I’m reading the chilling and brilliantly constructed Jane by Maggie Nelson, which investigates the life of a young woman murdered by a serial killer. One of my grad students is translating it into Spanish, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for her on a psychic level. Less heavy are Bernadette Mayer’s poems, which I love to teach, and which have led me to Catullus, translated by Roy Arthur Swanson. I’m not sure if these are considered good translations, but my uninitiated reading of him, without the need to teach or write about him, is pure pleasure. Catullus can be so deliciously dirty and funny and boastful: “nine uninterrupted screws.” I’ve just started reading Hector Viel Temperley’s Hotél Británico (in The Last Books, translated by Stuart Krimko), and have returned to the poems of David Shapiro, who so long ago encouraged me to become a poet and translator. Shapiro’s “Friday Night Quartet” means more to me now than ever: “My mother said, The worst words in the English language/ Are these David—Don’t move/ And what do you think the best words are: Here’s some water.” After reading an interview she did with Charles Bernstein in 1995, which was recently published in S/N: New World Poetics, I’ve also returned to Barbara Guest’s Forces of Imagination, a collection of essays that read like poetry: “To be a poet requires that one also be a reader,” she writes in “Early Days of a Poet,” adding, “Instead of a ‘writer,’ I became a Reader.”
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