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.

Centennial Celebrations for Nicanor Parra

It’s not every day one of your favorite poets celebrates their 100th birthday, and we weren’t going to let Nicanor Parra’s big day pass without throwing him a rather splendid all-day party!

Parra Party

Parra is hugely popular in his native Chile—and at Malvern Books! We’re big fans of his “anti-poetry,” which confronts even the most serious topic with irreverent humor. And it seems we’re not the only Texans to admire Mr. Parra… we had a great turnout for his birthday bash, with lots of friendly folks stopping by to share their enthusiasm for Chilean literature. There were readings, and singing, and cake (naturally), and even a visit from the man himself (in the form of a recorded poetry reading, though we like to think he was fully there in spirit).

Here’s just a small sampling of our Parra party antics—be sure to check out our YouTube playlist for more videos!

Sean Manning read a selection of Parra poems in both Spanish and English, including the beautiful “Piano Solo,” translated by William Carlos Williams.

Malvernite Annar read a poem by Oscar Hahn, from the collection Ashes in Love (translated by James Hoggard):

Dave Oliphant has translated many Parra poems (including those in After-Dinner Declarations); he shared his memories of meeting and translating the great man.

And what’s a birthday party without a bilingual “Happy Birthday” sing-along? Happy birthday to you, Nicanor Parra!