New Ohio Review Issue 14 (Originally printed Fall 2013)

Newohioreview.org is archiving previous editions as they originally appeared. We are pairing the pieces with curated art work, as well as select audio recordings. In collaboration with our past contributors, we are happy to (re)-present this outstanding work.

Issue 14 compiled by Andrea Gapsch.

The Best Man

By Brian Trapp

Winner, New Ohio Review Fiction Contest
selected by Stuart Dybek

Featured Art: Chinese Garden by Cooper Hewitt

Outside the bride’s village, I lean against the side of a silver Audi with Mr. Wu, my boss’s businessman friend. I thought we were going to his wedding, where  I will be his best man, but I guess as per Chinese custom, we are going to the bride’s house first. We have traveled twenty-five minutes into the Chinese countryside, where we wait for the rest of the wedding caravan. The second half of the dancing lion is late, and the head walks around with its neon-red body dragging behind, a giant mutant worm.

On the ride over, tall buildings gave way to dingy shops. The road narrowed, going from the usual off-white tiled apartments to the old-timey black-tiled Chinese roofs— the tops curved into crescent moons. Smoke spewed from small factories and then green patches of farms appeared, pieces from two different puzzles jammed into one another’s edges.

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Feeling Sorry for Myself While Watching a Really Bad World War II POW Movie on TV

Winner, New Ohio Review Poetry Contest
selected by Barbara Hamby

By Michael Derrick Hudson

The rest of them pinwheeled out of the dirty sky somewhere
over Schweinfurt. They burned as I clung

to my shroud lines huffing in a panic through the slobbery
fog of my oxygen mask, the frost stiffening

my collar’s wet fur. Three years later, what have I to show
for my long time in the bag? Bleeding gums,

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Looking on the Bright Side

By John Brehm

Featured Art: Nocturne by James McNeill Whistler

Death: at least it’ll give me a chance to catch
up on my sleep. No more tossing and turning
worrying about what’s going to happen next.
Unless of course my dreams of dancing girls
and hookah parties come true.

In which case it’ll give me a chance
to catch up on all the fun I missed
being too tired from lack of sleep. A
win-win situation.
Unless of course the dancing girls turn out to be
my former lovers, flitting before me
with vengeful or disdainful expressions
on their still painfully lovely faces.
In which case I can go on writing the poems
of failed love that failed to make me famous
when I was alive.
A suitable way to while away eternity.
Unless of course the hookahs are filled
not with tobacco but with heavenly peyote,
(food of the gods the gods left for us)
in which case it’ll give me a chance
to catch up on the deathless
bliss of boundless mystical oneness
my fear of death always kept me
from fully experiencing
here and now.


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Back Then

By John Brehm

Featured Art: Miss M. of Washington by Rose Clark

Everything was better back then.
Even my nostalgia was better, more piercing, more true.
I miss missing things that much,
but not as much as I missed
missing things back then.
Even my anxieties about the future,
which have indeed come to pass,
were more vivid back then,
more real. Reality itself seemed
more real back then—this clanking
stage-play only a fool could find
convincing—I fell for it all,
and it killed me, again and again.
Ghosts of myself wander
the cities I’ve lived in, thinking
of other cities, imagining me
here imagining them.
We nod to each other across
the years, the way the last line
of a poem will sometimes look
back, wistfully,
at the first.

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Irgendwo, Nirgendwo

By Dave Madden

Featured Art: Abstract Landscape by H. Lyman Saÿen

They sit like lumps at the kitchen table covered by a worn and graying cloth, milkdregs ghosting the glass of two tumblers. Their four feet dangle inches above the floor as Opa sucks his horehound. They can hear it slopping around, see it burrowing there behind his potato jowls. They smell the burnt-tire funk of it. It’s July and the brothers are long enough out of school that their stretched and empty afternoons have become kind of boring, they say. Nowadays, the two are mostly bored. Opa’s fat hand claps the table. He tongues his candy to the far end of the mouth and cries nonsense. There is no mostly, he tells them. No kind of. Either you are bored or you are not and if you are it is only you who is to blame. From the other room come the strangled words of their mother shouting at her mother. Opa nudges the boys out to the front porch. There he lowers his flanks onto a teak rocker. There’s an oomph and a curse and the old man begins to teach the boys a game.

