Charles Bernstein, Norbert Lange, Ernesto Livon-Grosman, Collective à Royaumont, Haroldo de Campos, and Leevi Lehto
A Test of Poetry
“A Test of Poetry” was written in 1992 and published in My Way: Speeches and Poems (University of Chicago Press, 1999). The poem is based on a letter from the Chinese scholar Ziquing Zhang, who translated poems from Rough Trades and The Sophist for Selected Language Poems (Chengdu, China: Sichuan Literature and Art Publishing House, 1993); quotations from the poems are italicized. It seemed to me that Ziquing Zhang’s questions provided both an incisive commentary on my poems and also raised a set of imponderble yet giddy, not to say fundamental, translation issues. Several poets have take up the task of translating this poem, and we here compile the results: Norbert Lange into German, Ernesto Livon-Grosman into Spanish, Collective à Royaumont dans le cadre de l’Atelier Cosmopolite into French (originally published as a pamphlet by Format Américain), Haroldo de Campos into Portuguese, and Levi Lehto into Finnish.
Dresden May 13, 2015 Norbert Lange and Charles Bernstein read their collaboration, "Apoplexie/Apoplexie" in Dresden on May 17, 20015 (24:29): MP3 This work begins with Bernstein's "You" (from Resistance, 1983) and cotinues with Lange's translation, then Bernstein's translation of Lange's version, over nine rounds (18 poems), written in 2013 and 2014. It will be published later this year in Schreibheft, ed. Norbert Wehr.
The 2015 Prize of the City of Münster for International Poetry, the leading translation prize in Germany, was awarded to two new translations of my work: Gedichte und Übersetzen, tr. Versatorium and Peter Waterhouse (Vienna: Edition Korrespondenzen) and Angriff der Schwierigen Gedichte tr. Tobias Amslinger , Norbert Lange, Léonce W. Lupette and Mathias Traxler (based on All the Whiskey in Heaven, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010) (Wiesbaden, Germany: Lux Books). The Verstoarium collaborators included Judith Aistleitner, Katharine Apostle, Gabriella Attems, Aida Besirevic, Julia Dengg, Helmut Ege, Monique Ehmann, Nino Idoidze, Katharina Lehner, Astrid Nischkauer, Natalie Neumaier, Mirjam Paninski, Marlies Peter, Miriam Rainer, Julia Rosenkranz, Anja Sander, Katharina Schindl, Dimitri Smirnov, Nina-Victoria Truskawetz, Franz Vala, Jennifer Weiss, Katharina Widholm, Anna Zalesko, plus Waterhouse and me.
Since 1993, the city of Münster has awarded the poetry prize for a book of poetry and its translation. Prizewinners 2013 were the Caribbean Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott and his German translator Werner von Koppenfels.
In the next couple of years, Christian Lux will be publishing a German translation of my selected poems, All the Whiskey in Heaven. Norbert Lange and company have been working on the translation with marvelous ingenuity and astonishing dedication. Norbert, Christian and I first met in January whne I did a reading at Lyrik Kabinett. We next read together last month at the Berlin Literary Festival ("Reveal Codes") and then at Lettrétage.