Hassain, Schwartz, Hardwick, et. al.

Hassain, Schwartz, Hardwick, et. al.
June 25, 2022 Plume

Jahangir Hossain on writing “Lover Rain”:

The year was 2015/2016. I was present at the Saturday Literature Chat of the Bangladesh Writers’ Club. Seeing a well-dressed woman there, I thought her outfit was not very beautiful. It was ‘Rainy Season’ then. I thought to myself: If it were raining, I would wash all her outfits and decorate her again with new monsoon flowers. That’s when I wrote this poem.


Lloyd Schwartz on translating Jahangir Hossain’s “Lover Rain”:

Thanks to the internet, I made the acquaintance of the Bangladeshi author—poet, playwright, fiction writer—Jahangir Hossain. I asked him to send me some of his poems. He sent me a literal version of his poems in English and I was both very taken with them and thought I could make a version in my own English that would capture some of the beauty of his original Bengali. We went delightfully back and forth numerous times, and this was the result. I’m still not sure what all the particular flowers are (I don’t think any of them grow in Boston). But I’m sure they are ravishingly beautiful!


Shannon Hardwick on “The Magician” and “HER”:
Both The Magician and H E R were written around the same time. I was exploring how to mythologize the concept of agency, reclamation, retelling, and deeper exploration of trauma. I wanted to create doors. G. K. Chesterton wrote that fairytales go beyond acknowledging the dragon—they prove that the dragon can be beaten. This concept was on my mind while writing the poems. I wanted a whole story in as short a poem as possible, to push my limits in both form and length while letting the reader fill in the rest of the tale for themselves— in this way, the poem is the door.


Linda Pastan on “The Daughter” and “6AM”:

I turned 90 last month, and I think I am in reparations mode.

I loved my father but had a complicated relationship with him, and over the years my poems have put him in a negative light.  “The Daughter” tries to restore the proper balance.

As for “6AM,” there he is again, in the closing lines.


Jesse Lee Kercheval and Jeannine Marie Pitas on translating Silvia Guerra:

Raised on the Uruguayan coast in Maldonado, Silvia Guerra writes poems that draw many of their images from beaches and the countryside – not in a simple, narrative way, but rather as symbols of the exploration of her own consciousness. Her poems are a form of continual meditation which plays continually with the transformation and transmutation of words, and through all her work runs a hunger for meaning, for a reason to exist.

As translators, we suggest that Guerra’s writing – which is always challenging – is in itself a translation. As Virginia Woolf and the other early twentieth century modernists attempted to translate the flow of human consciousness into their writing, Guerra shatters clichés, breaks through grammatical and stylistic conventions, and digs as deeply as she can into the shifting sands of language to seek the truths that lie beneath. But as it turns out, these truths are just as amorphous and fleeting; images or emotions appear before the reader like an exquisite piece of driftwood before being swept back to sea.


Nicole Callihan on “griefbeing”:

I think of Celan often, what he says about loss and language, how “there remain(s) in the midst of the losses this one thing: language. It, the language, remain(s), not lost, yes, in spite of everything.” And it is this in spite of that brings me again and again to the page, even as life—as it will, if we’re lucky enough to live long enough—continues to present losses. Looking at these poems from griefbeing—a series I wrote deep in the pandemic amidst a breast cancer diagnosis and other unplumbed personal grief—I’m  struck that the three chosen for Plume present three distinct scenarios: one of a lost pregnancy from more than a decade ago—“that little dump truck/ undumped;” one of, as EBB would chime, “my childhood faith;” and finally, one that confronts the guilt that sometimes accompanies survival, how we may never again “wade/ into a cold lake under the sky” without this knowing, this recognition that we have somehow impossibly, and however slightly, and perhaps a bit shamefully, moved on. Celan might call this “passing through” so that we can “come to light again.” And, so yes, that is what I’m seeking each time I’m granted another hour to sit in front of this glowing screen: To come to light again. In spite of everything.


Ron Slate on “From A Line By Kawabata”:

The line itself is from Yasunari Kawabata’s story “Nature” (1958). In the story, the line is transcribed by a Japanese poet from an unnamed “Chinese poem.” The anonymity of the source seemed to offer a portal for me to enter. Classical Chinese poetry confronts what is actual and allows, through its diffidence, a wide range of reactions. So I began by placing the poem’s figure, a woman, in a vague natural setting that inspires peace and optimism in her — snow that inspires, calms and rectifies. There was no “invoice in her pocket” in the early drafts — just the clouds amassing and promising something. At that time, my wife and I were sparring with a contractor over a bill for his wretched work. I realized as well that my Chinese snow poem was both aimless and unsound. Poorly made. I like a poem that pivots and gives the reader something to do other than concur or empathize. I like a poem that embodies its triggering tension, accommodates uncertainty, and isn’t impressed with its own tropes. So I looked for ways to depart from the purity of snow. In the end, everything must be confronted: snow, clouds, shoddy workmanship, and one’s own disquietude.


Suzanne Lummis on “Breathing and Not Breathing”:

The best choice I made with respect to this poem was to refrain from writing it—that is, not to write it too soon. Otherwise, a shorter, less encompassing version might’ve debuted shortly after 2014. Eric Garner’s last words, as he begged the New York arresting officers to loosen their hold, felt familiar—those words had once come out of my mouth.  I could’ve sat down and whipped something up right then, but I didn’t want to whip something up.

I let the seed of the idea—if what this was could be called an idea—roll around in my head. Time, as it is alleged to do, passed, and we entered the age of tens of thousands, millions on a global level, dying from lack of breath. George Floyd echoed Eric Garner. Somewhere along the way I’d chanced upon a video of David Blaine, “endurance artist.”

When I did sit down to write the poem, I knew how the sequences would follow each other. It rolled out, needing only a little revision or expansion, as if it had been writing itself in whatever part of my brain poems do that sort of thing.