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Late January Protest Against The Betrayers of The Dream

By David Rivard

Featured Art: New York Street, 1902 by Childe Hassam

In his leather snap cap & undertaker’s suit of
shiny polyester black, one of those resisters
of the transmitted order—an aging Marxist lost boy—
alarm all over his shyly determined, axe-sharp face,

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Scooter

By David Rivard

Featured Art: City at Night by Arthur B. Carles

Phil Rizzuto, shortstop, the Yankees’
Scooter & play-by-play announcer & The Money Store’s
man of a certifiably trustworthy nature,
but invented for me first in war stories told
by my father—
on a South Pacific island naval air station
maybe it’d be fun to put Scooter
in the game, brass thinks
a sports star visitor to war zone
great theater of operations P.R.—
but basketball, not
civilization-beating baseball, basketball
my father’s game—
“I could take him,
he couldn’t get by
me”: sayeth Norman
Rivard, testimony of
a former All-State point guard
1942 season Mass state champs
team captain
Durfee High School Fall River;
his torpedoed destroyer sunk
by a two-man Japanese sub

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At a Pet Shop

By Tom Whalen

Featured Art: Red Parrot on the Branch of a Tree by Ito Jakuchu

When the parrot took the cracker I offered, it said:

“Thank you, my friend. You’re the first person to give me anything to eat in decades. There is no a priori order of things. I thought I had been living the good life, but what did I know? The poet fell sick, traveled to the capital, needed words, painted his curtains bright green. A sumptuous village girl threatened me with a cheap lighter. Night after night watching the corpses of rodents turn to bone. I remember when my mother took me to the city, remember how her perfume gave me a high. After that it took me years to find a mate. Night work. Elocution lessons. A treatise on Gorgias’ Encomium of Helen. I kept to the plan I started with. Death is not an experience, food is.”

Then it fell from its perch with a thump, and from its beak an ant exited soaked in the parrot’s blood.

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probity

By Michael Casey

Featured Art: Bathers 1890/94 by Paul Cézanne

with a singular total probity
he fantasizes about women in our building
the actual social interaction is nil
or rather minimal and centers around coffee lines
the young coffee lady
at the corner stand he calls Casmira

her real name is Dishwava
but he doesn’t like that name
Diswaba the deck he says
and the large-hair customer at the IHS stand
he calls Ingrid
and the willowy customer on the HR floor
he names Karen
you can imagine his surprise when
he found out Karen’s real name is Karen
subconsciously now he thinks
there’s a mind connection
the world yet a more beautiful place
there are single women in our office
attractive and even affable
why don’t you pay some attention to them
I ask he says he read somewhere
how an in-office relationship
is bad very bad
if one is looking for happiness


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this is it

By Michael Casey

Featured Art: Fruit Piece by Hannah Brown Skeele

about the new guy?
this is the thing
he misappropriates
as in you’ve seen
my banana-label collection
stickers on bananas

I have the original collection
that exists in the office
he saw what I was doing
and he copies it
he has a collection now
and I assure you
it is not as extensive
as egregious
as mine
although I am wondering how
he got so many different Ecuadors
but how can you be civil
with someone essentially a thief
other than that he’s all right

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for Claude Monet

By Michael Casey

Featured Art: Water Lilies by Claude Monet

I mean the excitement level
was just about in negative numbers
as my sister’s basketball team
lost its seventh straight
and after it

the girls are jumping up and down
in total glee
genuine happihappihappiness
the reason? they broke the magic number
ten in the losing score
they didn’t actually break it
but they finally made it to that number
no sense of perspective
in art too you have to see
my sister’s painting
of the flour mill with water wheel
the central subject of which is a frog
amidst the water lilies

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My Lovers #1-5, or Why I Hate Kenny Rogers

By Donna Baier Stein

Featured Art: Sibylle by Camille Corot

What follows is by way of explaining what happened last Sunday, when I had more of a brush with sex than I’ve had in the five years since my divorce. What follows may explain my disappointment.

You see, the first man I fell in love with turned out to be gay and hanged himself from a tree along Highway 1 in California.

The second left me when I got pregnant. He was much shorter than me but had lovely lips and gentle eyes.

The third seemed promising: great sex, red-gold hair, tall. We met in a magical way. At a certain time on a certain day of the week, we passed each other going opposite directions on the campus of the University of Kansas. This was the sidewalk near the Student Union, which was burned down by hippies in 1972. I may have known one of the people who did it but I’m not positive about that. If it was the person I’m thinking of, he’s now an executive at an insurance company in Florida, with two kids.

