaldeschi. That’s what the human heads within rampant lion paws are supposed to remind us of. At the center of the arch, threatening above both lions, is a single bas relief of an eagle grasping the head of a lion. Just so you know before whom you stand.

All this predates the decisive earthquake of 1695. Much of the ground on which the town was built disappeared. Deemed unsafe, the Cathedral was demoted to an ordinary church. Most everyone including the clergy were evacuated to the outlying area that is now the dominant town of Bagnoregio. Some stragglers returned and stayed and had children and grandchildren and so on. But pieces kept breaking off. Over the years St. Bonaventure’s house which had become a small church in 1524 fell into the valley. The southern gate collapsed. Poets remember and wait. They sharpen their language and they insist. Civita’s most famous epithet, “the dying town,” comes from the writing of native son Bonaventura Tecchi in his 1928 collection The Wind Between the Houses.

I wish that among the little statues and household gods on the fireplace mantel in the Institute’s library were a bust of Dante. You probably guess why I want Dante to hover over me as I read and write. How can I not? His genius provides infinite inspiration. And, as his writing is a compendium of landscape and character sketches of greater Italy, he often functions as a Baedeker. You may wonder, as I do, if the poet of The Divine Comedy therefore provides us a few lines about Civita. The answer: About Civita only the most modest fact: it is Bonaventura’s birthplace.

Dante has a lot to say about the spiritual value of this landscape in which St. Francis laid hands on his biographer Bonaventure. Dante tells this story in his characteristic sly and teasing way. Bonaventura of Bagnoregio is in the circle of the sun in Paradise. The saint speaks from a ring of moving musical lights to tell Dante the story of Saint Dominic, as, in the matching previous canto, St. Thomas tells the story of St Francis. Dante switches biographers and their subjects to emphasize the match between the foundations of the religious orders they founded (Franciscan and Dominican). At first, it feels like a strain to have the gentle Francis made a soldier of Christ. After a while, Dante’s exhortation becomes clear. For Dante-the-poet, military, imperial and political fighting are metaphors on the way to the highest spiritual end.

It is late 2018. I’m home now amidst the verbal earthquakes and landslides of America’s president. Lock her up. Build the Wall. Murderers and Rapists. Knock the crap out of him. Every day Trump and his enablers send out minor temblors and landslides. I write at the end of a week in which pipe bombs were sent to critics of the president, two black people were killed in a Kentucky Krogers parking lot and a Pittsburgh synagogue endured the massacre of 11 people at prayer. Some of us are required to reject, again, after so many previous rejections, the rhetoric that “good people with guns” are needed to combat the “evil people with guns.” I can’t believe there are still people in this country who don’t see the link between mass shootings and assault rifles. But there are. To them I say, automatic guns do not belong in schools and places of worship and post offices and factories or any public space. He’s not my president and I won’t live his atmospheric violence. Today I enlisted in Dante’s and Leopardi’s army. I’m a warrior for peace.

agni-monkey

Baumel Judith Baumel is the author of three books of poetry: The Kangaroo Girl (GenPop books, 2011), Now (University of Miami Press, 1996), and The Weight of Numbers (Wesleyan University Press, 1988), for which she won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. She has published poetry, translations, and essays in Poetry, The Yale Review, AGNI, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. A former director of the Poetry Society of America, she is associate professor of English and was founding director of the Creative Writing Program at Adelphi University. Her website is http://www.judithbaumel.com.

The Light of Homer

(for Peter Manning, teacher and mentor)

by Josh Gidding

“…and down from the high heavens
bursts the boundless bright air…”

Autumn comes around again, like a familiar old taskmaster no longer to be avoided, but full of old memories, and not entirely unwelcome after the summer has run its course; and with the change of season, thoughts of Homer arise. I believe it has to do with the quality of light at this time of year. The weakening, goldening light of October, always a little ceremonial, elegiac and antique—like the music of Elgar, which somehow puts me in the same frame of mind. The afternoon light, mote-filled and evocative, slanting in through the west windows, pouring over the bookcases, fixing the moment in the nostalgic mind. I think of the time—the fall of freshman year at Berkeley—when I first read The Iliad and then The Odyssey in their entirety, back to back. The full dose of riches. Those days of reading Homer (the Lattimore and Fitzgerald translations, respectively—still my favorites, after all these years) are imprinted in memory. They were days of strangeness, newness, and nervousness—the nervousness of being new at the university, and the strangeness of its impersonal, public vastness, so different from my elite private high school back east. And the beauty of October in Northern California only made it stranger: the mockery of the California sunshine falling on my sadness—the congenital mild depression I have always carried with me, but didn’t know enough then to name.

