If you've heard of Noemi Press, you're in good company! They answered my questions eagerly, and here are the details. If you're so inclined, after reading this, you can find their books online at http://www.noemipress.org. Read on to find out more!
a. How did Noemi get its start, and who was behind it?
From what I understand, Noemi was birthed in 2002 in the New Mexican desert, from necessity and inspiration. Carmen Giménez-Smith and Evan Lavender-Smith are our founders, with a generous & exciting board behind them.
You can read more about Oomph! Press at http://www.oomphpress.com. They got their start in Atlanta, and they're ready to make some moves in the world of translated poetry. Have an idea? Like what you read? Be in touch with them about your thoughts on the press and such.
I interview Johannes Göransson of Action Books. Here are the questions and the answers. You can read more about Action Books at their website, http://actionbooks.org.
a. How did you get the idea for your press, and who started it?
In many ways the most important push for us was realizing that no U.S. press was daring enough to publish my translations of Aase Berg, a major young Swedish woman poet who was writing these wild poems unlike anything that was being published in the U.S. I assumed all U.S. presses would be interested in something new and wild from another culture, but I soon found out that the opposite was true: that’s exactly what U.S. presses did not want to see.
Black Ocean, publishing quality books of poetry that you may have heard of, responds to my query. My hope is that you'll check out their amazing catalog after you find out what publisher and co-founder Carrie Adams has to say about the press and its history and influences.
First up in this series of interviews is Commune Editions. You can read more about their mission and books at http://www.communeeditions.com. They have already taken part in other interviews, also, and if you go to their website, you can find links to evermore information about the press.
a. Do you think poetry has a political mission?
All poems have politics, whether or not their authors will admit it. And there is probably a strong case to be made for the connection between poetry and revolution.
Over a career stretching more than four decades, Canadian poet Phil Hall has become known as the “poet’s poet,” more widely known and appreciated only during the past half-decade or so. Somehow, in the course of a conversation with poet and Wilfrid Laurier University Press Director, Brian Henderson, it followed that I would be editing a selection of thirty-eight of Hall’s poems for a “selected poems” as part of their Laurier Poetry Series. This press has produced two dozen titles of selected poems by Canadian poets, each guest-edited, and has established itself with an impressive series, predominantly aimed toward university and college courses, and the possibility of a new readership for established Canadian poets. Authors in the series include Fred Wah (ed. Louis Cabri), Nicole Brossard (ed. Louise H. Forsyth), derek beaulieu (ed. Kit Dobson), Christopher Dewdney (ed. Karl Jirgens), Dennis Cooley (ed. Nicole Markotić), Di Brandt (ed. Tanis MacDonald), Daphne Marlatt (ed. Susan Knutson) and Steve McCaffery (ed. Darren Wershler).
“Just the place to bury a crock of gold,” said Sebastian. “I should like to bury something precious in every place where I've been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.” — Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
I wanted to draw out George Economou on the task of translating Cavafy as he was finishing up an extended project to be released, by coincidence, in the poet’s sesquicentennial year. I began by asking him to describe that project. (To conserve space, many of my subsequent questions are elided; they are implicit in George’s discursive responses.)
Economou: My current project consists of 162 poems, the 154 “Collected” or “Published” poems, seven poems from the group known as the “Unpublished” poems, and one poem from the “Repudiated Poems,” i.e., early poems that Cavafy withheld from publication. The title is Complete Plus, The Poems of C. P. Cavafy in English, to be published by Shearsman in early 2013.
In his 1961 introduction to Rae Dalven’s translations, W.H. Auden catalogued the poetic “conventions and devices” that Cavafy’s poetry fails to provide the English translator looking for equivalents: the imagery of metaphor and simile, a style or register of diction (English has “nothing comparable to the rivalry of demotic and purist” Greek, the mixture of which is the most characteristic aspect of Cavafy’s texture), ornament. Yet of the versions by several translators Auden had read, “every one of them was immediately recognizable as a poem by Cavafy; nobody else could have written it.” So what is it, he asks, that “survives translation and excites?” Auden’s answer was a tone of voice, one that “reveals a person with a unique perspective on the world.” Later, in his 2006 introduction to Aliki Barnstone’s translations, Gerald Stern amends this to a sensibility, a “tender humanism, a humanitas supreme.” Peter Bien had called it an attitude of “resignation,” understood not as despair but a kind of wisdom.
C.P. Cavafy’s introduction to the English literary world was accomplished largely through the efforts of E.M. Forster. Forster met Cavafy during the First World War in Alexandria where, as a conscientious objector, he served with the Red Cross. Already a successful novelist, he was intrigued by both the poet (Daniel Mendelsohn characterizes Forster’s interest as a “crush”) and his work. He composed a vivid portrait of Cavafy, published in 1919 in The Nation and the Atheneum and again in his collection Pharos and Pharillon, which included the description — by now a cliché — of “a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe.” This essay also featured a translation of “The God Abandons Antony.” After the war Forster brought Cavafy’s poems to the attention of T.S. Eliot, who published “Ithaca” in The Criterion in 1924, and Leonard Woolf, who published “The City” in The Nation and theAtheneum the same year. The translations of all these poems were made, with Cavafy’s involvement, by George Valassopoulo. Woolf also tried unsuccessfully for years to persuade Cavafy (who did not publish a book of his poems in Greek during his lifetime) to let the Hogarth Press bring out a collection of Valassopoulo’s English versions. Cavafy and Forster continued to correspond until the poet’s death.