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Rats

By Rosanna Warren

Featured Art: Augustus Saint Gaudens II (Saint Gaudens and his model) by Anders Zorn

As if you rose out of your coffin—as if
my heart was your coffin—you rose
yesterday in the sapphire faceted light
of syringes, hospital sheets, and toxic Niagara mist
you painted into a glossy forever.
I felt again your weight upon me
that Manhattan night in our quasi-childhood.
You moved lovelessly upon me, almost angry—
anger I almost allowed myself to know—
as we lay on a borrowed floor trying to make
what might be called love. You broke
each spell. The way Proust discovered love
in captured rats squealing as the hat pin probed
their vital organs. I was a slow student, I learned
dumbly, blindly. And graduated
to my own destructions. The white rats scamper
through your landscapes of pill bottles and blood,
chopped trees and massacred Adirondack deer
and I dream of knocking all the books off my shelf
so that in the light breaking from those pages
I might behold, not hold, your broken face.

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The Skirts and Blouses are Hatched

By  Tam Lin Neville

Featured Art: Irises by Van Gogh

My mother had been failing for several years, slowly, but minimized the signs. We, her five grown children, were not to worry or be diverted from our lives. When it came, the time of her dying seemed to open of its own accord, its span neither too short nor too long. We had several weeks to talk, to tie up loose ends before the illness closed in and became a kind of weather we could no longer work around. On December 14, l997 she died at home in the company of her children and grandchildren. Snow was falling in Keene Valley, the small town in the Adirondack Mountains where she had lived for thirty-five years.

Emily Neville, my mother, was a well-known writer for young adults, and my relationship with her, as the oldest, a daughter, and also a writer, is complicated. Sometimes it seems like a difficult poem I have memorized but don’t yet understand. During her lifetime I was wary of such a strong, capable figure so close to me. My Aunt Mary, the sibling closest to my mother in age, once remarked, “As a child there was no point in doing anything—Emily could always do it better.” But she was a gentle person with no heavy-handed ways an oldest child could legitimately dispute, though I did resist her increasingly as I entered my teens. Since she was almost universally liked and respected my opposition put me at odds, not only with my mother, but with everyone I knew.

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Delivering Christmas Dinner to My Daughter, Second Shift Charge Nurse on the Alzheimer Floor

By  John Bargowski

There’s no easy way in, or out,
warned the LPN who buzzed us past
the locked double doors,
led me and my wife down the corridor
to the nurses’ station
where a handsome man, tall,
and maybe sixty, wrung
his hands while he stood over
our daughter’s desk
repeating her name—
the way we had at her birth
when we were listening in it
for the ring of a bell—
begging her to walk him back
to school because he feared
the bullies who’d tripped him
and washed his face with snow
when he’d delivered papers
on his Ferry Street route,
and before our daughter uncovered
the steaming dish we’d brought,
she took his hand,
walked him around the floor
past wandering patients
and whirring machines
then back to his room
to help him search for his galoshes
and gather his school books
while his wife stood outside his door
reading the little wishes
in the greeting cards
taped to his tinseled
and holiday-lighted door frame,
the hem of her velvet pants
dripping and salt-stained
from the parking lot slop,
her Gloria hair-clip
with streaking star
and tarnished angel’s trumpet
blowing silvery notes
sideways through the frizz
coming loose from her perm.

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Up on Blocks

By Jim Daniels

Featured Art: Winter Scene in Moonlight by Henry Farrer

His father limping
from his stroke,
throwing his lunch pail
into the back of his pickup
like some stubborn, gimpy
shot putter, then driving off
to the job they gave him
after his rehab: steering
a hi-lo through the greasy plant

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The House

By Brian Swann

Featured Art: The House on the Edge of the Village by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen

Leaves twitch. A wren flits. A rope between trees sags. By the well-head a few stranded dandelions.

Rain opens stones so they shine. A crow calls with the voice of a hammer. The rain stops. The sun enters with the voice of a crow. Heat turns day to distraction and the trapped mind wilts. A hawk calls and small mammals dive for cover. Sky goes carillon, dwindles, cooling off until the moon fills windows and stains rooms. A door swings and things go strange as if they had to. If you hear a voice you hear a voice. I walk through the empty house, carefully, a cat’s whisker. When I get to the top floor, over the moonlit roofs I can see the prison and the small zoo. They must be able to see me here where I’m training the self to lose itself, the way the stream ignores the stream.

