By Susan Harris
This National Poetry Month has been chockablock with recommendations of poets old and new, and we’ve celebrated as fervently as anyone. But we can all agree that the great pleasure and solace of poetry should not be restricted to one month out of the year. In our fifteen-plus years WWB has published over eight hundred poems by an array of emerging and established international stars in a variety of genres. Why not extend the festivities and immerse yourself in that rich archive? For starters, here are a few selections from WWB’s earlier years.
“Searching for you / in windy passes/ I cry at the crossroads of seasons”
Mourn with Ahmad Shamlou’s “Elegy” for the great Persian poet Forugh Farrokhzad, in Zara Houshmand’s translation for our very first issue in July/August 2003, then thrill to the carnal rapture of Farrokhzad’s “Connection” (“I felt my skin crack from love’s diluting joy”), translated by Sholeh Wolpé.
“a yellow heat / flares in the red eyes of longing, / igniting its own wild tarantella in the veins.”
Cut a rug with Ukrainian Marjana Savka’s sly “Short History of Dance,” translated by Askold Melnyczuk.
“Who will tell them the history of our defeats? Will they believe us?”
Lament the devastation of wars with Tahar Ben Jelloun’s sorrowful “The Rising of the Ashes,” in Cullen Goldblatt’s translation.
“Never trust the egg laid by the rooster”
For a cheerier change of pace, try Swedish poet Håkan Sandell’s droll litany, “Twenty-two Things Not to Be Trusted,” translated by Bill Coyle, and Iraqi star Dunya Mikhail’s wry “Nonmilitary Statements” (“I thank everyone I don't love. / They don't cause me heartache / they don't make me write long letters . . . they don’t disturb my sleep”), translated by Elizabeth Ann Winslow.
“In every shop and on the roads: / Salt!— / In proper measure”
Join Ghirmai Yohannes in a salute to an underappreciated table staple in “Unjust Praise,” translated from Tigrinya by Charles Cantalupo and Ghirmai Negash.
“Poems written for the survivors / Distances that must be taken into account”
Perhaps you’d prefer Aron Aji’s translation from Turkish of Murathan Mungan’s demurely titled “Desert Lights” and its killer ending: “Before winter arrives you must / hire a handsome assassin”? Or the swagger of Brian Barker’s translation of Gloria Fuertes’s “I Write Poetry, Gentlemen!” and its defiance of patriarchy: “please don't call me poetess; / I swig my wine like the bricklayers do.” In the mood for an ekphrastic? An epithalamion? An epigram? You’ll find all those and more.
Ultimately, though, as Ilya Kaminsky has noted, “One must leave all those labels aside and read these poems for what they do to our language, our emotional and spiritual lives.” We trust you’ll do that, and continue to celebrate this vital genre with us all year around.
Published Apr 29, 2019 Copyright 2019 Susan Harris