Archive for Interview

“The Next Big Thing”

Posted in Poetry with tags , on March 7, 2013 by C.C. Beissert


I’ve recently been tagged to participate in “The Next Big Thing,” a literary chain letter/blog hop that’s meant to promote new writing. The gist is that you answer a few questions about an upcoming or recent book, then post these answers to your blog/website/Facebook page/wherever, and tag some friends who will do the same the following week.

I’ve been tagged by Christopher Martin, a fine poet whose chapbook A Conference of Birds was published by New Native Press in 2012. Martin also is Editor-in-Chief of Flycatcher. You can read his interview here.

My interview is below, and following that is the list of folks I’ve tagged with links to where you can read their answers next week.

What is the title of your book?


What genre does your book fall under?


What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Translation must keep pace with ever-changing language.

Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

Beautiful was published by New Native Press in 2013. NNP is a great small press, based out of Western North Carolina, and run by the Baby Beat poet Thomas Rain Crowe.

 Beautiful front cover only-Page-1b

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I had been translating Spanish-language poetry throughout my time at Western Carolina University and continued to do so after graduating and moving to Asheville to work for a magazine. I was adapting the work of several different poets, mostly Spanish and some Latin American poets. I had not considered the possibility of publishing a book of my translations; however, I had been submitting them to literary journals and sharing them with other poets, including Crowe, who eventually approached me with the idea to do a book. We went back and forth for a long time discussing the idea. The manuscript was originally a diverse sampling of Spanish-language poets, but we whittled it down to Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca. I wanted the book to showcase simply the poetry.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration comes from the poets whom I translated. I can’t say why. Somehow I was drawn to their work, and it only continues to draw me in. At their best, these poets write with a sense of mystery, a perception of death and dark sounds, a hopeful longing—that indescribable spark that courses through the greatest art.

García Lorca’s poems in Beautiful draw inspiration from his homeland of Andalucía, its landscape, people, and especially their music. He was particularly intrigued with cante jondo, the deepest songs of flamenco music. There are several poems in this selection directly related to this music and culture, but all of his poems reflect this influence in the rhythm and musicality of their language. Other poems deal with war and untimely death, spirituality, nature, and frustrated sexuality. Several poems are taken from unpublished papers written in the poet’s youth. One poem, “Ode to Walt Whitman,” was inspired by García Lorca’s stay at Columbia University in New York, where he found himself out-of-place, homesick, and angered by the oppression he witnessed there, yet he found solace in other writers and the music of black people, which he found similar to his native Andalusian folk music.

Not all of García Lorca’s work is so dark, though. It was Pablo Neruda who said of Lorca’s happiness that “[it] was as much a part of him as his skin.”

Neruda’s poems are inspired by a love affair, earthquakes, other poets, politics, trains, water (especially the oceans) and ordinary objects like tomatoes. His work, like García Lorca’s, is inherently tied to the poet’s homeland, Chile, which he loved with his life. Neruda had a turbulent life at home and abroad as a diplomat and in exile, as lover and adulterer, celebrity and private man. The title poem of this book was written for Matilde Urrutia and comes from Neruda’s Los versos del capitán, originally published anonymously.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Well, I spent about six years translating the material. The manuscript itself probably took a few months to put together and find the right sequence, but not too long relatively. Then, it was more months of copyediting, revising, and logistical headaches.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Philippe Noiret would, of course, play the part of Pablo Neruda.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The book contains the enchanting poems of Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda, but it also contains an introduction in which I speak to the translation process. It also includes a summary and anecdotes of the poets’ lives as well as notes on particular poems. I explain the connection between the poets, while respecting their uniqueness.

One of my primary objectives is to create a discussion of the translation process itself, which I feel is commonly misunderstood. Poetry translation is not a process of mere word-for-word, literal translation—which is, in fact, impossible—but a subjective art that seeks to convey the essence of the original poem. The translator also attempts to preserve or mimic sound and meter where possible. Furthermore, translation must reflect changes in language. I am translating into the English of right now in this part of the world. This is not to say I am attempting cheap modernization of the original vocabulary, but rather to put things as we would today, in a manner that allows the poems to resonate with the modern reader.

If you’d like a copy, you can order them directly from me or Small Press Distribution.


The writers I’ve tagged for next week are:

Justin Blackburn