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The Novel

By Brian Swann

Featured Art: Icebound by John Henry Twachtman

In the novel I’m writing there are no people, no “characters.” And if you expect a plot you’ll be sorely disappointed. There’s little to count on and precious little to critique. Beautiful language is absent; there is almost no language of any sort so you won’t see any reviews praising its style or humanity.

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All Eyes

By Billy Collins

Featured Art: Moonlight on Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire by William Trost Richards

Just because I’m dead now doesn’t mean
I don’t exist any more.
All those eulogies and the obituary
in the corner of the newspaper
made me feel more vibrant than ever.

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Divinity

By Billy Collins

Featured Art: The Cock Sparrow by George Edwards

Up to this point
I had assumed that He and I
had little or nothing in common

but one morning as I sat
in a blue Adirondack chair
in the middle of an expanse of lawn

though I seemed only
to be staring into space,
I realized that I, too,

had my eye on a sparrow,
who hopped around a little
in the grass then hurriedly flew away.


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Close Call

By Tamara Dean

Featured Art: Willows and White Poplars by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot

In the shower she takes a swig of beer, sets the bottle on the edge of the tub, and begins prying leeches, flat and large as house keys, from her cold toes, the top of her foot, her ankle. She places three in a line next to the bottle, where they lie motionless, though alive. Thinned blood threads over her feet. When she and Neil moved to the country four years ago, miles downriver from his family’s farm, he taught her to peel off leeches rather than douse them with salt, which he said might make them vomit and spread disease.

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What Forever Means

By Maria Nazos

For some lovers, it’s two parallel lines inked smoothly through time
by God’s hand, until he can’t keep his wrist steady,

or his pen dries up, so one of you runs out of color. One partner tries to pencil
the other back to life,

reads a story from her youth while she lies half-awake, as
a somber hospice hovers.

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Memo

By Todd Hearon

Featured Art: Northeaster by Winslow Homer

We have to remember the stakes are merciless.
It takes more to get out of this life than what you
          put into it.

That didn’t come out right. It takes more
to get out of this life more than—

It takes a goddamned lot to get out of this life.

Nobody ever said it was going to be anything better
than a round of poker on the raft of the Medusa.

It’s not who wins the game that counts.
Nobody wins. It’s who gets out least lost.

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No Try, Only Do

By Alan Rossi

Featured Art: Forêt de Compiègne by Berthe Morisot

I gave Saul a room. Two years prior, he had left me for Utah. He left me for the wild, for backcountry slopes. He wanted to be in glossy magazines and have his ponytail flowing out behind him in pictures, carving some mountain, dropping through powder. He spoke like this, dropping through powder. I tried to tell myself I couldn’t be too mad: he paid more attention to skis and skiing forums than he did to me. In Utah, he grew his hair long and beautiful and got in some of those magazines, though mainly he just put up pictures of himself on the Internet. I know, I looked at them all, wondering if he was thinking of me when he was hiking up the slopes, skis on his back, or whether he might get a distant glimpse of our life together when he was on top of one of those mountains and looked east. He was gone for two years, but to me it seemed a lot longer. I often thought about all the other girls he probably had sex with and how people probably loved him and how he was living this wild, free life, and I was still in East Tennessee with my brother and mother and the probably comparatively lame Blue Ridge. So when I found out he was coming back because he had seriously injured himself and could no longer carve or ride or hike or otherwise put his health in danger in backcountry powder, I was happy and told him he had a room waiting. I wanted him to come back in the same state he had left me in: miserable and alone.

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Reciprocal

By James Davis May

Featured Art: Woman’s Head by Albert Besnard

She says, I think you think too much
when you talk dirty.

They are, in fact,
having sex when she says this—
he’s above her and had just kissed
the inside of her ankle, which now rests
on his shoulder. He asks what she means.

