From the first stanza of her poem “And A Lie,” Park sets in motion a pattern of fissure and fusion. She splits words into their fundamental sound units and rearranges them. The confidence of the initial “the,” a definite article whose purpose is to point to a singular thing, becomes “then,” an adverb anticipating change, then transforms to “anathema,” and finally to “anthem.” Anathema and anthem evoke loathing and loving, condemnation and celebration.
Amaris Cuchanski, David Wallace, and Laynie Browne converged on the Writers House one day recently to talk about a remarkable performance piece (later text) by Caroline Bergvall, “VIA.” In the piece, Bergvall intones forty-seven English translations of the opening tercet of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (1321): “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita / mi ritrovai per una selva oscura / ché la diritta via era smarrita.” She arranges the translations alphabetically according to first word, from “along” to “when,” reciting the translator’s name and date after each. Our PoemTalkers discuss the poem’s pre-textual state as aural performance, the remarkable title which seems to connect every manner of issue and mode, the relative literary value and literary-historical place of individual verse translators, translation itself as inherently open, and, of course, the ur-relevance of Dante’s always-interpretable infernal foray into the experience of being lost in words.