Charles Bernstein

Ian Probstein: Three translations of Osip Mandelstam's 'Stalin's Epigram'

Komer & Melamid, Stalin in Front of Mirror (Tempera and oil on canvas, 72”X48”, 1982-83)

It is said that a translator is like a spy: if everything is fine, the author of the original is praised and the translator is barely noticed; if not, the translator is blamed. Having that in mind, I am going to discuss several translations of Osip Mandelstam’s “Stalin’s Epigram”, which cost him two exiles and eventually, life.

Osip Mandelstam (1891-1938) led an unsettled life full of tribulations, wandering and exile. After his Stalin’s epigram of 1933, for which the dictator, who used to say that “vengeance is best when served cold,” never forgave the poet.

Jennifer Bartlett in conversation with Jane Joritz-Nakagawa

Jennifer Bartlett, photo by Emma Bee Bernstein

Jane Joritz-Nakagawa:  Jennifer, I’d like to start by discussing the anthology you co-edited, Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability.  In the preface you explain that a purpose of the anthology was to present non-mainstream views of disability while offering a considerable range of stylistic diversity in poetry by disabled poets, mostly poets with a visible disability.  Since the anthology was a collaboration I wanted to ask you what you learned through the process — what benefits did you receive and what hurtles did you need to overcome?  What did you learn both from the process of collaboration and from the project as a whole?  Also, how would you evaluate the result — do you feel you achieved your aims?  What reactions have you received from readers who identify as disabled and from others who don’t?  (This is a bunch of questions that we could discuss either separately or all together, depending on how you wish to answer them!)