Valzhyna Mort on W.S. Merwin January 30, 2010 – Tags: , ,

This is the second of a series of guest posts on Book Patrol featuring the four poets who will be sharing the stage with W.S. Merwin at the upcoming “W.S. Merwin and Friends” benefit for Copper Canyon Press at Seattle’s Town Hall.

Valzhyna Mort hails from Belarus, a country carved out of the former Soviet Union. The Irish Times called her “A risen star of the international poetry world.” Her first book released in America Factory of Tears, published by Copper Canyon Press, is the first Belarusian/English poetry book to be published in the U.S. She has garnered an international reputation as an “electrifying reader of her poems.”

Mort on Merwin:

W.S. Merwin’s name has traveled out, beyond itself, beyond American poetry. “I have no shadow but myself,” he wrote in “Lice” but he himself has given foreign poets a new kind of a shadow, an existence in the dimension of another language and culture. I had learned of W.S.Merwin long before I discovered American poetry. I took a side route to English language literature, via the familiar – I read translations of Russian poets into English, notably Osip Mandelshtam, who had been translated with exquisite linguistic clarity and grace, not a line without a perfect idiom, the ease and gravity of a voice born not in either language, but in the third space where a poem exists outside the words that verbalize it: “Now I’m dead in the grace with my lips moving / and every schoolboy repeating the words by heart”. The name that stood next to Mandelshtam’s was W.S.Merwin. This name took me on a new detour, introducing me to Jean Follain, Antonio Porchia, Alberto Blanco, Pablo Neruda – poets to whom we come when we are in the mood to be destroyed.They have received a great gift from W.S. Merwin: they look back at their shadow and see, among shadows and demons, another poet there, an angel-like figure, sustaining their lives in another world.


Interview with Mort in the Irish Times

Up Next: Matthew Zapruder

Tickets for the event available here

Previously on Book Patrol:
W.S. Merwin & Friends: Four Poets Share the Stage and Their Thoughts
Ben Lerner on W.S. Merwin

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