ARDOR Literary Magazine

ARDOR Literary Magazine - Issue Three, September 2013

Issue One, Published January 2013

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POETRY AN INTERVIEW WITH LEN KRISAK In each issue the editor selects one prose writer and one poet to feature, offering readers a short interview with these writers. Len Krisak, author of our featured poems Bound, Otic, and a translation of Propertius: Elegies, IV.3 was kind enough to respond to a few questions. KRISAK There's always the dirty little secret of ambition and emulation: "Aha! So that's Propertius [or Catullus or Tibullus or Horace or Ovid or Virgil]. Let me at him! I'll show that Dryden (or Pope or Housman) who's boss!" ARDOR: Every writer has a unique process – tell us a bit about how you work and how your writing process has evolved over time. LK: I don't believe I've ever been asked this before. It strikes me as a (far) more intelligent version of the famous computerpencil-fountain pen question! If I'm translating (and since you mention evolution, I'd have to admit that I've pretty much always worked this way), I begin with a very large dictionary (say, Lewis and Short for Latin) and as many other versions of the work as I can get my hands on, as trots). I then work out a prose version (linefor-line), with multiple synonyms and/or word choices built into the prose. Next, I try to follow the meter of the originals, either exactly, or if that can't be done, by using the closest possible English accentual-syllabic substitute. Then, of course, revision, revision, revision. Sometimes happy accidents occur along the way ("Now, where do you suppose that little gem of mine just came from? A gift from the Muse?"), but most often changes are made because I've read the translation aloud. If I stumble or can't get through a passage with a confident delivery, or without smirking or giggling, I assume that's a sign something's wrong. You have to listen very hard and very quietly and sometimes for a long, long ARDOR | 32 Len Krisak time before the right word or phrase announces itself. In my original poems, I see something that intrigues me, or find myself snagged by a metaphor, meter, image, idiom, or pun, and launch from there. Once inspiration strikes me my process for writing original poetry mirrors my approach toward translation. All of my poems rely on an attentive ear and alert revision.

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