It may seem odd that the idealized, romanticized vision I have now of the kind of light that goes along with reading (and later teaching) Homer should be connected with a poem—The Iliad is the one I have in mind here—that is so far from romanticizing or idealizing anything. The world of The Iliad is a world severely stark and unillusioned. Consider the scene from Book XXI, where Achilles kills Lycaon, a young Trojan warrior who has just begged him for mercy:

“So friend, you die also. Why all this clamour about it?
…Even I have also my death and my strong destiny,
and there shall be a dawn or an afternoon or a noontime
when some man in the fighting will take the life from me also…”
…Achilles drawing his sharp sword struck him
beside the neck at the collar-bone, and the double-edged sword
plunged full length inside. He dropped to the ground face downward,
and lay at length, and the black blood flowed, and the ground was
soaked with it. (Lattimore translation)

What is especially noteworthy about this passage, as critics like Simone Weil and George Steiner have pointed out, is the implacable, matter-of-fact vision of fate conveyed, by both speaker and narrator. The title of Weil’s famous essay is “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force”—“force on loan from fate,” as she puts it; and both the force and the sense of fate behind it take on a quality of the sublime. Something supremely austere is at work here, remote and untouchable: “…and red death came flooding down his eyes,/and the strong force of fate” (Fagles translation). The purity of this austerity may be what Matthew Arnold was getting at in “On Translating Homer,” when he described him as “the clearest-souled of poets.” And the graphic nature of the carnage takes nothing away from the austerity—as when Patroclus, soon to die himself at the hands of Hector, brains the charioteer Cebriones with a rock:

The sharp stone crushed both brows, the skull caved in
and both eyes burst from their sockets, dropping down
in the dust before his feet as the reinsman vaulted,
plunging off his well-wrought car like a diver—
Cebriones’ life breath left his bones behind
and you taunted his corpse, Patroclus O my rider….
(Fagles translation)

Here Patroclus behaves like a cold-hearted killer; yet this recognition doesn’t keep the poet from addressing him with a personal epithet that, formulaic though it is, also conveys a sense of attachment to the character. Homer does something similar near the bloody climax of The Odyssey, where he addresses Odysseus’ loyal servant Eumaeus several times as “O my swineherd”—a homely locution I have always loved for its incongruous mixture of humbleness and nobility.

The homely and the grand sit comfortably together in Homer. In the climactic scene of The Iliad, Achilles chases the doomed Hector several times around the outskirts of the city—past the wild fig tree, and the Trojan lookout point, and the wagon trail, and the hot-and-cold springs where the Trojan women did their washing before the war came: homely locales all. But then the poetic register shifts gracefully from the familiar back to the heroic:

Past these they raced, one escaping, one in pursuit
and the one who fled was great but the one pursuing
greater, even greater—their pace mounting in speed
since both men strove, not for a sacrificial beast
or oxhide trophy, prizes runners fight for, no,
they raced for the life of Hector breaker of horses.
(Fagles translation)

The understatement of this last line is breathtaking, and anticipates the quiet, sublime simplicity of the very last line of the poem: “And so the Trojans buried Hector breaker of horses.”

In The Iliad there is room for all things under the sun: war, with its occasional peaceful moments; grandeur, and sometimes homeliness; darkness and red death; and also—remembering Arnold here—sweetness and light. Yet the resolutely austere, clear light in which the great events of the poem unfold is also—for me at least—of a piece with the more homely light in which I have always read it, and will continue to read it: the waning light of October, with its intimations of mortality, its many memories of schooldays past, and its anticipation of schooldays yet to come. Fewer, these, without a doubt, but still sweet, if it please the gods.

agni-monkey

good jojay photo copyJosh Gidding is the author of Failure: An Autobiography (Cyan Books, 2007).  He has previously published two essays in AGNI: “On Not Being Proust: A Study in Literary failure” (Spring 2008), which was listed as a “Notable Essay” in Best American Essays 2009, and “On the Desire for Future Biographers” (AGNI Blog, April 10, 2017).  He lives in Seattle, and teaches writing at Highline College.

On Bibliodiversity

by Sydney Lea

I am no theorist, nor even a man who thinks well about philosophy, politics, or social policy in their broader avatars. My testimony, then, is only that of a writer devoted for the most part to ‘minor’ genres.

There I stood at the top of a small local mountain in rural Vermont, where I live, the snow deep, brilliant, crossed only by tracks of deer and coyote. I was 74 years old, and had just sold my thirteenth book of poems to an independent publisher, its editor/director the most sensitive and competent I’ve known.

