Miron Białoszewski: “An explosion in American poetry!”

More news from The Quarterly Conversation (which I’m considering making my homepage): editors Scott Esposito and Annie Janusch surveyed over 40 translators, writers, and editors as to what books and or authors they feel most urgently need to be translated into English. The results are wondrous to behold and I hope will have some very direct effects. For his choice, poet, translator, and Words without Borders poetry editor Ilya Kaminsky selected Miron Białoszewski (1922–1983)—the second (after Leśmian) most difficult-to-translate Polish poet, whom Benjamin Paloff dubbed the “holy grail of Polish translators” at Poets House last month, and who indeed needs urgently to be represented in English, and not just by his poetry. Well, there is interest; but who knows from what quarters it will happen and when. At any rate, the whole “Translate This Book!” survey can be downloaded as a pdf and is both worthwhile and necessary reading. In the meantime, here’s some of what Kaminsky has to say:

Poems of Miron Białoszewski is the book I hope to one day hold in my hands. A great post-war Polish poet, Białoszewski wrote work radically different from that of his contemporaries—Miłosz, Świr, Kamieńska, Herbert, and Szymborska—but his poetry was just as powerful and important to the development of the contemporary European lyric … When I mentioned [him] to Tomaž Šalamun in a recent conversation, Tomaž’s face lit up: “Białoszewski, when he is translated and available in English, will cause an explosion in American poetry!” One hopes so.

The ignition for that explosion may take place very soon, in fact. The next issue of the excellent poetry magazine Aufgabe will feature a special section on innovative Polish poetry, guest edited by Mark Tardi and due out this spring. From what I’ve heard, it will include a sizeable number of Białoszewski’s poems, both newly translated and reprinted from the 1974 volume translated by Bogdan Czaykowski and Andrzej Busza.

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