Lantern Review

Issue 6 | 2014

Meanwhile, Brynn Saito’s lush triptych of poems excavates family history as the speaker imagines moments from her mother’s childhood in rural California. As she searches for truth in photographs and stories, she finds that many of the ghosts she seeks lurk just beyond the frame, out of reach. The past is a place from which she remains continually in exile: “the how will escape me,” she says, “continues to escape me / even in my terrible need to know.”

Schildkraut’s “in the town of colorblind” takes an altogether different tack, presenting a parable about an Eden in which, though suffering and prejudice are absent, color, sight, and the ability to empathize have disappeared. Schildkraut’s poem reminds us that, as poets of color, we live and create a world that is never really ours. And yet the work of navigating the margins is vital, because it provides us with a unique clarity of vision that enriches the portrait of the world we present in our work.

We round out the main section of the issue with Lee Herrick’s poem about his daughter, “The House is Quiet, Except,” a stunningly beautiful piece that brings us back to prelapsarian Eden with another story of origins: that of a young girl claiming the gift of written language as her own for the first time, of a father breathing onto the page a dream of words and worlds that he hopes his daughter will populate with her imagination.

Perhaps fittingly for an issue containing so many poems that wrestle with the dilemma of “translating” experience into the confines of written language, we end with a special feature focusing on (interlinguistic) translation and process. In it, poets Fiona Sze-Lorrain and Don Mee Choi share some of their forthcoming translation work and reflect on craft and on the responsibilities of the translator. For Sze-Lorrain, translation serves as a valuable exercise in “resistance” against the temptation to live only within her own perspective. It forces her, she says, to “test” the “harmony between [her] own poems and the engagement of the other.” Choi, on the other hand, envisions translation as a means by which to reveal injustice and hold it up for critique. “My translation intent has nothing to do with personal growth, intellectual exercise, or cultural exchange, which implies an equal standing of some sort,” she writes, “South Korea and the US are not equal. I am not transnationally equal. My intent [in translating Kim Hyesoon’s poetry] is to expose what a neocolony is, what it does to its own, what it eats and shits.”

Toward the end of “The House is Quiet, Except,” Lee Herrick reminds us that to engage with written language is an act of devotion: “looking down onto the open page,” he writes, “reminds us of prayer.” Indeed, it is the work of the poet, first and foremost, to spend time in the word; to wrestle, like Olzmann’s Adam, with the confines of language and our own small acts of creation, and to expect—even demand—that we come away humbled by our own smallness in this large and slippery world.