There was some satisfaction in that, but just then another project announced itself to me: a book of essays on certain people and landscapes of Vermont, and of a place in remote Maine where my family has had a fishing camp for four generations.

Many of those people would be well over a hundred if they still lived, men and women so attuned to their backwoods environments that in memory I still find it hard to tell in their cases where human nature ends and actual nature takes over.

Their culture and particularly their narrative skills have all but disappeared now, none of them left a written account of those lives and times, yet they had meant so much to me as man and artist that I felt I owed them a tribute.

An evil voice asked, Who will publish a book like that?

A better voice replied, It’s what you want to write, so write it!

As it happens, a certain small New York house has since that morning published the book in question. This is a ‘niche’ publisher, one that caters to readers with similar enthusiasms to mine—canoeing, fishing, hiking, hunting. There appear to be enough of those readers that the house can survive on sales alone.

To most publishers of poetry, non-academic literary criticism, personal essay and short fiction, however, government support is increasingly crucial, and here’s the rub: the American hagiography of—The Market. Despite the fact that unfettered U.S. capitalism lately produced disastrous effects at home and worldwide, an article of Market Faith is that if it sells in plenty, then it must be valuable. (By that measure, of course, we should have everything to say about bear-baiting in Elizabethan England, and little about—oh, I don’t know: King Lear?) Recent efforts, especially from the Republican party, to stifle the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, crucial supporters of work that does not meet the market standard of value, are therefore unrelenting.

Given the Latin etymology of the word, with its emphases on saving and together, it strikes me as bizarre that the congregants in this faith regard themselves as “conservatives.”

As I stood on my snowy eminence, I remembered doing so on other hills when I lived just a bit farther south. From there, my prospect today would be onto out-of-scale new houses…or else much older ones, lived in by single families for generation upon generation but now belonging to relocated suburbanites, who have entirely altered them and their surroundings. These newcomers seem oddly intent on transforming what they fled to into what they fled from.

In a word, downriver from me a demographic revolution has occurred, native families—the ones so brilliantly limned by Robert Frost—forced out, consumerist culture imported, along with such notions as that no real town can endure without a five star restaurant, and so on.

This is conservatism, this sundering of community and tradition?

A warning about the extinction of upper New England’s hill people may have less glamor than an elegy on the indigenous people, say, of the Amazon basin; and yet the juggernaut of The Market and of Globalization is assaultive of both.

Where am I going with such apparent divagation? Well, the social transmogrification to which I’ve alluded in Frost’s territory (and in the Latin-American rain forest) makes a lot of money for certain non-local entrepreneurs. Similarly, if one looks at the best seller list of the NY Times, one finds it dominated by what we call page-turners, books that have scant regard for felicities of style or intricacy of narrative but seek, in effect, to ape the pace, dazzle and formulaic quality of television, film, and now the so-called social networks and video games—in a word, books which, to the delight of large interests, sell in a hurry and in large numbers. As with real estate, what makes the most money becomes what’s most important.

And yet some of us keep insisting on writing and reading the “minor” genres, on the related urgency of language both precise and lyrical; we go on living, at least metaphorically, in precious and vulnerable little houses, which may be razed or ‘refashioned’ when the global market’s juggernaut reaches them, as surely it must.

With respect to writers and readers of American poetry, for example, these little houses have been and become more and more the sort of little publishing houses that I have stuck with throughout my long career—with one disastrous exception: I once sold a collection of poems to a big New York house, whose parent company, I subsequently learned, had only eight per cent of its assets in publishing as we once knew it; the corporation, or so I was told by my excellent editor there, actually had much more invested in food for pets than in poets.

My book sold well by my measure…but not nearly well enough to avoid rather quick consignment to a shredder; the pages I’d labored on were then turned into paper towel (another of the company’s investments). That fine editor got fired, precisely for taking too many books like mine. The executive officers wanted an 18 percent return, and neither I nor my poetic fellows would be contributing much to that.

I’ve never had such an experience with a small press…and yet, as I have hinted, these presses are heavily dependent on financial support not only from individuals of means but also from state and federal governments. It’s not hard to imagine what may become of them if the dismantlers of such support for the arts prevail.

Of course it behooves these publishers, along with their writers and readers, to pressure political representatives for support of our less commercially viable arts all over the world. But I suspect, to make an analogy, that, if my remark about bear-baiting and Shakespeare holds, so today the poet, the essayist, the short fictionist all appeal to constituencies whose political power is paltry when stacked up against The Market or Globalization or—what is for us the same thing—the producers of those page-turners.

Do I sound like a pessimist? I am.

