NEA Literature Fellowships

Andrew Zawacki

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(2015 - Translation)

The Lion

{translated from the French]

3: The odor

To approach the man I am sometimes
without thinking about it I change to a lioness in the grass high
fidelity regained from the sisters who act as if
it wasn't the odor of young mothers I borrow the poses
the craziest ones confounding me each time with a beauty
consummated in the same fell swoop I rush to repaint paradise
in my image the king casts a glance into the apple tree reddened
by a thousand other attempts—better see about that.

Original in French

About Sébastien Smirou

Ludic and labyrinthine, syntactically complex while fascinated by innocence and simplicity, See About advances a longstanding Franco-American conversation about innovative poetics, hybrid forms, and openness generated by constraint. In eight chapters of eight poems, each containing eight lines, Smirou's eccentric menagerie has affinities with contemporary poetries that engage animal subjectivity, bodies in space, and oblique imaging practices. From Borges' fanciful The Book of Imaginary Beings through Coetzee's more sobering The Lives of Animals, this second book by a child psychologist and translator of key psychoanalytical texts participates in deepening—and lightening—the collective thought of a socially conscious artistic community.

Andrew Zawacki the author of the poetry books Videotape (Counterpath, 2013), Petals of Zero Petals of One (Talisman House, 2009), Anabranch (Wesleyan, 2004), and By Reason of Breakings (Georgia, 2002). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation, and elsewhere, and he has published three books in France: Georgia and Carnet Bartleby, translated by Sika Fakambi, and Par Raison de brisants, translated by Antoine Cazé and a finalist for Le Prix Nelly Sachs. Zawacki's translation of Sébastien Smirou, My Lorenzo (Burning Deck, 2012), received a French Voices Grant, while his new Smirou translation, See About, is forthcoming from La Presse. A former fellow of the Slovenian Writers' Association, Zawacki edited Afterwards: Slovenian Writing 1945-1995 (White Pine, 1999) and edited and co-translated Aleš Debeljak's Without Anesthesia: New and Selected Poems (Persea, 2011). Coeditor of Verse, he directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Georgia.

Photo by Sandrine Zawacki

Translator's Statement

I am extremely grateful for the attention that an NEA translation fellowship brings to Sébastien Smirou's second book, Beau voir, and by extension to innovative French poetry and poetics. It's extremely heartening when our government supports contemporary literature, let alone poetry in translation—to say nothing of experimental foreign writing, often overlooked for its presumed obscurity or commercial shakiness, or because the small presses that make it available are themselves off the radar of many potential readers. This grant will allow me to return to Paris in summer 2015—without breaking the bank, for once—to complete the second half of the project. Which also means freeing me up, sooner rather than later, to get another translation from the French underway.