Jonathan Galassi on Poetry Month and the Year Ahead
Throughout the month FSG publisher, poet, and translator Jonathan Galassi will be adding his thoughts on various aspects of the poetry world.
Poetry Month so soon? Here it is, catching me up in the midst again, as we always are. We’ve been producing a lot around here, and I think the array is both broad and deep. Our new books this spring include Carl Phillips’s Double Shadow, Yusef Komunyakaa’s The Chameleon Couch, the Selected Poems of Robert Pinsky, and Les Murray’s collection Taller When Prone, as well as Murray’s poem-rich memoir of overcoming depression, Killing the Black Dog. FSG is participating in Eric Fischl’s heroic America Now and Here project by publishing the fascinating collaborative poem Crossing State Lines: An American Renga, edited by Bob Holman and Carol Muske-Dukes. Charles Wright’s Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems is out next week; Adam Zagajewski’s Unseen Hand, in Clare Cavanagh’s brilliant translation, will be out in June; and the big, fat FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry, edited by Ilan Stavans, is on the shelf next to new editions of Elizabeth Bishop’s Poems and Prose that we published for the centenary of her birth last February, along with Joelle Biele’s delicious, revelatory Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence.
We’ve just heard that Seamus Heaney’s Human Chain, published last fall, has won the Irish Times poetry award for 2010. Human Chain is also a nominee for the Griffin International Poetry Prize, along with Gjertrud Schnackenberg’s Heavenly Questions. But as is always true with an editor, I’m more focused right now on what’s on my desk, what I’m working on for us to publish in upcoming seasons. I have a long desk that stretches all the way across my office, so it holds a lot. Among the piles of manuscripts maturing here are Michael Hofmann’s incandescent translation of Gottfried Benn; corrections for the paperback edition of my own translation of Leopardi’s Canti; the work of Nelly Sachs, which we published in the ’60s and are pondering reissuing; an edition of Marianne Moore’s early poetry, which will be useful in preparing our upcoming edition of the complete Elizabeth Bishop-Marianne Moore letters; a new verse play by Derek Walcott; the manuscript of the FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry (2012), which Geoffrey Brock has ably put together; the manuscript of the collected poems of one of our major poets; and a pile of promising submissions from a group of new writers that I’m trying to weigh judiciously. This is the hardest, most tantalizing, and most thrilling part of this job—listening to new voices, trying to figure out what’s going on in the wider poetic world. Many of them are wonderful in various ways, but most we have to pass on, given the limits of our list. But it’s all-important to be aware of what’s being written now, and to welcome new voices when we can.
The FSG list stretches back over several generations now, and forward into the future, too. We keep on publishing new work by writers born a hundred, eighty, fifty years ago, while also representing international voices who will have a real impact on the poetry of our own culture and trying to remain open to what’s new as well. It’s a hydra-headed undertaking that we try to make as various and lively as possible. I hope you’ll find something of interest in every part of the list.