Now it may well be that our future lies in the world of cybernetics: online publishing, electronic books, Google, what have you? I am all but innocent of that world, my own computer, for example, serving me solely as a very high quality typewriter and a machine for sending and receiving e-mail. So I can scarcely offer a cultivated opinion one way or another on such a matter. It does, though, feel to me that the cyberization of publishing is, in the end, another aspect of the market juggernaut I began by lamenting. No time to slow down and prize an author for her creative and intellectual endowments: let’s just get her “stuff” out there, digest it as quickly as possible, then cast it aside.

I’m out of my depth here, yes. Still, I can’t help fretting that if literature’s future is dependent on rampant technology, whose greater harm or benefit to humanity has never been publicly debated in any serious way, and if I live long enough, I’ll miss the feel of an actual book in my hands, the capacity physically to turn its pages—back as well as forth—and will be restricted to fondling and savoring favorite old volumes as they regard me, melancholically, from their shelves. I already miss the tiny Woodsville Bookstore across the river in New Hampshire, from which I used to buy all my reading materials, and with whose cheerful and literate proprietor I shared tips on new authors; the likes of amazon.com and other Internet retailers forced such a shoestring operation into nonentity as if overnight.

As I stand and look out from any local promontory, it is all too easy to imagine an immense, garish and costly modern structure standing in the vista, like some grand Pulp Fiction House or Tech Leviathan looming over the crumbling small houses and shops of my actual, my metaphorical, my spiritual village.

agni-monkey

author photo Big Falls_Sydney Lea, a former Pulitzer finalist, founded and for thirteen years edited the New England Review. His thirteenth collection of poems, Here, is due from Four Way Books in 2019. Likewise, in fall of 2018, Vermont’s Green Writers Press will publish The Music of What Happens: Lyric and Everyday Life, his collected newspaper columns from his years (2011-15) as Vermont Poet Laureate. In spring of ‘18, GWP has just re-issued his collaborative book of essays with former Delaware laureate Fleda Brown, Growing Old in Poetry: Two Poets, Two Lives. See what he’s published in AGNI here.

Every Course To Begin with a Poem

by Daneen Wardrop

In Meghan McCain’s eulogy for her father on the first of September, she mentioned that he’d memorized a poem he learned while a prisoner of war in Hoa Lo prison, Vietnam, also derisively called the “Hanoi Hilton.” Apparently, a fellow prisoner had “rapped it out in code” for McCain, and in this way he learned the poem by heart. I’d heard of the author, Robert W. Service, but not the work itself, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” a rollicking, gothic echo-chamber of a work that makes you feel simultaneously disconsolate and pleased that the beginnings of American verse trail ineluctably through Poe. “The Cremation of Sam McGee” has an ungainly rhythm that includes seven accented syllables per line, occasionally going aground with arrhythmia. Its dark humor, though, strikes you as exactly the poem John McCain would choose to regale people—even, apparently, his wife-to-be when he was courting her, as Meghan recounted.

In John McCain’s own words, one interchange of such code rapping started when he gave the “shave and a haircut” greeting to the person in the next cell, after which McCain “started tapping out the alphabet—one tap for ‘a,’ two for ‘b,’ and so on.” Imagine wanting a poem badly enough to sit through such transliteration, letter by letter, as the prisoner communicated to him the long heptameter ballad, “The Cremation.” How odd to have such a tappity poem transmitted in a rapping code, the double paradiddles underpinning your “reading” of it as you sit in solitary confinement.

But my main purpose here isn’t to write about John McCain, though I know a lot of us have surprised ourselves recently by realizing a larger sense of loss than we anticipated. Nor is my purpose to write about poor, hapless Sam McGee. What I want is to praise the pragmatism—the utility—of poetry.

A type of ingenuity that remains relatively unlauded, poetry as utility becomes clear by way of its connection with beat, however insistent or subtle the rhythm. Even in a gruesome place, the arts restore uplift, steel camaraderie, buoy fellow feeling, encourage cross-identification, and enliven us to see the creative light in each other. These are survival skills. McCain learned “The Cremation of Sam McGee” for the most important audience in the world: himself, and his fellow POWs as they all attended to their own and each other’s sustenance. They worked to keep the sense of innovation intact and their creative souls whole, because that’s what creativity sways one to do.

On a basic level survivors know that song saves. They know internal rhythm rescues.

The utility of poetry arrives at a crux at which we register fully that verse is a basic human need—a need I’m convinced encodes us as humans. It delivers us.

Poetry rattles necessary meters through our bones, teaching us to feel and think at the same time, as Muriel Rukeyser describes in her apt phrase, “the truth of feeling.” The truth of feeling marries two forces seemingly at the antipodes into a strong union we might refer to, for lack of a better term, as the ability to “feel/think.” To encounter a poem is to flag humanness, to breathe—as respiration, inspiration—and to find the live crossing between emotion and thought.

