Saturday, March 31, 2012

Two Free Poetry Collections Mistranslating Chile & Phoenix

Time for the blogosphere's annual Big Poetry Month Giveaway organized by Kelli Russell Agodon.

Since April is National Poetry Month, many poet bloggers will be giving away two poetry books. Each blogger will post about the two books they chose and why they chose them. Everyone who leaves a comment on that post will be entered for the drawing (which will take place in the first week of May). You can see the full list of details and participating blogs HERE. It's free to enter and you can enter as many drawings as you want.


I mostly post here about poetry-related projects that I get involved in. Sometimes it might be a specific publication. I have some poems forthcoming in upcoming issues of Dash Literary Journal, Carbon Copy, and Garbanzo Literary Journal and I try to mention what I like or don't like, after seeing the contributor copies. Other times I post about live readings that I do. I get invited to read at a wide variety of venues, so some of them are pretty memorable. In addition to normal readings at bookstores, coffeehouses, or colleges, I occasionally find myself reading between punk bands in bars, at surprise laundromat events, or even hair salons. My only chapbook was published by Red Booth Review, but it's out-of-print so hopefully I'll get something else "out there" later this year. I also host a monthly poetry reading series that leads to some interesting experiences.


I wanted to pick something off-beat that you weren't likely to already have on your bookshelf, so...

Years ago, I was scheduled to do an opening set for a poet from Omaha. I wasn't familiar with him, but his name was Matt Mason and his reading was awesome.

After the show, we exchanged chapbooks. One of the chapbooks he gave me was "Mistranslating Neruda" (published by New Michigan Press). Mason explains in his preface that we have all read bad translations and "people have been sucking the life out of art for ages, while trying to do it justice. So he decided to put his "amazing under-abundance of knowledge about the Spanish language" toward mistranslating the poems from Neruda's collection "20 Love Poems and A Song of Despair" ignoring accuracy, but trying to capture something of the spirit, with lines like:

"I like when you ignore me, because you are, like, awesome"


"I must write the saddest lines tonight
I bought her some cheese, sometimes she also brought me some cheese

In nights like these, I just hold her groceries in my arms."

Here is a sample poem from an old issue of Diagram:


Ah, neutered bacon; rumors spilled over brandy,
weak games of frisbee golf, going camping by yourself,
losing composure with pepper blown in your eyes, earthy
cola commercials singing across the earth!

In you, rivers sing, and my virginity hugs sailors
like your desires making where they desire.
I have macramé car seat covers from your discount supermarket of hope,
and alone in delirium, the back of my neck is itchy.

In turn, I am my own supplier of crumbled snack cakes
and your silence accuses my hours as damaging,
and you are there with your invisible kisses
where my arms are bound and my humiliations broadcast.

Ah, your mysterious voice that loves tinfoil and pop songs
in the resonant and dying candlelight!
So, in empty hours, look to farmers
pushing pigs into the mouth of the wind.

This is from Main Street Rag's review:

Mistranslating Neruda is Matt Mason’s homage to Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Not only does Mason mimic the sequence in length, but he also tries duplicating the inventive use of language: Like angel hair pasta waving goodbye to the boiling water, / the sausages from the refrigerator fly into your hands. // Innumerable hearts of the sausage / fortify inside the rare silences of young love. Equally emblematic for the rest of the sequence, Mason writes, early on: Body of a woman, white as flour, as egg whites, / you break into the world with the immediacy of warm cookies. 
Lines like these make Mason’s chapbook a hoot to read. While he actively tries to mimic Neruda, to “mistranslate” him, Mason’s own sense of absurdity takes off, pulling the reader along. These poems also display the depths of Mason’s imagination, but do they stand up to the master inspiring them? 
No, but they weren’t intended to, either. In his preface, Mason claims everybody has read a horrible act of translation, be it in high school English texts or elsewhere, and this chapbook was to be a satire on “mistranslations.” That doesn’t change the joy of language Mason revels in, and to this collection, that’s a gift.

I am also giving away the 2011 anthology MERGE: Phoenix Poetry Series Retrospective that I was happy to be included in and wrote about in this old post.

It features work by a lineup of poets who read for the Phoenix Poetry Series during 2010, including Jack Evans, David Chorlton, Josh Rathkamp, Cat Klotsche, Jed Allen, Mark Haunschild, Eric Wertheimer, Susan Vespoli, Cathy Cappozoli, Nadine Lockhart, Marianne Botos, Gregory Castle, Sid Stephen, Jefferson Carter, Cynthia Hogue, Sean Nevin, and Rosemarie Dombrowski.

About twenty of the poems were paired with artwork from photographer Sean Deckert.

So if you would like a chance to win one of those, just leave a comment here during the month of April and I will draw two names at the beginning of May. If you aren't commenting from a google account, just make sure to leave an email address in case you win.


  1. I want both of these books -- even if I have to pay!

    For the love of books, thanks for doing this.

  2. thanks for doing this giveaway!

  3. I love everything about this idea, so I am happy to try to contribute something.

    Drew- even if you dont end up winning, Mason's chapbook is available for a very reasonable price through that New Michigan Press link. And I have connections, so you just might be able to get one of those issues of Merge, anyway. Ha!

  4. Pleased to make your poetic acquaintance!

    Allyson Whipple

  5. Count me in!

    Tara Mae Mulroy

  6. Your names have been thrown into the goblet of fire!

  7. Would love to enter! I am having a free giveaway at my blog as well!

  8. Hi Shawnte, nice to meet you. Please enter me in the drawing, and feel free to come by my blog to enter my drawing as well. Happy poetry month!

    mollycspencer at gmail dot com

  9. Thanks for volunteering as tribute.

    May the poetry be
    ever in your favor.

  10. i'd love to be included!

    lauraelizabethdavis at gmail dot com


  11. Thanks for doing this!

    Andrew Ty
    eldritch00 at gmail dot com

  12. To summarize today's blog post:

    Thanks to everyone who was interested, but congratulations to Sandy and Laura!

  13. Happy Poetry Month!

    Justin Carter