Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Translation (2)

Speaking of translation, I am just finishing up my work translating Aase Berg's entire first book, With Deer. A fine, small US press appears to want to publish it. I will keep you updated. I had forgotten just how disgusting this book is. The method I used when I picked poems for Remainland appears to have been to pick the least disgusting. But they're also pretty damned hilarious.

Aase is in some ways part of a Romantic-Grotesque tradition in Swedish literature. One of the most famous poems of Swedish Romanticism is "Till Förruttelse" ("To Decomposition" or "To Rotting"), in which the speaker expresses his desire to, yes, rot into the ground. No nightingales there.

(But Aase got a lot of her education as a member of the Surrealist Group of Stockholm, which meant a lot of Leiris, Bataille and Sade etc.)

A kind of neo-grotesque (or perhaps neo-gothic?) now seems to be one of the important modes of contemporary Swedish poetry. I'm reading a great book by someone named Lisa Schmidt right now. Though her poetry is perhaps equally influenced by Ann Jäderlund, who also was a big influence on Aase.

As i think I wrote in a post a while back, "The Ann Jäderlund Debates" was perhaps the most important post-1960s event in Swedish poetry. The Marxist-"Populist" cultural establishment accused Ann of hermeticism. Her defenders accused the establishment of patronizing sexism. And in the wake, there were several brilliant grotesque women poets (such as Aase) who made their mark starting in the 1990s.

I'm also working on a Jäderlund book and I have plans for a few others from this group of writers. Hopefully I can convince some American publishers to be interested in them as well.

Another group that is interesting in Sweden these days is the conceptual/mediumicity group centered around OEI (Nypoesi in Norway). They are partially influenced by the New Simplicity and the journal Rondo from the 1960s, Swedish Concretism from the 1960s (particularly the journal Gorilla, two issues in 1967), and American language poetry (some of them, such as Jesper Olsson and Fred Hertzberg studied with Charles in Buffalo).

But I think the most interesting writer in this group is Johan Jönsson, who definitely did not study anywhere fancy (he's very working class, from the north, and he is very aware of it.)

Daniel Borzutzky is starting a new press and they're publishing my translation of Johan's "Collobert Orbital" sometime this winter.

Johan's book is based on his *translation* of Norma Cole's translation of Danielle Colbert's journals (published by Litmus Press from New York). Johan translates the translated Collobert not just into Swedish, but into an incredibly "impoverished" Swedish, with a kind of highly limited vocabulary dealing with the despairs of being alive in global capitalism.

[In this impoverishment it is distantly similar to Aaron Kunin's brilliantly restrained "translation" "The Sore Throat."]

At this point I have to note that while the Swedish conceptual crowd has been very good at bringing American poets and scholars over to Sweden (I ready with Kenny Goldsmith in Oslo last year, I know Charles was just over in Stockholm) and at translating American stuff, I have witness very little willingness of American "Conceptual" types to get Swedes into print. This despite the fact that Marjorie Perlofff is always going on about how international "conceptual poetry" is.

Final note:
Having written this reductive taxonomy, I think: really this is a very 90s look at things. Seems a new generation - perhaps best represented by ett lysande name (see my links) - are now beginning to show another, less clear-cut, more cross-bred poetry.


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