Staff Picks: Translation Games, Anti-Poetry, and D’Agata

Schandra recommends Lost Wax by Jonathan Stalling:

Each pair of pages contains an original poem written in English by the author, followed by a Chinese translation followed by another English translation performed by a workshop of eight translators. The result is one great love poem to translation through a cross-section of the act. Deliberately ekphrastic, the subject matter (visual art) illustrates the ways in which translated poetry behaves like lithography or sculpture casting, whose nature is not to create exact copies but to play a telephone game of mutation in which beauty comes from surprise.

Taylor recommends After-Dinner Declarations by Nicanor Parra:

Chilean “anti-poet” and Cervantes Prize winner Nicanor Parra provides an entertaining and enlightening perspective on the modern world. In a language steeped in colloquialisms, Parra’s declarations employ a diverse range of discourses—from puns and allusions to diatribes and eulogies—in order to expose the hypocrisy of human institutions and offer a quipping challenge to those who remain satisfied with the status quo, addressing perennial motifs such as ecology, human rights and responsibilities, and the limits of scientific knowledge.

Stephanie recommends John D’Agata’s American Essay trilogy:

D’Agata is a crucial force in American prose, known for his career-long efforts to define nonfiction. He runs the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, which counts young dynamic writers like Kerry Howley (Thrown), Jennifer Percy (Demon Camp), Lucas Mann (Lord Fear), and Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas (Don’t Come Back) among its recent grads. He’s the author of numerous books and the perennial subject of angry think-pieces due to his relationship with the concept of fact and its role(s) in nonfiction. Here’s a fact: D’Agata’s introductions to the essays in this trilogy are beautiful and also contain factual errors I can’t understand the purpose of or apologize for. Here’s another fact: These anthologies are wonderfully curated courses in the essay, our greatest and most misunderstood literary form.