Aditi Machado is a talented poet and translator as well as the editor of what is routinely the best part of Asymptote, its poetry section. I still remember how stunned I was at a selection of Romanian poetry from 2012*, though sadly, I have just discovered that the poem I remembered as beginning:
My compass aims north
But my dick still points to Romania
is a figment of my imagination. Occasionally, when I know the language of the original, I help Aditi sift through the slush pile, and am grateful for these occasions when I can think with another person, in a practical way, about what does and does not work in poetry and translation, and why. I also appreciate her indulging my curmudgeonliness.
Last year I found out she was translating Farid Tali’s Pospopopoeia** for Action Books, and recently I received a copy in the mail. I imagined I would like it, because the French publisher, Éditions P.O.L., is very good. The book opens with a poem by Jean-Baptiste Chassignet, a grim thing that reminds me of Andreas Gryphius. Aditi translates jointure, which might have been joint, juncture, or hinge, as swivel; it is an idiosyncratic choice, and it points to a particular vision in relation to the text.
The book consists of a young man’s observation of his brother’s body in in the course of a death that is not quite complete. His brother, a drug user, has died of AIDS at twenty-six. Later, the narrator will take a lover with his brother’s name.
A book of this kind succeeds or fails on the strength of its language, and the language of Prosopopoeia is rending.
The nose vanishes like sand on a dune. Ancient grains roll down, uncovering the virgin rock from which time had extracted them. One might say this nose is more perfect than the previous one. It too shall sink.
The green trees seemed greener, the sky bluer, how repugnant of them.
And with them the sheet rises releasing an odor like the end of breath.
It is the heel that dies most perfectly. Juvenile alabaster, it lets itself be mackled with death.
The bones, as though newborn branches, would wait prettily to fall.
My congratulations to everyone involved in the production of this book.
*See this essay by Cosmin Borza on contemporary Romanian poetry.
** I can never remember the definition of prosopopoeia. According to the Literary Encyclopedia:
Prosopopoeia identifies the specific rhetorical act of giving a voice to and speaking in the name of another person or an inanimate object. Greek in origin, prosopopoeia literally means “to make” (poeien) a “face” or “person” (prosopon) through the art, skill, or craft of rhetoric. Perhaps the most popular and enduring use of prosopopoeia is to make an absent or dead person present through speech. According to Abraham Fraunce in The Arcadian Rhetorike (1588), prosopopoeia is “a fayning of any person, when in our speech we represent the person… and make it speake as though he were in the present”