Every university course should begin with a poem. Each class meeting of every university course should begin with a poem.

Yes, I mean a course in physics, a course in materials technology, a course in medicine, a course in business management. Start them all with a poem. In fact, let every gathering, everywhere, begin with poetry.

To speak only from feeling is dangerous—feeling alone gives way to conspiracy theories and sentimentality, for example. To speak only from thought is differently dangerous, resulting in corporate greed and institutional abuse, for example. Poetry relies upon the interlacing of the two. A cluster of words without this entwining will disintegrate before it can be said, before it can be a poem.

From the moment a baby is born, poetry, our birthright, curls a thin song in the aorta, and threads its fine connecting lines to the brain, and around again to the heart. Poems arise from such delicate wiring. Strength and resolve arise from this redoubled resource.

The wiring together of feeling and thinking attunes us—you might even say tunes us—to the only viable way to live when in extremis, as do prisoners, of course, but as we do right now, to a less extreme extent, as across the globe we are fighting political oppression. It tunes us to the most viable way to live in a treacherous era.

I suppose this little essay is another defense of poetry, though not one that starts from “I, too, dislike it,” as in the recent and astute argument of Ben Lerner, but instead that starts from “A Noiseless Patient Spider” who from a point of isolation flings filament after filament into the “vacant vast surrounding.” Though Whitman’s speaker seems not to be granted immediate connection, he or she still believes the “thread” will “catch,” just as a prisoner keeps tapping code on a wall until the listener holds a cup up to his ear on the other side of the wall. The search for rhythmic partnership delivered through rarified vibration creates inceptive, authentic connections. Even in solitary confinement.

In the combinatory graces of what it is to feel/think, voice enters. In those combinatory graces, voice stays.

AGNI Monkey

Daneen Wardrop Promo Shot.pdf.jpgDaneen Wardrop’s books of the last several years include Cyclorama, Life as It, winner of the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Award and, appearing just this month, Silk Road.  She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and her poems have been included in magazines such as Virginia Quarterly Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review, and The Iowa Review. See what she’s published in AGNI here.

What Does Your Cat Want from You? A Writer’s Thoughts

by Anis Shivani

Cats know death better than anyone.

It seems that the primary reason they domesticated us, at the same time as humans became domesticated to agriculture and a sedentary life, was to remind us of the sensuous things that keep escaping us. And what is more sensuous than death? What is more luxurious, what is more eventful, what is more poetic? A cat contains the poetry of death—and indeed it is the highest form of poetry, because this poetry comes from silence and ends in silence—like nothing else on earth.

The cat’s every movement and gesture and sound and hesitation and flurry and escape and approach is designed to embody the idea of death.

The idea of death is a furry softness we touch and grope and fondle, thinking we are touching a cat. Squeeze a cat in the belly and hear him utter that half moan, half mewl, half plea, half grump, squeeze him and feel how delicate and fragile he is, how absurdly small despite his usual proclamations to be a tiger in a cat’s little body. He is small and he knows it but most of the time he doesn’t want you to know it, except when you rub him a little too hard, he realizes then you have penetrated the membrane of forgettability, you have raised questions!

A cat does not want to answer questions. This explains why he’s often not around to take them. Or not take them at moments inappropriate for him. Or he takes them on sufferance. Or he takes them as answers in themselves, not bodies he’s accountable for.

A cat has the most fluid sense of accountability, like you should as a writer, a cat is unaccountable and unknowable and unchangeable as you were in your best moments as a child.

Remember when the ocean of gratitude washed over you in the playground, as you ceased for that moment to try to grow into something, a viable man or a viable woman, a bigger, taller, stronger, hardier being? You paused in the stillness of the midmorning sun, unable to calculate, unable to add two plus two, unable to remember your name even; all you knew was that you had shown up in the world just that morning, unmade, unborn, unreal.

A cat is born into the world anew each morning. (This is what you misinterpret as his need for luxury, for conspicuous ease, in fact you misinterpret all his gestures as his need for luxury.)

Each morning he tells you, the writer, he is shocked to be alive. Is any of it real? Is he actually breathing, beside the slant acrostics of the sun, under that revolving fan that throws kooky shadows over the walls, is he actually breathing? In and out, in and out, watch his nose flutter, watch his eyes purr in disbelief, yes he is breathing something of the air we all share. (Air is nothing but the volume of unreality that rises and falls in proportion to the quota of tragedy that has been your lot for the day. You don’t believe that the air is thicker or thinner on any given day? Then you haven’t been around cats long enough, sorry.)