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The Star of “Interstate”

By Chard deNiord

Featured Art: Afterglow by Jonas Lie

The clouds were curtains that parted onto the show
of sky above the scar of I-89.
Oh, the big blue screen of autumn days
and score that featured mainly strings.
Oh,
the epic Something, Then Nothing that opened as
a matinee but played into the night
on a single reel inside the room that housed
the machine.
I drove with one eye open and the other
closed.
I couldn’t tell if the things I was seeing—
broken line, blinking light, leaping
deer—were live or frozen frames.
Were on
the road or in my mind, into which
I’d also driven at a dangerous speed.
I was bearing down in the passing lane inside
the theater of my Chevrolet.
I was seeing
myself through the lens of a windshield in the opposite
lane.
I could smell the sky with the windows closed.
I could hear her voice from every cloud, “Come home,
my love. Come home.”
I believed there was still a way,
despite my fame as the man who flies, to return
as myself some day and give her the keys.

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Crimes of the Video Age

By Bradley Bazzle

Featured Art: Decorative Study: Satyr by Aubrey Vincent Beardsley

In the spring of 1985, Ben lived with his friend Marco in a second-floor apartment near the college where they were sophomores. For fun they watched girls sunbathe down in the small back yard across the alley. They kept a potted ficus by the window to obscure their faces.

One day, while they were staring at the girls through the ficus leaves, Marco said he had an idea. He went down the hall and came back holding the VHS camcorder Ben got for Christmas and kept beneath his bed.

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Kodachrome

By Mark Cox

Featured Art: The Madame B Album by Marie-Blanche Hennelle Fournier

We don’t show these family slides much,
in part, because the projector overheats,
but also because we miss my father’s litanies
of the dead and their diseases:
congestive heart failure; cirrhosis; even gangrene—
their ravaged, cancer-eaten, over-stressed organs
recalled in official diagnoses,
each dry account closing
while the next was ratcheted into place,
dad pressing the remote control
as if it were the release button on a bomb sight.

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Alcohol

By Mark Cox

In this faded family photo—
Horton, Kansas, ’36—
they are just two farmhands in overalls,
kept, by a bowed velvet cordon,
from some gala event. Except it’s a rattlesnake
strung between them,
five, perhaps six feet in length
and thick as my young father’s outstretched arms.
One might think his pride, that is,
anticipation of us,
would dictate looking at the camera,
but he seems to be eyeing
the slick, intricate patterns of risk
now relaxed in his hand.
Then again, given his uneasy, strained half-smile,
he could be checking my grandfather’s grip,
the snake so freshly dead,
making sure any reflex is under control—
suspecting the undulant weight of it,
that he could never really let go.

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No Picnic in the Afterlife

By Mark Cox

Featured Art: Neith by Jean-François Champollion

When I’m feeling down about the human condition, that is, my human condition, I consider all the crappy jobs I could have had in another life. An executioner, say, or worse, the one to cart the bodies away—there are more difficult things than poetry, aren’t there, I remind myself, what if I’d been a mummy maker, with a desiccation degree, that would be no cakewalk, mummification was an industry,

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Doing Demolition Work Again

By  Jamie Thomas

Featured Art: Road in Etten by Vincent Van Gogh

What’s your next book going to be called,
Demolition Work Still Sucks But Here I Am Again?
—John (on the job site)

There is no larger truth here
that has found me helping
John and Ken again,
to tear out the master bathroom
of this wealthy couple in Washington Twp.,

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Ichor

By David Wojahn

Featured Art: The Pearls of Aphrodite, 1907 by Herbert James Draper

From the clear vein a stream immortal flow’d
Such streams as issues from a wounded god.
Pure emanation! Uncorrupted flood,
Unlike our gross, diseas’d terrestrial blood…
– Pope’s
Iliad, Book 5

Diomedes in his rampage cuts a hundred Trojans
Down into the dust, a bulldozer
Knocking over pines for another subdivision.

He is chainsaw, IED, a six-foot spinning razor,
An Ugly Customer. In a helmet topped with boar-bristle,
He’s hacking men to bits, his sword a red blur

& then he spies his prey, already spread-eagled,
For a fellow Greek has flung his spear into the hipbone
Of Prince Aeneas himself; its point burrows to marrow.

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Ambassador of the Dead

By George Kalogeris

Featured Art: The Artist in His Studio by James McNeill Whistler

My parents were never crazy about Cavafy—
They didn’t know much about poetry, at all,
And barely had time to read anything but the papers;

Though sometimes a poem they liked would appear in their
Beloved Hellenic Voice. (A poem that was always
In rhyming stanzas, and deeply nostalgic.) Or else

I’d show them one of the Modern Greek poets that I
Was trying to translate, and ask for their advice
About a line. “Is this for school?” they’d say.

