Our year-end list of your favorite Action Books Blog Posts is here! We’re so grateful for our dedicated readers and contributors! (I remain especially grateful to anyone who still believes in the importance of reviewing!) Thank you for your continued support of Action Books! Many thanks also to Olivia Lott (curator of Poesía en acción) and Katherine M. Hedeen (curator of Poetry in Action) for their tireless commitment to bringing our readers monthly translations and translator-interviews from all over the world! From new poems to the latest poetry-in-translation, from book reviews to interviews, here are 10 of our most widely shared blog posts of 2021!
10. Poesía en acción #17: Two Poems from Historia de la leche by Mónica Ojeda and Translator Kymm Coveney
I drag your death by the hair and feed it the guilt
that weighs on me
I drag your death with the siblinglessness that fratricide left me,
I had to die you to learn the meaning of justice
I had to die you to see you eternal,
to dissect your dove spirit at the feet of the harpies’ temples
It is the irreducible center of the sequence—what cannot be replaced or performed without. The absence of ‘light’ is the articulation of a new sequence (and the foreshadowing of an inevitable return).
Viewing the column as a housing for these nodes, we can begin to see a certain foundation to the structure’s organization.
Frequently the interaction between node and housing is one of identification. The node surfaces, the column contains it, iterates upon all potential contexts, then integrates it into the closed lexicon of the Angelgreen Sacrament.
Before the swans, there was
a carriage house. Even the feral mother
dashing into and out from the splintered
under-porch dodged my interest.
A spruce had thrust its thickest limb
through a corner window, too remote
to be whittled into a walking stick, too bumped
to ever be anguineous.
i paint radiance
i paint radiance
around whatever needs radiance painted around it
without the coverage that it takes
without the gold that it takes
without the silver that it takes
without having what it takes
i paint it
and no one can take it from me
6. Interview with Michelle Gil-Montero on translating Valerie Mejer Caso’s Edinburgh Notebook by Katherine M. Hedeen
Mejer Caso’s lines are incredibly inviting to translate—they make me itch to write. They feel malleable, maybe because they so quickly go beyond verbal play (which is Zurita’s observation). If I’m laced tight and aspiring to perfect literalism (as most translators do, on some level, at least at first), it isn’t long before I’ve abandoned that folly in favor of trying out sounds, leaps, little new feats of English. These poems, in all their own fluidities and freedoms, seem to ask for a translation that is willing to go beyond literal accuracy whenever the need for other kinds of accuracy (tonal, musical, etc.) arises.
is it right to demand an answer from the soil
do minerals build the body heal(s) the wounds
The poems in this book are bursting with flowers. Flowers that “poured out through a crack in the night” and flowers that “erupt through the body.” The flowers (and trees, fruits etc) perforate the human body, not to kill or harm the body, but as part of a volatile system that involves the human body intricately with the natural (and unnatural) world. The book presents a new vision of the lyric, not as a solitary communication between a poet and their readers, but something involved and involving, transformation, mutation: a queer ecology.
For us language has never been moved by ideology, yet Surrealism has remained for us ignition via susurration. The voice that arises as magic, that arises from the purest charge of language. To communicate such depth an alchemical quiet is required. And this quiet requires the rules of ones on advancement. Let me say from my end that poetic language is a magical component; it does not arise from the residue of quotidian approximation. Instead it crystallizes and rivets.
The Morning News Is Exciting contains everything that I’m still exploring. I keep returning to it to see which lines or images or ideas I can replant and see how they might grow or die. In DMZ Colony I also reused the lines “Translator for hire! Hire me” as “Translator for hire! Hire, hire me.” Repeating “hire” one more time felt totally necessary. A small detail, but I basically live for such small things. I also want to weave across my books because they are all connected, in a sense that I am only obsessed with writing about one thing—the overlapping histories of Korea and the US.
But of course poets have always used actual Occult traditions to imagine other paths. Over the past few years I have become close with Kristen Nelson and Selah Saterstrom, who practice all kinds of forms of divination and although I joke with them that I am just “witch adjacent,” I find these other languages for understanding our experiences incredibly comforting. It’s a way of staying ‘outside’ with others.