A writer knows that a cat reincarnates more prolifically than a person. A single cat may die and reincarnate twenty or twenty thousand times, reappear in all the different hotspots around the world to put his foot down and throw his scent around and lay out the smartest paths of escape. But here’s the difference from people reincarnating: a cat has no choice but to relive his finest instincts each time, the failure of nerve, unfortunately common to people, not a shortcoming he needs to reappear to correct.

It’s quite possible that cats invented reincarnation.

catessaypicture1
My original Fu, who died Oct. 13, 2015, after two years of illness; he ate a poisoned rat, otherwise he would have gone on to live till twenty-nine.
catessaypicture2
Foolittle, who was born around the same time Fu died, at six months old. A case of reincarnation? You decide.

A cat looks at food and insects and birds and trees and flowers and grass and pillows and newspapers and dogs and bookshelves and drinking fountains and socks and purses as objects in the process of reincarnation, things that have been here before and will be again, things that have always existed, so that it is not possible to conceive of their non-existence. Shouldn’t you, as a writer, be paying at least that much respect to objects around you?

So what does your cat want from you?

He wants you to be as indifferent as he is to solving crossword puzzles.

He does not want you to go out in the rain, because you will get wet and antsy, you will bring in a trail of sodden worldliness, the world drenched in the excess of the weather, the world as weather, the world crying from happiness, he does not want you to remind him that other forms of being overwhelmed besides the one he wants you to know are possible, so he does not want you to go out in the rain.

Actually, nothing is sufficient to explain why a cat does not want you to go out in the rain.

But he does want you to write as though the world had ceased to exist.

He wants you to be alone, a lot more than you have ever managed to be. He means alone in the sense of forgetting how to speak, occasionally, alone in the sense of carving out that big hollow ball of cautious fur where you can lay down away from the tyranny of seconds and minutes and hours.

He wants you to fail, fail at everything you thought was yours for the taking, for only in failing is there the reminder of death which is the only point of life, his and yours.

But he wants you to succeed too, only not in the way you thought you were going to, but in a different way, different not to the world but to you, because you experience success, meaning the world noticing you, as…well, this is the hardest thing to define, so let me have him, the cat, step in for a moment, and take a direct shot at it:

“The world is rain. Or shelter from rain. When you feel the glow of success it’s as if you’re sheltering in the rain. But what I like about you is when you can be in two places at the same time. Or many, many places, too many to count. When you recognize other people you cease being in more than one place at a time. Then I find it hard to speak to you, until you come back to me. And it’s even worse when other people recognize you. Strangers who have never poked at your ribs or puffed in your ears or clawed at your eyes, strangers who think they know you. Do not write for them. I will never recognize you in that familiar way.”

There, good job, cat!

catessaypicture3
The original Fu, the most literary cat there ever was; he read more books than most human beings will ever encounter in a lifetime, and was the author of at least seven, perhaps eleven, books.

A cat wants you, the writer, to rethink all you thought you knew about love. Love is not a gift, it is not a treasure, it is not a possibility, it is not a heritage. You can only experience love to the extent that you’re determined not to experience it. If you want to be in love, you cannot be in love. A cat knows that better than anyone, because he is a connoisseur of death, and you can see it anytime you look in his eyes.

catessaypicture4
Foolittle, who hasn’t yet tried to get into reading and writing, is mostly interested in eating raw venison every couple of hours, chasing the laser beam and flying around the house, keeping me up all night and trying to eat my feet, and in general being a 24/7 cat YouTube highlight reel.

What exactly do you, dear writer, see in a cat’s eyes?

They are full of emerald beatitude, and the end of the world in a sunny explosion, and layers of truth in the moment of death, of course they are full of all these things, but what else do you see in a cat’s eyes?

A cat wants you to see in his eyes a trail of sadness and laughter that ends because it cannot end, the fluid glass container of grace that takes its own measure, glassy poetry that does not blink, does not pause for the sake of the pause alone.

A cat is, almost, a futurist, but not quite.

A cat moves from one thing to another without the blank aura of questioning. Do not ask the wrong questions. Do not waste time asking questions with no answers. In fact, do not ask any questions. This is the nature of a cat’s curiosity that a writer likes best. It is not about questions and answers, it is about not visibly and transparently moving from one moment to another, not traversing moments in a nuanced, atmospheric, observable way, but just being in one moment at a point in time and then reappearing in another at a different point in time—without transition!

This is the only thing that negates death. Well, not really, but the only attitude, this simultaneous reappearance in infinitely many guises, that plays death’s own game, does not try to cheat it but pays it due homage.