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Like a Struck Tuning Fork: On Translating Sound in Tranströmer’s “The Station”

By Patty Crane

Featured Art: Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare by Claude Monet

The Station

A train has rolled in. Car after car stands here,
but no doors are opening, no one’s getting off or on.
Are there any doors at all? Inside, it’s teeming
with closed-in people milling back and forth.
They’re staring out through the unyielding windows.
And outside, a man walks along the train with a maul.
He’s hitting the wheels, a faint ringing. Except right here! 7
Here the sound swells unbelievably: a lightningstroke, 8
a cathedral bell tolling, a round-the-world sound 9
that lifts the whole train and the region’s wet stones. 10
Everything’s singing! You’ll remember this. Travel on!

In Tomas Tranströmer’s poem, “The Station,” from his ninth poetry collection, The Wild Market Square (1983), the ordinary scene of a train at the platform becomes a metaphor for something far from ordinary. The sound of the struck wheel widens beyond this singular everyday experience to contain the great mystery that surrounds our existence, a mysteriousness that, for a brief instant, feels as accessible as it does out of reach. This brings to mind Robert Bly’s often-cited remark about Tranströmer’s poems being “mysterious because the images have travelled a long way to get there.” “They are a sort of railway station,” he says. And quite literally so in “The Station,” where images arrive from vastly different points of origin and briefly stand together in the same place.

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On Translating Choctaw Poems

By Marcia Haag

Featured Art: Sunset on the Sea by John Frederick Kensett 

The challenges of translating from one language to another are well discussed and lamented. These challenges increase when poetry is involved: not only must the meaning emerge, but the product must sound like something that could count as a poem. When working in a native American language, these problems are, frankly, insuperable, but we are not thereby let off the hook. I am a linguist and scholar of the Choctaw language who comes to translation indirectly.

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Sense and Serendipity: The Masochistic Art of Translating Surrealism

By Mark Polizzotti

Featured Art: Flower Clouds by Odilon Redon

Surrealism was an art of serendipity. Its aesthetic and philosophy revolve around such elements as surprise, chance, marvel, and what the French call la trouvaille, the discovery, the treasure happened upon. André Breton argued repeatedly that the point of automatic writing—Surrealism’s first and most celebrated tool— was to provide Surrealism not with an exciting new literary technique but with a method of research, a doorway into unexploited mental processes that were within everyone’s reach. As he rather cheekily put it in the first Manifesto, “Language has been given to man so that he may make Surrealist use of it.”

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Finding the Just Name: On Translating Ismailov

By Robert Chandler

Featured Art: The Sea by Gustave Courbet

One of the most difficult works I have translated from Russian is Hamid Ismailov’s The Railway. This novel has a huge geographical sweep, taking in not only most of Soviet Central Asia, but also Iran, Afghanistan and parts of European Russia and western Europe. It incorporates a great deal of twentieth-century political and cultural history. It comprises many separate stories, often linked together only tangentially. It is full of unfamiliar real-life detail—Soviet, Muslim, and (most bewilderingly of all) Muslim-with-a-Soviet-veneer-to-make-it-acceptable-to-the-authorities. And there are at least 137 different characters. How could I make all this not only comprehensible to people from another world but also interesting and enjoyable for them? One approach would be to simplify. The publishers of the French translation omitted about half the chapters, leaving out everything that did not relate to the story of the novel’s central family. I have no doubt that this stripped-down version has its merits, but this is not the way I wanted to go myself. The Railway is exuberant and Rabelaisian, full of slogans, spells and curses; Hamid (the author and I are close friends, so I shall refer to him by his first name) is deeply aware of the power of fantasy, of the way words beget words and stories beget stories, of the power of language to create reality. I did not want to sacrifice this exuberance.

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On Translating Thai Artist Wisut Ponnimit from Japanese to English

By Matthew Chozick

Featured Art: Head of a Woman with Bent Head by André Derain

Tuk-tuks, manga as literature, onomatopoeia, Valentine’s Day

My wife and I climb with light luggage into the back of a three-wheeled Thai taxi, a tuk-tuk. As we drive off, city lights and a pink sunset blend marvelously together. Our tuk-tuk weaves through traffic as I see a gold adorned Buddhist pavilion, a Burmese-Mexican burrito restaurant, and then a Yamaha motorcycle dealership. It is, incidentally, from the land of Yamaha that we have just arrived by airplane.