A cat is every moment paying homage to death. A writer should likewise always be paying homage to death. Together cat and writer grow into a languid sunflower that graces the noontime doorway, a rain that desires to idealize every evening as it accompanies the sun on its exit, a middlebrow butterfly that has yet to be called the sum of its parts, a bantering rabbi trying to discover the prayer that will negate all lazy prayers, a child playing in a doll’s house which is the only house that exists after the world has ended, a scholar tripping over a tower of books and laughing about atrophy and disappearance, a fish and a bird and a squirrel twisting this way and that in the sun over the churchly pond which will not abide intemperate moisture and grime.

A cat is not a puzzle to a writer. A writer is not a puzzle to a cat. A cat, when he takes you in his confidence, does so from the only heroism he knows.

AGNI Monkey

Fu4Anis Shivani’s recent books are Karachi Raj: A Novel, Soraya: Sonnets, and Literary Writing in the 21st Century: Conversations. His work appears recently in Black Warrior Review, Subtropics, The Journal, Boulevard, West Branch, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. He has previously been published by both AGNI’s print magazine and the blog. His forthcoming novel, A History of the Cat in Nine Chapters Or Less, imagines the evolution of the feline-human relationship at key turning points throughout history—all from the point of view of the most perceptive cat there ever was. See what he’s published in AGNI here.

Radical Sacrifices: Three Questions on Translation with Eugene Serebryany

American author Paul Auster has referred to translators as the “shadow heroes of literature.” Too often unsung, these linguistic cryptologists “make it possible for different cultures to talk to one another…to understand that we all, from every part of the world, live in one world.” Eugene Serebryany here discusses his English translation of a poem by Marina Tsvetaeva, featured in AGNI 87 under the title “Sunrise on the Rails.”

Lauren Peat/AGNI: Literary translation is frequently described as a game of gain and loss: when smuggling a text from one language into another, the freedoms and constraints of the “new” language often diminish certain nuances within the original, and magnify others. When translating Tsvetaeva’s poem from the Russian, how intentional was your reckoning with gain and loss? Was there a particular element within the original that you felt was most important to communicate in the English version, and if so, were any sacrifices made to achieve that end? 

Eugene Serebryany: There were plenty of sacrifices—if one takes a literal view of translation, then almost everything was sacrificed. The original poem has highly regular iambic meter and is divided into quatrains with the classic ABAB rhyming scheme. The translation keeps none of these things. Translators often say that a poem’s tone is the most important thing to convey—yet even the tone had to be subtly altered. “Sunrise…” is an emotionally intense poem. I judged that strong emotions are expressed in modern English poetry in a more subdued or indirect way than in the Russian poetry of Tsvetaeva’s time, so my translation has fewer exclamation marks than the original. There are a few images in the original that I downplayed in the translation; several others I emphasized. A few others I had to interpolate, either to make explicit cultural and historical allusions the original’s Russian reader would understand implicitly, or to recoup in another way some of the original’s tonal intensity.

What was gained in exchange for these radical sacrifices? A syntax more natural to English, for one thing. I felt that a poem this personal, this intense, could not stand with a stilted syntax or with word choice affected by meter or rhyme. A greater clarity was gained, I hope, because this poem is not only personal: it is journalistic, historical, and political, too. Those broader themes had to be conveyed—and where needed, clarified—if I were to avoid footnotes. Above all, I hope the translation gained a greater capacity for fostering empathy between the speaker and the reader across differences of time and place. I took care also to preserve or allude to the technical lexicon, drawn from civil engineering—that is, the railroad terminology Tsevtaeva’s original leans on. Something about this vocabulary seemed essential: the way it connects art and science, mental and physical construction; the way it grounds the poem in something solid, hard, and international.

LP/AGNI: Tsvetaeva led an intense and deeply tragic life: she lived through the Russian Revolution of 1917, as well as the subsequent Russian famine. In an effort to save her daughter Irina from starvation, Tsvetaeva committed her to a state orphanage in 1919. Irina died shortly thereafter. With her remaining family, Tsvetaeva then spent time in Berlin, Prague, and Paris, where they suffered increasingly desperate conditions. In 1941, upon returning to Russia, her husband Sergei was executed on charges of espionage; Tsvetaeva committed suicide that same year.

Written in October of 1922, “Sunrise on the Rails” recounts Tsvetaeva’s experience as a refugee from Russia. It is shot through with the pain of the grieving—of someone who has lost, but still harbors hopes of retrieval—as well as the pain of recognizing that things have irrevocably changed. “I can still keep Russia / Intact,” Tsvetaeva writes:

I can still stitch it together
From the drab fog, like a playhouse
For orphans—quickly now,
Before the switchman wakes.

I was certainly struck by Tsvetaeva’s biography. Do you think that your translation was marked by your own understanding of her life? Or were you more consciously motivated by the original Russian itself?

ES: Yes, certainly the tragedy of Tsvetaeva’s own life influenced the translation. Tsvetaeva’s daughter, as you mentioned, had died in an orphanage; her husband had been forced to flee Russia earlier (because, as a royalist military officer, he had fought against the Red Army during the civil war). So conveying the feeling of orphanhood was definitely important. The broader historical and political context of her life was very important also: her contemporary readers knew it and had lived it, but now, a century later and a continent away, I felt it needed some explanation. This is how the description of sunrise as a “red thumb” got into the translation—that’s not in the original at all, but was my attempt to briefly conjure up the history and outcome of the Russian Civil War and Tsvetaeva’s relation to it. The early stanzas, up through the passage you quote, were the ones where I took the most liberties of this kind, to set the stage; the latter ones hug the original more closely.

In fact, the passage you quote is a good illustration of the fairly radical approach I resorted to in those early lines. The original has no orphans in that particular stanza; what it does have is a juxtaposition of the word сырость (“syrost’,” dampness) and серость (“serost’,” grayness/drabness). The word сырость is repeated multiple times in the poem, building up the tension until it gets finally resolved by another wordplay that juxtaposes сырость and сирость (“sirost’,” orphanhood). By this language trick the one is “revealed,” in a sense, as the other. I decided not to attempt a comparable wordplay in English, so the notion of orphans had to be there from the start. Likewise, the original has no stitching and no playhouse; it talks only generally of “re-constructing” Russia. But the sense that the poet’s life as well as country had been torn asunder, and may yet be stitched back together by some furious feat of imagination—this made the choice seem natural (natural for English, that is!). And, of course, the entire poem is an act of constructing a sort of “playhouse for orphans”—an imaginary city, an imaginary home for herself, her remaining daughter, and her fellow refugees…. This stitching, this re-construction, is a self-consciously quixotic act, in a way: it recognizes itself as a game, a self-delusion, a stage of grief, even as, on a parallel level, it’s also an act of journalism, a show of determination.

LP/AGNI: Philosopher and biblical scholar Friedrich Schleiermacher (and later translation theorist Lawrence Venuti) famously entertained the idea of translation operating between two poles, even extremes: the first “foreignizing”—whereby a translation is made to reflect the “foreign” quality of its original—and the second “domesticating,” whereby a translation is made to fit seamlessly into the landscape of the new language. What is your own view of this theory? Do you align with either method, or do you have your own understanding of the relationship between a translation and its original?

ES: Yes, I was certainly conscious of where on that spectrum the translation would end up. After struggling through many drafts that preserved the form of the original (the rhyme, the meter, the exclamation points…), in the end I opted for a radically higher dose of “domestication,” as well as my explanatory interpolations. As you point out, there is an ideological choice involved. I am an immigrant myself, and Russian is my native language. So the greater challenge for me is usually to avoid over-foreignizing: creating a translation that is too syntactically awkward or culturally obscure for most of its intended readers to empathize with. A translation has to create cultural connection, this cross-cultural, cross-generational empathy, to convey the image of a mind or of a felt reality that is inaccessible without it. To create such a connection, especially with a text rooted in a specific cultural and historical moment, the translator has to intervene in the text in some ways, like a guide to a foreign landscape.

Such a “guided tour” might seem heavy-handed, but in cases like this I think it’s justified. Translation necessarily implies analysis, interpretation, explanation, and finally a new synthesis in another tongue. Even the most cautious translators can’t be completely transparent. They choose which poem to translate, and when, and for whom. I felt that the time and place that we inhabit needed this poem carried across, and that there was urgency in connecting to it. What if somewhere among the war refugees of our own time there is another Tsvetaeva? What if she could speak for some of them?

AGNI Monkey

ES reading photoEugene Serebryany was born in Moscow, Russia, and moved to Massachusetts as a teenager. He attended Yale University, where he was strongly influenced by Peter Cole’s course on literary translation. His translations of XX century Russian poetry have appeared in AGNI, Cardinal Points, Inventory, and Modern Poetry in Translation. In his parallel life he is a scientist. He obtained his PhD in biochemistry from MIT and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University. His scientific interests include protein folding, protein aggregation, and cataract disease. See what he’s published in AGNI here.

Peat Photo

 

Native to the rolling British midlands and the great metropolis of Toronto, Lauren Peat is a current poetry MFA candidate at Boston University and an intern at AGNI.