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The Stones and the Earth: On translating Wiesław Myśliwski’s Stone Upon Stone

By Bill Johnston

Featured Art: Alpine Scene by Gustave Doré

Wiesław Myśliwski’s magisterial 1984 novel of Polish village life Stone Upon Stone (Kamień na kamieniu) is a text in which language plays a central role. The entire novel reads like a magnificent sustained spoken monologue; Myśliwski’s gift for conveying the pithy, unsentimental wisdom of peasant language is apparent in every sentence, and it is language, not story, that ultimately drives the narrative and makes the book the masterpiece it is.

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On Translating C.P. Cavafy’s “Come, O King of the Lacedaimonians”

By George Economou

Featured Art: Green and Blue: The Dancer by James McNeill Whistler

Άγε, ω βασιλεύ Λακεδαιμονίων

Δεν καταδέχονταν η Κρατησίκλεια
ο κόσμος να την δει να κλαίει και να θρηνεί·
και μεγαλοπρεπής εβάδιζε και σιωπηλή.
Τίποτε δεν απόδειχνε η ατάραχη μορφή της
απ’ τον καϋμό και τα τυράννια της.
Μα όσο και νάναι μια στιγμή δεν βάσταξε·
και πριν στο άθλιο πλοίο μπει να πάει στην Aλεξάνδρεια,
πήρε τον υιό της στον ναό του Ποσειδώνος,
και μόνοι σαν βρεθήκαν τον αγκάλιασε
και τον ασπάζονταν, «διαλγούντα», λέγει
ο Πλούταρχος, «και συντεταραγμένον».
Όμως ο δυνατός της χαρακτήρ επάσχισε·
και συνελθούσα η θαυμασία γυναίκα
είπε στον Κλεομένη «Άγε, ω βασιλεύ
Λακεδαιμονίων, όπως, επάν έξω
γενώμεθα, μηδείς ίδη δακρύοντας
ημάς μηδέ ανάξιόν τι της Σπάρτης
ποιούντας. Τούτο γαρ εφ’ ημίν μόνον·
αι τύχαι δε, όπως αν ο δαίμων διδώ, πάρεισι.»

Και μες στο πλοίο μπήκε, πηαίνοντας προς το «διδώ».

Come, O King of the Lacedaimonians

Cratisicleia did not deign to allow
the people to see her weeping and grieving;
she walked in stately silence.
Her serene demeanor revealed
nothing of her sorrow and her torments.
But even so, for a moment she couldn’t contain herself;
and before she boarded the hateful ship for Alexandria,
she took her son to Poseidon’s temple,
and when they were alone she embraced him
and kissed him, who was “suffering grievous pain,” says
Plutarch, “in a state of conturbation.”
But her strong character fought back;
and regaining her self-composure, the magnificent woman
said to Cleomenes, “Come, O King of the
Lacedaimonians, when we come out
of here, let no one see us weeping
or acting in any way unworthy
of Sparta. For this alone is in our power;
our fortune will be only what the god might give.”

And she boarded the ship, heading for that “might give.”

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The Homophonic Imagination: On Translating Modern Greek Poetry

By Karen Van Dyck

Featured art: Two Pupils in Greek Dress by Thomas Eakins

When I translated Jenny Mastoraki’s prose poem “The Unfortunate Brides” (1983) I drew on the beat and even the syllabic count of the Greek to create a rhythm that was legible, but new in English:

. . . the way a roóster lights up Hádes, or a gílded jaw the speéchless night, a beást jángling on the rún, and the ríder búbbles up góld.

For Anglophone readers, the four phrases make up a recognizable stanza, though somewhat unusual with two long beats in the first two phrases and three shorter, faster ones in the last two. Newness arose not simply from the surreal imagery, but from the sound on which it rode.

To focus on the sound of the source text is to run counter to the dominant translation strategy, which focuses on meaning. This is true more generally, but also in the case of Modern Greek poetry. Translations such as those by Edmund Keeley and Phillip Sherrard introduced the poetry of C. P. Cavafy, George Sef-eris, Odysseas Elytes and Yannis Ritsos in an idiom that reads easily in English and makes the living tradition of myth and history readily available to an Anglophone audience.

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